By David Otto
Counter terrorism & organised crime expert.
21 Dec.2015 - 9.00am GMT
The world is at the tail end of the 2015 global 'war on terror'. After all the continuous, confusing and conflicting efforts of U.S /Western and Russian coalition airstrikes against ISIL in Syria & Iraq; ISIL and Al-Qaida driven terror attacks in France, Lebanon, Yemen, Iraq, U.K. and U.S - the recent and numerous hoax bomb scare on air France between Nov & Dec. 2015 - Alshabaab and al-Qaida motivated terror display in Mali, Kenya & Somalia - and continuous Boko Haram/ ISWAP attacks in Northern Nigeria and Northern Cameroon - Niger and Chad... - it seems the world is not getting any safer and our decision makers any wiser to comprehend how deep and determined this 21st century fourth generation global jihadist/ Islamic revivalism has come to stay permanently and terrorise world peace at a scale never experienced or imagined before in human history of terror.
The truth is bitter but must be promoted in 2016 if we are to experience any positive results - First, we are not winning the war on terror since the 9/11 reactive 2001 invasion of Afghanistan and thereof - A tooth for a tooth is not the way forward with this bunch on the global arena. We seem to exhibit all characteristics of insanity if we continue to use the same failing strategy - obviously not successful by any measuring rod or statistics - and expecting different but positive results. In this case of global war against Salafist Jihadist, the expectation of winning is not happening. That expected glorious day - looking more like a fairy tale or Utopia in all shapes and form may never 'come back home' with peace as a consequence to show.
Secondly, let it be known - there are now about 15 different Salafist Jihadi related terrorists groups - including Taliban, Liwa al - Umma, Jaish al- Islam , Al-Qaida core and affiliate Jabhat Al Nusra - queuing to champion the idea of an Islamic State or something similar if and when ISIL is eventually defeated. This unexhausted list does not include deadly Salafist Jihadist groups like Boko Haram/ISWAP and Al-Shabaab/ISEAP in West, Central and East Africa making life unbearable for the African states that receive little or no global attention besides here and there unhelpful foreign aid.
The timetable or prospect for defeating ISIL is still so farfetched it cannot be reasoned to even exist considering the current counterproductive strategy of coalition airstrikes which only plays into the narrative of ISIL and gives them more recruitment fronts and needed propaganda globally to radicalise more militants. Thirdly, it remains a fact that coalition powers are awfully split in their respective strategies spending more time, energy and resources fighting each other using propaganda and airstrikes - if one coalition state trespassed into another's airspace for 17 seconds – this sort of reactive display only makes ISIL stronger and more unified in the quest for an Islamic State. ISIL seems more unified in its quest despite obvious cracks with AI-Qaida affiliates but the Western coalition headed by U.S versus the Russia coalition are deeply divided in their approach to defeating ISIL and most basically in distinguishing between terrorist and freedom fighters in the Syrian crisis.
In any event, just like the U.S and NATO ‘shadow’ defeat of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan in 2001 put Al-Qaeda on the global map, defeating ISIL in Iraq and Syria will not by any means end global jihadist related terrorism- another terrorist group, maybe more deadly will simply emerge and take over the race of Islamic revivalism from ISIL - I have a strong sense of fear that a potential political vacuum in Syria will create such a group if the President Assad transition saga is badly managed either by the UN, Russian or U.S coalition. Getting to agree on the right and safest strategic approach in Syria is a war on its own that needs ground troops to be deployed – there is no winner.
Do not be totally swayed by obvious pessimistic omens. All hope is not lost if solution providers and those who make decisions on our behalf agree that tackling a disease like ISIL is good - but it is a reactive strategy. On the other hand, tackling the cause of that disease is
much better and - a proactive strategy. Our states have the duty and moral responsibility to keep its citizens safe by tackling the cause of the disease of ISIL, Taliban, Boko Haram, and Alshabaab and al-Qaida related groups. Tackling the disease without tacking the cause is not a sustainable strategy as the cause of the disease must be dealt with for peace to reign.
The cause of ISIL 'Disease'.
The best way forward is to go backwards and perhaps, address the old political /religious rivalry between the Sunni-Shiite in the Middle East - starting with rival states like Yemen, Bahrain, Iran, Iraq, Syria and Saudi Arabia. This seems a better solution strategy that could pave the way for an end to jihadist related conflicts or sectarian wars - a phenomenon that has gained grounds in Northern Nigeria and made frontline news in recent weeks. I see no realistic future in this approach either.
However there is one fundamental problem with this approach - politics, economic and personal interest is an elephant in the room. With politics in the way of global peace, we are miles away from reaching a success story against global jihadist and Islamic revivalism. Yes, we cannot fold our arms and watch but we cannot equally bomb our way into groups like ISIL and Al-Qaeda and emerge victorious when we are not even united in our approach and objectives. Airstrikes alone are inherently counterproductive because Innocent casualties a bound despite the fictional talk of intelligent bombs used in the world of high technology. The blind reliance on dodgy alliances – on ‘moderates’ as opposed to ‘extremist’- in Syria and Iraq will keep ISIL more powerful and optimistic and of course enhance their much needed capabilities in weapon acquisition. The truth is an open secret - the world is at the edge of the highest cliff; success can no longer be measured by taking steps forward. We must use the coming year of 2016 to go back to the drawing board and rethink a better global Counterterrorism and counterinsurgency strategy. This is the mind-set solution providers must have in head and hand when entering 2016 if we are expecting any long lasting global peace nicked from human-kind by Salafist Islamic revivalism. Our thinking in 2016 must overshadow our reactive fighting attitude. If the famous war strategists Tsung Tzu were alive today, he would have one advice - victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win. We have the benefit of breath to place ourselves in either of the two categories.
TGS Intelligence and security consultants