Fif­teen years af­ter 9/11, Amer­ica in per­pet­ual war

The Myanmar Times - - World -

THE 9/11 attacks of 2001 for­ever changed Amer­ica and up­ended its for­eign and na­tional se­cu­rity pol­icy, leav­ing the coun­try for the past 15 years in a war against ji­hadists – without end­ing the up­heaval in the Mid­dle East.

Barack Obama, who will leave the White House in Jan­uary, is the pres­i­dent who tried to get the US mil­i­tary out of Iraq and Afghanistan – “war on ter­ror” con­flicts launched by his pre­de­ces­sor Ge­orge W Bush in the wake of the sui­cide plane strikes that killed nearly 3000 peo­ple.

But Mr Obama’s legacy on that front is mixed, with US forces still present in both coun­tries.

He will leave of­fice with the United States bogged down in a seem­ingly end­less con­flict against Is­lamists at home and abroad, ex­perts say.

“The evolv­ing threat of Is­lamist ter­ror­ism com­pelled Pres­i­dent Obama, against his own in­cli­na­tions, to en­gage mil­i­tar­ily in Iraq once again, and since then in Syria and Libya as well,” said Ta­mara Cof­man Wittes, di­rec­tor of the Cen­ter for Mid­dle East Pol­icy at the Brook­ings In­sti­tu­tion in Wash­ing­ton.

“The wars in the Mid­dle East, the metas­ta­sis of ISIS, on­line rad­i­cal­i­sa­tion and a se­ries of attacks in Euro­pean and Amer­i­can cities have made the par­a­digm of a ‘global war on ter­ror’ very hard to set aside, even 15 years af­ter 9/11,” she wrote on the World Eco­nomic Fo­rum web­site.

The US is also still en­gaged mil­i­tar­ily, in lim­ited form or on a purely lo­gis­ti­cal ba­sis, in Afghanistan, Nige­ria, So­ma­lia and Ye­men to counter myr­iad threats.

“The think­ing of the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion is that big wars make things worse,” Hus­sein Ibish, a se­nior res­i­dent scholar at the Arab Gulf States In­sti­tute, told AFP.

So in­stead, Mr Obama launched a new era in Amer­i­can war­fare – one dom­i­nated by drones, spe­cial forces and train­ing for lo­cal fight­ers.

The hu­man and fi­nan­cial costs of such en­gage­ments are more lim­ited – a sig­nif­i­cant fact, af­ter 5300 US mil­i­tary per­son­nel killed, 50,000 wounded and US$1.6 tril­lion spent from 2001-2014 in Iraq and Afghanistan, ac­cord­ing to Con­gres­sional data.

Mr Obama’s strat­egy had its best suc­cess in May 2011, when US spe­cial forces killed al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, who mas­ter­minded the 9/11 attacks, at his home in Pak­istan.

But for Mr Ibish, such a use of “lim­ited re­sources ... looks like a con­tin­u­ous war”.

In Syria, a last­ing peace is still not at hand, though a fresh truce by the United States and Rus­sia – both now in­volved mil­i­tar­ily in the deadly con­flict – is due to be­gin to­day.

Fif­teen years af­ter the Twin Tow­ers fell, for­ever chang­ing New York’s sky­line, Mr Obama said the ter­ror threat facing Amer­ica had “evolved,” re­fer­ring to lone-wolf attacks in the United States like the night­club mas­sacre in Or­lando in June.

“So in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and beyond, we’ll stay re­lent­less against ter­ror­ists like al-Qaeda and ISIL. We will de­stroy them. And we’ll keep do­ing ev­ery­thing in our power to pro­tect our home­land,” he said in his weekly ad­dress on Septem­ber 10.

Wash­ing­ton still fears more small-scale attacks car­ried out by home­grown at­tack­ers, like the Or­lando shoot­ing that left 49 peo­ple dead or the San Bernardino attacks last De­cem­ber that left 14 dead.

Faced with on­go­ing threats, the United States has built up a mas­sive sur­veil­lance ap­pa­ra­tus in the post9/11 era both at home and abroad.

The bud­get for the CIA, FBI and Na­tional Se­cu­rity Agency has nearly dou­bled since 2001.

Ac­cord­ing to a sur­vey con­ducted by the Pew Re­search Cen­tre, 40 per­cent of Amer­i­cans fear that “the abil­ity of ter­ror­ists to launch an­other ma­jor at­tack on the US is greater than it was at the time of the 9/11 attacks”.

Yes­ter­day, the US warned in its reg­u­lar note to trav­ellers that the IS group had “called on sup­port­ers to at­tack US cit­i­zens and coali­tion part­ners wher­ever they are”. –

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