Concern about extremism seeping out of Iraq underscores a painful irony in the five-year-old war against terrorism: The U.S. and its allies now face the distinct possibility that the same kind of "failed state" that gave terrorists a haven when the Taliban ruled Afghanistan -- leading to Sept. 11 -- could be forming again, in more than one place.
Both Iraq and Lebanon are threatening to degenerate into states with weak central governments where extremists can thrive. Iraq already appears to serve as a kind of finishing school for young radicals seeking battlefield experience. In Lebanon, Hezbollah's war with Israel this summer both destabilized the country and enhanced the reputation of Hezbollah extremists, who in the past have demonstrated a desire to extend their reach beyond Lebanon's borders.
To make matters worse, Afghanistan itself now appears to be sliding backward so much that it could again become an international terror breeding ground.
Forces from the U.S. and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization are locked in the bloodiest fighting in Afghanistan since late 2001. U.S. casualties are running at more than twice last year's rate. U.S. military commanders speak openly of an "Iraq-ification" of Afghanistan: Once-rare suicide bombings and roadside bombs have become common, and both arms and militants flow over mostly undefended borders. Much as in Iraq, the bulk of the Afghan insurgency is local, but there are signs al Qaeda-linked foreign fighters are participating.
Growing Concern: Terrorist Havens In 'Failed States'
YOCHI J. DREAZEN and PHILIP SHISHKIN
September 13, 2006; Page A1