By Pramod Sedhain.
Global terrorism scenario is still at a worse level. Despite the fact that the U.S. and its allies have been engaged in fighting and foiling several deadly terrorist plots and attacks for over 15 years, the global terrorism phenomenon has become an ever-changing threat. Various nations, recently European nations have witnessed series of unprecedented terrorist attacks.
While al Qaeda was still a global threat, the rise of another superior terrorist group Islamic State (IS) since summer 2014 has added more woes. The U.S. has been working closely with many nations to counter these two groups. Various domestic causes, instability and chaos have been harboring these groups. However, global terrorism landscape has significantly changed since the rise of IS.
Rapid rise of random terrorist violence, cyber terrorism to sympathizer attacks have recently seen as a new challenge to minimize their spreading capabilities. In fact, the global terrorist groups are not in a winning streak but still pose significant terrorist risks. Despite series of losses on territory, recruitment and finance, the IS has been making attempts to indiscriminate terrorist attacks against West.
The weakening al Qaeda has shifted its operational strategy to preserve terrorism capabilities from various franchises. Hidden core are still capable to make strategic-operational ties to local franchises for deadly terrorist attacks. IS wants to preserve their terrorism capabilities from its affiliate groups. The U.S. is doing its best to control such shameless global terrorist threats but the wars have become prolonged asymmetric warfare. Not only al-Qaeda and IS but also their franchises,, other local extremists have been posing multi-dimensional threats.
The killing of terrorist kingpin Bin Laden in Pakistan’s Abbottabad safe house on May 2, 2011 weakened the entire Al-Qaeda central network. However, new threat has emerged including the rise of ultra-brutal group IS from Iraq and Syria. Effectiveness of U.S. forces is not doubtful but the growing homegrown radicalization, leader-less attacks, terrorist groups’ provoking messages, various radical religious ideological backing, diversifying the funds, sophisticated propaganda capabilities and cyber-based jihad have been the key problems as of now.
Global terrorist groups have been recruiting more people, creating instability in various countries due to which security vacuums has become a key challenge for Counter-Terrorism (CT) efforts. Other than the rise of ISIS, the political instability in the Middle East and North Africa has posed significant challenge and threat to global counterterrorism efforts. Civil war in Yemen, Libya and Syria has been a breeding ground for global terrorist groups.
Jeopardizing situation in various nations has provided terrorist groups safe harbor, exploiting options besides increasing their operational strength. Horn of Africa, Sahel to Gulf of Guinea and North Africa are still a great concern for the international community.
Dealing with such gruesome terrorist groups, which many nations are still facing is not an easy task. Several nations are vulnerable to such attacks. Innocent civilians, children and women are basically targeted by the newly emerged al Qaeda splinter devil terrorist group Islamic State (IS).
Coordinated terrorist threat against the U.S. homeland is less dangerous than ever but modern threat emerging from homegrown online radicalization to lone-wolf attacks has been more dangerous. The U.S. intelligence, security and law enforcement are much capable of dealing to these growing terrorist threats almost real time beyond the border in various parts of complex grounds. The day-to-day confrontation against global terrorist groups has minimized terrorist threats in the U.S. homeland as well as other countries.
Post 9/11 global war on terror effective security legislation and covert operations thwarted dozens of deadly coordinate terror plots in the U.S., many more far from the border. Throughout the one and half decade of ‘war on terror’, the U.S. forces have been able to eliminate terrorist threats far from the homeland by using all necessary means. Despite successfully foiling hundreds of terrorist attacks plots in the U.S. homeland, the U.S. CT campaigns have faced tough challenges in various other countries.
Following the tragic coordinated terrorist attacks by hijacked airliners in New York’s twin towers and targets to Pentagon in Washington on September 11, 2001, the U.S. began ‘global war on terror’. Al-Qaeda’s deadly terrorist attacks provoked the U.S. to response on their hideouts and supporters. President George W. Bush addressed a Joint Session of Congress and declared “War on Terror” on September 20, 2001. Bush said: “Every nation, in every region, now has a decision to make. Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists.” This reshaped the global scene forever and eventually led the war in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The U.S. and her allies began ‘Operation Enduring Freedom’ on October 7 intensifying air strikes on al-Qaeda and Taliban targets that continued for 5 days in Afghanistan. On December 7, Taliban lost almost all its stronghold. The operation primarily aimed to kill Osama bin Laden, which initially was unsuccessful but expelled entire al-Qaeda from Afghan territory, dismantled all training camps and hideouts as well as overthrow the al-Qaeda host Taliban regime. The U.S. officially ended its 13 years combat operation in Afghanistan and since then turned their mission in support. But the Afghan situation still remains fragile without the U.S. support and there could be another Iraq-like situation in future.
On 19 March 2003, U.S. President Bush announced the ‘Operation Iraqi Freedom’. Following the day U.S. forces began the invasion of Iraq and captured Baghdad on April 10. The U.S. military intervention in Iraq toppled brutal dictator Saddam Hussein’s regime. The U.S. President Bush declared major combat operations in Iraq over on May 1.
Superior U.S. can easily achieve its victory within a very quick span of time but terrorist groups launched series of suicide attacks even before the formation of the post-Saddam civilian government. In August, series of suicide bombings hit Jordanian embassy, U.N. headquarters in Baghdad and a senior Iraqi Shia cleric was assassinated by bomb attack in Najaf. Coalition formed the first post-Saddam government and started political transitional process on September 1. The U.S. ‘Operation Red Dawn’ led Saddam Hussein captured alive on December 13 in Ad-Dawr, Tikrit who was legally executed on 2006 Dec. 30 after series of court hearing.
Despite different political and diplomatic initiatives, the U.S. failed to pursue the post-Saddam effective stabilization. Washington planners focused more military action rather than difficult ground fact on geo-political, tribal, religious and ethnic factors. Saddam’s loyalists, non-state actors, disbanded Saddam’s military, security and intelligence wings and terrorists continued to be active to destabilize Iraq. Deterioration of security situation subsequently led to dangerous insurgency against coalition forces that led to sectarian violence by al-Qaeda affiliated Abu Musab al-Zarqawi group.
Saddam was an immoral brutal tyrant who murdered hundreds of thousands of own people and destabilized the region. Removal of his regime was a necessity for Iraqi people where they demonstrated overwhelming support to the U.S.-led operation. But failure of political, economic and social issues led to the new cycle of crisis.
Since 2004, Zarqawi formally pledged alliance with al-Qaeda and led the Sunni insurgency. The U.S. collaboration with Sunni tribal leaders significantly decreased the group’s ability and Zarqawi was killed by U.S. airstrike in 2006. Without assessing the situation on the ground as well as further threats, President Barrack Obama decided to pull out all American forces from Iraq in 2011.
Iraq’s internal political divisions and Syrian civil war paved the way for the rise of terrorists. After series of breaks by Iraqi prisoners since 2012, they captured large areas in Syria. The al Qaeda in Iraq became more superior to central. Since 2013, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi severed all ties with Al-Qaeda and declared Islamist Caliphate in June, 2014. After the IS posed direct threat to Iraqi capital, President Obama authorized air strikes against the group in August 2014. Obama’s set “degrade and ultimately destroy” strategy against IS but hesitated to go for ground forces. Since then, the U.S. has continued its fight against Islamic State in Iraq, Syria, Libya, Afghanistan and beyond.
The Global CT arena is deepening on U.S. assistances and wide-ranging contribution which still must require to stabilizing the global order. Terrorism threat has not been confined to only a single region but is beyond that – from multiple countries to multiple regions. The U.S. is considerably degrading large scale global terrorist but still huge challenge remains. The U.S. has been taking bigger counterterrorism burden across the globe. Many nations still hesitate to take serious part in this drive or battle but are still seizing the opportunity from the U.S., which is making unwavering efforts to establishing international security.