It was hours before the news broke about Osama Bin Laden that this thought occurred to me.
It was after reading this story about an unfinished 64-mile highway project in Southeastern Afghanistan whose cost is $121 million and counting, because we’re paying millions for protection to a local strongman named Arafat who has ties to insurgents.
From the story by Alissa Rubin and James Risen:
“Does it keep the peace?” asked one United States military officer with experience in volatile eastern Afghanistan. “Definitely. If the bad guys have a stake in the project, attacks go way down.” The officer, like many of the people interviewed, did not want to be named for fear of retribution for criticizing a project that is considered a priority by the American and Afghan governments.
Some also suspected that Mr. Arafat had been staging attacks himself to extort more money for protection, a vicious cycle of blackmail that contractors and American officials acknowledged was a common risk.
Considering that we went into Afghanistan ten years ago to find bin Laden and root out Al Qaeda, you have to wonder how many more lives and dollars we should pour into this effort now that the man we’ve been hunting is gone.
One more thought about the bin Laden strike: Though many criticize President Obama’s lack of emotion, it was wise of him not to gloat or celebrate in his address, and to repeat that we are not at war with Islam.
One of the most important things we can do to keep America safe is to slow the creation of new jihadists. Think about the fact that it took years of gritty intelligence work to find bin Laden, and that the $25 million bounty on his head didn’t convince anyone to give him up. Hearts and minds do matter.