Al Qaeda, Taliban, et al.

Jeff Stein has a bothersome habit of asking our leaders annoying questions. Earlier in the year he discovered that numerous leaders in congress and intelligence bureaucracies didn’t seem to understand Islam, particularly the nature of the Sunni / Shia split. To too great a degree our leaders didn’t know which country was dominated by which group.

Stein figured that since a new congressional administration was coming to power it was time to try the questions on some new folks. Unfortunately Silvestre Reyes, incoming chair of the House Intelligence Committee didn’t fare any better than his predecessors.  Al Qaeda? “Mostly a Shiite organization.” Nope. Not by a long shot. You’d think the people who made it to the top of the heap, who had to make decisions about our national security – and based on national security findings – would at least know the basics.

But perhaps we Americans aren’t the only ones wallowing in ignorance.

Years ago when we attacked Afghanistan, we did so to target Al Qaeda and their Taliban hosts. We knew which country hosted both – a no brainer.

Last summer we heard of the Pakistanis making a deal with Taliban-types in Waziristan. How could they, we said? They defended themselves by saying that at least these guys weren’t Al Qaeda. What some seem to have missed is that the Taliban, a movement we take as Afghani, was actually nurtured in the madrassas of Pakistan. The Wahhabism (a Saudi export) of some of the anti-soviets like bin Laden found a home in those schools and raised up a new generation. And now we’re surprised that something that looks an awful lot like the Taliban is takign deep root in Waziristan.

We surprise far too easily.

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