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Posts Tagged ‘counterterrorism policy’

Pentagon officials are proposing air strikes and the use of special operations forces in Libya to counter the growing threat from ISIS. This potentially dangerous escalation of U.S. military involvement in the Middle East is being decided without public debate or dialogue. Is it really a good idea to open a new front in the expanding war in the region?

U.S. military strikes have not brought stability and peace to Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia or Syria. Why do we think they will solve the problems now in Libya? Military strikes can destroy targets and kill fighters (along with civilians), but they cannot solve the underlying political problems and lack of accountable governance that are at the root of these conflicts.

The United States fought a major war in Iraq to suppress Al-Qaida, but that organization morphed into the even more dangerous menace of ISIS. We fired the Iraqi army and sent some of its senior officers to prison, where they became radicalized by jihadists. Today many of the military leaders of the so-called Islamic State are former commanders of the Iraqi army.

Military involvement in the Middle East is the problem not the solution. As we have seen in other countries, American military intervention creates a rejection response that drives many people into the arms of the extremist groups.

As Scott Atran recently observed, an extreme reaction from the United States and other Western countries is exactly what the strategists of Al-Qaida and ISIS want. The more we become bogged down in the region, the happier they are. They want to cause chaos and ‘vexation’, forcing the West to become directly involved militarily.

External military intervention reinforces the false narrative of the extremists that the West is waging war on Islam. Bombs falling on another Arab country will be a bonanza for ISIS recruiters.

The U.S. has conducted 10,000 military strikes against extremist targets in Syria and Iraq over the past 18 months, but the threat from ISIS in the region remains formidable and is now spreading to Libya.

Micah Zenko of the Council on Foreign Relations confirmed in a recent analysis that American bombing in Iraq and Syria has not achieved its strategic objectives. Pentagon officials claim that U.S. strikes killed 25,000 ISIS fighters last year. Yet military officials also acknowledge that the number of estimated ISIS fighters in the region today remains about the same as before. Bombing alone cannot stem the flow of extremist fighters.

Keep in mind that U.S. bombing strikes in 2011 created the chaos in Libya in the first place, causing the overthrow of the Gaddafi regime and the collapse of the Libyan state, spreading lawlessness and armed conflict across the Sahel.

Yes, we need to do more to stop the spread of ISIS, but U.S. bombing will create a backlash that could worsen the extremist threat. We need to act, but we also need to heed the warning: do no harm.

Rather than further stoking the flames of chaos, let’s focus instead on encouraging negotiations among Libya’s competing political factions. The only hope for a resolution to the crisis in Libya is political agreement among the local parties. U.S. intervention could shatter the thin hopes of forging a viable coalition government.

Now is an especially bad time for external military intervention as the Libyan factions have been engaged in internal political discussions and are taking tentative steps toward forming a unity government. Encouraging and supporting that political process should be our top priority.

A stable government in Libya would be more than capable of containing the threat from ISIS and could contribute to greater security in the region. Let’s focus on that task rather than the risky business of widening the war in the Middle East.

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The adoption last week of new UN sanctions on ISIL marks an important step forward in the international campaign to isolate, weaken and suppress the so-called Islamic State.

On Thursday the UN Security Council approved Resolution 2253, a landmark measure that consolidates and strengthens international sanctions against ISIL and gives greater strategic focus to the global fight against the threat.

The 28-page resolution is perhaps the longest sanctions resolution ever adopted. It includes 34 preambles, 99 operative paragraphs and two extensive technical appendices each with dozens of specifications for implementation. If length is a measure of political intention, this is a serious resolution.

With the passage of Resolution 2253 the Security Council has finally renamed its main counterterrorism sanctions committee the “ISIL (Da’esh) and Al-Qaida Sanctions Committee.” Previously it was known as the Al-Qaida and Taliban Committee and then the Al-Qaida Committee. The name change is long overdue and means that the Committee can now concentrate on ISIL as the main international terrorist threat.

The resolution reiterates the obligation of all states to freeze the financial assets, prohibit entry or transit, and prevent the supply of arms or military equipment for all individuals and entities associated with ISIL.  It prohibits a wide range of specific forms of financial interaction with ISIL or its supporters and obligates all states to cooperate in implementing these restrictions. It calls for more vigorous compliance with Financial Action Task Force provisions against the financing of terrorism.

The resolution urges states to submit the names of individuals and entities to be targeted for sanctions and includes the usual provisions for listing and delisting those designated for UN sanctions. It also maintains and extends the mandate of the Office of the Ombudsperson, which receives and processes requests for delisting in the event of inadvertent listing.

The resolution directs the Sanctions Committee and its Monitoring Team (the most vigorous of the Security Council’s expert panels) to report on specific instances and general patterns of non-compliance, and to recommend corrective actions that the Council could take in response. It also authorizes the Committee to hire additional experts to focus on ISIL and to recommend capacity-building assistance for states that need help to enforce the sanctions.

The resolution requests the UN Secretary General to provide within 45 days an initial “strategic-level report that demonstrates and reflects the gravity” of the threat from ISIL and the range of Member States efforts to counter that threat, and to provide updates every four months thereafter. It calls for the Monitoring Team to cooperate with other UN counterterrorism bodies to submit recommendations for strengthening global enforcement of sanctions against ISIL.

The resolution breaks new ground in three respects.

It was jointly sponsored by the United States and Russia, indicating the ability of Washington and Moscow to work together on countering ISIL despite their many differences on other issues. This should give greater impetus to the global fight against the group.

It focuses Security Council counterterrorism sanctions on ISIL and provides additional mandates and resources for the Council’s Sanctions Committee and Monitoring Team to do a better job of identifying and correcting problems of noncompliance.

It calls on the Secretary General and UN counterterrorism bodies to provide greater strategic-level focus on the threat from ISIL and measures to counter it.

Progress in implementing the provisions of Resolution 2253 would go a long way toward reducing the global threat from ISIL and cutting off its vital sources of money and supply. The United States, Russia and other powers should continue working together through the Security Council to assure effective implementation of these measures and to generate steadily increasing pressures against ISIL.

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Do drone weapons make war more likely?  Evidence suggests that countries may indeed be more inclined to use military force when they have highly accurate weapons that can be used without risking the lives of their service members. Drone warfare has become a centerpiece of U.S. counterterrorism policy. Secretary of Defense Panetta has called drone warfare “the only game in town” for suppressing Al Qaida.

The use of these weapons perpetuates the illusion that terrorism can be defeated by military means. It detracts attention from the political solutions and law enforcement measures that have proven to be more effective for that purpose.

I address these and other critical issues surrounding drone warfare in the current issue of Cato Unbound. Read more here

 

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