loader image

On the Anniversary of 11 September: Terrorism Proliferates

When the US first launched its fight against terrorism in 2001, there were only a few hundred Al-Qaeda fighters and limited branches. Today, tens of thousands of fighters are active in around 70 countries, multiplying four-fold than in 2001.

Terrorism has proliferated over the last two decades owing largely to the failure of the American strategy to eliminate it, even if we don’t go as far as saying that it also contributed to fueling it. In the past there was a few organizations affiliated with Al-Qaeda, but now there are two main organizations as well as groups that either emerge from them or are loyal to one of them. 

The adverse consequences of the American war on Al-Qaeda are almost the same as the consequences of the war launched by the International Coalition, led by the United States, against the Islamic State (IS). It’s true that the latter no longer owns the land on which it can exert influence; however, it still possesses a foundation, as well as fighters that are ready to defend it and its so-called state, either by adapting to its current situation and conducting decentralized operations or by attempting to rebuild the organization in preparation for its reappearance. 

In a repeat of history, during the Coalition forces’ war against Al-Qaeda, despite the deaths of hundreds of its military cadres, the organization lost many areas that it controlled or sheltered, the arrest and detention of tens of its leaders, its financial blockade and military prosecution, and the killing of its leader, Osama Bin Laden himself, Al-Qaeda was still not eliminated. On the contrary, the organization was able to adapt to its new conditions, and continued to operate and carry out terrorist operations in various parts of the world, including the United States. Similarly, despite the war launched by the United States and its allies on IS in 2017, results indicate that it couldn’t eradicate it. The war against IS may have made it disappear for a bit, but it will soon return to the facade; the organization’s underlying thinking and its exploitation of political and security conditions in its regions make it difficult to eliminate it in a military campaign.

The US failed to eliminate the main causes of terrorism and failed to find a comprehensive strategy to prevent it. This failure will lead to the emergence of new waves of extremists in the world, increasingly trained in the use of modern technology, allowing them to torpedo their opponents’ traditional field gains. This failure puts the world before a range of challenges, most seriously the existing possibility of new waves of terrorism, either with the same old names, or with new ones, as long as the reasons for its emergence persist, and the ideology that succeeded in employing it still exists. 

Terrorist organizations become even stronger after they fall and declare their end. They then come to be revived either through sleeping groups, which secretly reorganize themselves before coming out, completing their operations, and continuing their projects in the open or through the hundreds, if not thousands, of fighters and collaborators that are ready to offer their lives redemption to the organizations’ belief. These will exploit the state of tension and wars in several countries around the world to achieve their goals, and to spread their ideas, beliefs, and social structure.

Al-Qaeda’s military defeat in Afghanistan and the defeat of IS in Iraq and Syria do not mean the end of terrorism or the eradication of its threat. The two rival organizations were able to spread ideologically before structurally expanding in Libya, Afghanistan, Yemen, west Africa, south-east Asia, and others. Furthermore, they were also able to attract local extremist groups and new fighters, as well as working to establish new states and sleeping groups that await instructions to carry out terrorist operations. Each one of them also continues to inspire a network of individual wolves capable of catching the organizations’ messages and instructions for specific operations. As for the caliphate idea promoted by IS, it will continue to inspire terrorist organizations in the world, and it will continue to inspire sporadic terrorist attacks, even if there is no caliphate on the ground.

The ideology of terrorism will not be eradicated by the American military machine and will persist even after its military defeat. The intellectual validity will also extend even if the alleged state fell. This calls for the search for new strategies for confrontation that, first, begin with a serious search for reasons and address them in a multidimensional approach, not just the security dimension of its importance.

This article was published in Al-Ahram newspaper on Thursday, 15 September 2022.

Latest news

Related news