ICG report examines pitfalls of U.S. counter-terrorism strategy


A new report by the International Crisis Group examines President Trump’s emerging counter-terrorism policies, the dilemmas his administration faces in battling ISIS and al-Qaeda across the Middle East and South Asia, and how to avoid deepening the disorder both groups exploit. See: Counter-terrorism Pitfalls: What the U.S. Fight against ISIS and al-Qaeda Should Avoid (Special Report N° 3, 22 March 2017).

A main dilemma facing the Trump administration is to find the right balance between military action against jihadists and policies aimed at tackling the conditions they exploit.

Counter-terrorism pitfalls which the report examines include:

  • Angering local populations whose support is critical, through indiscriminate air strikes and failure to rebuild “liberated” cities;
  • Aggravating regional rivalries between Turkish and Kurdish forces, between Shiite and Sunni tribes, and between Iran and Saudi Arabia;
  • Picking unnecessary fights with Iran, China, and others;
  • Defining the enemy too broadly to include political entities like the Muslim Brotherhood rather than isolating it; and
  • Neglecting peace processes, foreign aid, and other vital diplomatic efforts to build stability.

…[C]ounter-terrorism does not exist in a vacuum. The U.S. administration’s executive order banning entry from certain Muslim countries; the troubling rhetoric of some of its officials; the calling into question of some of the restraints imposed on military operations… all undermine its goal of protecting Americans from terrorism.

For the full report click on: Counter-terrorism Pitfalls: What the U.S. Fight against ISIS and al-Qaeda Should Avoid (Special Report N° 3, 22 March 2017).

For a related analysis by Professor Paul Rogers, see: Washington’s wars: in a fix  (Paul Rogers, Open Democracy.net, 23 March 2017).


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4 Responses to “ICG report examines pitfalls of U.S. counter-terrorism strategy”

  1. John TeeApril 7, 2017 at 4:59 pm #

    And now the Yanks have almost certainly staged another false flag chemical attack in Syria as a pretext for further military escalation! Trudeau jr. and the Liberals have swallowed briefings from Washington hook, line and sinker. What has he been smoking?? Does CBC do any independent investigation on foreign affairs??

  2. John TeeMarch 27, 2017 at 7:13 pm #

    I hate to be a lone voice in the wilderness, but it appears that American counter terrorism strategy in northern Iraq and Syria is to push out ISIS and create a Kurdish independent state along the Turkish border, standard divide and conquer imperial strategy.

  3. John TeeMarch 25, 2017 at 5:10 pm #

    The USA routinely employs the use of proxy terrorists to overthrow targeted regimes, such as the Contras in Nicaragua, Afghanistan under Soviet assistance, and now Syria in order to eliminate Assad. Russia and China both know that USA will foment unrest among their own Muslim minorities to undermine and fragment them as they have been doing all along in the Middle East if their mercenaries are not eliminated in Syria and Iraq before returning home.

  4. Howard A. DoughtyMarch 25, 2017 at 4:08 pm #

    Having grown up during the “Cold War,” I only gradually learned how much the “ideological” rivalry between the “communist menace” and the “free world” provided cover for what was, in reality, a symbiotic relationship between the “military-industrial” complexes in the USSR and the USA.

    Like Tweedle-dee and Tweedle-dum, the creators of the MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction) “agreed to have a battle.”

    They have, rather perversely, been given credit for preserving a semblance of peace (i.e., the nuclear holocaust was at least deferred) by means of the relentless arms race in apparent preparation for a final catastrophic nuclear conflagration. Meanwhile, in Latin America and Africa, on the border lines between East and West Europe, and especially in places such as Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and, somewhat earlier, Korea, millions of casualties were incurred in marginal, proxy wars.

    Whether wittingly or unwittingly, the primary opponents in the current “clash of civilizations” and/or “war on terror” are playing roles.

    I do not pretend to be an expert on the conflicts raging in North Africa, the Near East and the Middle East (with occasional episodes of violence in Europe and the United States.

    I do know, however, that from the perspective of the “West,” the strategies being applied to the hostilities have no more chance of success than the “carpet bombing” of North Vietnam and the “secret” strikes against Cambodia (ca. 1970).

    The true “winners” in all of this remain the profit-seekers in the “defence” industries, the armed forces and the politicians who distinguish themselves by displaying hyper-masculine postures at a safe distance and funneling funds to the armaments industry – whether in the bellicose and bombastic USA or the Canada of “sunny ways.”

    In contrast to the current crop of “populist” politicians – the most powerful of whom shows all the clinical signs of multiple mental diseases and disorders as set out in the “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association” – old cold warriors from Dean Acheson and John Foster Dulles all the way to Barry Goldwater and Lyndon Baines Johnson seem downright sane and sober, and even George W. Bush appears almost erudite and statesmanlike in retrospect.

    My dear American friends have much to contend with and I wish them well under trying circumstances. What is of local importance now, however, is the part Canada can and should play in ameliorating the situation. Whatever we may think of them (and regardless of what they thought of each other), we may at least say that both John G. Diefenbaker and Lester B. Pearson (and, later, Jean Chretien) did what they thought they could to maintain a fragile peace or, at least, not to be bullied by bombast into joining unwinnable wars.

    With regard to America’s 45th president, Mr. Trudeau-the-Younger must be instructed that there is a strategy more ennobling than a pre-emptive cringe and that, for example, pushing ahead with the $15 billion sale of military equipment to Saudi Arabia does not betoken a successful future.

    Back about 1960, I seem to recall, I read a rather provocative book by CBC Washington correspondent James M. Minifie. It was entitled “Peacemaker or Powder-monkey?” and called on Canadian leaders and citizens to reflect on the dangers of Cold War enthusiasms. We could all – and the CBC especially – benefit from such wise counsel as Mr. Minifie provided, despite the criticism leveled at him by jerky-kneed hysterics and patriots.