US losing the fight against terrorists

US losing the fight against terrorists

It all sounded deceptively simple: When he first ran for the White House, US President Barack Obama promised that, instead of confronting terrorists with brute military force, he would combat terrorism by "rolling back the tide of helplessness that gives rise to hate".

American administration officials continue to trumpet their anti-terrorist achievements. "Core Al-Qaeda no longer poses a principal threat to the US homeland," they claimed recently.

But, as the current stunning victories by militant fighters in Iraq indicate, the global scourge of terrorism is growing. The truth is, that President Obama is losing the war against the men of violence.

Terrorist activity increasing

The figures speak for themselves.

An exhaustive study released earlier this month by the Rand Corporation, one of America's biggest operational research outfits, concluded that the number of clearly identifiable terrorist organisations has grown from 20 in 2010 to 48 today, while the number of estimated armed extremists has more than doubled over the same period, and now stands at around 40,000 worldwide.

The US State Department's own assessment, contained in its latest "Country Reports on Terrorism", acknowledges the same trend. It observes that terrorist attacks increased last year by almost half, from 6,700 to 9,700, taking the lives of 18,000 people.

The conclusion is, therefore, inescapable: While the US itself may be more secure than it was on the eve of the terrorist attacks of Sept 11, 2001, the rest of the world is facing the worst bout of terrorism in modern history.

One reason for this terrorist spike is the wave of revolutions which are sweeping through the Middle East, toppling governments which - however corrupt or totalitarian their methods may have been - did exercise effective control over their national territory.

That control has now evaporated and is unlikely to be restored soon.

It is difficult to see how the various tribal and regional militias inside Libya would be disarmed. A much more likely scenario is that they will export violence to neighbouring Egypt, Tunisia and Algeria for years to come.

Meanwhile, Syria will remain a laboratory of international terrorism.

It is a country that has already sucked in an estimated 7,000 European volunteer extremist Muslim fighters, plus at least another 30,000 similar individuals from other parts of the Middle East.

The Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group which has stunned the world by occupying a large chunk of Iraq, is one of the smaller terrorist organisations emanating from Syria. Ahrar al-Sham and Jabhat al-Nusra each have a bigger number of fighters than ISIL. They can be expected to launch their own attacks in the weeks to come, if only in order to uphold their reputations.

Developments in other parts of the world are grimmer still.

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