Exactly 20 years ago, that day, the United States officially waged its war on terrorism. US President George W. Bush, in his address to the Joint Session of Congress on September 20, 2001, loudly declared to applause: “Our war on terrorism begins with al-Qaeda, but it does not end there. . It will not end until all terrorist groups with global reach are found, arrested and defeated. “
Two decades have passed, the United States has waged major wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, its fighter jets and drones flying over the skies of seven countries, and it is engaged in counterterrorism operations in at least 85 countries.
But the number of terrorist groups has not only increased around the world, as the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies counts, the number of activists fighting for these groups has also nearly tripled in those years.
Indeed, the United States did not witness a major terrorist attack by an extremist terrorist group after the September 11 attack. In the past two decades, less than 100 people have died in the United States as a result of religiously motivated terrorist acts. Some attribute its credit to Bush’s war on terror.
However, the United States has been relatively successful in protecting itself not because of its wars or drone strikes, but because of improved homeland security.
Even though they have been prevented from committing large-scale terrorist acts in the United States, these terrorist groups have regularly targeted American interests and allies by carrying out deadly attacks from London to Nice, from Paris to Istanbul and from Brussels to Bali. .
The War on Terror defeated the Taliban in 2001 and even killed Osama bin Laden in 2011. This did not end transnational terrorism, however, since Bush had urged the United States to achieve this unachievable goal. Religious activism has become more global, more disparate and more unique.
Driving the Taliban out of Kabul was the first mission of the war on terror. However, the Taliban returned to power in Afghanistan last month with a landslide victory. Daesh may have lost its territory in Iraq and Syria, but its subgroups are strengthening elsewhere.
Religious terrorism has already taken hold of the Sahel, the Maghreb, even Mozambique and the Congo. The geographic distribution of these terrorist groups has expanded over the past two decades, from a handful of countries in Central Asia and the Middle East to several countries in Asia and Africa. Many of them have been further energized by development in Afghanistan.
While the twenty-year war on terrorism has failed miserably to achieve its stated goals, its cost has grown very high.
As Brown University’s Costs of War Project calculates, the total cost to the United States of its global war on terror is a staggering $ 8 trillion. At least 801,000 people have been killed in this war in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan and Yemen, including 7,000 American soldiers.
Almost 38 million people have been forced to leave their homes. Many of them crossed borders and became refugees.
Creating more anger around the world
The increasing use of drones since the Obama administration to target terrorism has killed thousands of innocent civilians, and in the process alienating many friendly governments in the Middle East and Africa and creating new anger around the world.
The public image of the United States in Muslim countries has been seriously eroded over the past two decades. As the Pew Global Attitudes Surveys regularly reveal, the United States is less popular in the Middle East than in any other part of the world.
The dark side of the war on terror is not limited to the enormous human and economic losses and the drowning of America’s public image.
The war on terrorism created a climate of prejudice and led to growing Islamophobia around the world. This development has not only enabled right-wing populists to seize power in many countries, but it has also contributed significantly to the global decline of democracy over the past 16 years.
Far-right terrorism has grown exponentially in recent years and has taken its toll from Norway to New Zealand. In the United States, far-right terror has killed more people than terrorists motivated in the name of religion.
The US military is even seriously concerned about the growing infiltration of far-right white supremacists into its own ranks. There is no doubt that the United States’ war on terror has not only clearly failed, but has also become counterproductive, making the country weaker and more precarious.
The United States must lead the global fight against terrorism, but this fight needs a new vision, a comprehensive plan. On the contrary, the last 20 years of experience have shown that the US military, no matter how strong, cannot win the war on terrorism.
It is time for the United States to reflect, contemplate, and join with the rest of the world in planning a new inclusive global strategy.