Terrorism and national security Essay

War in Afghanistan and US national security

            In the days after the tragic September 11 2001 terrorist attacks, the government of the United States and other coalition partners notably Britain and NATO launched a campaign to fight terrorism around the world.  The war on terror as it was called led to the invasion of Afghanistan on 7th October 2001 by American and coalition forces.  The invasion was known as Operation Enduring Freedom and its primary motive was to depose Taliban from power and crush Al Qaeda in the process establishing control over the country leading to the establishment of a democratic pro-western government in Afghanistan.

            The war was largely successful in its initial stages as American soldiers managed to oust Taliban from power.  A new government was formed in Afghanistan with Hamid Kharzai as the president.  The Taliban and the Al Qaeda relocated to Pakistan’s tribal areas, regrouped and are currently in an effort to regain control of the country battling American forces in remote mountainous regions of Afghanistan. The two most notable failures so far of the campaign against terror in Afghanistan is the fact that Al Qaeda’s leader Osama bin Laden has managed to evade capture and is still at large. The production of heroin also is still rife.  Afghanistan is the world’s largest producer of heroin (Zoroya, Leinwand 2004).Money from the heroin trade corrupts Afghan government officials leading to complacency.  The money also funds Taliban’s activities through protection fees.

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            The combination of these three factors poses a major security threat to the United States.  Al Qaeda is still active in recruiting, training and financing terrorists.  This situation increases the possibility of another terrorist attack being launched against the United States in similar fashion to 9/11.  Terrorist attacks linked to Al Qaeda have occurred in Madrid, Paris, Istanbul, Glasgow and London (Shanker, Kulish 2008).  A terrorist attack on the US is therefore a distinct possibility that must be dealt with.

Religious hatred in Northern Ireland

            Northern Ireland is one of the four countries that together form the United Kingdom.  The country is located North East of the neighboring Republic of Ireland.  Northern Ireland is the only one of the four home nations that is not located on the island of Great Britain.  The country was for a long time the only one in the UK to have a devolved government.

            Northern Ireland has had a troubled history of a violent nature pitting two groups with different ethnic, religious and political views. The nationalists who are predominantly catholic consider themselves to be Irish and prefer unification of Ireland.  The Unionist mostly protestants on the other hand consider themselves to be British and are in favor of remaining as a part of the United Kingdom (Hancock 2008). The violent confrontation between the two groups is commonly referred to as the troubles.

            One of the main causes of division between Catholics and Protestants is cultural identity.  The Great Britain ruled over the Catholic Ireland from the 12th century until the 1920.  This prolonged rule resulted in introduction of Protestantism to Ireland.  The British rulers took control of the farms and other avenues of wealth creation.  Laws were also instituted barring Catholics from land ownership, schooling, offices and other important elements of the society.  Bitterness and hatred arose from the Catholics resulting in a rebellion against Great Britain which was forced to grant Independence to the Republic of Ireland in 1920 but not before partitioning the Island and retaining control of Northern Ireland.  The hatred between the two communities has led to separation of communities who tend to live and interact only with those of their kind.

            Access to political power is also a major cause of resentment between the two groups.  The partitioning of Northern Ireland was carried out in order to ensure protestant domination over the Catholics in matters of governance.  The protestant legislature instituted measures that restricted the right of the Catholics to vote thereby minimizing their political representation (Hancock 2008).  Security measures aimed at intimidating Catholics were undertaken.  The Protestants also discriminate Catholics on housing allocation employment and in educational revenues.

            Economic participation has also been a key ingredient in the conflict between Protestants and Catholics.  Protestants dominate the local housing authorities that provide public housing.  The Protestants use this control to lock out Catholics from areas where they seek to maintain political domination.  In terms of employment, Catholics are employed in low ranking positions while the Protestants occupy senior positions.

Islamic Extremism

            Islamic extremism also called Islamism has been variously identified as the threat to western civilization in the 21st century.  Islamic extremist movements have been responsible for many attacks on western targets the most infamous being the September 11 2001 bombing of the twin towers in New York.  The attack was linked to Al Qaeda one of the Islamic extremist groups.  Other such groups include Hamas, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad, Fatah al-Islam, Al Aqsa Marty’s Brigades, Abu Sayyaf group among others.  The western world and many other countries in the world consider these groups as terrorist organizations.

            The emergence of these radical groups can be traced back to Egypt in the late 1920s. The country was being occupied by the British military while nationalists were struggling to evict the British from Egypt.  The Muslim brotherhood which was the first Islamism movement was established in 1928 by Itassan al-Banna and received British support.  The British hoped to counter the nationalists using the Islamist movement.  The Muslim Brotherhood denounced the Egyptian government as being secular and not based on the Islamism sharia laws.  They therefore called for the removal of the Egyptian government and the replacement of the similar government by Islamic Shariah law.  This concept still forms the basis of the extremist movements that exist presently (Moore, 2001).  In the 1970s in a bid to expel the Soviet Union from Afghanistan, the US government through the CIA, funded and trained the Mujahideen or Holy warriors.  One of the warriors that were trained was Osama bin Laden who went to form Al Qaeda the most lethal of all Islamic extremist groups.

            Islamic extremist movements have used the concept of the Jihad (Holy war) found in the Koran to advance their aims of forming Islamic governments all over middle East (Goska, 2008).  They have also declared war on perceived enemies of Islam such as the US and Western Europe.  The struggle has been conducted through hijacking of planes, suicide bombing, kidnapping, beheading and assassinations targeted against westerners and Muslims perceived to have betrayed the faith.  There have been arguments from certain quarters that terrorist attacks are driven by a desire to force western powers to withdraw their military presence in the Middle East using Islamism as a cover.

ETA and effects on the Basque region

            The western world has ingrown movements that have been classified as terrorist groups due to the tactics that they use to achieve their objectives.  One such group is Euskade Ta Askatasnna (ETA) which translates to Basque Homeland and Freedom.  The European Union and the United States have classified ETA as a terrorist movement.  The main objective of ETA is the sovereignty of the Basque region of Spain and France.

            ETA was founded by young nationalists in 1959 during dictatorship of Francisco Franco. Franco’s government instituted measures to curb Basque nationalism because they had supported the republican side during the Spanish civil war. ETA then started a movement aimed at achieving self determination in the Basque region, the adoption of Basque language in schools and implementation of socialist form of government in the Basque region. ETA has traditionally targeted former military or police personnel and their families.  The target group however has expanded with time to include policemen and military personnel actively engaged in duties, businessmen who are extorted a tax for revolution, elected politicians, judges and prosecutors, university professors, journalists and former members of ETA.  The group has employed tactics such as assassination by directly shooting their victims.  Bombings have also been carried out mostly car bombs which are not triggered manually.  ETA is also engaged in extortion.  The group charges a revolutionary tax on businesses and those that don’t comply often risk kidnapping.  Robbery has also been widely used by the group.

            The group operates mainly in the Basque country in Spain.  The violence has spread over to Madrid, Barcelona and to the Mediterranean coast.  In France, ETA’s operations have been confined to acquiring and storing weapons.  The effect of violence in the Basque region has been the decline of support for self determination. Positively, Basque language is currently used in educational institutions in the region.

            Traits and motivation of terrorists: Terrorists, due to the heinous nature of their activities have attracted many attempts at psychological and sociological profiling.  Success to this extent has been limited.  There is though some character traits that manifest themselves in people involved in terrorist activities.

            Terrorists are passionately convinced of the justness of their aims.  Individuals involved in terrorist activities are absolutely convinced that what they are doing is right and will result in the greater good for their cause (Global security resource 2002). Secondly, in the pursuit of their just cause, terrorists are willing to kill without any compunction.  The activities of terrorists sometimes require them to kill people and conscience then becomes a hindrance. Many terrorists also have the ability to act alone. When the situation demands, terrorist can act as a loner and take the initiative.  Due to the dangers and risks faced in the terrorist line of duty, one must have a lot of courage.  A terrorist not only risks death, but also arrest and possible torture.

            Terrorist groups have different motives for committing atrocious acts.  By the scale and audacity of their attacks, terrorists aim to produce fear in people (International Terrorism and Security Research, 2008).  They also seek to gain attention of the national or worldwide audience through the use of the media.  Embarrassing governments by showing their inability to protect citizens or to through provoking excessive response is also a motivation for terrorists.  Terrorists also seek to influence government policy on different issues.  They may use economic sabotage to undermine a government.  Sometimes terrorist acts are aimed at freeing fellow terrorists from state prisons or just purely for vengeance.

            These motivations and qualities of a terrorist make it difficult for governments to wipe out terrorism.  A response of violence targeted against the terrorists only fuels the fire by giving further justification for terrorists to continue fighting back.  Lack of action on the other hand, plays right into the terrorists plan because it signifies governments defeat and surrender to terrorists.

            State sponsored terrorism: In the war against terror, there has always been widely hold perception that the war involves states versus non-state amorphous groups.  This has not always been the case though. Various countries have been accused of sponsoring terrorist organizations which advance their aims without the direct involvement of the state.  This gives the state the advantage of dealing with rivals or enemies without experiencing retaliatory attacks.

            In some instances, states harbor terrorist organizations and provide it with sponsorship so as to advance the ideology that is preferred by the host (Dugdale, Pointon 2001).  During the cold war, the two superpowers USA and USSR fought various wars using proxies for example in Angola and Namibia.  The Soviet Union also supported a variety of Arab terrorist group in a bid to undermine the western world.  The Soviet Union also supported dissident groups as well as terrorist organizations in Eastern Europe.

            In present times the United States has accused some states of harboring and sponsoring terrorists. Iran is considered as the main terrorist sponsoring nations by the US.  Iran sponsors groups which have been classified as terrorist organization although Iran doesn’t view them as terrorists (Cordesman 2004).  These groups include Hamas and Hezbollah.  Cuba is also considered as a state that sponsors terrorism due to the fact that it has aided many dissidents’ movements in Latin America and continues to oppose the war on terror.  Sudan is on the list.  Sudan is suspected of harboring al Qaeda, the Lords Resistance Army (LRA) and the Janjaweed militias engaged in ethnic cleansing in Darfur.  Syria supports HAMAS and the popular front for liberation of Palestine (PFLP)

            The United States must take a firm stand against such countries and institute measures within the context of the United Nations to contain terrorist activities.  For states that fail to comply, harsh penalties should be meted out like the case of Taliban in Afghanistan.  Rewards should be awarded to compliant states that dismantle terrorist structures such as Libya.

            Fatah and the six day war: Fatah is one of the major political parties in Palestine and it’s the biggest faction in the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO). Fatah is a reverse acronym for Palestinian National Liberation movement in Arabic.  Fatah is not considered to be a terrorist organization by any government even though it maintains militant groups such as Al-Assifa.  Fatah is currently the official opposition in the Parliament after losing the 2001 parliamentary elections to Hamas. Fatah was founded by Palestinians in diaspora in 1954.  The founders included Yasser Arafat.

            The six day war of 1967 pitted Arab countries led by Egypt against Israel.  Egypt which was the first to provoke the conflict moved its military troops into Sinai much to the vexation of the Israelis.  The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) responded to the aggression. In the span of six days, Israel had defeated an Arab alliance consisting of Egypt, Syria, Lebanon Jordan and Iraq and had acquired new territories such as Jerusalem, the West bank, Sinai and Golan heights. After the six day war in 1967, Fatah joined PLO and became dominant in Palestinian politics.

            The thorough defeat of the Arabs signaled to the Palestinians that the struggle for their self determination will have to be waged by Palestinians.  Previously many Palestinians counted on their Arab neighbors to help them in their struggle but the reality checked in after the six day war (Schafer 2003).  The acquisition of new territories was an advantage to Israel from a geographical standpoint since it ensured easy defense.  The downside was that the over a million Arabs now within the territories acted as cover for Palestinian guerilla activities.

            Balfour declaration: The Balfour declaration of 1917 was a letter conveying formal British government’s foreign policy position concerning Palestine.  The declaration stated that Britain supported the creation of the Jewish homeland in Palestine while protecting the civil and religious rights of other communities living in the region.

            The Balfour declaration was motivated in part by the desire by Christians in the western world to restore Jews to their homeland which is a precondition for the return of the Messiah.  The bigger motives however were imperial rivalry and strategic interests of Britain. The Palestine region is strategically important due to its position at the crossroads of three continents.  Britain did not want to lose the territory during the First World War so as to secure their long term interests in the region. Russia and France had allies in Palestine in Orthodox Christians and Catholics respectively while Britain lacked allies.  The British government therefore sought to create allies in the Jews.

            The Balfour declaration had a tremendous impact on the Palestinian natives of the region because the declaration was backed by the British military might (Kayyali, 1978).  This allowed the Jewish community in Palestine to increase in number through immigration from a paltry 50,000 in 1917to over 600,000 in 1947. This period also gave the Jews time to organize political as well as military institutions.  Protests by Palestinians were ruthlessly crushed by the British military.  This period was the foundation on establishment of the state of Israel in 1948.  During the establishment of the state of Israel, over 700,000 Palestinians were expelled or left as a result of harassment by the Israel Defense Force.


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