On this Memorial Day, it’s important to remember that the very same U.S. policies that created al-Qaeda in Afghanistan in the 1980s—leading to the horrific attacks of 9/11—are today allowing al-Qaeda to metastasize all around the Muslim world.
As in the 80s, these new terrorist cells are quietly gathering strength now, and are sure to deliver future terror strikes that will make 9/11 seem like child’s play.
To understand this dire prediction, we must first examine the United States’ history of empowering Islamic jihadis—only to be attacked by those same jihadis many years later—and the chronic shortsightedness of American policymakers, whose policies are based on their brief tenure, not America’s long-term wellbeing.
In the 1980s, the U.S. supported Afghani rebels—among them the jihadis—to repel the Soviets. Osama bin Laden, Ayman Zawahiri, and countless foreign jihadis journeyed to Afghanistan to form a base of training and planning—the first prerequisite of the jihad, as delineated in Sayyid Qutb’s Milestones.
Al-Qaeda—which tellingly means “the base”—was born.
The U.S. supported al-Qaeda, they defeated the Soviets, shook hands with Reagan, Afghanistan became ruled by the Taliban, and for many years all seemed well.
But it wasn’t. For over a decade al-Qaeda, unfettered in Afghanistan, trained and plotted. Then came the strikes of 9/11, which were portrayed by the talking heads as a great and unexpected surprise: “What happened? Who knew? Why do they hate us?”
Had al-Qaeda not secured a base of operations, its namesake, 9/11 would not have occurred.
But if Reagan helped create the first al-Qaeda cell in relatively unimportant Afghanistan, Obama is helping to create numerous, more emboldened, al-Qaeda cells in some of the most important Islamic nations.
He is doing this by helping get rid of Arab autocrats who were effective at suppressing jihadis (even if for selfish reasons), while empowering some of the most radical jihadis who were formerly imprisoned or in hiding.
And all in the name of the “Arab Spring” and “democracy.”
In Egypt, Obama threw Mubarak, America’s chief Mideast ally for three decades, under the bus, and cozied up to the Muslim Brotherhood. Egypt’s government is today overrun with Islamists, many who share al-Qaeda’s radical worldview. Several of these new policymakers—including President Morsi himself—were imprisoned under Mubarak, not, as the Western media portray, because they were freedom-loving rebels, but because they were, and are, Sharia-loving radicals trying to transform Egypt into an Islamist state.
The Sinai alone is now infested with jihadis, including possibly al-Qaeda leader Ayman Zawahiri.
In Libya, Obama supported the opposition against Gaddafi—knowing full well that al-Qaeda was among them—enabling the Benghazi attack and murder of Americans on the anniversary of 9/11. The unprecedented persecution of Christians in Libya—from attacks on churches to attacks on nuns—is further indicative of the direction “liberated” Libya is taking.
And now in Syria, Obama is, once again, supporting foreign jihadis, who make up 95% of Syria’s so-called “opposition.” As in Libya—and as in Afghanistan in the 80s—foreign jihadis are flooding Syria and terrorizing non-Muslims (a recent fatwa permits the raping of non-Sunni women), in their bid to create another base, another qaeda.
One of them recently declared, “When we finish with Assad, we will fight the U.S.!”—precisely al-Qaeda’s thinking in the 80s-90s when it was supported by the U.S. against the U.S.S.R.
Thus all the forces and circumstances that led up to the strikes of 9/11—foreign jihadis infiltrating and consolidating power in Muslim countries formerly run by secular dictators—are once again in full play, but in a much more profound way. Today it’s not just one relatively unimportant country, Afghanistan, that is being subverted by jihadis but several strategically important nations.
If 9/11 was the price the U.S later paid for helping turn Afghanistan into a jihadi base in the 80s-90s, what price will America later pay now that it’s betraying several major nations to the jihadis, who are turning them into bases, into qaedas?
So why are American politicians not blowing the whistle on Obama’s suicidal policies?
Because their myopia and inability to see beyond today—beyond their tenure—has not changed since September 11, 2001. Just as it took over a decade after al-Qaeda’s creation to launch the 9/11 attacks—a time of ostensible peace and calm for the U.S., a time of planning and training for the jihadis—it will take time for the new jihadi storm to pour on America.
And that’s the era we’re currently in: the calm before the storm. Just as before 9/11, today’s American leaders focus only on the moment—a moment when the U.S appears relatively safe—never considering the future or the inevitable consequences of a woefully counterproductive U.S. foreign policy.
Speaking of foreign policy, if Reagan supported the jihadis to combat the U.S.S.R—a hostile super-power—why is Obama supporting the jihadis? What exactly does America have to gain?
At any rate, just as it was before 9/11, when the jihadi storm eventually does break out—and it will, it’s a matter of time—those American politicians who helped empower it, chief among them Obama, will be long gone, and the talking heads will again be stupidly asking “What happened?” “Who knew?” Why do they hate us?”
Except then it will be too late.
A Virus Yet to Be Eradicated
Much as everything in this world, human memory knows its limits. Increasingly receding into a background of the past, episodes of our life—be they thrilling at the thought or intensely dramatic—grow faint and fade, as they are gradually eclipsed by latest events and fresh experiences.
On September 11, 2001, I happened to be a first-hand witness to the most heinous terrorist attack in humanity’s contemporary history—the hijacked passenger jets heading to crash into the towers of the World Trade Center in lower Manhattan. Twenty-one years later, I’m somewhat in doubt that all of this happened to me for a fact: blinding flares of orange against the backdrop of a blue September sky, swirls of smoke and dust slowly blanketing the city’s downtown narrow streets, a high-pitched cacophony of fire-truck and police sirens, crowds of disoriented people having no idea where to run and what the next moment might bring.
In the wake of 9/11, international terrorism has predictably become a thing to bandy about. Like many of my colleagues, I was attending numerous conferences and seminars as well as partaking in various research projects on the subject. Besides, a stroke of fate gave me a rare opportunity to have personal conversations with such heavyweights of world politics as Vyacheslav Trubnikov, Richard Armitage, Thomas R. Pickering, Kofi Annan and others, who made their meaningful contribution to fostering cooperation in countering the terrorist threat. In a way, their efforts have borne fruit as the world has seen nothing similar to 9/11 since 2001.
Still, we have to admit that the war on terror has not ended in a decisive victory. Terrorist attacks no longer claim lives of thousands—however, hundreds have died in the massive attacks in Paris and in Madrid, in Bagdad and in Berlin, in Beslan and over Sinai, in Gamboru (Nigeria) and in Mumbai (India), with new names added to this tragic list every so often. Large-scale terrorist attacks are now few and far between in the United States, but there have been more of them in Europe, let alone in the Middle East. The recent suicide bombing near the Russian Embassy in Kabul is yet another reminder that the terrorist threat is still here. Why, then, is the goal to wipe out terrorism—now dating two decades—not achieved so far?
In the first place, the international community has failed to agree on a common definition of terrorism’s origins, driving forces and character. What some actors explicitly dub as “terrorist” may look like a national liberation struggle for others. Bring up the issue of terrorism in Kashmir in a conversation with Indians and Pakistani, only to see there can hardly be a common denominator in this matter.
Second, any success in the fight against terrorism entails a high level of trust between the interacting parties—simply because they would have to exchange sensitive and confidential information. In today’s world, trust is thin on the ground. An apparent and mounting deficit of this resource is not only present in the relations between Moscow and Washington; it also takes its toll on the relations between Beijing and Brussels, between Riyadh and Teheran, between Cairo and Addis Ababa, between Bogota and Caracas, and the list goes on.
Third, international terrorism is far from an issue that is set in stone. It is gradually changing and evolving to become more resilient, sophisticated, and cunning. Similar to a dangerous virus, the terrorist threat is mutating, generating ever new strains. Ironically, what is especially dangerous today is the kind of terrorism bred by anonymous mavericks and amateurs rather than the sort represented by well-known transnational extremist movements—individualists are the hardest to track and neutralize, while plans of amateurs are harder to reveal.
The current progress in military technology, coupled with other trends in the contemporary international arena, portend a new spike in terrorist activities in the coming years. Modern and increasingly complex social and economic infrastructure, especially in large metropolitan areas, is an enabling environment for hard-hitting terrorist attacks. Besides, international and civil conflicts—like the one raging in Ukraine—drastically heighten the accessibility of modern arms for would-be terrorists.
Add to this a comprehensive setback in the resilience of global economy, which may be fraught with more social tensions and an inevitable rise of pollical radicalism and extremism in a broad range of countries. An obvious foretelling: In this “nutrient broth”, the virus of terrorism, which has not been wholly eradicated, stands all the chances for an “explosive” growth.
It may well be possible that all of us will in the years ahead be lucky enough to avoid a second edition of the events that shattered the world on September 11, 2001. Still, taking terrorism off the agenda is only possible if humanity effects a transition to a new level of global governance. It is either that the leading powers are wise and energetic enough for this, or the tax that international terrorism imposes on our common civilization will be progressively higher.
From our partner RIAC
ISIS Rises from the Dust in the Syrian Desert
Over the last few months Syria’s northeast has been spiraling downwards to chaos amid the surge of violence and terror attributed to Islamic State (IS). After almost five years of dormant existence the terror group is once again making its way to prominence in Syria. With the so-called territorial califate no longer viable, the IS members have switched to hit-and-run attacks on remote outposts and prolific use of improvised explosive devices (IED) against vehicles. These attacks target both US-supported Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and the Syrian army units operating in the northeastern provinces of Raqqa and Deir Ezzor. At the same time the terrorists managed to restore afinancial safety net by extorting money from local professionals, including small business owners, doctors and teachers. Those who refuse to pay are subjected to threats and torture. The resulting insecurity enables the terror group to widen the scope of its activities even further.
The deterioration of the security situation in Syria went almost unnoticed by the international community distracted by the Ukrainian conflict. Under these circumstances the U.S. has a window of opportunity to curb the Russian influence in Syria and undermine theimage of power projected by Moscow in the Middle East.
Indeed, the areas held by the Russians and the Syrian army in Deir Ezzor and Homs have witnessed an increase in bloody attacks, supposedly carried out by IS fighters. The terrorists were able to avoid retaliation by retreating to no man’s land in the areas abutting the U.S. bases, namely Al-Shadadi, the Green Zone near Abu-Kemal border crossing and Al-Tanf base. Moreover, previously each IS attack in US-controlled areas had been followed by joint raids of SDF and the US special forces. It is no longer so. Considerable resources that might otherwise have been used for counterinsurgency operations are allocated to maintaining security in Al-Hol camp, where some 12,000 IS fighters and their family members are held. Add to that the imminent threat of Turkish invasion from the north. The SDF was led into a deadlock and is loosing the grip on the region. Meanwhile IS sleeper cells exploit the situation to their advantage and infiltrate territories controlled by the Syrian army.
These suspicions are confirmed by a high-ranking source in the Syrian intelligence. Speaking on the condition of anonymity, the source claimed that the U.S. helicopters transported 200 former IS fighters from prisons in Haseke to the 55-km security zone around Al-Tanf. The terrorists will be split up into groups of 10 – 15 people. These groups will be then sent to provinces with Russian presence including Homs, Latakia, Tartus and Damascus with the task of conducting terror attacks with IEDs at the Russian military sites. Most of the selected militants originate from Northern Caucasia or Central Asia and therefore are fluent in Russian.
The source added that the list of the primary targets of the terrorists includes the phosphate mines in Hneifis guarded by Russian security companies as well as Russian military bases in Lattakia, Tartus, Damascus and Aleppo.
Ultimately, the recruitment of IS members to create disturbance for the Russians would only become a logical development of the proxy policy adopted by the U.S. in Syria. After all, Washington is killing two birds with one stone by destabilizing the area of Russian influence and making use of the IS prisoners. However, there is another conclusion to be made: Washington has failed in its initial mission to defeat IS and is now resorting to the use of terror group splinters in its political power games.
Pakistan is a victim of terrorism
A High-Level Ministerial the first Session of the UN Global Congress of Victims of Terrorism was held on 8 September 2022, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari’s remarks:-
“I am honored to speak today at the first UN Global Congress of Victims of Terrorism. This subject has special resonance for me personally, having lost my illustrious mother, the first woman Prime Minister of Pakistan, in a dastardly act of terrorism.
2. The Government and the people of Pakistan pay solemn tribute to all those who have suffered at the hands of terrorists. I express my profound support and solidarity with the victims and families of those who have been affected by this scourge.
3. The international community has an abiding responsibility to protect and support victims of terrorism. This has to be the basic tenant of our efforts to promote peace and security in the world.
4. While waging kinetic efforts to eradicate terrorist groups is imperative, we cannot fully win the fight against terrorism without preserving the rights of millions of innocent, defenseless, and vulnerable people who have suffered immensely because of terrorism. There should be more focus on retribution and rehabilitation and justice. Equally important is the need to work together to prevent further attacks, hold terrorists to account, and adopt a uniform victim-centric approach while addressing the challenges faced in conflict zones.
5. It is also unfortunate that political expediency and real politick have been allowed to dictate international response towards terrorism. Our tolerance for terrorism must not be a function of our foreign and domestic policies. This selective approach toward terrorism is the biggest injustice to the victims of terrorism.
6. For the last two decades, Pakistan has been one of the worst victims of terrorism – with over 80,000 causalities and economic losses exceeding $150 billion. We pay tribute to the families of martyrs of our law enforcement agencies and armed forces, who have rendered invaluable sacrifices while defending our motherland.
7. If we are to chart a way forward for victims, we must look beyond narrow political interests and geo-political agendas. We must examine why, despite global strategies, the terrorist threats continue to proliferate and give rise to the number of victims.
8. To further debate this issue, I would like to make a few points: First, we must address the root causes of terrorism and conditions conducive to terrorism. Second, we must distinguish terrorism from legitimate struggles for self-determination. Third, we must address state-sponsored terrorism, especially in cases of foreign occupation, and reject occupying powers’ propensity to use brute force against occupied people in the name of counter-terrorism operations. Fourth, we must have a consensus definition of terrorism and take into account new and emerging threats. Fifth, we must address challenges emanating from the use of new technologies by terrorists, especially on social media and the dark web. And finally, we must counter disinformation campaigns.
9. Pakistan condemns terrorism in all forms and manifestations including right-wing, Islamophobia, racially and ethnically motivated, and state-sponsored terrorism.
10. Terrorism can only be completely eradicated by fighting extremism and the mindset that breeds violent extremism. I would like to urge that this global problem requires continuing international cooperation without any prejudices or preconceived notions against any particular religion, race, civilization, or country.
11. I would also like to take this opportunity to pay special homage to the oppressed people of Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK) and Palestine who deserve our special attention for their continuing suffering as victims of the worst forms of state-terrorism. The international community must hold the perpetrators of such state terrorism, and crimes against humanity, to account.
12. Our inability to address these issues will continue to increase victims and add to their suffering. It will also add to the physical and psychological trauma that may outlive many conflicts. The international community owes it to the victims of terrorism to take effective steps to address terrorism, wherever it may be, in whatever form it exists, without political considerations. This is our moral as well as legal obligation.”
Pakistan’s sacrifices in the Afghan war are much more than the collective damages caused to the 46 nations alliance led by the US in Afghanistan. Pakistan suffered the loss of around 80,000 precious human lives and an economic loss of estimated worth US Dollars 250 billion, in addition to the menace of terrorism, drugs, and gun cultures. The international community should acknowledge Pakistan’s sacrifices and compensate.
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