It seems that the war against terrorism has no end. As soon as the officials and public of one country or another think it is over, it starts all over again in a more ferocious way. Apparently, this is the same war dragging on since the bombing of the Twin Towers on 11 September and the declaration of the universal war on terrorism by the United States.
It is important to remember that it took almost a decade to eliminate Al-Qaeda and Bin Laden. No sooner had the US claimed victory over Al-Qaeda than it got involved in a new war against the Islamic State, together with a new coalition it has formed.
Each episode of this war seems more brutal than the one before. For instance, Al-Qaeda which was the focus of attention during the war against terrorism from 2001 till 2011 proved less dangerous than the Islamic State. Al-Qaeda established its strong base in Afghanistan, but it did not threaten the unity of other countries, and actually the war against it succeeded to liquidate many of its leaders and curb its activities. The combat drones also kept chasing Al-Qaeda members in Yemen, Pakistan, Somalia and other countries.
According to analysts, the war against the Islamic State this time is fraught with danger and is expected to continue for another decade. The Islamic state has managed to seize large swaths of lands in Iraq and Syria and establish what it calls the Islamic caliphate. For that reason the Islamic State has become a main attraction to radical movements, and there is a great possibility it can get the support of many Jihadist groups who sign-up to the idea of its caliphate.
Furthermore, the Islamic State is one of the richest terrorist groups in the world. It benefits from black-market oil export revenues and from funds of banks in the cities they have seized, alongside other resources they have managed to capitalise.
On the military level, the Islamic State has laid hands on some advanced weaponry that once belonged to the sectarian Iraqi army. The army that was trained by the United States and Nouri Al-Maleki has in many places fled their posts, leaving their weapons as easy booty for the terrorists to capture.
The confrontation with terrorism is different this time, especially when the Islamic State avails itself of the war declared by the US and its allies against it. The terrorist groups and extremists oppose the US clout in the region and consider it the great Satan. That is why the Islamic State may get the support of these groups who can send jihadists to back them in their fight against the US-led coalition.
The Islamic State benefits, one way or another, from the contradictions existing between the international coalition members and from their political orientations. Some of these members appear to secretly deal with the group, while others see it as a useful tool to deal with sectarian conflict in the region. It should also be stressed that the coalition’s air strikes alone without troops on the ground will slow down the process of eliminating this group. It gives their fighters the opportunity to hide and fortify their positions without being properly confronted in combat. That is to say, this war will go on longer than many analysts expect.
Abdel-Alim Mohamed is a counsellor at Al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies.