CRF Blog

The Strategic Blunder Behind the War on Terror

by Bill Hayes

In The Strategic Blunder Behind the War on Terror for Newsweek, Kurt Eichenwald looks at the West’s errors in fighting terrorism and what can now be done as small groups are targeting easy targets, as happened in Paris.

To a degree, the West is reaping what it sowed from a major strategic blunder in the aftermath of 9/11 — the entire concept of a war on technique, that is, terrorism. Defining the enemy when fighting a concept was impossible. Was it Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan? Saddam Hussein in Iraq? Iran? Those countries and four more were on a list of targets the Bush administration put together in the days after 9/11, based on the premise that they supported terrorism. A war on Al-Qaeda could have been won with a decisive military strike in Tora Bora during December 2001, but American fighters at Tora Bora were refused requests for more forces when they trapped Al-Qaeda there; the Pentagon was busy husbanding resources for the Iraqi invasion.

The result was that Al-Qaeda’s surviving members slipped into Pakistan. Then new groups began to emerge — Al-Qaeda in Iraq formed in response to the Western strike there, and that morphed into ISIS, which then spread into Syria, where an assortment of new and re-energized Islamist organizations had gathered to fight the government of Bashar Assad.

All of this strife has created an opportunity for Islamic terrorists they could not have even hoped for on that September day so long ago. Where once there were few sanctuaries for jihadists, now there are many — in Syria and Iraq, Pakistan and Yemen, Nigeria and Somalia. With so many training camps being run by disparate groups, aspiring terrorists can train and be on their way, heading back to the West with no instructions but with a burning desire to inflict mayhem. [more]