AMERICA’S COUNTERTERRORIST STRUGGLE: THE ISLAMIC FACTOR AND THE REGIONAL CONTEXT
Larisa Garusova, D.Sc. (Hist.), Professor, Far Eastern Federal University (Vladivostok, Russian Federation)
The author analyzes the U.S. counterterrorist strategy in its evolution in the twenty-first century in the context of regional—the Middle East and East Asia—and religious factors. For the last fifteen years, Washington has been talking about Islamic terrorist organizations (al-Qa‘eda and the Islamic State among them) as the main threat to the country’s national, as well as international security. America’s counterterrorist policy follows the changes in the nature and methods of terror; however, it is invariably geared toward its two main goals: protection of the United States and its allies against this threat and creation of an international milieu unfriendly to terrorism. Recently terrorism has mastered new forms of struggle with the West: the “lone wolf” terrorist acts and the Internet, which has become the main tool of extremist propaganda and conscription of fighters to the Islamic State and al-Qa‘eda across the world.
Today, Washington relies on several main elements of its counterterrorist strategy: the use of American armed forces in the Middle East (in numbers that exclude a full-scale ground operation) to deliver targeted strikes; training of Syria’s and Iraq’s allies for an independent or coalition struggle against terrorism; consolidation of international counterterrorist cooperation with the West and the Muslim world; switching from military to political settlement of the Syrian crisis, as well as more active counterterrorist propaganda in the media and on the Internet.
The large-scale and multifaceted activities of the Islamist terrorist organizations in the 2000s not only drew the United States into full-scale military actions in the Middle East, but also shaped the religious-regional context of the counterterrorist strategy the United States relies on today. Central and East Asia possess considerable terrorist, as well as counterterrorist potential; the United States is more interested in the countries with a considerable or even predominant share of Muslims in the local population (Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Malaysia, partly China, etc.) that might prove responsive to the propaganda of the Islamic State. In East Asia, Japan and South Korea are America’s two important partners in its counterterrorist struggle. Today, a closer partnership with the West and the Muslim world has become a must for America’s international counterterrorist strategy, which will not succeed if the outstanding social, economic and political problems, fertile soil for terrorism, remain unattended.
Keywords: U.S. counterterrorist strategy, Islamist terrorist organizations, national and international security, Central Asia, the East Asian region, international counterterrorist cooperation.