The War On Terror: Fighting A Losing Battle!

Have Bush and Blair’s actions since the shocking barbarity of 9/11 made clear the level of threat we face from Islamic extremist terror, actually done anything to lessen that threat? Or are we losing the war on all fronts because our military is fighting.

By Liam Bailey

In the aftermath of 9/11 the Afghanistan retaliation was expected and to some point understandable given the atrocious attacks on the World Trade Centre and the strong links with the terror networks and training camps of Afghanistan. Hence the relatively small resistance to the Afghanistan war from the international community. Afghanistan is now a NATO concern, unfortunately because other NATO countries are reluctant to send troops into a large counterinsurgency operation with no sign of ending only UK troops are in Afghanistan, making it mainly a UK concern. Iraq however is a different story.

Iraq has turned into a major concern for America, Britain and the world. Not only has it replaced Afghanistan as the main haven for Al Qaeda’s violent Jihad it is the ultimate example of an aggressive invasion and lengthy occupation of a Muslim country, which would outrage Muslim’s anyway, but by America, Islam’s biggest enemy the outrage is complete. The U.K’s involvement made them Islamic enemy number two. Iraq quickly became a self sufficient recruiting machine for terror networks, as well as the training and battleground for brainwashed Jihadi’s from around the globe.

During the Afghanistan war, Gauntanamo started turning Muslim’s around the world against US and U.K foreign policy, in displaying our government’s willingness to show open religious inequality against Muslim’s purely on the basis of their appearance, religion and location, by denying the right to a fair trial. The thousands of innocent Iraqi’s killed in the “collateral damage” of the shock and awe bombing campaign continued to turn Muslim’s against the U.S and U.K, as did all the atrocities committed by U.S forces, Abu Ghraib, Haditha, Fallujah as well as who knows how many other smaller incidents.

The war on terror has had some successes; the patriot act in the U.S abolished the draconian bureaucracy prohibiting the sharing of intelligence between the various U.S agencies at the front line in the fight for homeland security. The removal of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan rid Al Qaeda of its state-based operations centre, but the installed U.S government has struggled against the warlords and Taliban forces have re-emerged. In Iraq the defeat of Saddam Hussein by coalition forces rid the country and region of a vicious and cruel regime as well as eliminating a potential state-sponsor of terrorism and source of WMD’s, however, continued instability has made the country a breeding ground for extremism and anti-U.S/U.K terrorism, as the recent report by 16 U.S intelligence agencies showed.

The War on Terror has also led directly and indirectly to the capture or death of an estimated two thirds of Al Qaeda’s leadership, despite this Al Qaeda membership is estimated to have more than doubled from 20,000 in 2001 to the current 50, 000. Little wonder then that various countries involved in fighting the war on terror alongside the U.S have foiled some 15 serious terrorist attacks since 9/11. The war on terror has also been successful in limiting the capabilities of Al Qaeda’s leadership to communicate with the various cells and members around the world, they can no longer safely use e-mail, mobile or satellite phones for fear of detection by the intelligence services but they are still thought to be using anonymous internet chat rooms.

Despite these successes in the war on terror there has been around 12 major terrorist attacks on western interests, obviously this count doesn’t include attacks in Iraq and Afghanistan, insignificant or attacks not on western interests. This is because, as I said the defeat of the Taliban and U.S control of Afghanistan removed Al Qaeda’s central base of operations, almost immediately after 9/11 made Al Qaeda famous in most of the Muslim world and notorious throughout the non-Muslim world, the ensuing war in (massive bombing-collateral damage) Afghanistan, Gauntanamo Bay’s arguably illegal detention of Muslim’s, the arguably illegal invasion of Iraq and subsequent pattern of atrocities committed by U.S forces, not only made it easier for the terror networks to radicalise and recruit, but they brought about this new threat of “self generating” terror cells, radicalised by current events and inspired by Al Qaeda but not part of the central chain of command, which makes it harder for our intelligence services to protect us from the expanding threat.

Perhaps the recent fertiliser plot was an example of this new threat, maybe Omar Khyam was in some way connected to Al Qaeda central command but Jawad Akbar was the man coming up with all the plots and ideas. If it was an Al Qaeda cell, as we know from experience the targets would have been predisposed and the attack fully planned when the cell was awoken.

Although the number of terrorist attacks around the world fell from 426 attacks in 2000 to 355 attacks in 2001 and again to 205 attacks in 2002, the Jihad propaganda flowing from the invasion of Afghanistan, followed by Gauntanamo Bay, Iraq and support for Israel against Lebanon etc has brought about a constant rise in terrorist attacks ever since. This is displayed in the U.S annual patterns of terrorism reports, the 2003 patterns of global terrorism report contains, in the statistic section, a bar graph of the number of attacks each year from 1982-2003, which shows the number of attacks rose to 208 in 2003.

The biggest factor in rising terrorism however has been the Iraq war, according to U.S National Counterterrorism Centre (NCTC) statistics for 2004 the number of attacks rose dramatically to 651, attacks in Iraq also rose to 198 from 22 in 2003. NCTC figures for 2005 show an even more dramatic rise to 11, 114 attacks, but they had changed the way attacks were counted so comparisons couldn’t be made to previous years. The only way I could create such a comparison was to look at how terrorism was measured in 2004, the 2004 chronology by the NCTC counted only significant attacks, i.e. one or more fatalities or above $10,000 damage fatalities or not, in figures for 2005 all attacks were counted, but in the statistics section a graph shows that the number of attacks involving 1 or more fatalities was 2884, with attacks killing between 2 and 4 people at 1614 in 2005, I therefore deem the comparable total for 2005 to be somewhere between the two figures. Therefore as our forces are still involved in heavy fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq and between the two war zones fierce gun battles, allied and non-combatant deaths and terrorist attacks happen daily the Afghanistan and Iraq invasions must surely be deemed mistakes in the fight against extremism in its current form for homeland and global security. Unfortunately, things are also going wrong at home.

U.S failures in the months before 9/11 when U.S intelligence agencies noted a surge in intercepted “chatter” about an impending Al Qaeda attack in the spring and summer of 2001, in July 2001 a Phoenix FBI agent issued a memo warning of Al Qaeda operatives enrolled or enrolling in U.S aircraft schools and in August 2001 Zacharais Massaoui was arrested at a Mineanapolis flight school, after his strange questions like how to get into the cockpit of a 747 and his sole interest of learning to steer the plane once it had taken off caught flight trainers attention.

Cold-War budget cuts meant U.S intelligence didn’t have the translators or the staff to cope with the surge in “chatter” meaning it was largely just that, and for the same reason an antiquated computer system left FBI analysts unable to send e-mail or link up field reports like the Phoenix memo and the details of Massaoui’s arrest. Also, U.S rules prohibiting the sharing of information between criminal enquiries and counter-intelligence investigations meant that C.I.A didn’t tell the FBI for months that two terrorists were in the country, in hindsight two of the 19 hijackers. It is clear to me that a lack of resources played a part in 9/11? Which became the catalyst for conflict as Bush went to war, on Islamic terrorism, starting with Afghanistan and finishing… no-one knows.

The Afghanistan war cost the U.S government 18.1 billion dollars in its first fiscal year (2001-02) according to CRS (Congressional Research Service) figures. The war went well in its infancy; evident in the reduced cost of FY2003, reduced by 1.1 billion dollars in the year the Iraq war began at a cost of 51 billion dollars in its first fiscal year. The U.S war spending on Afghanistan continued to drop in line with coalition success in the country costing 15.1 billion dollars in fiscal year 2004, while Iraq costing 77.3 billion dollars began a steady and continuous rise. In fiscal year 2005 U.S Iraq spending rose to 87.3 billion dollars and for the first time since the conflict started Afghanistan war costs rose to 18.1 billion dollars. Costs of both wars continue to rise; in the latest figures released by CRS for FY2006 Iraq cost the U.S 100.4 billion dollars and Afghanistan 19.9 billion dollars.

As most of you will know U.K armed forces have fought alongside U.S forces in both wars since they began. Funding for U.K forces involvement in the war on terror comes from the “special reserve”, according to Iraq analysis, corroborated by the Times and the Guardian this reserve has been constantly increasing since the initial £1 billion pledged in the pre-budget report 2002. In the 2003 budget another £2 billion was secured for the special reserve to cover “the full costs of the U.K’s military obligations” in Iraq. Another £800 million in the pre-budget report for 2004 released later in 2003 brought the total to £3.8 billion, which rose to £4.32 billion with the £520 million pledged in the pre-budget report late 2004. Another £380 million was pledged in the 2005 budget followed by £580 million in the pre-budget report for 2006 later in the year and a further £800 million in this year’s budget bringing the total to £6.44 billion pounds. The Guardian reported in its coverage of UK war spending that Gordon Brown had pledged an additional £135 million for MI5 late 2005, an announcement coming after 7/7, pledging a fraction of the money the arguable cause of the attacks Iraq has cost, to the only people who had any chance of stopping them can easily be seen as too little too late.

The UK government, like the U.S government is spending the biggest proportion of their defense budget on two foreign wars, both for homeland security, and like the U.S all the while mistakes are being made inside the UK in the same fight for homeland security. Take the year before the atrocious attacks of 7 July 2005. According to the ISC (Intelligence and Security Committee) report (p18 of 52) into those terrible attacks Siddeque Khan and Shazad Tanweer, two of the London bombers attended meetings with others under investigation by our security services in 2004, security services didn’t seek to investigate or identify them or several other unidentified men at the meetings, although it is believed this would have been possible had the decision been taken. This is because the man under investigation was not himself an “essential target”, and U.K intelligence at the time suggested the men’s focus was training and insurgency operations in Pakistan. 7/7 then lead to the mistaken shooting by the MET of Jean Charles De Menezes, and finally the joint failure of the MET and MI5 which lead to one of the biggest media storm fiasco’s in the UK’s war against extremism, the Forest Gate raid.

So, who can say whether the money being spent on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars could have prevented these mistakes had it instead been funnelled into UK police and intelligence agencies, but as a lack of resources played a part in failing to stop 9/11 such high war costs can only be making things worse. The failure of MI5 to investigate two of the London bombers a year in advance was also put down to a lack of resources, so we can’t help but connect this lack of resources with the massive budget given to maintaining a war on two fronts, a war that after the early weeks began exacerbating the threat from global terrorism, while bearing a new “home-grown” or “self-generating” threat. If our governments continue to take actions that unintentionally increase the risk, while the money spent on these actions is weakening our defences at home one must wonder, if it isn’t already, when the balance will be tipped in the terrorists favour?

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