On the fifth anniversary of 9/11, as we remember those who lost lives and loved ones, it’s important to ask a basic question about the mission America launched following that horrific September day.

Are we winning or losing the war on terror?

Sadly, the evidence points not to victory, but to defeat.

A front page article in the Washington Post today reports that the US military has lost a crucial province in Western Iraq to insurgents, including those affiliated with Al-Qaeda.

Lest you forget, a Senate intelligence report recently reiterated what everyone but Dick Cheney should now know: Before the war in Iraq, Saddam Hussein had no relationship with Al Qaeda. In fact, they despised each other.

In Afghanistan, the Taliban is fast regrouping. And the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan, called “terrorism central,” by the US military, is a thriving Al-Qaeda sanctuary.

To paraphrase Donald Rumsfeld, we seem to be creating more terrorists than we’re killing or capturing.

“If this is indeed a long war, as the Bush administration says, then the United States has almost certainly lost the first phase,” writes esteemed Pakistani journalist Ahmed Rashid. “Guerrillas are learning faster than Western armies, and the West makes appalling strategic mistakes while the extremists make brilliant tactical moves.”

The time has obviously come for the US to think very differently about how we use both the carrot and the stick.