Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

The loooong war: Yep, we’re stuck

Here’s a report from my CNAS colleague Matt Irvine, who trekked up to Capitol Hill on Wednesday to hear experts Richard Clarke, Juan Zarate, and Steve Coll tell the House Armed Services Committee what to think about al Qaeda. By Matthew Irvine Best Defense chief congressional correspondent What the witnesses delivered was a long-term forecast ...

N7BJG/flickr
N7BJG/flickr
N7BJG/flickr

Here's a report from my CNAS colleague Matt Irvine, who trekked up to Capitol Hill on Wednesday to hear experts Richard Clarke, Juan Zarate, and Steve Coll tell the House Armed Services Committee what to think about al Qaeda.

By Matthew Irvine

Best Defense chief congressional correspondent

Here’s a report from my CNAS colleague Matt Irvine, who trekked up to Capitol Hill on Wednesday to hear experts Richard Clarke, Juan Zarate, and Steve Coll tell the House Armed Services Committee what to think about al Qaeda.

By Matthew Irvine

Best Defense chief congressional correspondent

What the witnesses delivered was a long-term forecast reading: more of the same. The conflict against al Qaeda and its ideology will not be won when American forces leave Iraq or begin drawdowns in Afghanistan in 2011.

Rather than speaking of end dates and benchmarks, these witnesses spoke of decades and generations. Mr. Clarke captured the tone of the panel, contending that "the eradication of al Qaeda is the work of a generation … It will never be perfect, don’t expect we will ever be able to stop every attack."

Mr. Coll piled on, saying "this is a 20-year challenge that is not going to go away."

The tragic events at Fort Hood demonstrate the ease with which al Qaeda’s lethal message is carried across the globe. Countering this message is the only way to seize the initiative against the jihad. According to Mr. Zarate the "ideological battlefield is where the long war will be fought."

After hearing three leading experts on al Qaeda and U.S. counterterrorism policy it is clear that General Abizaid’s "long war" is as real today as when he testified before the same committee seven years ago.

Here is old Steve Coll’s paradox-driven testimony.

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. Twitter: @tomricks1

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