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America's ambivalence on terrorism
Richard M Bennett
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July 14, 2006
Washington's War on Terrorism appears increasingly to be falling short of a coherent and reasoned campaign, with its ambivalent attitude to States like Pakistan which at best provide sanctuary for Islamic extremists and at worst actually support, organise and control major terrorist groups.

Pakistan's infamous Inter Service Intelligence agency has long had strong links with Islamic terrorists including both the Taliban in Afghanistan and Kashmiri militants whose actions have already taken the lives of tens of thousands of India's citizens. The fact that the ISI was established with CIA help and has often acted on behalf of their American paymasters must further cast doubt on America's real commitment to fight terrorism.

That India should be the target of a prolonged and vicious Islamic terrorist campaign -- in all probability covertly supported by one of Washington's closest allies in the War on Terrorism -- is perhaps not quite so surprising when seen in the light of the large number of determined espionage operations run by the CIA to steal India's most important secrets.

India's nuclear and missile technology has been broadly targeted as have the war plans of its armed forces. Plans, it should be noted, that most probably relate to any possible future conflict with America's close ally Pakistan.

The broader picture of what increasingly proves to be a disorganised and failing War on Terrorism must include the dramatic failure by the major Western powers in particular to understand that their continued marginalisation of moderate Middle East opinion in favour of openly supporting those often undemocratic, but oil rich Arab States has seen the sidelining of secular and liberal political influence throughout this volatile region.

Power is drifting slowly, but surely into the hands of fundamentalist and extremist Islamic politicians, and without a shadow of doubt, ill thoughtout campaigns launched for the joint purpose of regime change and economic self interest have merely hastened the polarisation of the Middle East.

America for all its undoubted military might has yet again proved quite capable of that remarkable feat of quickly winning the war and slowly losing the peace.

However, the United States position as the world's only superpower is now under threat. Its ability to influence, cajole and even threaten the international community is waning, partly due to its inept handling of major international crisis after crisis, but perhaps more significantly, because of a resurgent and still well armed Russia [Images] and the amazing growth of the two Asian giants, India and China.

The United States armed forces must now be rather painfully assessing whether it any longer has the true capability to retain its position in war-torn Afghanistan and Iraq, maintain its support for a myriad of lesser powers propped up by Washington's money and military power and at the same time prepare for potential conflicts with Iran, North Korea and even Venezuela.

Should the answer prove to be a negative, Washington may well be reduced to launching large scale aerial and missile bombardments on the most sensitive targets, without following this up with a highly unpredictable land invasion which, however, remains the only sure way of achieving regime change.

Degraded the military capability of Iran and North Korea would most certainly be, but revenge hungry regimes with a considerable propensity for terrorism are hardly what the Western world needs now or could possibly afford in the future.

The current War on Terrorism grinds on without a possible end in sight. One of its supposed main antagonists, Osama bin Laden, has proved to be a very useful lever to help Washington to get its way over the last five years, and yet the CIA closed down its dedicated anti-Al Qaeda unit in 2005.

Despite this obvious lessening in the perceived importance of bin Laden's organisation, every major terrorist outrage is still laid at Al Qaeda's [Images] door. Perhaps it is now time for both Washington and London [Images] to come clean and distance themselves from any country that openly or covertly supports any form of terrorism, even if it has previously been a long term and useful ally.

American officials used to refer to certain Third World dictators as 'Bastards, but at least they are our Bastards.' On this basis, of course, Saddam Hussein would still be one of America's closest allies as well!

Richard M Bennett is an intelligence analyst.

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