The American War on Terror

And it is has been raging for 18 years……18 years in case you missed it……let’s look shall we?

In September 2001, the Bush administration launched the “Global War on Terror.” Though “global” has long since been dropped from the name, as it turns out, they weren’t kidding.


When I first set out to map all the places in the world where the United States is still fighting terrorism so many years later, I didn’t think it would be that hard to do. This was before the 2017 incident in Niger in which four American soldiers were killed on a counterterror mission and Americans were given an inkling of how far-reaching the war on terrorism might really be. I imagined a map that would highlight Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, and Syria—the places many Americans automatically think of in association with the war on terror—as well as perhaps a dozen less-noticed countries like the Philippines and Somalia. I had no idea that I was embarking on a research odyssey that would, in its second annual update, map U.S. counterterror missions in 80 countries in 2017 and 2018, or 40% of the nations on this planet (a map first featured in Smithsonian magazine).

As co-director of the Costs of War Project at Brown University’s Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs, I’m all too aware of the costs that accompany such a sprawling overseas presence. Our project’s research shows that, since 2001, the U.S. war on terror has resulted in the loss—conservatively estimated—of almost half a million lives in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan alone. By the end of 2019, we also estimate that Washington’s global war will cost American taxpayers no less than $5.9 trillion already spent and in commitments to caring for veterans of the war throughout their lifetimes.

In general, the American public has largely ignored these post-9/11 wars and their costs. But the vastness of Washington’s counterterror activities suggests, now more than ever, that it’s time to pay attention. Recently, the Trump administration has been talking of withdrawing from Syria and negotiating peace with the Taliban in Afghanistan. Yet, unbeknownst to many Americans, the war on terror reaches far beyond such lands and under Trump is actually ramping up in a number of places. That our counterterror missions are so extensive and their costs so staggeringly high should prompt Americans to demand answers to a few obvious and urgent questions: Is this global war truly making Americans safer? Is it reducing violence against civilians in the U.S. and other places? If, as I believe, the answer to both those questions is no, then isn’t there a more effective way to accomplish such goals?

The president tells the nation that ISIS has been defeated…..(not likely)…..but if it is totally defeated why do we need 400 troops to remain in Syria?

President Trump has continued to back away from his announced total US withdrawal from Syria this week, with administration officials on Thursday and Friday confirming that they now intend to keep 400 troops in Syria indefinitely after the pullout.

The US is estimated to have 2,000 troops in Syria presently, which Trump announced were all being withdrawn, as of late last year. On Thursday, officials indicated that 200 troops will stay to be part of an international stabilization force.


Measuring the success against ISIS……

Over the past four years the United States and its partners have labored mightily to remove ISIS “Core” from its self-declared Caliphate in Iraq and Syria, sever the global organization’s connection to its branches, and disrupt its propaganda and recruitment capabilities, but the number of ISIS-affiliated groups has grown and emerged in new places.  In this global fight, we continue to assess progress against ISIS and its branches and networks using maps that show territory physically taken, fighters killed, locations of enemy and friendly forces, and we count numbers of IDPs in camps or returned to their homes.  We attempt to identify jihadist leaders and their locations so they can be detained or targeted.  This information tells us very little about the underlying political and social competition or the longer-term prospects of our partners for sustainably defeating ISIS.  As history has taught us, quantitative assessment of an insurgent or violent extremist enemy’s strength versus our own only provides a fleeting, surface-level snapshot of current conditions. 

In order to make a clear case that the aggregate efforts of the Global Coalition to Counter ISIS (or Daesh as they are called in some countries) are showing progress towards “defeating” ISIS, we must understand the nature of this movement as a competition between its local jihadist groups and existing government leaders and institutions, at all levels, for the allegiance or submission of the population.  In other words, we must address it for what it is: a networked global insurgency.  ISIS branches and affiliates are competing for control over populations in vulnerable communities around the world, using the physical and ideological potency of the global network to strengthen itself.  Understanding this competition is central to the ability of the US and its allies to select the appropriate tools to assist legitimate local leaders to achieve and sustain strategic success against ISIS.

The US is focusing on making sure that terrorism of ISIS/AQ is not exported…….but the sunni jihad which ISIS is part of is not thinking the same as the US war planners…….

For decades, Sunni jihadism has been characterized by transnational terrorism, suicide bombing, and excommunication. These three pillars not only attracted the ire of American and European governments, but turned off many of the jihadists’ target constituents, namely Sunnis living in the Muslim world. Yet there are signs that Sunni extremists are changing their ways, drifting away from the global agenda that reached its apotheosis in al-Qaeda’s attack on the World Trade Center, and toward a hyperlocal one.

The transformation is happening in various countries, including Afghanistan, Yemen, and Mali. Jabhat al-Nusra, al-Qaeda’s offshoot in Syria, provides an illustrative example of how the jihadist threat is changing across the region.

The “jihad” is changing direction will the US and its allies do the same?

My prediction is NO! The establishment is to set in their ways to change directions and that will be a dangerous precedent for them to pursue.

A side note–A famous name has made the “Most Wanted List”…..bin Laden…..(thought he was dead? Well, his son is now come of age and the US wants to remove him before he can consolidate power)…..

“Submit a tip, get paid,” reads the tweet from the State Department’s Counter-Terrorism Rewards Program. In this case, the US is looking for a big tip—and offering a handsome reward: The US announced it will pay up to $1 million for information leading to Hamza bin Laden, the 30-year-old son of Osama. The State Department describes him as an emerging al-Qaeda leader who has issued audio and video threats against the US and Western nations loyal to it in revenge for his father’s death. The BBC reports that letters found in the compound where Osama was killed in 2011 indicated Hamza was the son he was grooming to take over for him. He was added to the US’ Specially Designated Global Terrorist list in 2017, and he has another familial terror tie: Relatives in 2018 said he had married the daughter of Mohamed Atta, the eldest of the 9/11 hijackers.

As for his general whereabouts, “We do believe he’s probably in the Afghan-Pakistan border [region] and… he’ll cross into Iran. But he could be anywhere though in … south central Asia,” said Assistant Secretary for Diplomatic Security Michael Evanoff. NBC News reports the UN took action against Hamza as well on Thursday: Member states are required to freeze his assets and adhere to a travel ban and arms embargo against him. In the meantime, Saudi Arabia has made its own move against the young bin Laden: Per the kingdom’s interior ministry, his citizenship there has been taken away, the Independent reports. The Washington Post notes that the revocation actually occurred by royal decree in November; it’s not clear why it’s coming to light only now.

One million? Daddy was worth $25 million… he really a threat or is this just a form of intimidation?


2 thoughts on “The American War on Terror

  1. Saudi Arabia just cancelled Bin Laden’s citizenship. That leaves the way open for anyone to detain him without having to face diplomatic repercussions. US and Saudi are still hand in glove.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    1. I saw that yesterday…..a million? That is a bit low for a wanted man these days….or is it just the name that they object too? chuq

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