The war in Mali and its tragic repercussions bring a debate between two parties back to the forefront. The first party argues that the war on terror is achieving progress, even though its outcome is not always ideal, and that the French intervention has dealt a blow to Ansar al-Din militants in a way that could herald their eventual military defeat. On the other hand, the second party sees this war as an absolute failure and cites al-Qaeda’s influence in Mali and the casualties that have taken place because of the confrontation, especially as far as the Algerian tragedy is concerned.
The killing of Mullah Nazir and his deputy Ratta Khan by a US drone strike in South Waziristan, Pakistan, and the earlier and subsequent blows dealt to militants in Yemen proves that the war on terror is indeed progressing not only militarily, but also politically. This is because the Pakistani regime now has to defend itself, the situation in Yemen is also being addressed following the resignation of Ali Abdullah Saleh, and the door for a new political scene in Somalia is being given a chance after several defeats to the al-Shabab movement.
Several facts were confirmed in the process; like the military efficiency of drone attacks, US President Barrack Obama’s commitment to combating terrorism, and the leading role of the West, especially the US, in the war on terror. Eliminating the possibility of a recurrence of a terrorist attack similar to that of September 11 as well as moving the stage of conflict to non-Western countries.
Those who disagree with this analysis give Africa as an example. Radical Islam is posing an increasing threat to the central governments of Kenya and Tanzania while the Nigerian militant group Boko Haram, which killed 3,000 people since 2009, is still capable of carrying out expansive terrorist operations. As for Caucasia, Russia is still fighting a terrorist Salafi network and an escalation is possible as the country prepares for the 2014 Winter Olympics in the resort of Sochi on the Black Sea.
For an expert in terrorism Paul Rogers, and a critic of American policies, al-Qaeda has been able to survive and have several victories. This is all owing to its gradual transformation from a group or an organization to a “concept” that is capable of addressing local grievances, in any given country.
The problem with these two opposing ideas is that each of them is one-track-minded, both only focusing on military and technical factors.
The camp that supports the war on terror rarely considers the necessity of implementing development projects in areas where terrorist groups operate. It’s also incapable of addressing pending problems like the Palestinian cause or the situation of Kurds and Armenians.
The camp that condemns this war or questions its outcome is worse off, because its focus on the “American failure” distracts it from concentrating on the conditions of countries hit by terrorism and the reasons they are incapable of introducing peaceful political reforms without the intervention of the West.
And so, the first camp can be seen as quite arrogant while the second is obviously intransigent.
This article was published in Dar al Hayat newspaper on Jan. 22, 2013.
Lebanese journalist Hazem Saghieh is a senior columnist and editor at al-Hayat daily. He grew up in Lebanon during the golden age of pan-Arabism. Saghieh’s vision of a united Arab world was shattered when the Israelis emerged victorious from the 1967 war. Twitter: @HazemSaghieh