The war in Afghanistan may be winding down. But the Pentagon's chief of irregular warfare still sees a war against al-Qaida that will last decades, all over the world — a prospect that prompted astonishment and constitutional debate in the Senate.
Asked at a Senate hearing today how long the war on terrorism will last, Michael Sheehan, the assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low-intensity conflict, answered, "At least ten to twenty years."
It was just two months ago the top U.S. intelligence official testified that al-Qaida had been battered by the U.S. into a state of disarray. A year ago, the current CIA director, John Brennan, said that "For the first time since this fight began, we can look ahead and envision a world in which the al Qaeda core is simply no longer relevant." Just this week, the commander of the Joint Special Operations Command, Army Lt. Gen. Joseph Votel, told a Florida conference that he was looking at missions beyond the counterterrorism manhunt.
Yet a spokeswoman, Army Col. Anne Edgecomb, clarified that Sheehan meant the conflict is likely to last ten to twenty more years from today — atop the 12 years that the conflict has already lasted. Welcome to America's Thirty Years War.