Saturday, 24 February, 2024
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OPINION

War On Terrorism



P Kharel


Had poverty-stricken countries, categorised as least developing and developing, been the cause of bulk of the world’s pollution, their richer and mightier counterparts would have unhesitatingly and progressively issued stern warnings and clamped stringent sanctions, even leading to outright invasion. They would point out how 15 per cent of the world population contributed to the environmental degradation, demonstrating that a small percentage of people could not take the rest of the world as hostage and pose a grave threat to the very survival of Planet Earth.
There are ample examples in the post-World War II years to underscore such practice. If the target victims were a moderately powerful state, all sorts of prearrangements would be made in praparation of the eventual war with potentially devastating consequences.
Iraq and Afghanistan provide sharply glaring cases this century. The manner in which dozens of nations lined up to be behind the United States troops in invading Iraq on charges of the Saddam Hussein regime possessing banned weapons of destruction demonstrated once again how the big and mighty resort to any means for gaining an upperhand over an opponent that did not toe their line. Predictably, the weapons did not exist but the invadors’ objective of bringing about regime change was attained, and with it chaos and mass killings.

Sustained campaign
The 2001 terrorist attacks by Osama bin-Laden’s troops in the United States led to an aggressive and sustained intensive campaign by Washington in declaring a war on terrorism. Most other governments have joined the chorus—and often rightly so. However, how comprehensive should the war on terrorism be constitutes an aspect of the new thrust that is little discussed.
Rich Western capitals have taken upon themselves the role of defining and decribing terrorism, and launching aggressive interventions in weaker nations. Saddam Hussein was a brutal ruler; so are numerous other autocraic regimes all over the world—some are closely knit allies of the industrially rich while others fall under various grades of friendhsip with the more powerful forces that are used to setting most of the global agendas covering comprehensive areas.
Afghanistan is another case, where the Taliban ruled harshly for five years until the US-led troops arrived at the gates of Kabul in 2002, accusing the local regime of harbouring the Al Qaeda that the Washington had declared a terrorist group. Bin Laden was killed in a US targeted raid in Pakistan, but the foreign troops are yet to be withdrawn from Afghanistan where the Taliban’s writ works in about half of that landlocked country. The much sought after pullout has proved to be far more difficult than entering the country.
In the Afghan war, Washington has spent a trillion dollars while 150,000 Afghan lives have been lost. The US government is desperate to pull out from that never-ending war but wants a face-saving way out. Saudi Arabia supported the Taliban government up to 2001, in alignment with Pakistan. The Ashraf Ghani government in Kabul in unhappy about what it says as Saudi Arabia’s approach to seeing developments in Afghanistan through the lenses of Pakistan.
Meanwhile, deadly events continue occurring. Speculation is rife that a breakthrough is close to being reached between the Taliban representatives and the US delegates in Qatar. The Ghani government is unhappy that the Taliban rejected its officials to join the negotiations with Washington. Kabul and Washington had in the past claimed that Islamabad is a safe haven to the Afghan Taliban. Today, all that Washington asks of Taliban is to ensure that jihadist activities were not planned in Afghanistan in exchange for drastic reduction of the presence of the US troops in Afghanistan. There are currently 13,000 American troops in Afghanistan, down from an all-time high of 110,000 in the earklier years of the war.
The topography and typography of terror defines the tactics employed by governments and mission groups. The attacks on Iraq on charges of Baghdad possessing weapons of mass destruction were wanton and ruthless, with 500,000 people, mostly civilians, killed in the first few weeks of war. Over 240,000 US troops are engaged in counter-terrorism activities in as many as 80 nations. Some 38,000 troops are deputed on secret assignments whereas there are deployments in Bahrain (6,500), Britain (8,000), Germany (36,034), Japan (40,000), Qatar (3,000), South Korea (24,000) and Turkey 1,400. Such deployments are justified on security grounds or anti-terrorist measures.
Washington’s announcement that it would help the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), led by the Kurdish YPG militia, an angered NATO member Turkey set up a 30,000-strong border force. Ankara considers the Syrian YPG as an extension of the Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK) militant group, which is considered by not only Turkey but also the European and the US as a terrorist group. In Yemen, Western capitals condemn Iran’s support to the indigenous Houthis, who control the capital, Sana, but they are silent on Saudi Arabia’s horrific bombings in support of the government.
Saudi Arabia, which accuses Qatar of supporting terrorism, is known to have sponsored many jihadists. As the US secretary of state during President Barack Obama’s first term (2009-2013), Hillary Clinton had concluded that Saudi Arabia was a major source of funding “terrorist” Sunni groups in different parts of the world. The royal regime in Riyadh for long supported the Taliban in Afghanistan, which was invaded by the forces of the US and its close allies in 2002, first emphasis on flushing out the Taliban government that gave refuge to Osama bin-Laden’s Al Qaeda and later in the name of “campaign against terrorism”.

Nuclear arms
At a time when more than 120 nations approve nuclear ban treaty, countries possessing the weapons are not prepared to sign an agreement to this effect. Even as the world concern rises over the global conflicts and the nuclear weapons’ power of causing a holocaust on Planet Earth, not a single country among nine nations that possess the destructive weapons—the United States, Russia, Britain, China, France, India, Pakistan, North Korea and Israel—is prepared to agree to banning the weapons. There are an estimated 15,000 nuclear weapons.
The countries that offer expertise to conflict resolution in developing countries have, however, not dared to approach the big powers for their good services. They are apparently dismissed as lightweight seeking a role. Inconsistency in practices erodes the credibility of those craving for a permanent role of mediator.

(Former chief editor of The Rising Nepal, P. Kharel has been writing for this daily since 1973)