War on Terror

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War on Terror
Clockwise from top left: Aftermath of the September 11 attacks; American infantry in Afghanistan; an American soldier and Afghan interpreter in Zabul Province, Afghanistan; explosion of an Iraqi car bomb in Baghdad
Clockwise from top left: Aftermath of the September 11 attacks; American infantry in Afghanistan; an American soldier and Afghan interpreter in Zabul Province, Afghanistan; explosion of an Iraqi car bomb in Baghdad.
Date 11 September 2001 – present
(15 years, 8 months and 1 day)[note 1]
Location Global (esp. in the Greater Middle East)
Status NATO-led international involvement in Afghanistan (2001–2014)

Insurgency in Yemen (1992–2015):[note 2]

Iraq War (2003–2011):

War in North-West Pakistan (2004–present):

  • Ongoing insurgency
  • Large part of FATA under Taliban control
  • Shifting public support for the Pakistani government
  • Killing of Osama bin Laden
  • Drone strikes being conducted by the CIA

International campaign against ISIL (2014–present):

Other:

Belligerents
Main participants:
 United States (leader)
 United Kingdom
 France
 Russia
 China[1][2]

Other countries:


(* note: most contributing nations are included in the international operations)

Main targets:

Flag of Taliban.svg Taliban
East Turkestan Islamic Movement


Commanders and leaders
George W. Bush
(President 2001–2009)
Barack Obama
(President 2009–2017)
Donald Trump
(President 2017–present)

Tony Blair
(Prime Minister 1997–2007)
Gordon Brown
(Prime Minister 2007–2010)
David Cameron
(Prime Minister 2010–2016)
Theresa May
(Prime Minister 2016–present)

Jacques Chirac (President 1995–2007)
Nicolas Sarkozy (President 2007–2012)
François Hollande(President 2012–present)
Vladimir Putin
(President 2000–2008, 2012–present)

Dmitry Medvedev
(President 2008–2012)
Jiang Zemin
(President 2001–2003)
Hu Jintao
(President 2003–2013)
Xi Jinping
(President 2013–present)

al-Qaeda

Osama bin Laden 
(Founder and first Emir of al-Qaeda)
Ayman al-Zawahiri
(Current Emir of al-Qaeda)
Saif al-Adel
(al-Qaeda Military Chief)
Abu Musab al-Zarqawi 
(Emir of al-Qaeda in Iraq)
Ilyas Kashmiri 
(Commander of Lashkar al-Zil)
Qasim al-Raymi
(Emir of AQAP)
Abdelmalek Droukdel
(Emir of AQIM)
Mokhtar Belmokhtar 
(Emir of AQWA)
Asim Umar
(Emir of AQIS)
Ahmad Umar
(Emir of al-Shabaab)
Abu Mohammad al-Julani
(Emir of al-Nusra Front)
Muhsin al-Fadhli 
(Leader of Khorasan Group)[37]

Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi
(Caliph of ISIL)
Abu Ala al-Afri 
(Deputy Emir of ISIL)[38][39][40]
Abu Muslim al-Turkmani 
(Deputy Leader, Iraq)[41]
Abu Suleiman al-Naser 
(Head of War Council)[42]
Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant Abu Mohammad al-Adnani 
(Spokesperson for ISIL)
Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant Abu Omar al-Shishani 
(Senior ISIL commander)
Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant Abu Nabil al-Anbari (ISIL Emir of North Africa)
Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant Abu Abdullah al-Filipini (ISIL Emir of the Philippines)
Mohammed Abdullah
(ISIL Emir of Derna)
Ali Al Qarqaa
(ISIL Emir of Nofaliya)
Hafiz Saeed Khan  [43](ISIL Emir of Wilayat Khorasan)
Usman Ghazi[44][45]
Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant Abubakar Shekau[46]
(Emir of Boko Haram)

Taliban

Mohammed Omar
(1st Supreme Commander of the Taliban) 
Akhtar Mansour
(2nd Supreme Commander of the Taliban) 
Hibatullah Akhundzada
(Current & 3rd Supreme Commander of the Taliban)
Quetta Shura
(Senior Taliban council)

Abdul Ghani Baradar
Obaidullah Akhund 
Mohammad Fazl
Dadullah Akhund 

Tehrik-i-Taliban

Maulana Fazlullah
(Emir of Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan)

Haqqani Network

Jalaluddin Haqqani 
(leader of the Haqqani network)
Sirajuddin Haqqani

East Turkestan Islamic Movement

Abdul Haq
(Emir of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement)

Abdullah Mansour
(Emir of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement)

The War on Terror (WoT), also known as the Global War on Terrorism (GWOT), is a metaphor of war referring to the international military campaign that started after the September 11th attacks on the United States.[47] U.S. PresidentGeorge W. Bush first used the termWar on Terror” on 20 September 2001.[47] The Bush administration and the Western media have since used the term to argue a global military, political, legal, and conceptual struggle against both terrorist organizations and against the regimes accused of supporting them. It was originally used with a particular focus on countries associated with Islamic terrorist organizations including al-Qaeda and like-minded organizations.

In 2013, President Barack Obama announced that the United States was no longer pursuing a War on Terror, as the military focus should be on specific enemies rather than a tactic. He stated, “We must define our effort not as a boundless ‘Global War on Terror,’ but rather as a series of persistent, targeted efforts to dismantle specific networks of violent extremists that threaten America.”[48]

In 2017 Donald Trump assumed presidency of the United States and vowed that the fight against ISIL is his number one priority.[49][50] A series of airstrikes were carried out at an ISIL stronghold in Syria in March 2017 and the Trump Administration announced the sending of more troops to ISIL-held territories in the Middle East to continue the fight against the terrorist organization.[51][52][53] Trump has also agreed to work together and carry joint operations with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the ongoing war on terror.[54]

Etymology[edit source]

Letter from Barack Obama indicating appropriation of Congressional funds for “Overseas Contingency Operations/Global War on Terrorism”

The phrase “War on Terror” has been used to specifically refer to the ongoing military campaign led by the U.S., UK and their allies against organizations and regimes identified by them as terrorist, and usually excludes other independent counter-terrorist operations and campaigns such as those by Russia and India. The conflict has also been referred to by names other than the War on Terror. It has also been known as:

History of the name[edit source]

In 1984, the Reagan Administration used the term “war against terrorism” as part of an effort to pass legislation that was designed to freeze assets of terrorist groups and marshal the forces of government against them. Author Shane Harris asserts this was a reaction to the 1983 Beirut barracks bombing, which killed 241 U.S. and 58 French peacekeepers.[62]

The concept of America at war with terrorism may have begun on 11 September 2001 when Tom Brokaw, having just witnessed the collapse of one of the towers of the World Trade Center, declared “Terrorists have declared war on [America].”[63]

On 16 September 2001, at Camp David, President George W. Bush used the phrase war on terrorism in an unscripted and controversial comment when he said, “This crusade – this war on terrorism – is going to take a while, … “[64] Bush later apologized for this remark due to the negative connotations the term crusade has to people, e.g. of the Muslim faith. The word crusade was not used again.[65] On 20 September 2001, during a televised address to a joint session of Congress, Bush stated that “(o)ur ‘war on terror’ begins with al-Qaeda, but it does not end there. It will not end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped, and defeated.”[66]

In April 2007, the British government announced publicly that it was abandoning the use of the phrase “War on Terror” as they found it to be less than helpful.[67] This was explained more recently by Lady Eliza Manningham-Buller. In her 2011 Reith lecture, the former head of MI5 said that the 9/11 attacks were “a crime, not an act of war. So I never felt it helpful to refer to a war on terror.”[68]

U.S. President Barack Obama has rarely used the term, but in his inaugural address on 20 January 2009, he stated: “Our nation is at war, against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred.”[69] In March 2009 the Defense Department officially changed the name of operations from “Global War on Terror” to “Overseas Contingency Operation” (OCO).[70] In March 2009, the Obama administration requested that Pentagon staff members avoid the use of the term and instead to use “Overseas Contingency Operation”.[70] Basic objectives of the Bush administration “war on terror”, such as targeting al Qaeda and building international counterterrorism alliances, remain in place.[71][72] In December 2012, Jeh Johnson, the General Counsel of the Department of Defense, stated that the military fight would be replaced by a law enforcement operation when speaking at Oxford University,[73] predicting that al Qaeda will be so weakened to be ineffective, and has been “effectively destroyed”, and thus the conflict will not be an armed conflict under international law.[74] In May 2013, Obama stated that the goal is “to dismantle specific networks of violent extremists that threaten America”;[75] which coincided with the U.S. Office of Management and Budget having changed the wording from “Overseas Contingency Operations” to “Countering Violent Extremism” in 2010.[76]

The rhetorical war on terror[edit source]

Because the actions involved in the “war on terrorism” are diffuse, and the criteria for inclusion are unclear. Political theorist Richard Jackson has argued that “the ‘war on terrorism’ therefore, is simultaneously a set of actual practices—wars, covert operations, agencies, and institutions—and an accompanying series of assumptions, beliefs, justifications, and narratives—it is an entire language or discourse.”[77] Jackson cites among many examples a statement by John Ashcroft that “the attacks of September 11 drew a bright line of demarcation between the civil and the savage”.[78]Administration officials also described “terrorists” as hateful, treacherous, barbarous, mad, twisted, perverted, without faith, parasitical, inhuman, and, most commonly, evil.[79] Americans, in contrast, were described as brave, loving, generous, strong, resourceful, heroic, and respectful of human rights.[80]

Both the term and the policies it denotes have been a source of ongoing controversy, as critics argue it has been used to justify unilateral preventive war, human rights abuses and other violations of international law.[81][82]

Background[edit source]

Precursor to the 11 September attacks[edit source]

The origins of al-Qaeda can be traced to the Soviet war in Afghanistan (December 1979 – February 1989). The United States, United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and the People’s Republic of China supported the Islamist Afghan mujahadeen guerillas against the military forces of the Soviet Union and the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan. A small number of “Afghan Arab” volunteers joined the fight against the Soviets, including Osama bin Laden, but there is no evidence they received any external assistance.[83] In May 1996 the group World Islamic Front for Jihad Against Jews and Crusaders (WIFJAJC), sponsored by bin Laden (and later re-formed as al-Qaeda), started forming a large base of operations in Afghanistan, where the Islamist extremist regime of the Taliban had seized power earlier in the year.[84] In February 1998, Osama bin Laden signed a fatwā, as head of al-Qaeda, declaring war on the West and Israel,[85][86] later in May of that same year al-Qaeda released a video declaring war on the U.S. and the West.[87][88]

On 7 August 1998, al-Qaeda struck the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, killing 224 people, including 12 Americans.[89] In retaliation, U.S. President Bill Clinton launched Operation Infinite Reach, a bombing campaign in Sudan and Afghanistan against targets the U.S. asserted were associated with WIFJAJC,[90][91] although others have questioned whether a pharmaceutical plant in Sudan was used as a chemical warfare facility. The plant produced much of the region’s antimalarial drugs[92] and around 50% of Sudan’s pharmaceutical needs.[93] The strikes failed to kill any leaders of WIFJAJC or the Taliban.[92]

Next came the 2000 millennium attack plots, which included an attempted bombing of Los Angeles International Airport. On 12 October 2000, the USS Cole bombing occurred near the port of Yemen, and 17 U.S. Navy sailors were killed.[94]

September 11, 2001, attacks[edit source]

On the morning of September 11, 2001, 19 men affiliated with al-Qaeda hijacked four airliners all bound for California. Once the hijackers assumed control of the airliners, they told the passengers that they had a bomb on board and would spare the lives of passengers and crew once their demands were met – no passenger and crew actually suspected that they would use the airliners as suicide weapons since it had never happened before in history, and many previous hijacking attempts had been resolved with the passengers and crew escaping unharmed after obeying the hijackers.[95][96] The hijackers – members of al-Qaeda’s Hamburg cell[97] intentionally crashed two airliners into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City. Both buildings collapsed within two hours from fire damage related to the crashes, destroying nearby buildings and damaging others. The hijackers crashed a third airliner into the Pentagon in Arlington County, Virginia, just outside Washington D.C. The fourth plane crashed into a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, after some of its passengers and flight crew attempted to retake control of the plane, which the hijackers had redirected toward Washington D.C., to target the White House or the U.S. Capitol. None of the flights had any survivors. A total of 2,977 victims and the 19 hijackers perished in the attacks.[98]

U.S. objectives[edit source]

  NATO
  Major military operations (AfghanistanPakistanIraqSomaliaYemen)
  Other allies involved in major operations

Circle Burgundy Solid.svg Major terrorist attacks by al-Qaeda and affiliated groups: 1.1998 United States embassy bombings • 2. 11 September attacks 2001 • 3. Bali bombings 2002• 4. Madrid bombings 2004 • 5. London bombings 2005 • 6. Mumbai attacks 2008

The Authorization for the use of Military Force Against Terrorists or “AUMF” was made law on 14 September 2001, to authorize the use of United States Armed Forces against those responsible for the attacks on 11 September 2001. It authorized the President to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on 11 September 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or individuals. Congress declares this is intended to constitute specific statutory authorization within the meaning of section 5(b) of the War Powers Resolution of 1973.

The George W. Bush administration defined the following objectives in the War on Terror:[99]

  1. Defeat terrorists such as Osama bin Laden, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and demolish their organizations
  2. Identify, locate and demolish terrorists along with their organizations
  3. Deny sponsorship, support and sanctuary to terrorists
    1. End the state sponsorship of terrorism
    2. Establish and maintain an international standard of accountability concerning combating terrorism
    3. Strengthen and sustain the international effort to combat terrorism
    4. Work with willing and able states
    5. Enable weak states
    6. Persuade reluctant states
    7. Compel unwilling states
    8. Interdict and disorder Material support for terrorists
    9. Abolish terrorist sanctuaries and havens
  4. Diminish the underlying conditions that terrorists seek to exploit
    1. Partner with the international community to strengthen weak states and prevent (re)emergence of terrorism
    2. Win the war of ideals
  5. Defend U.S. citizens and interests at home and abroad
    1. Integrate the National Strategy for Homeland Security
    2. Attain domain awareness
    3. Enhance measures to ensure the integrity, reliability, and availability of critical, physical, and information-based infrastructures at home and abroad
    4. Implement measures to protect U.S. citizens abroad
    5. Ensure an integrated incident management capability

Afghanistan[edit source]

U.S. Army soldier of the 10th Mountain Division in Nuristan Province, June 2007

Operation Enduring Freedom[edit source]

Campaign streamer awarded to units who have participated in Operation Enduring Freedom

Operation Enduring Freedom is the official name used by the Bush administration for the War in Afghanistan, together with three smaller military actions, under the umbrella of the Global War on Terror. These global operations are intended to seek out and destroy any al-Qaeda fighters or affiliates.

Operation Enduring Freedom – Afghanistan[edit source]

On 20 September 2001, in the wake of the 11 September attacks, George W. Bush delivered an ultimatum to the Taliban government of Afghanistan, the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, to turn over Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda leaders operating in the country or face attack.[66] The Taliban demanded evidence of bin Laden’s link to the 11 September attacks and, if such evidence warranted a trial, they offered to handle such a trial in an Islamic Court.[100] The U.S. refused to provide any evidence.

Subsequently, in October 2001, U.S. forces (with UK and coalition allies) invaded Afghanistan to oust the Taliban regime. On 7 October 2001, the official invasion began with British and U.S. forces conducting airstrike campaigns over enemy targets. Kabul, the capital city of Afghanistan, fell by mid-November. The remaining al-Qaeda and Taliban remnants fell back to the rugged mountains of eastern Afghanistan, mainly Tora Bora. In December, Coalition forces (the U.S. and its allies) fought within that region. It is believed that Osama bin Laden escaped into Pakistan during the battle.[101][102]

In March 2002, the U.S. and other NATO and non-NATO forces launched Operation Anaconda with the goal of destroying any remaining al-Qaeda and Taliban forces in the Shah-i-Kot Valley and Arma Mountains of Afghanistan. The Taliban suffered heavy casualties and evacuated the region.[103]

The Taliban regrouped in western Pakistan and began to unleash an insurgent-style offensive against Coalition forces in late 2002.[104] Throughout southern and eastern Afghanistan, firefights broke out between the surging Taliban and Coalition forces. Coalition forces responded with a series of military offensives and an increase of troops in Afghanistan. In February 2010, Coalition forces launched Operation Moshtarak in southern Afghanistan along with other military offensives in the hopes that they would destroy the Taliban insurgency once and for all.[105] Peace talks are also underway between Taliban affiliated fighters and Coalition forces.[106] In September 2014, Afghanistan and the United States signed a security agreement, which permits the United States and NATO forces to remain in Afghanistan until at least 2024.[107] The United States and other NATO and non-NATO forces are planning to withdraw;[108] with the Taliban claiming it has defeated the United States and NATO,[109] and the Obama Administration viewing it as a victory.[110] In December 2014, ISAF encasing its colors, and Resolute Support began as the NATO operation in Afghanistan.[111]Continued United States operations within Afghanistan will continue under the name “Operation Freedom’s Sentinel”.[112]

International Security Assistance Force[edit source]

Map of countries contributing troops to ISAF as of 5 March 2010. Major contributors (over 1000 troops) in dark green, other contributors in light green, and former contributors in magenta.

December 2001 saw the creation of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) to assist the Afghan Transitional Administration and the first post-Taliban elected government. With a renewed Taliban insurgency, it was announced in 2006 that ISAF would replace the U.S. troops in the province as part of Operation Enduring Freedom.

The British 16th Air Assault Brigade (later reinforced by Royal Marines) formed the core of the force in southern Afghanistan, along with troops and helicopters from Australia, Canada and the Netherlands. The initial force consisted of roughly 3,300 British, 2,000 Canadian, 1,400 from the Netherlands and 240 from Australia, along with special forces from Denmark and Estonia and small contingents from other nations. The monthly supply of cargo containers through Pakistani route to ISAF in Afghanistan is over 4,000 costing around 12 billion in Pakistani Rupees.[113][114][115][116][117]

Iraq and Syria[edit source]

A British C-130J Hercules aircraft launches flare countermeasures before being the first coalition aircraft to land on the newly reopened military runway at Baghdad International Airport

Iraq had been listed as a State sponsor of terrorism by the U.S. since 1990,[118] when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. Iraq had also been on the list from 1979 to 1982; it was removed so that the U.S. could provide material support to Iraq in its war with Iran. Hussein’s regime had proven to be a problem for the UN and Iraq’s neighbors due to its use of chemical weapons against Iranians and Kurds in the 1980s.

Iraqi no-fly zones[edit source]

Following the ceasefire agreement that suspended hostilities (but not officially ended) in the 1991 Gulf War, the United States and its allies instituted and began patrolling Iraqi no-fly zones, to protect Iraq’s Kurdish and Shi’a Arab population—both of which suffered attacks from the Hussein regime before and after the Gulf War—in Iraq’s northern and southern regions, respectively. U.S. forces continued in combat zone deployments through November 1995 and launched Operation Desert Fox against Iraq in 1998 after it failed to meet U.S. demands for “unconditional cooperation” in weapons inspections.[119]

In the aftermath of Operation Desert Fox, during December 1998, Iraq announced that it would no longer respect the no-fly zones and resumed its attempts to shoot down U.S. aircraft.

Operation Iraqi Freedom[edit source]

The Iraq War began in March 2003 with an air campaign, which was immediately followed by a U.S.-led ground invasion. The Bush administration stated the invasion was the “serious consequences” spoken of in the UNSC Resolution 1441, partially by Iraq possessing weapons of mass destruction. The Bush administration also stated the Iraq war was part of the War on Terror; something later questioned or contested.

The first ground attack came at the Battle of Umm Qasr on 21 March 2003 when a combined force of British, American and Polish forces seized control of the port city of Umm Qasr.[120] Baghdad, Iraq’s capital city, fell to American troops in April 2003 and Saddam Hussein’s government quickly dissolved.[121] On 1 May 2003, Bush announced that major combat operations in Iraq had ended.[122] However, an insurgency arose against the U.S.-led coalition and the newly developing Iraqi military and post-Saddam government. The rebellion, which included al-Qaeda-affiliated groups, led to far more coalition casualties than the invasion. Other elements of the insurgency were led by fugitive members of President Hussein’s Ba’ath regime, which included Iraqi nationalists and pan-Arabists. Many insurgency leaders are Islamists and claim to be fighting a religious war to reestablish the Islamic Caliphate of centuries past.[123] Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was captured by U.S. forces in December 2003. He was executed in 2006.

In 2004, the insurgent forces grew stronger. The U.S. conducted attacks on insurgent strongholds in cities like Najaf and Fallujah.

In January 2007, President Bush presented a new strategy for Operation Iraqi Freedom based upon counter-insurgency theories and tactics developed by General David Petraeus. The Iraq War troop surge of 2007 was part of this “new way forward” and, along with U.S. backing of Sunni groups it had previously sought to defeat, has been credited with a widely recognized dramatic decrease in violence by up to 80%.

Operation New Dawn[edit source]

The war entered a new phase on 1 September 2010,[124] with the official end of U.S. combat operations. The last U.S. troops exited Iraq on 18 December 2011.[125]

Operation Inherent Resolve (Syria and Iraq)[edit source]

Tomahawk missiles being fired from USS Philippine Sea and USS Arleigh Burke at IS targets in Syria

In a major split in the ranks of Al Qaeda’s organization, the Iraqi franchise, known as Al Qaeda in Iraq covertly invaded Syria and the Levant and began participating in the ongoing Syrian Civil War, gaining enough support and strength to re-invade Iraq’s western provinces under the name of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS/ISIL), taking over much of the country in a blitzkrieg-like action and combining the Iraq insurgency and Syrian Civil War into a single conflict.[126] Due to their extreme brutality and a complete change in their overall ideology, Al Qaeda’s core organization in Central Asia eventually denounced ISIS and directed their affiliates to cut off all ties with this organization.[127] Many analysts[who?] believe that because of this schism, Al Qaeda and ISIL are now in a competition to retain the title of the world’s most powerful terrorist organization.[128]

The Obama administration began to re-engage in Iraq with a series of airstrikes aimed at ISIS starting on 10 August 2014.[129] On 9 September 2014, President Obama said that he had the authority he needed to take action to destroy the militant group known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, citing the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force Against Terrorists, and thus did not require additional approval from Congress.[130] The following day on 10 September 2014 President Barack Obama made a televised speech about ISIL, which he stated: “Our objective is clear: We will degrade, and ultimately destroy, ISIL through a comprehensive and sustained counter-terrorism strategy”.[131] Obama has authorized the deployment of additional U.S. Forces into Iraq, as well as authorizing direct military operations against ISIL within Syria.[131]On the night of 21/22 September the United States, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the UAE, Jordan and Qatar started air attacks against ISIS in Syria.[citation needed]

In October 2014, it was reported that the U.S. Department of Defense considers military operations against ISIL as being under Operation Enduring Freedom in regards to campaign medal awarding.[132] On 15 October, the military intervention became known as “Operation Inherent Resolve”.[133]

Pakistan[edit source]

Following the 11 September 2001 attacks, former President of Pakistan Pervez Musharraf sided with the U.S. against the Taliban government in Afghanistan after an ultimatum by then U.S. President George W. Bush. Musharraf agreed to give the U.S. the use of three airbases for Operation Enduring Freedom. United States Secretary of State Colin Powell and other U.S. administration officials met with Musharraf. On 19 September 2001, Musharraf addressed the people of Pakistan and stated that, while he opposed military tactics against the Taliban, Pakistan risked being endangered by an alliance of India and the U.S. if it did not cooperate. In 2006, Musharraf testified that this stance was pressured by threats from the U.S., and revealed in his memoirs that he had “war-gamed” the United States as an adversary and decided that it would end in a loss for Pakistan.[134]

On 12 January 2002, Musharraf gave a speech against Islamic extremism. He unequivocally condemned all acts of terrorism and pledged to combat Islamic extremism and lawlessness within Pakistan itself. He stated that his government was committed to rooting out extremism and made it clear that the banned militant organizations would not be allowed to resurface under any new name. He said, “the recent decision to ban extremist groups promoting militancy was taken in the national interest after thorough consultations. It was not taken under any foreign influence”.[135]

In 2002, the Musharraf-led government took a firm stand against the jihadi organizations and groups promoting extremism, and arrested Maulana Masood Azhar, head of the Jaish-e-Mohammed, and Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, chief of the Lashkar-e-Taiba, and took dozens of activists into custody. An official ban was imposed on the groups on 12 January.[136] Later that year, the Saudi born Zayn al-Abidn Muhammed Hasayn Abu Zubaydah was arrested by Pakistani officials during a series of joint U.S.-Pakistan raids. Zubaydah is said to have been a high-ranking al-Qaeda official with the title of operations chief and in charge of running al-Qaeda training camps.[137] Other prominent al-Qaeda members were arrested in the following two years, namely Ramzi bin al-Shibh, who is known to have been a financial backer of al-Qaeda operations, and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who at the time of his capture was the third highest-ranking official in al-Qaeda and had been directly in charge of the planning for the 11 September attacks.

In 2004, the Pakistan Army launched a campaign in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan’s Waziristan region, sending in 80,000 troops. The goal of the conflict was to remove the al-Qaeda and Taliban forces in the area.

After the fall of the Taliban regime, many members of the Taliban resistance fled to the Northern border region of Afghanistan and Pakistan where the Pakistani army had previously little control. With the logistics and air support of the United States, the Pakistani Army captured or killed numerous al-Qaeda operatives such as Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, wanted for his involvement in the USS Cole bombing, the Bojinka plot, and the killing of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl.

The United States has carried out a campaign of Drone attacks on targets all over the Federally Administered Tribal Areas. However, the Pakistani Taliban still operates there. To this day it is estimated that 15 U.S. soldiers were killed while fighting al-Qaeda and Taliban remnants in Pakistan since the War on Terror began.[138]

Osama bin Laden, who was of many founders of al-Qaeda, his wife, and son, were all killed on 2 May 2011, during a raid conducted by the United States special operations forces in Abbottabad, Pakistan.[139]

The use of drones by the Central Intelligence Agency in Pakistan to carry out operations associated with the Global War on Terror sparks debate over sovereignty and the laws of war. The U.S. Government uses the CIA rather than the U.S. Air Force for strikes in Pakistan to avoid breaching sovereignty through military invasion. The United States was criticized by[according to whom?] a report on drone warfare and aerial sovereignty for abusing the term ‘Global War on Terror’ to carry out military operations through government agencies without formally declaring war.

In the three years before the attacks of 11 September, Pakistan received approximately US$9 million in American military aid. In the three years after, the number increased to US$4.2 billion, making it the country with the maximum funding post 9/11.

Baluchistan[edit source]

Brahamdagh Bugti stated in a 2008 interview that he would accept aid from India, Afghanistan, and Iran in defending Baluchistan.[140] Pakistan has repeatedly accused India of supporting Baloch rebels,[141][142] and Wright-Neville writes that outside Pakistan, some Western observers also believe that India secretly funds the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA).[143]

The uprising in Baluchistan started after Pakistan invaded and occupied the territory in 1948. Various NGOs have reported human rights violations in committed by Pakistani armed forces. According to reports, approximately 18,000 Baluch residents are reportedly missing and about 2000 have been killed.[144]

Trans-Sahara (Northern Africa)[edit source]

Operation Enduring Freedom – Trans Sahara[edit source]

Northern Mali conflict.svg

Operation Enduring Freedom – Trans Sahara (OEF-TS) is the name of the military operation conducted by the U.S. and partner nations in the Sahara/Sahel region of Africa, consisting of counter-terrorism efforts and policing of arms and drug trafficking across central Africa.

The conflict in northern Mali began in January 2012 with radical Islamists (affiliated to al-Qaeda) advancing into northern Mali. The Malian government had a hard time maintaining full control over their country. The fledgling government requested support from the international community on combating the Islamic militants. In January 2013, France intervened on behalf of the Malian government’s request and deployed troops into the region. They launched Operation Serval on 11 January 2013, with the hopes of dislodging the al-Qaeda affiliated groups from northern Mali.[145]

Horn of Africa and the Red Sea[edit source]

Operation Enduring Freedom – Horn of Africa[edit source]

This extension of Operation Enduring Freedom was titled OEF-HOA. Unlike other operations contained in Operation Enduring Freedom, OEF-HOA does not have a specific organization as a target. OEF-HOA instead focuses its efforts to disrupt and detect militant activities in the region and to work with willing governments to prevent the reemergence of militant cells and activities.[146]

In October 2002, the Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) was established in Djibouti at Camp Lemonnier.[147] It contains approximately 2,000 personnel including U.S. military and special operations forces (SOF) and coalition force members, Combined Task Force 150 (CTF-150).

Task Force 150 consists of ships from a shifting group of nations, including Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Pakistan, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. The primary goal of the coalition forces is to monitor, inspect, board and stop suspected shipments from entering the Horn of Africa region and affecting the United States’ Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Included in the operation is the training of selected armed forces units of the countries of Djibouti, Kenya and Ethiopia in counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency tactics. Humanitarian efforts conducted by CJTF-HOA include rebuilding of schools and medical clinics and providing medical services to those countries whose forces are being trained.

The program expands as part of the Trans-Saharan Counterterrorism Initiative as CJTF personnel also assist in training the armed forces of Chad, Niger, Mauritania and Mali. However, the War on Terror does not include Sudan, where over 400,000 have died in an ongoing civil war.

On 1 July 2006, a Web-posted message purportedly written by Osama bin Laden urged Somalis to build an Islamic state in the country and warned western governments that the al-Qaeda network would fight against them if they intervened there.[148]

Somalia has been considered a “failed state” because its official central government was weak, dominated by warlords and unable to exert effective control over the country. Beginning in mid-2006, the Islamic Courts Union (ICU), an Islamist faction campaigning on a restoration of “law and order” through Sharia law, had rapidly taken control of much of southern Somalia.

On 14 December 2006, the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Jendayi Frazer claimed al-Qaeda cell operatives were controlling the Islamic Courts Union, a claim denied by the ICU.[149]

By late 2006, the UN-backed Transitional Federal Government (TFG) of Somalia had seen its power effectively limited to Baidoa, while the Islamic Courts Union controlled the majority of southern Somalia, including the capital of Mogadishu. On 20 December 2006, the Islamic Courts Union launched an offensive on the government stronghold of Baidoa and saw early gains before Ethiopia intervened for the government.

By 26 December, the Islamic Courts Union retreated towards Mogadishu, before again retreating as TFG/Ethiopian troops neared, leaving them to take Mogadishu with no resistance. The ICU then fled to Kismayo, where they fought Ethiopian/TFG forces in the Battle of Jilib.

The Prime Minister of Somalia claimed that three “terror suspects” from the 1998 United States embassy bombings are being sheltered in Kismayo.[150] On 30 December 2006, al-Qaeda deputy leader Ayman al-Zawahiri called upon Muslims worldwide to fight against Ethiopia and the TFG in Somalia.[151]

On 8 January 2007, the U.S. launched the Battle of Ras Kamboni by bombing Ras Kamboni using AC-130 gunships.[152]

On 14 September 2009, U.S. Special Forces killed two men and wounded and captured two others near the Somali village of Baarawe. Witnesses claim that helicopters used for the operation launched from French-flagged warships, but that could not be confirmed. A Somali-based al-Qaida affiliated group, the Al-Shabaab, has verified the death of “sheik commander” Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan along with an unspecified number of militants.[153] Nabhan, a Kenyan, was wanted in connection with the 2002 Mombasa attacks.[154]

Philippines[edit source]

Operation Enduring Freedom – Philippines[edit source]

U.S. Special Forces soldier and infantrymen of the Philippine Army

In January 2002, the United States Special Operations Command, Pacific deployed to the Philippines to advise and assist the Armed Forces of the Philippines in combating Filipino Islamist groups.[155] The operations were mainly focused on removing the Abu Sayyaf group and Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) from their stronghold on the island of Basilan.[156] The second portion of the operation was conducted as a humanitarian program called “Operation Smiles”. The goal of the program was to provide medical care and services to the region of Basilan as part of a “Hearts and Minds” program.[157][158] Joint Special Operations Task Force – Philippines disbanded in June 2014,[159]ending a successful 12-year mission.[160] After JSOTF-P had disbanded, as late as November 2014, American forces continued to operate in the Philippines under the name “PACOM Augmentation Team”, until February 24, 2015.[161][162]

Yemen[edit source]

The United States has also conducted a series of military strikes on al-Qaeda militants in Yemen since the War on Terror began.[163] Yemen has a weak central government and a powerful tribal system that leaves large lawless areas open for militant training and operations. Al-Qaeda has a strong presence in the country.[164] On 31 March 2011, AQAP declared the Al-Qaeda Emirate in Yemen after its captured most of Abyan Governorate.[165]

The U.S., in an effort to support Yemeni counter-terrorism efforts, has increased their military aid package to Yemen from less than $11 million in 2006 to more than $70 million in 2009, as well as providing up to $121 million for development over the next three years.[166]

U.S. Allies in the Middle East[edit source]

Israel[edit source]

Israel has been fighting terrorist groups such Hezbollah, Hamas, and Islamic Jihad, who are all Iran’s proxies aimed at Iran’s objective to destroy Israel. According to the Clarion Project: “Since 1979, Iran has been responsible for countless terrorist plots, directly through regime agents or indirectly through proxies like Hamas and Hezbollah.[167] In 2006, U.S. President [George W Bush] said that Israel’s war on terrorist group Hezbollah was part of war on terror.[168]

Saudi Arabia[edit source]

Saudi Arabia witnessed multiple terror attacks from different groups such as Al-Queda whos leader Osama Bin Laden delcared war on the Saudi government. On June 16, 1996, the Khobar Towers bombing took place in Saudi Arabia that killed 19 U.S. soldiers. It is widely thought that Iran orchestrated it. The 9/11 Commission concluded that Hezbollah, likely with the support of the Iranian regime, was the perpetrator. It said there are “signs” that Al-Qaeda also played a role.[167]

Libya[edit source]

On 19 March 2011, a multi-state coalition began a military action in Libya, ostensibly to implement United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973. The United Nations Intent and Voting was to have “an immediate ceasefire in Libya, including an end to the current attacks against civilians, which it said might constitute crimes against humanity” … “imposing a ban on all flights in the country’s airspace – a no-fly zone – and tightened sanctions on the Qadhafi regime and its supporters.” The resolution was taken in response to events during the Libyan Civil War,[169] and military operations began, with American and British naval forces firing over 110 Tomahawk cruise missiles,[170] the French Air Force, British Royal Air Force, and Royal Canadian Air Force[171] undertaking sorties across Libya and a naval blockade by Coalition forces.[172] French jets launched air strikes against Libyan Army tanks and vehicles.[173][174] The Libyan government response to the campaign was totally ineffectual, with Gaddafi’s forces not managing to shoot down a single NATO plane despite the country possessing 30 heavy SAM batteries, 17 medium SAM batteries, 55 light SAM batteries (a total of 400-450 launchers, including 130-150 SA-6 launchers and some SA-8 launchers), and 440-600 short-range air-defense guns.[175][176] The official names for the interventions by the coalition members are Opération Harmattan by France; Operation Ellamy by the United Kingdom; Operation Mobile for the Canadian participation and Operation Odyssey Dawn for the United States.[177]

From the beginning of the intervention, the initial coalition of Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Italy, Norway, Qatar, Spain, UK and US[178][179][180][181][182] expanded to nineteen states, with newer states mostly enforcing the no-fly zone and naval blockade or providing military logistical assistance. The effort was initially largely led by France and the United Kingdom, with command shared with the United States. NATO took control of the arms embargo on 23 March, named Operation Unified Protector. An attempt to unify the military leadership of the air campaign (while keeping political and strategic control with a small group), first failed over objections by the French, German, and Turkish governments.[183][184] On 24 March, NATO agreed to take control of the no-fly zone, while command of targeting ground units remains with coalition forces.[185][186][187] The handover occurred on 31 March 2011 at 06:00 UTC (08:00 local time). NATO flew 26,500 sorties since it took charge of the Libya mission on 31 March 2011.

Fighting in Libya ended in late October following the death of Muammar Gaddafi, and NATO stated it would end operations over Libya on 31 October 2011. Libya’s new government requested its mission to be extended to the end of the year,[188] but on 27 October, the Security Council voted to end NATO’s mandate for military action on 31 October.[189]

An AV-8B Harrier takes off from the flight deck of the USS Wasp during Operation Odyssey Lightning, August 8, 2016.

NBC News reported that in mid-2014, ISIS had about 1,000 fighters in Libya. Taking advantage of a power vacuum in the center of the country, far from the major cities of Tripoli and Benghazi, ISIS expanded rapidly over the next 18 months. Local militants were joined by jihadists from the rest of North Africa, the Middle East, Europe and the Caucasus. The force absorbed or defeated other Islamist groups inside Libya and the central ISIS leadership in Raqqa, Syria, began urging foreign recruits to head for Libya instead of Syria. ISIS seized control of the coastal city of Sirte in early 2015 and then began to expand to the east and south. By the beginning of 2016, it had effective control of 120 to 150 miles of coastline and portions of the interior and had reached Eastern Libya’s major population center, Benghazi. In spring 2016, AFRICOM estimated that ISIS had about 5,000 fighters in its stronghold of Sirte.[190]

However, the indigenous rebel groups who had staked their claims to Libya and turned their weapons on ISIS — with the help of airstrikes by Western forces, including U.S. drones, the Libyan population resented the outsiders who wanted to establish a fundamentalist regime on their soil. Militias loyal to the new Libyan unity government, plus a separate and rival force loyal to a former officer in the Qaddafi regime, launched an assault on ISIS outposts in Sirte and the surrounding areas that lasted for months. According to U.S. military estimates, ISIS ranks shrank to somewhere between a few hundred and 2,000 fighters. In August 2016, the U.S. military began airstrikes that, along with continued pressure on the ground from the Libyan militias, pushed the remaining ISIS fighters back into Sirte, In all, U.S. drones and planes hit ISIS nearly 590 times, the Libyan militias reclaimed the city in mid-December.[190] On January 18, 2017, ABC News reported that two USAF B-2 bombers struck two ISIS camps 28 miles south of Sirte, the airstrikes targeted between 80 and 100 ISIS fighters in multiple camps, an unmanned aircraft also participated in the airstrikes. NBC News reported that as many as 90 ISIS fighters were killed in the strike, a U.S. defense official said that “This was the largest remaining ISIS presence in Libya,” and that “They have been largely marginalized, but I am hesitant to say they have been eliminated in Libya.”[190]

Other military operations[edit source]

Operation Active Endeavour[edit source]

Operation Active Endeavour is a naval operation of NATO started in October 2001 in response to the 11 September attacks. It operates in the Mediterranean and is designed to prevent the movement of militants or weapons of mass destruction and to enhance the security of shipping in general.[191]

Fighting in Kashmir[edit source]

Political Map: the Kashmir region districts

In a ‘Letter to American People’ written by Osama bin Laden in 2002, he stated that one of the reasons he was fighting America is because of its support of India on the Kashmir issue.[192][193] While on a trip to Delhi in 2002, U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld suggested that Al-Qaeda was active in Kashmir, though he did not have any hard evidence.[194][195] In 2002, The Christian Science Monitor published an article claiming that Al-Qaeda and its affiliates were “thriving” in Pakistan-administered Kashmir with the tacit approval of Pakistan’s National Intelligence agency Inter-Services Intelligence.[196] A team of Special Air Service and Delta Force was sent into Indian-administered Kashmir in 2002 to hunt for Osama bin Laden after reports that he was being sheltered by the Kashmiri militant group Harkat-ul-Mujahideen.[197] U.S. officials believed that Al-Qaeda was helping organize a campaign of terror in Kashmir to provoke conflict between India and Pakistan. Fazlur Rehman Khalil, the leader of the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen, signed al-Qaeda’s 1998 declaration of holy war, which called on Muslims to attack all Americans and their allies.[198] Indian sources claimed that In 2006, Al-Qaeda claimed they had established a wing in Kashmir; this worried the Indian government.[199] India also argued that Al-Qaeda has strong ties with the Kashmir militant groups Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed in Pakistan.[200] While on a visit to Pakistan in January 2010, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates stated that Al-Qaeda was seeking to destabilize the region and planning to provoke a nuclear war between India and Pakistan.[201]

In September 2009, a U.S. Drone strike reportedly killed Ilyas Kashmiri, who was the chief of Harkat-ul-Jihad al-Islami, a Kashmiri militant group associated with Al-Qaeda.[202][203] Kashmiri was described by Bruce Riedel as a ‘prominent’ Al-Qaeda member,[204] while others described him as the head of military operations for Al-Qaeda.[205] Waziristan had now become the new battlefield for Kashmiri militants, who were now fighting NATO in support of Al-Qaeda.[206] On 8 July 2012, Al-Badar Mujahideen, a breakaway faction of Kashmir centric terror group Hizbul Mujahideen, on the conclusion of their two-day Shuhada Conference called for a mobilization of resources for continuation of jihad in Kashmir.[207]

American military intervention in Cameroon[edit source]

In October 2015, the US began deploying 300 soldiers[208] to Cameroon, with the invitation of the Cameroonian government, to support African forces in a non-combat role in their fight against ISIS insurgency in that country. The troops’ primary missions will revolve around providing intelligence support to local forces as well as conducting reconnaissance flights.[209]

International military support[edit source]

The United Kingdom is the second largest contributor of troops in Afghanistan

The invasion of Afghanistan is seen to have been the first action of this war, and initially involved forces from the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Afghan Northern Alliance. Since the initial invasion period, these forces were augmented by troops and aircraft from Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, Italy, Netherlands, New Zealand and Norway amongst others. In 2006, there were about 33,000 troops in Afghanistan.

On 12 September 2001, less than 24 hours after the 11 September attacks in New York City and Washington, D.C., NATO invoked Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty and declared the attacks to be an attack against all 19 NATO member countries. Australian Prime Minister John Howard also stated that Australia would invoke the ANZUS Treaty along similar lines.[210]

In the following months, NATO took a broad range of measures to respond to the threat of terrorism. On 22 November 2002, the member states of the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPC) decided on a Partnership Action Plan against Terrorism, which explicitly states, “[The] EAPC States are committed to the protection and promotion of fundamental freedoms and human rights, as well as the rule of law, in combating terrorism.”[211] NATO started naval operations in the Mediterranean Sea designed to prevent the movement of terrorists or weapons of mass destruction as well as to enhance the security of shipping in general called Operation Active Endeavour.

Support for the U.S. cooled when America made clear its determination to invade Iraq in late 2002. Even so, many of the “coalition of the willing” countries that unconditionally supported the U.S.-led military action have sent troops to Afghanistan, particular neighboring Pakistan, which has disowned its earlier support for the Taliban and contributed tens of thousands of soldiers to the conflict. Pakistan was also engaged in the War in North-West Pakistan (Waziristan War). Supported by U.S. intelligence, Pakistan was attempting to remove the Taliban insurgency and al-Qaeda element from the northern tribal areas.[212]

Terrorist attacks and failed plots since 9/11[edit source]

Al-Qaeda[edit source]

Since 9/11, Al-Qaeda and other affiliated radical Islamist groups have executed attacks in several parts of the world where conflicts are not taking place. Whereas countries like Pakistan have suffered hundreds of attacks killing tens of thousands and displacing much more.

There may also have been several additional planned attacks that were not successful.

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL)[edit source]

So far, there has been only one failed plot by ISIL:[citation needed]

Post 9/11 events inside the United States[edit source]

A U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement helicopter patrols the airspace over New York City

In addition to military efforts abroad, in the aftermath of 9/11, the Bush Administration increased domestic efforts to prevent future attacks. Various government bureaucracies that handled security and military functions were reorganized. A new cabinet-level agency called the United States Department of Homeland Security was created in November 2002 to lead and coordinate the largest reorganization of the U.S. federal government since the consolidation of the armed forces into the Department of Defense.[citation needed]

The Justice Department launched the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System for certain male non-citizens in the U.S., requiring them to register in person at offices of the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

The USA PATRIOT Act of October 2001 dramatically reduces restrictions on law enforcement agencies’ ability to search telephone, e-mail communications, medical, financial, and other records; eases restrictions on foreign intelligence gathering within the United States; expands the Secretary of the Treasury‘s authority to regulate financial transactions, particularly those involving foreign individuals and entities; and broadens the discretion of law enforcement and immigration authorities in detaining and deporting immigrants suspected of terrorism-related acts. The act also expanded the definition of terrorism to include domestic terrorism, thus enlarging the number of activities to which the USA PATRIOT Act’s expanded law enforcement powers could be applied. A new Terrorist Finance Tracking Program monitored the movements of terrorists’ financial resources (discontinued after being revealed by The New York Times). Global telecommunication usage, including those with no links to terrorism,[218] is being collected and monitored through the NSA electronic surveillance program. The Patriot Act is still in effect.

Political interest groups have stated that these laws remove important restrictions on governmental authority, and are a dangerous encroachment on civil liberties, possible unconstitutional violations of the Fourth Amendment. On 30 July 2003, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed the first legal challenge against Section 215 of the Patriot Act, claiming that it allows the FBI to violate a citizen’s First Amendment rights, Fourth Amendment rights, and right to due process, by granting the government the right to search a person’s business, bookstore, and library records in a terrorist investigation, without disclosing to the individual that records were being searched.[219] Also, governing bodies in many communities have passed symbolic resolutions against the act.

John Walker Lindh was captured as an enemy combatant during the United States’ 2001 invasion of Afghanistan

In a speech on 9 June 2005, Bush said that the USA PATRIOT Act had been used to bring charges against more than 400 suspects, more than half of whom had been convicted. Meanwhile, the ACLU quoted Justice Department figures showing that 7,000 people have complained of abuse of the Act.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) began an initiative in early 2002 with the creation of the Total Information Awareness program, designed to promote information technologies that could be used in counter-terrorism. This program, facing criticism, has since been defunded by Congress.

By 2003, 12 major conventions and protocols were designed to combat terrorism. These were adopted and ratified by many states. These conventions require states to co-operate on principal issues regarding unlawful seizure of aircraft, the physical protection of nuclear materials, and the freezing of assets of militant networks.[220]

In 2005, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 1624 concerning incitement to commit acts of terrorism and the obligations of countries to comply with international human rights laws.[221] Although both resolutions require mandatory annual reports on counter-terrorism activities by adopting nations, the United States and Israel have both declined to submit reports. In the same year, the United States Department of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff issued a planning document, by the name “National Military Strategic Plan for the War on Terrorism”, which stated that it constituted the “comprehensive military plan to prosecute the Global War on Terror for the Armed Forces of the United States…including the findings and recommendations of the 9/11 Commission and a rigorous examination with the Department of Defense”.

On 9 January 2007, the House of Representatives passed a bill, by a vote of 299–128, enacting many of the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission The bill passed in the U.S. Senate,[222] by a vote of 60–38, on 13 March 2007 and it was signed into law on 3 August 2007 by President Bush. It became Public Law 110-53. In July 2012, U.S. Senate passed a resolution urging that the Haqqani Network be designated a foreign terrorist organization.[223]

The Office of Strategic Influence was secretly created after 9/11 for the purpose of coordinating propaganda efforts but was closed soon after being discovered. The Bush administration implemented the Continuity of Operations Plan (or Continuity of Government) to ensure that U.S. government would be able to continue in catastrophic circumstances.

Since 9/11, extremists made various attempts to attack the United States, with varying levels of organization and skill. For example, vigilant passengers aboard a transatlantic flight prevented Richard Reid, in 2001, and Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, in 2009, from detonating an explosive device.

Other terrorist plots have been stopped by federal agencies using new legal powers and investigative tools, sometimes in cooperation with foreign governments.[citation needed]

Such thwarted attacks include:

The Obama administration has promised the closing of the Guantanamo Bay detention camp, increased the number of troops in Afghanistan, and promised the withdrawal of its forces from Iraq.

Casualties[edit source]

According to Joshua Goldstein, an international relations professor at the American University, The Global War on Terror has seen fewer war deaths than any other decade in the past century.[224]

There is no widely agreed on figure for the number of people that have been killed so far in the War on Terror as it has been defined by the Bush Administration to include the war in Afghanistan, the war in Iraq, and operations elsewhere. The International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War and the Physicians for Social Responsibility and Physicians for Global Survival give total estimates ranging from 1.3 million to 2 million casualties.[225] Some estimates for regional conflicts include the following:

Child killed by a car bomb in Kirkuk, July 2011

File:CollateralMurder.ogv

Footage of leaked Apache gunship strike in Baghdad, July 2007

  • Iraq: 62,570 to 1,124,000
  • Iraq Body Count project documented 110,937–121,227 civilian deaths from violence from March 2003 to December 2012.[226][227][228]
  • 110,600 deaths in total according to the Associated Press from March 2003 to April 2009.[229]
  • 151,000 deaths in total according to the Iraq Family Health Survey.[230]
  • Opinion Research Business (ORB) poll conducted 12–19 August 2007 estimated 1,033,000 violent deaths due to the Iraq War. The range given was 946,000 to 1,120,000 deaths. A nationally representative sample of approximately 2,000 Iraqi adults answered whether any members of their household (living under their roof) were killed due to the Iraq War. 22% of the respondents had lost one or more household members. ORB reported that “48% died from a gunshot wound, 20% from the impact of a car bomb, 9% from aerial bombardment, 6% as a result of an accident and 6% from another blast/ordnance.”[231][232][233]
  • Between 392,979 and 942,636 estimated Iraqi (655,000 with a confidence interval of 95%), civilian and combatant, according to the second Lancet survey of mortality.
  • A minimum of 62,570 civilian deaths reported in the mass media up to 28 April 2007 according to Iraq Body Count project.[234]
  • 4,409 U.S. military dead (929 non-hostile deaths), and 31,926 wounded in action during Operation Iraqi Freedom.[235] 66 U.S. Military Dead (28 non-hostile deaths), and 295 wounded in action during Operation New Dawn.[235]
  • Afghanistan: between 10,960 and 249,000[236]
  • According to Marc W. Herold’s extensive database,[238] between 3,100 and 3,600 civilians were directly killed by U.S. Operation Enduring Freedom bombing and Special Forces attacks between 7 October 2001 and 3 June 2003. This estimate counts only “impact deaths”—deaths that occurred in the immediate aftermath of an explosion or shooting—and does not count deaths that occurred later as a result of injuries sustained, or deaths that occurred as an indirect consequence of the U.S. airstrikes and invasion.
  • In a pair of January 2002 studies, Carl Conetta of the Project on Defense Alternatives estimates that “at least” 4,200–4,500 civilians were killed by mid-January 2002 as a result of the war and Coalition airstrikes, both directly as casualties of the aerial bombing campaign, and indirectly in the resulting humanitarian crisis.
  • His first study, “Operation Enduring Freedom: Why a Higher Rate of Civilian Bombing Casualties?”,[241] released 18 January 2002, estimates that, at the low end, “at least” 1,000–1,300 civilians were directly killed in the aerial bombing campaign in just the three months between 7 October 2001 to 1 January 2002. The author found it impossible to provide an upper-end estimate to direct civilian casualties from the Operation Enduring Freedom bombing campaign that he noted as having an increased use of cluster bombs.[242] In this lower-end estimate, only Western press sources were used for hard numbers, while heavy “reduction factors” were applied to Afghan government reports so that their estimates were reduced by as much as 75%.[243]
  • In his companion study, “Strange Victory: A critical appraisal of Operation Enduring Freedom and the Afghanistan war”,[244] released 30 January 2002, Conetta estimates that “at least” 3,200 more Afghans died by mid-January 2002, of “starvation, exposure, associated illnesses, or injury sustained while in flight from war zones”, as a result of the war and Coalition airstrikes.
  • In similar numbers, a Los Angeles Times review of U.S., British, and Pakistani newspapers and international wire services found that between 1,067 and 1,201 direct civilian deaths were reported by those news organizations during the five months from 7 October 2001 to 28 February 2002. This review excluded all civilian deaths in Afghanistan that did not get reported by U.S., British, or Pakistani news, excluded 497 deaths that did get reported in U.S., British, and Pakistani news but that were not specifically identified as civilian or military, and excluded 754 civilian deaths that were reported by the Taliban but not independently confirmed.[245]
  • 2,046 U.S. military dead (339 non-hostile deaths), and 18,201 wounded in action.[235]
  • Pakistan: Between 1467 and 2334 people were killed in U.S. drone attacks as of 6 May 2011. Tens of thousands have been killed by terrorist attacks, millions displaced.
  • Somalia: 7,000+
  • In December 2007, The Elman Peace and Human Rights Organization said it had verified 6,500 civilian deaths, 8,516 people wounded, and 1.5 million displaced from homes in Mogadishu alone during the year 2007.[247]
  • USA

Total American casualties from the War on Terror
(this includes fighting throughout the world):

U.S. Military killed 7,008[235]
U.S. Military wounded 50,422[235]
U.S. DoD Civilians killed 16[235]
U.S. Civilians killed (includes 9/11 and after) 3,000 +
U.S. Civilians wounded/injured 6,000 +
Total Americans killed (military and civilian) 10,008 +
Total Americans wounded/injured 56,422 +

[251][252][253][254][255]

The United States Department of Veterans Affairs has diagnosed more than 200,000 American veterans with PTSD since 2001.[256]

  • Yemen

Total terrorist casualties[edit source]

On December 7, 2015, the Washington post reported that since 2001, in five theaters of the war (Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Syria and Somalia) that the total number of terrorists killed ranges from 65,800 to 88,600, with Obama administration being responsible for between 30,000 and 33,000.[257]

Costs[edit source]

A March 2011 Congressional report[258] estimated spending related to the war through the fiscal year 2011 at $1.2 trillion, and that spending through 2021 assuming a reduction to 45,000 troops would be $1.8 trillion. A June 2011 academic report[258] covering additional areas of spending related to the war estimated it through 2011 at $2.7 trillion, and long-term spending at $5.4 trillion including interest.[note 4]

According to the Soufan Group in July 2015, the United States government spends $9.4 million per day in operations against ISIS in Syria and Iraq.[259]

Expense CRS/CBO (Billions US$):[260][261][262] Watson (Billions constant US$):[263]
FY2001-FY2011
War appropriations to DoD 1208.1 1311.5
War appropriations to DoS/USAID 66.7 74.2
VA Medical 8.4 13.7
VA disability 18.9
Interest paid on DoD war appropriations 185.4
Additions to DoD base spending 362.2–652.4
Additions to Homeland Security base spending 401.2
Social costs to veterans and military families to date 295-400
Subtotal: 1283.2 2662.1–3057.3
FY2012-future
FY2012 DoD request 118.4
FY2012 DoS/USAID request 12.1
Projected 2013–2015 war spending 168.6
Projected 2016–2020 war spending 155
Projected obligations for veterans’ care to 2051 589–934
Additional interest payments to 2020 1000
Subtotal: 454.1 2043.1–2388.1
Total: 1737.3 4705.2–5445.4

Criticism[edit source]

Participants in a rally, dressed as hooded detainees

Criticism of the War on Terror addressed the issues, morality, efficiency, economics, and other questions surrounding the War on Terror and made against the phrase itself, calling it a misnomer. The notion of a “war” against “terrorism” has proven highly contentious, with critics charging that it has been exploited by participating governments to pursue long-standing policy/military objectives,[264] reduce civil liberties,[265] and infringe upon human rights. It is argued that the term war is not appropriate in this context (as in War on Drugs) since there is no identifiable enemy and that it is unlikely international terrorism can be brought to an end by military means.[266]

Other critics, such as Francis Fukuyama, note that “terrorism” is not an enemy, but a tactic; calling it a “war on terror”, obscures differences between conflicts such as anti-occupation insurgents and international mujahideen. With a military presence in Iraq and Afghanistan and its associated collateral damage, Shirley Williams maintains this increases resentment and terrorist threats against the West.[267] There is also perceived U.S. hypocrisy,[268][269] media-induced hysteria,[270] and that differences in foreign and security policy have damaged America’s reputation internationally.[271]

Other Wars on Terror[edit source]

In the 2010s, China has also been engaged in its War on Terror, predominantly a domestic campaign in response to violent actions by Uighur separatist movements in the Xinjiang conflict.[272] This campaign was widely criticized in international media due to the perception that it unfairly targets and persecutes Chinese Muslims,[273] potentially resulting in a negative backlash from China‘s predominantly Muslim Uighur population.

Russia has also been engaged on its own, also largely internally focused, counter-terrorism campaign often termed a war on terror, during the Second Chechen War, the Insurgency in the North Caucasus, and the Russian military intervention in the Syrian Civil War.[274] Like China‘s war on terror, Russia‘s has also been focused on separatist and Islamist movements that use political violence to achieve their ends.[275]

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Tahrir al-Sham

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Not to be confused with Sham Liberation Army.
Hayʼat Tahrir al-Sham
Organization for the Liberation of the Levant
هيئة تحرير الشام
Participant in the Syrian Civil War and the
Syrian Civil War spillover in Lebanon
Hayyat Tahrir al-Sham logo.jpg
Logo of Hayʼat Tahrir al-Sham
Flag of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham.svg
Flag of Hayʼat Tahrir al-Sham
Active 28 January 2017 – present
Ideology Sunni Islamism

Leaders
Headquarters Idlib, Idlib Governorate, Syria
Area of operations  Syria
 Lebanon
Strength ~40,000[6][7][8][9][10]
(20,000 al-Nusra fighters)[11]
Part of al-Qaeda (covertly)[12][2][13][14][15]
Originated as
Allies
Opponents State opponents

Non-state opponents

Battles and wars Syrian Civil War

Military intervention against ISIL

Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (Arabic: هيئة تحرير الشام‎‎, transliteration: Hayʼat Taḥrīr al-Shām,[23]Organization for the Liberation of the Levant” or “Levant Liberation Committee“),[21][22] commonly referred to as Tahrir al-Sham and abbreviated HTS, also known as al-Qaeda in Syria[24] and referred to by the Arabic acronym Hetesh (هتش) by some Syrians (akin to ISIL’s Daesh label),[25][26] is an active Jihadist and Salafist terrorist organization involved in the Syrian Civil War. The group was formed on 28 January 2017 as a merger between Jabhat Fateh al-Sham (former al-Nusra Front), the Ansar al-Din Front, Jaysh al-Sunna, Liwa al-Haqq, and the Nour al-Din al-Zenki Movement.[2] After the announcement, additional groups and individuals joined. The merger is currently led by Jabhat Fatah al-Sham and former Ahrar al-Sham leaders, although the High Command consists of leaders from other groups.[27][28] Many groups and individuals defected from Ahrar al-Sham, representing their more conservative and Salafist elements. Currently, a number of analysts and media outlets still continue to refer to this group by its previous names, al-Nusra Front, or Jabhat Fateh al-Sham.[29][30]

Despite the merger, Tahrir al-Sham effectively functions as al-Qaeda‘s Syrian branch on a covert level.[31][32] Some analysts reported that the goal of forming Tahrir al-Sham was to unite all groups with al-Qaeda’s extreme ideology under one banner, and to obtain as many weapons as possible. They also reported that many of the former Jabhat Fateh al-Sham fighters still answered to al-Qaeda, and held an increasing amount of sway over the new group.[15] It was also reported that despite the recent formation of Tahrir al-Sham, the new group secretly maintains a fundamental link to al-Qaeda, and that many of the group’s senior figures, particularly Abu Jaber, held similarly extreme views.[31] Tahrir al-Sham shares al-Nusra Front’s goal of turning Syria into an Islamic emirate run by al-Qaeda.[33][34] The group is currently the single-largest anti-Assad group in Syria after ISIL, after Jaysh al-Farouq (a former FSA-affiliate) joined, allowing HTS to eclipse Ahrar al-Sham.[9]

History[edit source]

Formation[edit source]

Abdullah al-Muhaysini, Abu Taher Al Hamawi, and Abd ar-Razzaq al-Mahdi worked on the formation of the group.[35] Bilal Abdul Kareem reported on the formation of the new group.[36][better source needed]

Tahrir al Sham stated that it may include the Turkistan Islamic Party in the future.[37][better source needed]

The group received praise from the Gaza-based Salafist jihadist insurgent group Jaysh al-Ummah.[38][better source needed]

The Damascus Umayyad Mosque is represented on the logo.[39]

The group is currently establishing an Islamic governing body (Majlis-ash-Shura), or the consultative council (hence the multiple signed documents creating decrees/laws which can be found on official Tahrir al-Sham outlets). The reasoning behind this is that with a governing body, the newly formed group will be able to work together & prevent infighting which had been seen as the cause of tension within the rebel held areas for weeks prior to the formation of the group.[40]

On 28 January, the same day that Tahrir al-Sham was born, the group announced the formation of its elite units, the “Inghimasi”, some of whom were deployed in Idlib city. They could also be used for suicide infiltration operations and as assault troops.[41]

Consolidation of power (2017)[edit source]

On 30 January, there were reports of mobilizations by Tahrir al-Sham and Ahrar al-Sham at the Bab al-Hawa Border Crossing and other nearby areas, and that the two groups were preparing for another round of clashes.[42] On 30 January, it was reported that there were around 31,000 fighters in Tahrir al-Sham.[6]

Soon after the group’s formation, many local Syrians began referring to the group as Hetesh, which was an Arabic acronym meant as a pejorative, similar the “Daesh” label applied to ISIL by much of the Arab World. This labeling indicated that many Syrians saw Tahrir al-Sham as no different than ISIL, especially given the similarities between Tahrir al-Sham’s recent attacks and ISIL’s massive offensive on rebel forces in 2014.[25]

On 1 February 2017, it was reported that the US had conducted an airstrike on Carlton Hotel, in the city of Idlib, which was used by Tahrir al-Sham’s former al-Nusra component for troop housing, and hosting meetings of prominent commanders.[43]On the same day, the Elite Islamic Battalions of the FSA was attacked by Tahrir al-Sham.[44][45]

On 2 February, Muhaysini asked members of various factions to urge their leaders to join Tahrir al-Sham.[46][better source needed]

On 3 February, a US airstrike struck a Tahrir al-Sham headquarters[47] in Sarmin, killing 12 members of HTS and Jund al-Aqsa. 10 of the killed militants were HTS members.[48][13] The airstrike also killed militant commander Ibrahim al-Rihaal Abu Bakr.[47]

On 3 February, hundreds of Syrians demonstrated under the slogan “There is no place for al-Qaeda in Syria” in the towns of Atarib, Azaz, Maarat al-Nu’man to protest against HTS. In response, supporters of HTS organized counter-protests in al-Dana, Idlib, Atarib, and Khan Shaykhun.[49] In Idlib pro- Hayyat Tahrir al-Sham protests were held waving pictures of its leader Abu Jaber on 3 February 2017.[50][51][52]

Attendance at a speech by Muhaysini was manipulated by drawing internally displaced persons and impoverished people with promises of motorcycles and refrigerators through a raffle by HTS.[53][better source needed]

On 4 February 2017, a US airstrike killed al-Qaeda commander Abu Hani al-Masri, who was a part of Ahrar al-Sham at the time of his death. It was reported that he was about to defect to Tahrir al-Sham before his death.[13] On the same day, Tahrir al-Sham official Muslah al-Alyani criticized other groups for not joining Tahrir al-Sham, arguing that any group that “fought for Islam” would be bombed, regardless of terrorist designations. In his statement, he indicated that one of the reasons why most Ahrar al-Sham fighters refused to join Tahrir al-Sham was because the latter group contained terrorist-designated individuals.[47]

Tariq Abdul Haleem posted a tweet defending Abu Jaber against Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi.[54] Tareq praised a statement calling for war against Alawites and Zoroastrians by Hashim al Shaikh and denounced negotiations.[55][better source needed] Tariq criticized a statement on HTS by Barqawi.[56] Tareq complained about Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham being criticized by Barqawi.[57][better source needed] Hani al-Siba’i spoke on the topic of Tahrir al-Sham.[58][59]

Around 8 February, Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi confirmed that 2 senior Jabhat Fateh al-Sham leaders, including former al-Nusra deputy leader Sami al-Oraydi, left Tahrir al-Sham after its formation.[60]

A speech was released by Abu Jaber on 9 February.[61][62][63] He emphasized his group being an “independent entity” and praised his “brothers” in the “Syrian Jihad“. The statement included derogatory rhetoric on Shia Muslims.[64][65][66]

On 12 February, the Al-Bunyan al-Marsous Operations Room, of which Tahrir al-Sham is a member of, launched an offensive against the Syrian Army in Daraa‘s Manshiyah district. Tahrir al-Sham forces began the attack with 2 suicide bombers and car bombs.[67]

On 13 February, clashes erupted between the previously-allied Tahrir al-Sham and Jund al-Aqsa, also called Liwa al-Aqsa, in northern Hama and southern Idlib.[68][69]

On 15 February, Ahrar al-Sham published an infographic on its recent defections, claiming that only 955 fighters had defected to Tahrir al-Sham.[60] There were also reports that Ahrar al-Sham, the Sham Legion, Jaysh al-Izza, the Turkistan Islamic Party in Syria, and Liwa al-Tamkin would soon merge to form a new organization called the “Tahrir al-Syria Front”, with websites close to the organizations reportedly disclosing this.[70][71]

Tahrir al-Sham leader Abu Al-Abed Ashida posted his condolences to Omar Abdel-Rahman upon his death.[72]

On 19 February, HTS arrested Major Anas Ibrahim in Atarib, and in response, an anti-HTS protest was held in the town.[73]

On 20 February, a Ma’rat al-Numan Shura Concil was created by Faylaq al-Sham, Ahrar al-Sham, and Tahrir al-Sham.[74]

On 22 February, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova stated that Russia feared that Tahrir al-Sham would declare a new Islamic Emirate in northwestern Syria within a month, patterned after ISIL’s self-styled “Caliphate” in Ar-Raqqah.[34] On the same day, the Combating Terrorism Center reported that Jabhat Fateh al-Sham had formed the Tahrir al-Sham group due to its fear of being isolated, and to counter Ahrar al-Sham’s recent expansion during the clashes in the Idlib Province.[60]

On 22 February, the last of Liwa al-Asqa’s 2,100 militants left their final positions in Khan Skaykhun, to join ISIL in the Ar-Raqqah Province, after a negotiated withdrawal deal with Tahrir al-Sham and the Turkistan Islamic Party.[75][76] Afterward, Tahrir al-Sham declared terminating Liwa al-Aqsa, and promised to watch for any remaining cells.[77]

On 26 February, a US airstrike in Al-Mastoumeh, Idlib Province, killed Abu Khayr al-Masri, who was the deputy leader of al-Qaeda.[4][5][78] The airstrike also killed another Tahrir al-Sham militant.[79][80]

On 27 February, an HTS spokesman was slammed by Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi.[81] Also, Tahrir al-Sham leader Abu al-Abed Ashida criticized the participation of certain rebel groups in Turkey’s Operation Euphrates Shield.[82]

In early March 2017, local residents in the Idlib Province who supported FSA factions accused Tahrir al-Sham of doing more harm than good, saying that all they’ve done is “kidnap people, set up checkpoints, and terrorize residents.”[83]

On 14 March, Tahrir al-Sham made an announcement on their elite “Inghimasi” units, and published a video about them.[41]

On 16 March, a US airstrike struck an al-Qaeda meeting in the village of al-Jina, just southwest of Atarib, killing dozens of Tahrir al-Sham militants and 49 civilians. Despite local groups and the SOHR accusing the US of bombing a mosque in the village, the US denied targeting the al-Jina Mosque, though the airstrike struck a building only 15 meters away.[84][85][86]

On the morning of 21 March (local time), a US drone strike in Darkoush, Idlib Province, killed Abu Islam al-Masri, a high-ranking HTS commander. HTS commander Abu al-‘Abbas al-Darir was also killed in the drone strike.[87] On the same day, Jaysh al-Farouq, a former FSA-affiliated group based in Northern Hama, joined Tahrir al-Sham, making HTS the single largest anti-Assad group (other than ISIL) in Syria.[9] On the same day, Tahrir al-Sham launched the 2017 Hama offensive against Syrian Government forces.

On 24 March, two flatbed trucks carrying flour and belonging to an IHH-affiliated Turkish relief organization were stopped at a HTS checkpoint at the entrance to Sarmada. HTS then seized the trucks and the flour, which was intended for a bakery in Saraqib. The seizure caused 2,000 families in the area to be cut off from a free supply of bread.[88]

Terrorist attacks[edit source]

On 25 February 2017, 5 Tahrir al-Sham suicide bombers attacked the headquarters of the Syrian military intelligence in Homs, killing dozens of security forces, including the head of the military security in Homs.[89][90][91] There were 5 of them.[92][93][94][95] Pictures of the attackers were released.[96][97] One of the attackers was a Khan Shaykhun native called Abu Hurayra (Safi Qatini).[98] The State Security branch chief and Military security branch chief died in the attack.[99] Hassan Daaboul was among the 40 assassinated by Hayyat Tahrir al-Sham[24][100][101][102] The explosion killed Ibrahim Darwish, a Brigadier General and the state security branch’s chief.[103][104][105][106] Syrian reporter Moussa al-Omar tweeted that he “thanks the terrorists who killed him”.[107] Moussa uploaded a video talking about the blast.[108][109] He posted pictures of officers and soldiers who were killed.[110]The War Center Media gave a figure of six suicide attackers and a death toll of thirty.[111] The death toll was given at twenty by Moussa when he posted it a breaking.[112] The death toll was given at thirty five on 24 February according to Moussa.[113] The injured numbered fifty four and the dead numbered forty seven on 25 February according to Moussa.[114] Abu Yusuf al-Muhajir, a Tahrir al-Sham military spokesman was interviewed by Human Voice on the bombings.[115][116][117] Twenty-six names were released.[118]Sheikh Samir bin Ali Ka’aka Abu Abdurrahman from Eastern Ghouta suggested that the attack was carried out by Iranians in a dispute between Russians and Iranians.[119][120][121] It was claimed that the Homs strike was carried out by the government by Geneva-based opposition Syrians.[122] The attack took place the same time as the beginning of the Geneva Four talks.[123][124] The attack was praised by Liwa Omar al-Farouq Brigade leader in Ahrar Al-Sham, Abu Abdul Malik (Mahmoud Nemah).[125] The attack was mentioned in an article in the publication Al-Masra by the terrorist group Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.[126][16] Terrorist leader Abu Mohammed al-Julani mentioned the Homs attack, stating that it was a message for the “defeatist politicians” to “step aside.”[127][128][129][130] It has been alleged that the raid did not result in the death of Ibrahim Darwish.[131][132] Tariq Abdelhaleem posted a tweet on the Homs attack by Tahrir al-Sham.[133]

On 11 March, Tahrir al-Sham carried out a twin bombing attack in the Bab al-Saghir area of Damascus’s Old City, killing 76 people and wounding 120 others. The death toll included 43 Iraqi pilgrims.[134][135][136] On the same day, the US officially designated Tahrir al-Sham as a terrorist organization, declaring that the group still functioned as al-Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate.[32]

On 15 March, Tahrir al-Sham carried out 2 more bombing attacks in Damascus, targeting the main courthouse and a popular restaurant, killing at least 39 people and wounding 130 others.[137][138][139][140] Two other blasts were also reported in Damascus.[140]

Ideology and governance[edit source]

Tahrir al-Sham’s leader, Abu Jaber, has Salafist jihadist beliefs. This caused him to be arrested several times by the Syrian government. He was imprisoned at the Sednaya Prison in 2005 and released among several jihadist prisoners in 2011 who would form several Salafist rebel groups during the Syrian Civil War.[64] Abu Jaber has also professed a belief in “Popular Jihad”, a bottom-to-top approach in which jihadists would win the hearts and minds of the people, before setting out to establish jihadi governance, after receiving enough popular support, which is notably the opposite of ISIL’s “elite Jihad” top-to-bottom approach.[31]

Analysts have also reported that the group continues to maintain many of al-Nusra Front‘s extreme al-Qaeda ideologies, which include Salafist jihadism and Wahhabism.[15] It was also reported that a large portion of Tahrir al-Sham’s fighters from Jabhat Fateh al-Sham still refused to disengage from al-Qaeda, and continued to hold a large sway over the group, despite the public re-branding of the group.[15] Tahrir al-Sham continues to harbor the former al-Nusra Front’s goal of turning Syria into an Islamic Emirate, run by al-Qaeda. If such a governing entity were declared, it would be similar to ISIL’s declaration of a Caliphate.[33][34] The Combating Terrorism Center also reported that despite public statements by some of Tahrir al-Sham’s top figures, the group was still largely the same al-Qaeda-aligned group it was, back when it was known as al-Nusra.[60]

Structure[edit source]

Member groups[edit source]

The groups in italic are defectors from Ahrar al-Sham.

Disclaimer

This list is based on official announcements by Tahrir al-Sham[223][better source needed] and may not necessarily express the full extent of allegiances to the group. These groups may or may not become independent in the future; however, effort will be made to accordingly add or remove groups, based on the status given to them by the commanding office of Tahrir al-Sham. This list may not be a full comprehensive list of member groups.[citation needed]

Leadership[edit source]

The “general commander” or emir of Tahrir al-Sham is Abu Jaber Hashem Al-Sheikh,[224][225] also known as Abu Jaber, who was the leader of Ahrar al-Sham until September 2015.[226] The “general commander” should not be confused with Tahrir al-Sham’s “military leader”, who is Abu Mohammad al-Julani,[225] the emir of Jabhat Fateh al-Sham who had also led its predecessor organisation Jabhat al-Nusra, the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda.[227] The individuals in italic are defectors from Ahrar al-Sham, which either left to join Jabhat Fateh al-Sham in the last few days of its existence, or joined it’s successor group Tahrir al-Sham.

Political relations[edit source]

Ahrar al-Sham[edit source]

The relationship between HTS and Ahrar al-Sham is complex, while there is some enmity, both groups are not at war, according to a leading scholar in Tahrir al-Sham, the groups do not particularly hate one another in the political or social battlefield. Certain members, however, do believe that a war between the two would be feasible due to Ahrar al-Sham attending the Astana talks, labeling it as a “moderate” faction, often seen as blasphemy within groups such as Tahrir al-Sham.[254]

Designation as a terrorist organization[edit source]

Country Date References
 United States 11 March 2017 [255][32]

External support[edit source]

Iran’s government has accused Qatar and Saudia Arabia of helping Tahrir al-Sham.[256]

See also

15 YEARS OF TERROR, AN ANIMATED TIME-LAPSE

What Is the Khorasan Group, Targeted By US in Syria?

The U.S. military said today that by striking a little known terror cell called the Khorasan Group in Syria it was able to take out dangerous men who were “plotting and planning imminent attacks against Western targets to include the U.S. homeland.”

In the midst of the well-publicized campaign against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the military’s first official announcement that a different, potentially more deadly terror group existed, that it’s members were planning an “imminent” attack on America and that those planning the attack had been killed in the U.S.-led bombing campaign all came as something of a surprise, considering that for the public, the group was virtually unheard of until a few days ago.

So here’s what we know so far about the mysterious Khorasan Group:

What Is the Khorasan Group?

The Khorasan Group is a relatively small al Qaeda unit – made up of just some 50 hardened fighters with mixing jihadist affiliations, according to a half-dozen officials with knowledge of the group. As the U.S. military’s Central Command put it, they are “seasoned al Qaeda veterans.” A senior administration official told reporters the group grew out of al Qaeda’s old core group in Afghanistan.

“It’s the same cast of characters we have had our eye on for some time,” the official said.

Back in June, ABC News reported that an alliance had been building inside Syria between al Qaeda operatives there and those from al Qaeda’s dangerous Yemen-based branch, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), home to expert bomb makers. Sources told ABC News today some of those allied jihadis, then unidentified, made up the Khorasan Group.

The group is not thought to be affiliated with ISIS, which had a public falling out with al Qaeda earlier this year. In fact, the Khorasan Group’s leader may have been tasked with fighting ISIS in Syria as well as the West, according to government documents and reports in the Long War Journal, as part of the larger, violent conflict between ISIS and al Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate, al-Nusra Front.

Digital Feature: What Is ISIS?

The word Khorasan denotes greater Afghanistan, parts of central Asia and China’s Xinxiang province. The term has religious significance in the context of jihad and several organizations in the region use the name in various ways.

Who’s Their Leader?

The Khorasan Group is believed to led by Muhsin al-Fadhili, a Kuwaiti native. While there’s scant information about the organization he leads, al-Fadhli has a long international rap sheet.

He’s wanted in the U.S. for his work as an “Iran-based senior al Qaeda facilitator and financier,” according to the State Department, and is suspected of being one of Osama bin Laden’s most trusted operatives – one of the few aware of the 9/11 attacks before they happened.

Al-Fadhli, 33, was designated a terrorist by the U.S. back in 2005 for providing “financial and material support to the al-Zarqawi Network and al Qaeda,” the State Department said. Ironically over the years the al-Zarqawi Network in Iraq would mutate into what is now ISIS.

“…[P]rior to that [al-Fadhli] was involved in several terrorist attacks that took place October 2002, including the attacks on the French ship MV Limburg and against U.S. Marines on Faylaka Island in Kuwait,” the U.S. Treasury said.

The United Nations added al-Fadhli to its al Qaeda Sanctions Committee list in 2005 as well. The same year, President Bush mentioned al-Fadhli, then just 23, by name in a speech, saying that the U.S., working with others, would “bring him to justice.”

The State Department offers a $7 million reward for information leading to his capture. While the U.S. military said Khorasan Group individuals were killed in the recent strikes, they did not identify any specifically.

So If They’re a Big Deal, Why Haven’t I Heard of Them?

Unlike previous terrorist foes, the U.S. government apparently worked to keep a tight lid on the identity of the Khorasan Group despite, as a senior administration official put it, the government watching the threat from the group “for some time.”

Though ABC News reported an air travel scare this summer that sources said today were linked to the group, the name “Khorasan Group” wasn’t used in the Western media until earlier this month when The Associated Press first identified them. Even after that, when Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., brought up the name in an open Congressional hearing last week, Department of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson paused awkwardly before telling King that “discussion of specific organizations, I think, should be left to a classified setting.”

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, however, used the name a day later in a briefing with reporters, and profiles of the group followed in some major newspapers.

Still, today was the first time U.S. officials spoke so openly about the group, and it was the first time President Obama used the term in a public setting.

What Does The Khorasan Group Want With the U.S.?

Unlike ISIS, which is attempting to establish an Islamic kingdom centered in Syria and Iraq through large land grabs and local governance, U.S. officials say that as an al Qaeda group, Khorasan’s goal is to attack the West in spectacular fashion – and that such plots appear to be “imminent.”

“We had very good indications that this group, which is a very dangerous group, was plotting and planning imminent attacks against Western target to include the U.S. homeland,” Kirby told ABC News’ “Good Morning America”. “We knew that there was active plotting going on for an attack on the U.S. homeland.”

Later, Lt. Gen. William Mayville told reporters the U.S. believed Khorasan Group to be “nearing the execution phase” for an attack in Europe or the American homeland, likely using Western recruits to execute the plot.

A senior administration official told reporters the Obama administration had “been watching this threat from the Khorasan Group for some time and had contemplated action separate and apart from the growing threat from ISIL [ISIS],” but seized the “opportunity” to strike them at the same time as ISIS Monday night.

AQAP, the terror group’s Yemen affiliate from which some Khorasan fighters are said to come and home to al Qaeda’s master bomb maker Ibrahim al-Asiri, has managed multiple times to get explosives on board U.S.-bound aircraft, but each either failed to explode or was intercepted before its final destination. In one case, a refined version of an underwear bomb was smuggled out of the terror group’s control by an insider who was actually working for allied spy agencies.

In ABC News’ June report, sources said groups inside Syria, now believed to include the Khorasan Group, were working to produce new and “creative” designs for explosives that could evade airport security. In July the Department of Homeland Security increased security at airports and announced that “powerless” electronic devices would not be allowed on board a plane. Senior law enforcement and intelligence officials told ABC News today the Khorasan Group was the cause of the heightened security.

But After the Airstrikes, Are They Still a Threat?

Kirby said that the military believes that “the individuals that were plotting and planning it have been eliminated” but said the military is going to “continue… to assess the effectiveness of our strikes going through today.”

Security sources told ABC News they feared Kirby’s statement was too certain and said that the group was more likely just degraded in the strikes.

When asked if there was a continuing threat to the U.S., Mayville asked that the military be given “some time to assess” the strikes.

In an address to the nation today, President Obama said of the strikes on Khorasan that “once again it must be clear to anyone who would plot against America and try to do Americans harm that we will not tolerate safe havens for terrorists who threaten our people.”

[7.8][Islamic group] Syrian Islamic Liberation Front

 

Syrian Islamic Liberation Front جبهة تحرير سوريا الإسلامية Jabha Tahrir Suriya al Islamiyyah
Participant in Syrian civil war
Active September 2012 – present
Ideology Sunni[citation needed]Islamism
Leaders Ahmed Eissa al-Sheikh (Suqour al-Sham) Zahran Alloush (spokesperson) (WIA) (Liwa al-Islam)
Headquarters Sarjeh, Idlib Governorate[citation needed]
Area of operations Syria
Strength 35,000 – 40,000 (own claim)[1][2] (June 2013)
Allies Al-Nusra Front (formerly)[3] Ahrar al-Sham Free Syrian Army
Opponents Syrian Armed Forces Ghuraba al-Sham[4] Democratic Union Party (PYD)[5] Shabiha[5]
Battles/wars Syrian civil war

The Syrian Islamic Liberation Front (SILF; Arabic: جبهة تحرير سوريا الإسلامية‎, Jabhat Tahrīr Sūriyā al-Islāmiyyah; also known as the Syrian Liberation Front), is a coalition of Islamist rebel brigades who are fighting against the Bashar al-Assad government in the Syrian civil war. As of late 2012, it was one of the strongest armed coalitions in Syria,[6] representing up to half of Bashar al-Assad’s armed opponents.[1]

Background

Founded in September 2012 after secret negotiations between the group’s leaders, the group is headed by Ahmed Eissa al-Sheikh, the leader of the Suqour al-Sham Brigade. The coalition includes around 20 Islamist groups and has tens of thousands of fighters active throughout much of Syria, overshadowing the Free Syrian Army (FSA) in some regions. While some member groups appear to consider themselves members of both the Syrian Liberation Front and the FSA,[7] Abu Issa says the group aims to maintain brotherly relations with the FSA while declining to offer full support and criticising those leaders of the FSA that remain in Turkey.[1] The coalition includes some of the most important rebel units active in the civil war, including the Suqour al-Sham Brigade (Idlib), Farouq Brigade (Homs), Liwa al-Islam (Damascus) and Tawhid Brigade (Aleppo).[8] Other prominent groups in the coalition include Liwa Dawud,[9] the Deir ez-Zor Revolutionary Council (Deir ez-Zor), Tajamo Ansar al-Islam (Damascus), Amr Ibn al-Aas Brigade (Aleppo), and al-Naser Salaheddin Brigade (Latakia).[7] These groups are geographically scattered, vary in size and influence, and are dependent on different sources of funding. It is unclear how effectively the coalition coordinates between the varying groups or how durable the coalition will be.[7]

Weapons

Abu Issa says that the coalition obtains their weapons from attacks on the Syrian Armed Forces and from arms dealers inside and outside Syria, however, the group reportedly receives support from Turkey and Qatar.[10] It has been accused by members of the FSA of monopolizing the supply of weapons through Turkey in order to marginalize unaffiliated rebel groups.[1][10]

Ideology

The group has a Islamist ideology.[1] It includes both Muslim Brotherhood and Salafist inspired groups, however many of the more hardline Islamist groups active in the Syrian civil war are members of the Syrian Islamic Front. The group does not include the jihadistAl-Nusra Front, and Ahrar al-Sham withdrew from the group in protest at the killing of a jihadist leader by one of the other groups.[1] Some in the FSA have criticized the group for its emphasis on an Islamic identity in a religiously mixed country.[1] The group has a minimalist political platform, promising to protect minorities and stating that religious Muslim law is the point of reference for the group.[7]