African Women Voices

Al-Qaeda: Cutting The Head Off The Snake

The world is not a safer place now that two Al-Qaeda commanders were reported dead by the Chadian government. As Al-Qaeda influence keeps spreading in Africa, it is time to question the efficacy of the methods used to fight the war on terror.

Mistakes on this terrain have been made financially and strategically. Firstly, the great amount of money spent by the U.S. to finance military operations has proved to be ineffective, as the number of terroristic attacks increased. Secondly, the killing of Osama Bin Laden has demonstrated that counterterrorism strategies are failing because the main terrorist organization keeps standing.

In 2011 only the US spent $711 billion in military operations, which is the total of what 17 countries spent during the same period. The dramatic rise of expenditure in military operation started after 9/11 and was mainly aimed to finance the war on terror.

US military expenses

As the Global Index on Terrorism reports, after the invasion of Iraq in 2003, terroristic attacks increased in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan and Yemen and not in North America.

Despite the financial resources deployed and the assassination of Osama Bin Laden “terrorist activity fell back to pre-2000 levels until after the Iraq invasion, and has since escalated dramatically,” said Steve Killelea, founder and executive chairman of the Institute for Economics and Peace to Reuters.
Global Index of Terrorism

Even former Director of the CIA, Leon Pannetta admitted that killing Bin Laden did not mean the war on terrorism was over. He said:

“I don’t think there’s any question that when you get the number one terrorist in the world, that we’re a little safer today than we were when he was alive. But I also don’t think we ought to kid ourselves that killing Osama Bin Laden kills Al-Qaeda. Al-Qaeda still remains a threat.”

Listed in the National Terrorism Centre are a total of 39 terrorist group from all over the world, the African being just the latest to be under the spotlight. These numbers tell that killing the head of the group is not working out. This practice is called leadership decapitation, says James Russell, author of Transformation and War: US Counterinsurgency Operations:

“Leadership decapitation as a strategy is short-sighted, bound to ultimately fail, and may actually increase threats to our country. Although you might not realize it, the United States is by far the greatest modern-day practitioner of leadership decapitation. How has this strategy worked out for us?”

The leadership decapitation strategy was adopted in Africa where senior Al-Qaeda militant Abdelhamid Abou Zeid and terrorist Mokhtar Belmokhtar, were reported dead by Chad’s president Idriss Deby. The killings are not yet confirmed but already instill a wrong sense of security.

Al-Qaeda influence is likely to put roots in countries where discontent and instability have created independent rebel group, like the Boko Haram in Nigeria. To a reasonable eye this already tells what the right strategy should be: support from far countries so that they can sustain and stabilize, rather than acting like restless cowboys.

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