On May 1st, 2011 Navy Seal Team 6, part of the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) conducted a raid in the town of Abbottabad, Pakistan that resulted in the death of Al Qaeda figurehead Osama Bin Laden. Carried into battle by the UH-60s of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, the Seals took 40 minutes to achieve the mission objective and get out. This raid is just one more in a long line of operations conducted by the Seals and their comrades of JSOC such as the 75th Ranger Regiment, and Delta Force, but unlike many of those actions, this raid will receive worldwide publicity.
JSOC has been a vital asset in the American War on Terror of the past decade. The unit has seen extensive combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan over the past 10 years, with much of their work unacknowledged by US officials. The capture of Saddam Hussein, and the taking of a host of Al Qaeda officials notwithstanding, this units actions were criticized by some during the Bush Administration as being nothing more than an ‘assassination squad’ for the President and Vice President Cheney. What a difference an election makes, however, as this unit’s efforts will now undoubtedly become a focal point of praise towards the current administration’s foreign policy. President Obama certainly deserves credit for allowing this unit to continue its effective operations from the war on terror, despite his campaign promises to the contrary.
With American involvement in both Iraq and Afghanistan seemingly winding down, perhaps it would be wise to expand the numbers and resources of JSOC, effectively creating a force that could continue to fight the long, protracted struggle against Islamic terrorism that will undoubtedly go on even after US troops leave the Baghdad and Kandahar. With economic necessity and the dwindling hope for an acceptable endgame in Afghanistan, the US could secure its long-term national policy objectives in the region by relying solely on units within JSOC to keep a lid on terrorist activity in the area. Afghanistan and Pakistan and their respective populations are certainly never going to become stauch supporters of the American way of government, so why not pull out, and rely on a counter-terrorism approach to achieving our policies in the region?
Such a plan would be uneasy to swallow for many Americans, who would likely see a withdrawal from Afghanistan as a retreat. The death of Bin Laden, however, provides an opportunity to claim victory in our efforts there. Future actions in the region can be the sole purview of JSOC, while the rank and file of the American military can come home, rest, rearm, and prepare for the future strategic threats facing the United States. Forget nation-building, forget drinking three cups of tea and winning hearts and minds. Let us instead focus on keeping the enemies of the United States at arm’s length if not six-feet-under. JSOC is a tool that could be used to achieve a more cost-effective US policy in the region that still maintains the safety of the American populace.