Terrorism has existed for centuries and governments have struggled to counter
the violent extremist threat within their midst. In the immediate days following the unprovoked attacks against the United States on September 11, 2001, President Bush and our collective national leaders stressed the urgent need to go on the immediate offensive against the terrorists, deploy military forces, and promote democracy abroad. Now, going on seven years in the Global War on Terror (GWOT), one can argue we have made credible tactical gains, but have fallen far short in defeating violent extremism as a threat to our way of life. Cooperation amongst the international community has resulted in genuine security improvements – particularly in disruption of terrorist organizations and finances, securing of borders with tighter security at points of entry, and the killing or capture of individuals of high value. We have seen greater cooperation amongst many countries and internally within the United States, among the
interagency to include some specific reforms. But, despite these successes, significant challenges remain and terror organizations like Al-Qa’ida have adapted, are conducting transnational irregular warfare and have grown stronger and more widespread then before the attacks of 9/11. The most recent National Intelligence Estimate judges that the U.S. homeland will continue to face a persistent and evolving terrorist threat, mainly from Islamic terrorist groups and cells and that Al-Qa’ida will remain the most serious
threat. More important, the current administration’s approach to the war on terror has created more terrorists than it has eliminated and that anti-American sentiment across the world and throughout the Middle East has skyrocketed serving to fuel and inspire Muslims to join or openly support terror groups. I believe we have failed to understand the true enemy who opposes us, the allure and appeal that they hold for the people of Islam worldwide, and our misguided efforts at engaging in a “war of ideas” have been clearly one-sided and not in our favor. Without a clear concept of what victory in a war on terror should look like, we will exhaust our resources to include our service men and
women in futility.
Our near enemy, Al-Qa’ida has been engaging in war for nearly four decades in
order to achieve their overall strategic objective of a world-wide Islamic caliphate where the only law is shar’ia (Islamic law). Al-Qa’ida continues to evolve, has increased its global reach and appeal, and has inspired numerous other extremist groups while continuing to expand its worldwide network. Al-Qa’ida has been elevated to the status we would hold for an institution, not just the world’s most feared terrorist group. But they are neither invincible nor invulnerable, and they have stumbled momentously more than once.
Today, our heroic military forces have fought tremendously and garnered
numerous significant results and tactical victories on the operational fronts in
Afghanistan, Iraq, the Philippines and Northeast (HORN) of Africa, some of which are clearly irreversible gains. We have also gained greater insight into this elusive organization and now understand some of the cracks or fissures within their foundation. This newly found understanding and comprehension by experts in the field of study of terrorism, as well as our national leaders, has enlightened us to the simple fact that we must prepare to wage a long war against the Al-Qa’ida Associated Movement (AQAM) and Islamist terrorism. A war that will incorporate all elements of national power in a cogent and executable strategy as well as build and leverage multinational partnerships. A war where the United States is well resourced but, at present, ill-prepared to lead and to conduct.
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