Dos and Don'ts of Fighting against Terrorism

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Mohammad Khajouei
Senior Middle East Analyst

These days, the talk about terrorism is heard everywhere as a challenge to which no country is immune anymore: from Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon in the Middle East all the way to Mali in Africa, France in Europe, Indonesia in Southeast Asia and of course, the United States of America.

For years, everybody has been talking about the need to fight terrorism, but amid all this hue and cry, terrorists are going their way undeterred, and even find that way clearer than before. Therefore, the question is “what the problem is and what the best way to fight terrorism is?” That is the million-dollar question.

They say past is the guide to future. The spread of terrorism in various parts of the world attests to the reality that past methods used to fight this crisis have not been successful. Although this seems to be a simple proposition, due attention has not been paid to it yet, because the method used right now to fight Daesh terror group is not very much different from the method used to fight al-Qaeda in the past: everything is summed up in a handful of bombs and bullets.

The problem starts right here. For many years, the fight against terrorists has been limited to military operations. Even the route taken for this fight is not different from the past. A terrorist group is allowed to run its roots deep slowly and without facing any obstacle. In time, it expands and countries only start thinking about how to fight terrorism when measures taken by this group grow to critical proportions. Naturally, in this state, there would be no way before countries but the military action. However, even the military action is in most cases taken in an incomplete and ineffective manner, just like what we have been witnessing through months of operations carried out by anti-Daesh coalition in Syria.

Although airstrikes against Daesh have been intensified by the coalition forces, the group has been facing no problem, at least for recruiting new people. American military officials say a total of about 20,000 Daesh forces have been killed in the past 15 months. However, as estimated by the United States intelligence agencies, while the number of foreign fighters joining Daesh 15 months ago stood at 15,000, the figure has now grown to 30,000.

Military action is quite justified in its right place, but when it turns into the main and perhaps the sole way to fight terrorism, it would not only become ineffective, but will also help terrorism spread.

Let’s not forget that part of the reasoning used by terrorist and Takfiri groups to recruit members from societies in Arab and Islamic countries has been based on military measures and interventions that have taken place in these countries. The death of civilians as a result of some airstrikes has given these groups a better excuse to introduce themselves as saviors of Arabs and Muslims.

Therefore, a new plan is needed. More than the effect, attention must be paid to the cause. We must think on what fertile ground the seed of terrorism breeds and turns into a strong tree, because by merely cutting down the tree, we would not be able to solve the problem.

In simpler words: theoretical roots as well as social, cultural and economic conditions that give birth to terrorist groups must be scrutinized and solutions must be found accordingly.

As long as extremist interpretations of Islam are theorized and taught in some religious schools, talking about fighting terrorism would be in vain. As long as poverty, joblessness and hunger are prevalent in Islamic and Arab countries and terrorist groups are able to take advantage of this situation and recruit many people by promising them food, clothes and housing, claims about eradication of terrorism would seem like a joke.
As long as totalitarian and corrupt governments are in power and suppress moderate national and religious groups, and in doing so, provide grounds for the activities and growth of radical religious groups on the back of empty but enticing promises, it would be nonsense to talk about freeing the world of terrorism. As long as official and unofficial sources providing financial support to terrorist groups are there, talking about the elimination of terrorism would be nonsensical.

Perhaps, many people believe it would take a long time to solve these problems. Yes, it is true that finding solutions to these problems needs a lot of time, but the results of correcting them would be long-lasting. Would we be witness to birth of Daesh, which is many times more violent than al-Qaeda, if a solution had been sought for root causes of terrorism, instead of merely resorting to bullets and bombs, about 14 years ago, when the United States of America was given a taste of terrorism through terror attacks on the New York’s Twin Towers?

Of course, paying attention to root causes does not mean putting aside all military measures. There is no doubt that military action is needed, and even effective, in its right place, but the problem is that without a long-term plan to fight the root causes behind growth of terrorists, military action would not be effective. In simple words, military action must be used as backup and support, and also as the last resort.

According to a new report by the “Centre on Religion & Geopolitics,” there are at least 15 active militant groups in Syria, which if Daesh forces are defeated by the US-led coalition, can fill their void. Therefore, the issue is much more complicated that what seems on the surface. As they say, “the beaten road is the safest.” We must learn from the past and make a new pan to fight the intricate dilemma of religious terrorism.

Key WordsFighting against Terrorism, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Middle East, Africa, Europe, Southeast Asia, United States of America, Daesh, Al-Qaeda, Anti-Daesh Coalition, Takfiri Groups, Extremist Interpretations, Islam, Military Measures, Root Causes, Khajouei

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