Extremist groups around the world have been adapting and growing in influence despite nearly two decades of the “war on terror”, a US government report has revealed. The US State Department’s annual terror assessment was released yesterday.
According to the report, America’s fight against terrorist groups such as Daesh in the Levant, the killing of its former leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, and the killing of Al-Qaeda’s founder Osama Bin Laden and his son Hamza are all “major strides” forward in the efforts to counter global terrorism.
“Despite these successes,” though, “dangerous terrorist threats persisted” and Washington continues to face a “diverse and dynamic threat landscape,” consisting of groups ranging from jihadists to white supremacists.
Addressing the issue with reporters yesterday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that, “This administration has taken on terrorist threats that other administrations simply downplayed… But we’re undaunted in our pursuit of bringing terrorists to justice.”
There is reportedly concern among policymakers that relying solely on military action against such groups is counterproductive. Critics of the US strategy argue that going after terror leaders has not been effective, given the groups’ ability to adapt and grow.
The State Department’s Counterterrorism Coordinator, Nathan Sales, cited Daesh as an example of such adaptation. “We’re seeing a continued evolution in [Daesh] from an entity that purported to control territory to one that is instead a network, a global network that reaches every inhabited continent.”
Former Deputy Director of the CIA Michael Morell also told lawmakers yesterday: “Terrorist groups are very easy to degrade. Once you get the intel and once you get the military assets in the right place, they’re extraordinarily easy to degrade. But they are also very easy to rebuild.”
According to Morell and other like-minded figures, the root causes that give rise to the terror groups and their sustainability must be tackled. These include factors such as poor governance, poverty and long-held societal failures that cause people to feel disaffected. “We need to think about how we play a role in getting at the disease rather than just dealing with the symptoms,” the ex-CIA official insisted.
The report focused not just on the Middle East, but also other regions. The Philippines, for example, has its own branch of Daesh; there is Al-Shabab in Somalia; and there are terror groups in Africa’s Sahel region, where the data shows that terrorist attacks have increased by 250 per cent since 2018.