GETTING OUT….Greg Miller of the LA Times reports today that the CIA deployed about 50 additional agents in Pakistan last year as part of a plan to replace the agents who were yanked out of Afghanistan in 2002 to help prepare for the war with Iraq. The goal was to reinvigorate the search for Osama bin Laden and other high-ranking al-Qaeda leaders, but so far it hasn’t panned out. “We’re not any closer,” a senior U.S. military official told Miller. “Any prediction on when we’re going to get him is just ridiculous. It could be a year from now or the Pakistanis could be in the process of getting him right now.”

But that’s not the worst of it. It’s been obvious for a long time that the Iraq war is al-Qaeda’s best recruiting tool, but although the CIA’s surge has been unsuccessful at locating bin Laden, it has been successful at tracking an alarming increase in al-Qaeda fundraising:

U.S. officials said that Al Qaeda’s command base in Pakistan increasingly is being funded by cash coming out of Iraq, where the terrorist network’s operatives are raising substantial sums from donations to the anti-American insurgency as well as kidnappings of wealthy Iraqis and other criminal activity.

The influx of money has bolstered Al Qaeda’s leadership ranks at a time when the core command is regrouping and reasserting influence over its far-flung network.

….Little more than a year ago, Al Qaeda’s core command was thought to be in a financial crunch. But U.S. officials said cash shipped from Iraq has eased those troubles. “Iraq is a big moneymaker for them,” said a senior U.S. counterterrorism official.

Say it with me: We. Need. To. Get. Out. The sooner the better. Our presence in Iraq is doing nothing for Iraq itself, which is doomed to sectarian civil war no matter what we do. It’s actively hindering the destruction of al-Qaeda in Iraq, which will almost certainly proceed more quickly and more ruthlessly once we leave. It’s made Iran into a more powerful regional player than it ever could have dreamed of. It’s produced a relentlessly worsening foreign policy catastrophe by swelling the ranks of Middle Eastern Muslims who support anti-American jihadism in spirit, even if they don’t directly support al-Qaeda itself. And it’s turned into a bonanza of recruiting and fundraising among those who do directly support al-Qaeda.

In almost every way you can think of, our continued presence in Iraq is bad for Iraq, bad for the Middle East, and bad for America’s own national security. I can’t even think of anything on the plus side of the ledger anymore, and every additional day we stay there only makes the ledger look worse.

We desperately need to construct a national security policy that actually addresses violent jihadism in a serious and effective way. We can’t do that as long as we’re in Iraq. That’s why we need to leave.

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