The resounding failure of the US war on terrorism


September 11 paved the way for America’s “global war on terror”. Al-Qaeda’s attacks on September 11, 2001 against the military and economic symbols of the world’s leading power were to trigger a global American response.

The attacks sparked outbursts of sympathy and solidarity around the world, even from countries hostile to the United States. The shocked realization that well-organized terrorism could cause large-scale chaos anywhere must have permeated. President Vladimir Putin was the first foreign leader to meet with President George W. Bush. China sent condolences. Cuba, Libya, North Korea as well as Syrian leaders Assad and Iranian Khamenei and Khatami condemned the attacks.

Afghanistan was the primary target of the war on terror, whose grandiose objectives stated by the Bush administration were to defeat terrorists like Osama bin Laden and destroy their organizations, to end state sponsorship of the terrorism, strengthen the international effort to fight terrorism, and abolish terrorist sanctuaries and refuges. The Taliban regime, which housed Osama, was overthrown militarily.

In the uplifting phase of US unilateralism, it was used as a tool to achieve broader foreign policy goals in West Asia by eliminating leaders opposing or no longer serving US geopolitical interests in the region, starting with Saddam Hussein. The military action against Iraq in 2003 has also been called a war on terrorism. The phenomenon of the Arab Spring of 2011 won the support of the United States in the hope that the need for democracy in the Arab world would prove to be an antidote to religious extremism and terrorism in Arab society. The regime change in Libya and the attempt to overthrow the Syrian regime in 2011 on mixed terrorism and human rights grounds were the product of this belief stemming from the mood and policies that 9/11 engendered in the United States. .

However, the blatant failure of Iraq and Afghanistan in building a nation on democratic grounds, the chaos in Libya and the devastation in Syria have exposed the political and military limits of the war on terror in as an instrument of state power to eliminate non-states. actors inspired by a pan-national ideology based on scriptural injunctions, cultural aversion and a deep sense of revenge for the humiliations inflicted by the West. An upsurge in terrorism, civil strife, refugee flows and unprincipled local compromises with extremism have discredited the war on terrorism. President Barack Obama in 2013 looked down, abandoned the phraseology of the war on terror, reducing the “unlimited war on terror” to “a series of persistent and targeted efforts to dismantle specific networks of extremists. violent that threaten America ”. This already meant that the United States’ counterterrorism crusade would be limited primarily to protecting its own security, a view expressed more clearly by Trump. The unilateral withdrawal from Afghanistan largely represents this reality.

Measured by its declared objectives and its international consequences, the global war on terrorism has failed in a striking manner. The elimination of Bin Laden could have provided a trophy to display, but Islamist terrorism and religious extremism took a tremendous rise with the rise of the Islamic State in parts of Iraq and Syria, and afterwards. its elimination, the pronounced spread in Africa of extremist movements affiliated with Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State. Islamist terrorism has hit Bangladesh and Sri Lanka hard, targeting Southeast Asia. Europe has suffered dramatic terrorist attacks and an influx of refugees, with political and social consequences marked by rising anti-Islamic sentiment and right-wing nationalist forces.

The post-9/11 US war on terrorism has adversely affected India’s interests. The suppression of autocratic but secular regimes in West Asia has allowed consciously suppressed extremist Islamist movements to flourish, which has raised serious concerns in India, a victim of jihadist terrorism, about the fallout on the subcontinent.

Ironically, however, the emergence of the invigorated Islamic State and Muslim Brotherhood has had the side effect of bringing Gulf states such as the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia closer to India, concerned about the danger posed by for their policy these ideologies. America’s draconian sanctions against Iran, including for its suspected terrorist activities, have harmed our strategic and energy interests in Iran.

The gap between the objectives of the American war on terrorism and the actual achievements is clear in our region. Terrorists were neither defeated nor their organizations destroyed, whether in Pakistan or Afghanistan. Despite Pakistani state support for terrorism, not only against India but also against US forces in Afghanistan, the US has turned to Pakistan to facilitate its withdrawal from Afghanistan through its ties to the Taliban. , thus allowing it to obtain its long awaited “strategic depth”. in Afghanistan against India. The United States has failed to “abolish terrorist sanctuaries and havens” in Pakistan, nor to force a reluctant Pakistan to act against the Haqqani group, which now controls the Afghan interior ministry. Ironically, as the United States moved to destroy the Islamic State in West Asia, it handed over a state to the Taliban, with the new Afghan government made up liberally of UN-appointed terrorists. Ironically, Islamist extremists and terrorists have taken control of a country without any democratic process with the consent of an America committed to democratic values.

In the face of all these negative realities, counterterrorism cooperation between India and the United States has developed productively in important areas. The United States’ recognition of the LeT, JeM and HuM as terrorist groups and their references to “cross-border terrorism” have been diplomatically helpful, but this has not offset the much greater and unpunished space given to the United States. Pakistan despite its terrorist affiliations.

The United States’ war on terrorism has been selective, marred by double standards, ambiguities and geopolitical motives. The stated goal was not to protect America alone, but to eliminate the terrorist threat globally as part of America’s leadership role. The way he withdrew from Afghanistan has created doubts as to whether he will honor his commitments elsewhere, leading countries to cover themselves. Europe sees the withdrawal as a foreign policy disaster for the Western alliance. India is less secure with the takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban and Pakistan under the conciliatory aegis of the United States.

This column first appeared in the print edition on September 14, 2021 under the title “War and Terror”. The writer is a former Minister of Foreign Affairs


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