There are very few successes and lessons learned since 9/11 in terms of fighting the terrorist threat. In fact, the only thing that the United States can write down to its credit is that, indeed, it has not suffered an attack similar to those in its territory. Given that this was the original objective of the “war on terror,” which began with the invasion of Afghanistan in October 2001, it could be concluded that everything else – to be noted in the debit section – would be just perfectly acceptable collateral effects.
But that judgment can hardly be sustained – even if it includes the elimination of Osama bin Laden and Abubaker al Baghdadi – when there are so many accumulated errors and not a few perverse effects of the militaristic misfortune that George W. Bush started. There is, to begin with, the US contempt for a NATO that, for the first time in its history, activated Article V of the treaty and found that Washington preferred to mount a clearly unilateralist “coalition of wills” despite appearances. Since then, the internal fracture of an increasingly desolate Alliance has widened, along with the one that affects the European Union and the United States; precisely when transatlantic cooperation is most needed to deal with such serious problems as the climate crisis or the emergency in China.
Along the way, Washington’s credibility as the ultimate guarantor of its allies has been – irreparably? – damaged. How confident can Taiwan, Ukraine or the Baltic countries have today in the face of perceived threats from China or Russia, when the US has left the Afghans under pressure from a simple irregular group? No matter how rational their intention to get out of a scenario in which their vital interests are not at stake to concentrate their efforts on dealing with Beijing and Moscow, it is inevitable to think that their status as world hegemon is even more eroded than it is. it already was before the deplorable withdrawal from Kabul.
The “war on terror” has bogged the US in an uncertain task, leaving plenty of room for maneuver for China and Russia, and we had to wait for the first National Security Strategy signed by Donald Trump in 2017 to recognize that this was an inadequate framework and that, in its place, the new one would be defined by competition between global powers. The problem is that it is now entering that competition in worse conditions than before and, in the meantime, it has squandered enormous human and financial resources without succeeding in eliminating the terrorist threat and, much less, without democratizing the Islamic world. Meanwhile, its infrastructures and services have deteriorated significantly, precisely when they were most necessary to respond to the Great Recession, which has left many behind and has dangerously increased social polarization. The aid plans that Joe Biden is trying to carry out seek precisely to modernize the United States and stop the trumpismo with a view to the legislative elections next year and the presidential elections in 2024.
Nor does it seem that what happened has served to understand that there is no military solution against terrorism and that the fight against this threat requires a sustained, long-term effort that, by definition, must be multilateral and multidimensional in order to attend precisely to the structural-social causes. , political and economic – on which jihadism feeds. Likewise, there is nothing to indicate that the lesson has been learned that playing with fire – creating or empowering the Mujahideen, Saddam Husseins, the Taliban and so many others as circumstantial instruments subordinated to short-term views – ends up causing more problems than it appears to be. resolves. And the same can be said about the impossibility of creating democracies and the rule of law. military hands, especially if it ends up betting on individuals and groups that only seek to take advantage of the support received for their own benefit.
Meanwhile, the threat of jihadist terrorism not only remains present, but has expanded to new scenarios, from the African Sahel to Mozambique to the Indian subcontinent. With the networks created by Al Qaeda and Daesh at the head, their modes of action have also evolved, making it even more problematic to avoid their blows.
Without forgetting your modus operandi traditional, in recent years the so-called “resistance without leadership” has gained more importance, a low-cost terrorism that, without the need for complex preparations or highly qualified executors, can hit anyone at any time, guaranteeing the media coverage and maintenance of the climate of terror that is so necessary for their objectives. A jihadism that, inevitably, is globally reinforced after the Afghan disaster that, surely, their effective propaganda networks will already be in charge of presenting as a new victory against the infidels.
Jesus A. Núñez Villaverde He is co-director of the Institute for Conflict Studies and Humanitarian Action (IECAH)
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