The principal rationale for the original US invasion of Afghanistan was the elimination of an al-Qaeda safe haven. Almost a decade later, the terrorist group is much diminished there, as well as in Pakistan, prompting serious second thoughts within the administration about ramping up forces in the region. Aides to special envoy Richard Holbrooke suggest that though the Taliban is resurgent, should they gain control again they would not ally with the terrorist group.
Al-Qaeda is said to be beset by lack of leaders, funds, and weapons. “It’s not romantic to be cold and hungry and hiding,” a US official tells the Wall Street Journal. Even Gen. Stanley McChrystal has noted a steep falloff in foreign fighters in Afghanistan. Still, skeptics say al-Qaeda is resilient, and a Taliban victory would benefit the group as well. Even if a Taliban-dominated government was hostile to al-Qaeda, one official notes, they might have little power to keep the terrorist organization out of Afghanistan.