After the 9/11 attacks on the United States, Washington declared al-Qaeda the ultimate threat facing the country and the rest of the world.President George W. Bush announced a war on terror and shortly afterwards US troops were on the ground fighting in Afghanistan, suspected of harbouring al Qaeda leader, Osama Bin Laden. Iraq was the next target. The premise of eradicating weapons of mass destruction was combined with claims that Saddam Hussein had links with al Qaeda. No WMD were discovered and his alleged links with terrorist organisations have never been proven. For a brief moment in time, the US-led war was deemed to be a success, at least by Washington and its allies. But the battle was far from over. Just over a year after President Bush called an end to combat operations in Iraq, Madrid was struck by terrorists. Nearly 200 people were killed and thousands more injured by bombs on commuter trains. It was followed in 2005 by an attack on London’s transport network which left 56 people dead. The perpetrators claimed they plotted against Britain and Spain over their roles in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Al Qaeda has failed to pull off any attack of such ferocity since then, but it has not been for lack of trying. Its leader Bin Laden and his second in command, Ayman al-Zawahiri, are still at large and believed to be operating, although at a greatly reduced capacity, out of Pakistan’s lawless Waziristan region. Once prolific, their video, audio and internet messages are now not as frequently published but their ideas have spread around the world. Dozens of groups and loosely organised cells have come together recently to carry out attacks in the Middle East as well as in northern and parts of western Africa. Many security and intelligence experts now say that rather than ridding the world of the jihadists’ threat, the attacks on Iraq and Afghanistan have rallied more people to Bin Laden’s cause.
Has the war on terror worked?