Assessing the failures of US ‘War on Terror’ 17 years after 9/11

Spearhead Special Report – 17.09.2018

By Fatima Ayub
Research Analyst, Spearhead Research

Seventeen years after 9/11, the outcome of the War on Terror is still in dispute. With the menace of ISIS viciously fought and defeated by a network of allies, rumours of its accruing resurgence, a reformed Al-Qaeda operating across the Middle East and threatening to spill over to South Asian territory, terrorism has more followers now than it did before 2001. Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan have become axiomatic with large scale destruction, devastation, loss of human life and hatred amongst affected millions of affected communities are likely to fuel a fresh crop of frustrated citizens who find solace in the idea of an all-out Jihad against who they see as perpetrators of their injustice.

While 2001 saw only the monopoly of Al-Qaeda – (loosely translated as ‘The Fundament’) and the bogey of its founder Osama Bin Laden dominate counterterrorism efforts of the West, the Islamic State overshadowed its patron in 2014, creating the legacy of a new wave of terrorism comprising of ideological and physical domination of territory.

It is clear that the so-called ‘War against Terrorism’ is not working.

To critics of American foreign policy post 9/11, the problem lies in the persistent tendency to view the threat of jihadism through the post-2001 prism. The attacks in New York and Washington, D.C. more than a decade ago still shape the way both policy makers and experts on jihad approach the subject. But political scientists take the view that the threat of extremism today is better understood through events that took place after 2011, when the Arab Spring and its aftermath overturned the established order in the Middle East and North Africa, and with it the subverted the concept of ‘extremism’ as was known previously.

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