(Janes Islamic Affairs Analyst) – Having extended its strategy to the broader Muslim community, the US government’s approach to counterterrorism has become inconsistent. Barak Seener examines the consequences of some of the US administration’s foreign and domestic policy decisions.
The current United States administration’s approach to counterterrorism has been inconsistent. On the one hand, following its domestic policy review in December 2009, the White House extended its Afghan strategy to the broader Muslim world in order to “intensify regional diplomacy to enable a political process to promote peace and stability”. However, this move coincided with an increased number of unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) attacks against Al-Qaeda’s and its affiliates’ leadership in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen. President Barack Obama’s administration also ordered a troop surge in Afghanistan and reduced its armed forces in Iraq. The government engagement with the Middle East is marked by numerous strategies ranging from more frequent UAV attacks to increased intelligence sharing with states in the Middle East, and diplomatic engagement with Iran.
Moreover, the US government adopted a unique feature of engaging with local actors, despite the latter’s extremist Islamist ideology. This applies to the Taliban in Afghanistan, Hizbullah in Lebanon, and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.
The US, caught by surprise by the Arab Spring, found itself drawing spurious distinctions between political and terrorist wings of extremist organisations. This approach was aggravated by cuts in defence expenditure. As a result, policymakers preferred to politically co-opt rather than confront Islamist organisations. Co-opting Islamist organisations abroad has its roots in the flawed counter-narrative to domestic Islamism that the US and the United Kingdom propound.
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Barak Seener is the CEO of Strategic Intelligentia and a former Middle East Fellow at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI). He is on Twitter at @BarakSeener.