Under the 2001-declared “global war on terrorism,” the U.S. has launched repeated attacks against al-Qaeda and other terrorism-labeled militant organizations in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Sudan, Somalia and Libya, but not in Syria.
There is no doubt that the U.S. military strikes (mostly using drones) and its counter-terror laws and measures have succeeded significantly in weakening the military competence of al-Qaeda and its affiliated groups, or at least containing them, especially in Afghanistan and Pakistan, but in other radicalism-fertile territories, namely Syria and Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, the U.S. seems to be lacking a well-defined approach to combat terrorism.
the U.S. decision not to inflict a unilateral strike in Syria has been considered evidence of them fighting alongside al-Qaeda and this has subsequently paved the way towards a power grab by the blacklisted group.Raed Omari
What is certainly complicating the U.S. war on terror is the fact that it is against an ideology, not a country or well-located mercenaries with easy-to-hit commands and arsenals. If this was the case, then the war on terror could have ended a long time ago due to America’s unsurpassed and unchallenged power.
The Americans are aware of this and as a result are in a state of constant alert in Afghanistan and Pakistan, with their unmanned aerial vehicles in place to strike targets emerging from a cave in Tora-Bora.
However, when it comes to Syria, now a preferred place for al-Qaeda’s affiliates and other blacklisted groups, the U.S seems to be reluctant and indecisive. This is coupled with unannounced policies (a mutual understanding with the Syrian regime) that all will lead to increasing terrorism in Syria or at least extending the war for some time to come.
The U.S. is pushing Syria towards extremism
Seemingly, a “mutual understanding” between the U.S., Russia and the Syrian regime does not only include chemical weapon disarmament but terrorism-combating matters as well.
For the Jihadist warriors in Syria, there is a conviction of a conspiracy plotted against them by a newly-formed anti-terrorism coalition comprising the U.S., Russia and the Syrian regime.
What could have strengthened the radical groups’ confidence of a conspiracy against them are the recent Human Rights Watch’s (HRW) accusations of war crimes and massacre allegations against the Jihadist fighters (excluding the Syrian regime) along with the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons winning of the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize.
For these radical groups, the HRW and the Nobel Prize are not objective entities, they are always in favor of the U.S. and other Western powers.
It is true that the U.S. decision not to inflict a unilateral strike in Syria has been considered evidence of them fighting alongside al-Qaeda and this has subsequently paved the way towards a power grab by the blacklisted group. But, the movement now feels abandoned due to their eternal enemy’s unannounced alliance with the regime of Bashar al-Assad. As a result, these “ready-to-die” fundamentalists will almost certainly grow more violent with America’s interests throughout the region becoming their targets.
In other words, the old slogan “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” is no longer applicable for Islamist groups fighting in Syria, a concept that was used previously in their war against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan.
If after being “on good terms” with America during the 1979-1989 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, al-Qaeda’s affiliates declared their “sacred war” against the U.S. interests, what will the situation look like after America’s alliance with their enemy in Syria? It is almost certain that, this time, they will grow more violent.
So, instead of containing these radical groups in Syria, the U.S. has unconsciously increased their terrorist, radical attitudes and their presence in the war-torn country. Instead of ending the violence, the U.S. is indirectly helping to prolong and expand the Syrian war encouraging in to spread into neighboring countries.
Under the newly declared “war against terrorism” in Syria, the war there will not be only between the rebels and the regime forces, but between the Islamist groups themselves as was the case after the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan.
The Free Syrian Army’s frequent military confrontations with the U.S.-designated terrorist organization, the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant or DAESH, and before that with Jabhat al-Nusra are examples of how Syria is close to an Afghan-style disaster.
The outcome is nothing but more suffering for the Syrian people with the limited possibility of their country regaining its security and stability decaying day by day.
The same applies to Egypt
Egypt, the trustworthy and longtime ally in the war against terrorism, is being pressed now by the U.S. while it is at war with terrorist groups in the Sinai Peninsula.
The recent U.S. decision to freeze $260 million of $1.5 billion in annual aid to Egypt, most of it in military assistance, will actually raise the “morals” of the radical groups in Sinai and encourage them to continue their military attacks against the Egyptian army, seeing that the U.S is unhappy with Egypt’s new rulers.
The timing of the U.S. decision is not good at all.
Following the U.S. announcement to cut aid, Egypt’s army chief Gen. Abdel Fatah al-Sisi was quoted as reportedly expressing dismay at the decision in a strongly worded message to U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel during a conversation.
“The decision was wrong in terms of content and time,” said the Cairo-based Ahram Online, which majority is owned by Egypt's government.
“It raises serious questions about U.S. readiness to provide stable, strategic support to Egyptian security programs amid threats and terrorism challenges it has been facing,” Egypt's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Badr Abdel Atty, is reportedly quoted to have said.
Again, like in Syria, the U.S. is indirectly helping the extremist groups in Egypt grow more violent.
Not only that, but the U.S. announcing that its controversial decision was meant to pressure Egypt’s “military regime” to restore democracy as quickly as possible, hinting to its dissatisfaction with president Mohamed Mursi, will lead to more extremism and violence in Egypt.
Now Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood’s members and supporters, who have long been viewed as moderate and more inclined to politics as opposed to other Islamist groups, are expected to become more extreme due to the “troubling” relationship between the U.S. and the new Egyptian rulers.
Raed Omari is a Jordanian journalist, political analyst, parliamentary affairs expert, and commentator on local and regional political affairs. His writing focuses on the Arab Spring, press freedoms, Islamist groups, emerging economies, climate change, natural disasters, agriculture, the environment and social media. He is a writer for The Jordan Times, and contributes to Al Arabiya English. He can be reached via email@example.com, or on Twitter @RaedAlOmari2