Aggression, occupation, terrorism — in that order -Express Tribune

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There is a lot of noise right now in the global media about the American defeat in Afghanistan and the return of the Taliban rule. The spin doctors are quite busy. Interestingly, one unvarnished truth came from the Taliban and has so far escaped the attention of the spin doctors. The Taliban said that IS in Afghanistan would vanish with the withdrawal of the foreign forces. While that may sound like the standard rhetoric of the Taliban as they have for years demanded that the foreign forces leave their country, the correlation is actually one that absolutely works. For the umpteenth time, terrorism is the direct result of aggression. That is the reason why aggression is the supreme international war crime because it involves everything that follows.

Historically, this correlation has proven true. Take for instance Sayyid Qutb, the man who arguably initiated and instigated the modern extremist jihad. He is the father of the concept of takfir and a legendary figure for a generation of Arab Jihadists. He literally wrote the book on it, titled Milestones. The root of his radicalisation could be found in the British colonialism in his country Egypt — a foreign involvement in his country. Ayman Al Zawahiri, the current head of al-Qaeda and whose maternal uncle Mahfouz Azzam was the lawyer of Qutb, was also radicalised by seeing his country under a leadership that was kowtowing to the west and Israel.

The ISIS attack in Kabul airport that killed close to 170 civilians, including 13 US soldiers, was very thought-provoking. It was like a man going through a divorce because he was found cheating on his wife and then the secret girlfriend shows up at the divorce and slaps him for fun. America had moved its attention away from Afghanistan and turned to Iraq where it created ISIS through its aggression. The Shia-Sunni conflict in Iraq leading to the bombing of the Al-Askari mosque in Samarra and culminating into the Iraqi Civil War was fueled by the American invasion and occupation of Iraq. While attempting to make a peaceful exit from Afghanistan, what the US had done in Iraq came back and stung it hard. That is what aggression creates.

In a strange twist, while aggression and occupation lost, it wasn’t terrorism that defeated them. It was rather the anti-martyrdom DNA of the Taliban that emerged victorious. It is important to understand that the Taliban won because of their ability to outlive the enemy. The Taliban DNA is nationalistic, they believe in living another day to fight for the homeland instead of embracing martyrdom as the Arabs and the takfiris believe in. The takfiris fight to die, the Afghans fight to live.

It was not that the Taliban had hosted al-Qaeda back in the 90s, which resulted in 9/11. That may have merely made it logistically possible. The CIA’s refusal to share intelligence with the FBI also made it logistically possible for al-Qaeda to pull off 9/11. Blocking the logistics without choking off the reasons behind terrorism wouldn’t end it. The jihadists turned against their ally of the yesteryear because of the latter’s support for the occupation of the Muslim lands, especially Palestine.

It was the American soldiers stepping foot on Islam’s holiest places in Saudi Arabia, which feared an imminent attack from Saddam Hussein at the time, that angered many Muslims chiefly one, Osama bin Laden. It was the American bombing of the only pharmaceutical plant in Khartoum, which provided medicine to almost 50 per cent of Sudan, that convinced the jihadists that America was their enemy. It was the brutal sanctions imposed on Iraq that resulted in the deaths of half a million children there about which US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said, “we think the price is worth it,” that pushed the al-Qaeda recruitment through the roof.

The west should fight against the urge for aggression not a war against terrorism.