As al-Qaeda’s “Twentieth Hijacker” Leaves Guantanamo, It’s Time to Ask Tough Questions about the War on Terror

March 14 2022

Last week Mohammed al-Qahtani was released from the Guantanamo Bay naval base and sent back to his native Saudi Arabia, after prosecutors decided not to pursue charges against him. Qahtani is thought to have planned to join the team of terrorists that hijacked flight 93 on September 11, 2001; he was prevented from entering the U.S. by an astute immigration official. Examining the complexities of the legal case against Qahtani, Andrew C. McCarthy concludes that “the decision that he should not, and probably could not, be charged was not lightly made and was amply supported.” McCarthy then turns to broader questions about America’s war on al-Qaeda:

There are still over three dozen jihadists detained at Gitmo. They are still being held at this point only because there are well-founded concerns that they could return to anti-American terrorist activities if released. Half of them are nationals of countries, such as Yemen and Somalia, that are so unstable that it would be irrational to believe repatriated jihadists would be effectively monitored. At least seven remaining detainees will never be charged, and the way the highly erratic military commissions have gone, who knows how many of those who have been charged will ever actually be prosecuted to conclusion? And what happens to any jihadists who end up being acquitted—do we just let them go?

Qahtani’s repatriation returns tough questions to the fore: is the war over? If it is, what are we going to do about detainees who cannot be tried? And if it isn’t, when are we going to address outdated congressional authorizations of the use of military force so that the government’s power to wage war is tailored to the war as it currently exists? We need answers. It’s been over twenty years, and these questions are not going away.

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Read more at National Review

More about: Al Qaeda, American law, POWs, U.S. Foreign policy, War on Terror

 

UN Peacekeepers in Lebanon Risk Their Lives, but Still May Do More Harm Than Good

Jan. 27 2023

Last month an Irish member of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) was killed by Hizballah guerrillas who opened fire on his vehicle. To David Schenker, it is likely the peacekeeper was “assassinated” to send “a clear message of Hizballah’s growing hostility toward UNIFIL.” The peacekeeping force has had a presence in south Lebanon since 1978, serving first to maintain calm between Israel and the PLO, and later between Israel and Hizballah. But, Schenker explains, it seems to be accomplishing little in that regard:

In its biannual reports to the Security Council, UNIFIL openly concedes its failure to interdict weapons destined for Hizballah. While the contingent acknowledges allegations of “arms transfers to non-state actors” in Lebanon, i.e., Hizballah, UNIFIL says it’s “not in a position to substantiate” them. Given how ubiquitous UN peacekeepers are in the Hizballah heartland, this perennial failure to observe—let alone appropriate—even a single weapons delivery is a fair measure of the utter failure of UNIFIL’s mission. Regardless, Washington continues to pour hundreds of millions of dollars into this failed enterprise, and its local partner, the Lebanese Armed Forces.

Since 2006, UNIFIL patrols have periodically been subjected to Hizballah roadside bombs in what quickly proved to be a successful effort to discourage the organization proactively from executing its charge. In recent years, though, UN peacekeepers have increasingly been targeted by the terror organization that runs Lebanon, and which tightly controls the region that UNIFIL was set up to secure. The latest UN reports tell a harrowing story of a spike in the pattern of harassment and assaults on the force. . . .

Four decades on, UNIFIL’s mission has clearly become untenable. Not only is the organization ineffective, its deployment serves as a key driver of the economy in south Lebanon, employing and sustaining Hizballah’s supporters and constituents. At $500 million a year—$125 million of which is paid by Washington—the deployment is also expensive. Already, the force is in harm’s way, and during the inevitable next war between Israel and Hizballah, this 10,000-strong contingent will provide the militia with an impressive human shield.

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Read more at Tablet

More about: Hizballah, Lebanon, Peacekeepers, U.S. Foreign policy