September has been a month that has witnessed heinous crimes against humanity that claimed scores of lives in many dispersed parts of the world. From the All Saints church bomb in Peshawar to the roadside attacks in Northeast Nigeria, to the suicide bombings in Baghdad, to the atrocious Westgate Mall siege in Kenya to the fatal shooting of Major General Nabil Farag in Egypt, terror has once again proved that it knows no boundaries, no limits and remains largely unchecked.
While US President Barack Obama affirmed several months ago that terrorists are “on the path to defeat” and that Al-Qaeda members were now “more concerned for their own safety than with plotting attacks on the west”, some of those September events may have proven that the US President couldn’t be further from reality. While to President Obama, terror may now be far from home, it remains far from gone. Although it is needless to categorically denounce such bloodshed and affirm that it does not represent Islam, it is worth asking the question: Who does it really represent? Why is terrorism becoming a growing business? And could it be stopped?
Columnist Daniel Greenfield noted: “terror is a tactic”; it can be perpetrated in the name of religion, politics or both. Akbar Ahmed and Harrison Atkins both of the American University in Washington offered a different account on some of those recent violent events. It is all about revenge they said. For instance, they have attributed the Kenya and Pakistan crimes as a behaviour typical to tribal societies which is rather motivated by a transmuted tribal behaviour than by religion. They added that the “traditional use of revenge in tribal societies is a measured response meant to correct a perceived injustice.” In the case of the Taliban and Al-Shabab, who were respectively responsible for the Peshawar and Nairobi evildoings, both terror organisations acted to avenge what they perceived as a transgression on their turf. Taliban who has been battered and bruised was out to leave its mark by carrying out the odious act through Junduallah – its Pakistani affiliates. Al-Shabab who lost its economic sustenance in the Somalian port city of Kismayo at the hand of the Kenyan forces was out to avenge its loss. Although Ahmed and Atkins may have a hard time explaining the diverse international background of those who carried out the Westgate Mall attack!
Several hot spots in the world have directly led to the growth of terrorist activities. Struggles in areas such as Somalia, Afghanistan, Syria and recently Egypt have provided a refuge that several terrorists-in-the-making are now gravitating towards. For instance, Western intelligence estimates that around 80% of the rebel forces fighting Al Assad regime in Syria have direct links to Al-Qaeda. In the Sinai Peninsula, the ouster of the Muslim Brotherhood regime has given rise to a more radical push. Many analysts critically look at the Arab Spring as a possible catalyst for the rise of terrorism. With weapons out flux from Libya to destabilising regional movements, many governments are starting to lose track of who the terrorists are anymore.
A New Breed of Terrorism
While the world is accustomed to fighting terrorist organisations who have defined objectives such as Al-Qaeda, the situation is much more muddied now. Al-Qaeda has simply become a loose umbrella and a mere inspiration to lunatics worldwide. The field is now awash with organised terror groups, terrorism masquerading behind political conflicts, and individuals who commit lone acts of terrorism in hope of getting famous by being infamous. The US and the world at large don’t have a chance to fight a war with drones and military forces to eradicate this. Many interests have converged resulting in the same bloody tactic and there is no one size fits all solution to rid the world of this evil. There will remain those who are willing to kill for a cause. It is just not all the same cause anymore. Therefore, terror has become more localised and fighting it requires support for those who are fighting those battles.
This bloody September is simply a rude awakening as to how feeble is the notion of a “global war on terror”. There is no military solution to terrorism; it is only a momentarily relief. Terrorism will remain a chronic case of cold where you will treat the symptoms but with no sufficient structural changes, it will not be long before evil strikes again.