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THE WAR ON TERROR 5 YEARS AFTER 9/11
There will be a continuing role for decisive military intervention in the on-going War on Terror. Police and intelligence services everywhere will need to strengthen their efforts to track and diffuse terror organizations. But on this 5th anniversary of 9/11 government leaders in Canada and around the world need to re-engage with the complexities of terrorism and address its root causes, not only its brutal manifestations.
“Huge amounts of money have been spent on large and costly military operations, but after five years southern Afghanistan is once more a battlefield for the control of the country. At the same time, the Afghans are starving. …The US policies in Afghanistan have re-created the safe haven for terrorism that the 2001 invasion aimed to destroy."
In its report, Afghanistan Five Years Later: The Return of the Taliban, the council said swaths of the country were falling back into the hands of the Taliban. There are between 10 and 15 refugee camps, with up to 10,000 people in each, in the provinces of Helmand and Kandahar, with little or no help from relief agencies. How many hearts and minds are being won with these methods? When the Taliban burns down schools and clinics then decapitates teachers and nurses, clearly there is a need for a robust military response. But where have the aggressive, ‘take-it-to-the-enemy’ counter-terrorism tactics currently being applied in Afghanistan resulted in a victory over a guerrilla force? Vietnam? Gaza? Lebanon? Iraq? Are there other options to the current strategy that would achieve the desired outcomes? All the NATO participants in the Afghanistan campaign need to reflect upon this question.
In Canada the least we can do is to have an open parliamentary debate on how to best bring peace and stability to Afghanistan. Canada must use its international influence to persuade the community of developed nations that terrorism must be confronted on diplomatic, economic development levels as well as on a military level. We need to become intolerant of those who would sidestep democratic values to achieve their own ends. In its more lucid moments, Al-Qaeda has declared that it wants foreign troops out of disputed Muslim territories in Chechnya, Kashmir, Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine. The West will never bow to these demands. But surely the decision-makers guiding the War on Terror should not take actions that make the global terror situation worse instead of better. With the wisdom of hindsight, it is could be argued that the US/UK invasion and occupation of Iraq has exacerbated the threat of terrorism. If the full weight of the US military had been applied to the pacification and reconstruction of Afghanistan, perhaps NATO would not be fighting a guerrilla war there today.