Six years after the September 11 attacks in the United States, the "war on terror" is failing and instead fueling an increase in support for extremist Islamist movements, a British think-tank said on Monday.
The Oxford Research Group (ORG) says:
"If the al Qaeda movement is to be countered, then the roots of its support must be understood and systematically undercut," said Paul Rogers, the report's author and professor of global peace studies at Bradford University in northern England.
"Combined with conventional policing and security measures, al Qaeda can be contained and minimized but this will require a change in policy at every level."
He described the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq as a "disastrous mistake" which had helped establish a "most valued jihadist combat training zone" for al Qaeda supporters.
Yet AQI is being consistently "rolled up" in Iraq. It hasn't been able to stage much of anything there recently and it has been reduced to raiding outlying villages which previously were unaffected by the war.
As to the roots of its support being understood and systematically undercut, we see developments such as this:
UNKNOWN gunmen murdered Muhammad Gul Aghasi - one of the key "theologians" of al Qaeda - at a mosque in northern Syria last month. Candidates for the fiery preacher's killing include rivals within his own radical group, agents of the Americans - and his Syrian hosts. Whatever the truth, this is bad news for the already ailing al Qaeda.
Yesterday, on October 1, 2007, Saudi Mufti Sheikh Abd Al-'Aziz bin Abdallah Aal Al-Sheikh issued a fatwa prohibiting Saudi youth from engaging in jihad abroad. In his fatwa, he stated that setting forth to wage jihad without authorization by the ruler is a serious transgression, and that young Saudis who do so are being misled by suspicious elements from both the East and the West who are exploiting them in order to accomplish their own aims, and who are actually causing serious damage to Saudi Arabia, Islam, and the Muslims.
Most notably, the survey finds large and growing number of Muslims in the Middle East and elsewhere rejecting Islamic extremism. Ten mainly Muslim countries were surveyed along with the Palestinian territories, as well as five African nations with large Muslim populations.
Given that, and more (such as all the plots which have been broken up, the most notable being the latest in Germany), it seems it would be hard to argue that AQ is ascendent or winning the GWoT. But, that's precisely what ORG does.
It also claims that "with conventional policing and security measures, al Qaeda can be contained and minimized...".
Of course, as everyone recognizes, that's the "law enforcement" strategy for fighting terror. It essentially claims terrorism is a law enforcement issue and that law enforcement and good security measures can "minimize" the impact of terror. Or said another way, terrorists are a part of your life, they're going to succeed in blowing you and others up and we'll try to minimize that without actually going after the "root causes" even though we'll give "root causes" and their elimination lip service.
And, of course, that's precisely what ORG did without really meaning it. The nut of their argument is that law enforcement and security are adequate to the job of seeing only an occasional bombing succeeding.
The report — Alternatives to the War on Terror — recommended the immediate withdrawal of all foreign troops from Iraq coupled with intensive diplomatic engagement in the region, including with Iran and Syria.
In Afghanistan, Rogers also called for an immediate scaling down of military activities, an injection of more civil aid and negotiations with militia groups aimed at bringing them into the political process.
If such measures were adopted it would still take "at least 10 years to make up for the mistakes made since 9/11."
"Failure to make the necessary changes could result in the war on terror lasting decades," the report added.
So, the solution is to negotiate with countries who have no desire to negotiate anything to do with terrorism, withdraw the military from Afghanistan and hope the Taliban will allow the "civil aid" to continue while negotiating with the militia groups (an ongoing effort, btw). Obviously the answer to Iraq is similar - withdraw.
Then the final statement, "Failure to make the necessary changes could result in the war on terror lasting decades."
Maybe it's just me, but it seems that making the changes suggested would see the war on terror last centuries instead of decades. In the face of apparent success on all fronts (not just law enforcement and security) this study recommends the strategy be abandoned.
Amazing. Who knew a 'think tank' after much apparent "study", would contend that the solution to terrorism is to revert to our strategic posture on 9/10? It's a solution only John Kerry could love.
I wonder if those who paid for this study can demand their money back?
First off, these guys are academics, because anyone in business knows you want to negotiate from strength, not weakness. Why would you let up on the Taliban then? The same logic applies to Iran and Syria. If we withdraw there is no incentive for them to concede anything. In fact, we probably should have been talking with them in 2003, an error perhaps.
Have any of the terrorist bombings in the West since 2003 featured terrorists that trained in Iraq? As far as I can recall, they all trained in Pakistan, not Iraq. Maybe the ricin plot in Britain had links to Ansar al Islam, but that was pre-war? And those in Iraq now are finding a not so welcome reception from their supposed brothers in the faith. That’s gotta help morale.
I’ll grant that Iraq had some effect, but if there is any major weakness in the GWOT, I’d say it would be Pakistan not Iraq.
"Professor of Global Peace Studies" LOL.
BTW, I recall an argument often heard pre-911 that Europeans are more pacifist because they experienced WW II directly on their homelands. By this argument (usually used against American foreign policy back then) wouldn’t that mean bringing the war and violence into the Islamic heartlands would erode support for jihad in the long run. I’m not sure I buy that argument entirely, but the flip side is just as dumb - the for every terrorist we kill 10 step in to fill their place. How is that working out in Anbar?
I think that to a large extent, this just exemplifies a trend I’ve been noticing for quite a while, now: the Islamic world is feeling culturally confident, ascendant and destined to greatness (despite their obvious weaknesses, corruptions, failures and attitudes promising more of the same); while the West is by and large feeling culturally inferior (indeed, ashamed of their culture), declining and destined to oblivion or, at best, subservience. And both cultures seem to welcome their futures.
Can those of us in the West who are culturally confident overcome the nihilism and self-scourging of the defeatists? That’s the question that will largely decide whether, in the decades hence, we win or lose, and even possibly whether we thrive or fail as a culture.
I gather the Oxford guys studied the aid shipments to Mogadishu to understand how ’an injection of more civil aid and negotiations with militia groups aimed at bringing them into the political process’ works.
Yes yes, destined for success Have some of this cheese old boy, it’s very good you know, and, mmmmmm, this wine, what was it again - Singe de reddition? French? 1940 you say, well....Quite exquisite! Oh by the way, which one’s Pink?
I think the appeal of a law & order strategy is wider than you suggest.
Khaled Bin Mahfouz - lives a life of luxury, is worth $3.2 billion dollars and is widely speculated to be the man who paid for 9/11. In the ongoing GWOT it is important that the Saudi government is kept as a valued ally and this means that Khaled (who is banker to the Royal family) is protected. "Law enforcement" related to the funding of AQ from Saudi is not of high importance.
I do think you are right the GWOT is a better strategy for all the points you mention, but to say that only "John Kerry could love" a strategy to secure justice specifically for 9/11 is a bit nonsensical. There is hardly a day goes by when I do not think Khaled & Co and perhaps even the Sauds need to be brought to justice for the mass murder committed on 9/11. The appeal of "law & order" remains on an emotional level very strong. Also strategically the lack of punishment now may have future reprecussions if they are inclined to finance terror again.
I don’t think anyone is against having a very large portion of the GWOT be the law and order kind of stuff, and as time goes on that percentage should increase.
BTW, in your example, law only works with documentary evidence and there is a burden of proof, and a strong legal system. Is there enough evidence to nail this guy?
My favorite example of how law and order doesn’t work is the case of two Arab men caught trying to enter Afghanistan wearing burqas after the war had started. (from the book The Interrogators.) Well, its fairly obvious they are bad guys trying to sneak into a war zone to fight the jihad, but legally, they’ve broken penny ante laws if any and could merely be deported. But how dumb would that be?
Noone is against justice, who could be? However commitment to the GWOT requires that justice is postponed.
To even undertake an investigation to see evidence one way or the other would require a chilling of relations. This can jeopardise the improving peace with the Sunni Arabs of Iraq which has been brokered in cooperation with Saudi. That peace is more important than justice.
Khaled Bin Mahfouz is an old man, he is unwell and his sons are taking over the banking business. The postponing of investigations mean prosecution is more unlikely with each passing day. Prime Minister Gladstone might well be proved correct, but it is worth it for Iraq to suceed.
Beyond the deal with the Sunnis in Iraq, the Saudis have battled it out with AQ within their own country, losing a fair number of police and soldiers. This, to me, is important evidence that they are doing something, if not everything in the GWOT. Let’s face it that the Saudis have a tough domestic political situation, which you have to take into consideration.
They also support the moderate Sunnis in Lebanon. Overall, its a small net positive I think.
Wait, was the German plot foiled by fighting in Iraq or by "with conventional policing and security measures"? Oh right, it was a massive police investigation. So tell me again what our supposed rolling up of Al Qaeda in Iraq has to do with anything. (Also, are we sure this isn’t one of those old school circular bathroom towels that just keeps rolling around and around? Cuz we’ve been consistently rolling them up for four years without seeing the end.)
Harun, when you ask whether any of the terrorist bombings in the West since 2003 featured terrorists that trained in Iraq, are you suggesting the pointlessness of fighting such terrorists there or the efficacy of such a policy? BTW, none of the bombers from before 2003 were trained in Iraq either, right?