A total withdrawal from Iraq would play into the hands of the jihadist terrorists. As Osama bin Laden’s deputy, Ayman al-Zawahri, made clear shortly after 9/11 in his book “Knights Under the Prophet’s Banner,” Al Qaeda’s most important short-term strategic goal is to seize control of a state, or part of a state, somewhere in the Muslim world. “Confronting the enemies of Islam and launching jihad against them require a Muslim authority, established on a Muslim land,” he wrote. “Without achieving this goal our actions will mean nothing.” Such a jihadist state would be the ideal launching pad for future attacks on the West.
And there is no riper spot than the Sunni-majority areas of central and western Iraq. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi — the most feared insurgent commander in Iraq — was issuing an invitation to Mr. bin Laden when he named his group Al Qaeda in Iraq. When Mr. Zarqawi was killed this year, his successor, Abu Hamza al-Muhajer, also swore allegiance to Al Qaeda’s chief.
Another problem with a total American withdrawal is that it would fit all too neatly into Osama bin Laden’s master narrative about American foreign policy. His theme is that America is a paper tiger that cannot tolerate body bags coming home; to back it up, he cites President Ronald Reagan’s 1984 withdrawal of United States troops from Lebanon and President Bill Clinton’s decision nearly a decade later to pull troops from Somalia. A unilateral pullout from Iraq would only confirm this analysis of American weakness among his jihadist allies.
I don't agree with Bergen on a lot of things, but there's no denying he makes a good point here. The analogy he makes later in the column compares a pullout from Iraq with the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan, which eventually gave us the Taliban. And we all know what that eventually lead to.
The propaganda victory for al Qaeda should not be underestimated either. Check out this passage from bin Laden's 1996 fatwa:
Few days ago the news agencies had reported that the Defence Secretary of the Crusading Americans had said that "the explosion at Riyadh and Al-Khobar had taught him one lesson: that is not to withdraw when attacked by coward terrorists".
We say to the Defence Secretary that his talk can induce a grieving mother to laughter! and shows the fears that had enshrined you all. Where was this false courage of yours when the explosion in Beirut took place on 1983 AD (1403 A.H). You were turned into scattered pits and pieces at that time; 241 mainly marines solders were killed. And where was this courage of yours when two explosions made you to leave Aden in lees than twenty four hours!
But your most disgraceful case was in Somalia; where- after vigorous propaganda about the power of the USA and its post cold war leadership of the new world order- you moved tens of thousands of international force, including twenty eight thousands American solders into Somalia. However, when tens of your solders were killed in minor battles and one American Pilot was dragged in the streets of Mogadishu you left the area carrying disappointment, humiliation, defeat and your dead with you. Clinton appeared in front of the whole world threatening and promising revenge , but these threats were merely a preparation for withdrawal. You have been disgraced by Allah and you withdrew; the extent of your impotence and weaknesses became very clear. It was a pleasure for the "heart" of every Muslim and a remedy to the "chests" of believing nations to see you defeated in the three Islamic cities of Beirut , Aden and Mogadishu.
Adding Baghdad to the list of cities where we have been "defeated" by mujahedeen will not help our efforts in the war on Islamic extremism. If you think our presence in Iraq is creating new terrorists, just wait and see what our withdrawal would do.