On October 8th in 2001, George W. Bush, the then president of the United States, declared a war on terror. The number one terrorist group was Al-Qaeda: In fact, Al-Qaeda was never one, single group. It was, and remains, an Islamic fundamentalist network that was strengthened by the US in the Afghanistan war against the Soviets in the 1980.
At the time of Bush’s declaration, Al-Qaeda operated primarily in Afghanistan along the border regions with Pakistan, with support links in Saudi Arabia. Some 12 years later, Al-Qaeda operates out of at least eleven countries, excluding supposed cells in European countries and the United States. It has become a more fluid and fractious network of terrorist in the last 12 years. All of which would add up to an astounding defeat for the west’s war on terror, but there is one further astounding fact: From Afghanistan in the 1980s and onwards, in every country in which Al-Qaeda has flourished, they have done so after the west has intervened in the country. It is not in the least bit surprising that possibly the only country in the Middle East where AQ has no foothold is – Iran!
Make no mistake, the West’s foreign policy to fight terrorism is the equivalent of conducting a war on cancer by giving everyone free cigarettes!
There is only one way that this foreign policy could not been seen as an outright failure, and that is if the intention was for the west to continue its support for AQ from the 1980s onwards. If that is the case, western governments have carried out the most successful foreign policy since Alexander the Great in 326BC
Assessing the recent events in Algeria and Mali as a new, perhaps unexpected development is a mistake. These Islamic extremist groups do not rise out of the ground from nowhere fully armed and trained. They are incubated in safe areas; often in different countries. They are all linked, creeping into new cities and countries like thick blood from a fatal wound. In Algeria and Mali, the incubator was neighbouring Libya. Ripped apart from the stronghold that Gaddafi had over the country that kept AQ out, Libya is now a fragmented country with gang-controlled areas and weapons aplenty. Libyan rebels are also the most omnipresent group in Syria, fighting on the side of western interests, which has allowed AQ to spread from the Middle East to North, West and Eastern Africa with no sign of it stopping.
Regardless of the rights and wrongs of dictator regimes, the question is: Why has this policy on fighting terrorism continued? In Marrakech, a Moroccan told me years ago, “This is not about oil. Its about the sun: The next big power source. Poor African countries have it all year round. They could become rich – unless the west gets their hands on it.”
So maybe this is the plan of the west. If so, it has been a monumental success, but as the Twin Towers and the Madrid and London bombings, and now the hostage-taking in Algeria show us, success comes at a very heavy price.
I was told by a Syrian rebel when I was in Damascus in 2012, “We use Americans to kill Assad, then we kill the Americans.” This successful war on terrorism could be the death of us all.