Early in 2009, I interviewed Gen. Paul Vallely (US Army Ret.) and learned about the "lily pad" strategy -- a strategy, Vallely explained, that relies on "the maximum use of unconventional forces," such as Navy SEALS and other special forces, who can be deployed as needed from outposts in friendly countries (Israel, India, Philippines, Italy, etc.), or from U.S. aircraft carrier strike groups (as in this well-executed 2009 example). Carrier strike groups, by the way, generally include eight to 10 vessels "with more fire power," the general noted, "than most nations."
Sounds to me as if the helicopter-carried, 40-minute Navy SEAL strike on OBL's Pakistani mansion was a picture-perfect lily pad launch -- albeit from a US base in A-stan.
Could this strike on bin Laden have been carried out without the big base in Afghanistan from which four Black Hawk and Chinook helicopters carrying 40 special forces (mainly SEALs) took off for bin Laden's mansion in Pakistan? I asked Gen. Vallely today and he said yes, adding: "Part of lily pad strategy is the use of "black" (covert) lily pads that are for short duration missions and can be set up anywhere, desert, jungle, etc. or launched from our fleet armadas. In-flight re-fueling is always part of any longer distance missions."
As Vallely put it a couple of years ago, lily pads are "bases we can launch from any time we want to," eliminating the need for massive land bases where thousands of American personnel continuously need to be supplied and secured at enormous expense. "There's no permanent force," the general said. "That's the beauty of it." We watch, we wait and when U.S. interests require action, he said, "we basically use our strike forces to take them out, target by target."
Target by target. That sounds good -- and cost-effective in both monetary and human terms.
In the past, VP Joe Biden has advocated a policy closer to these lines than to the "Obama surge" that in the end took place in Afghanistan largely under military pressure. George Will has, too. (Will might bristle at the pairing but give the veep his due.) Contrary to neo-conning assertions, this offshore strategy was never before implemented -- until lately.
Meanwhile, if anyone needs another reason to get out of Afghanistan, read Hamid Karzai's insulting reaction to bin Laden's demise and notice how Karzai takes the opportunity not to express relief, gratitude, or solidarity over the end of this Islamic scourge who brought death and misery to thousands in his country, the US and around the world, but rather to defame the United States and its near decade of sacrifice in Afghanistan:
We hope that the terrorists' activities will be stopped after Osama Bin Laden's death which was his punishment.
And as well, the world should realise what we have repeatedly said all these years and every single day, that the war against terrorism should not be followed in the villages of Afghanistan.
The war against terrorism is not in the houses of innocent Afghan civilians. The fight against terrorism is not in bombing children and women in Afghanistan. The war against terrorism should be carried out in his safe haven, sanctuary and his training camp, not in Afghanistan, and today this has been proved right.