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Jihadi Suicide Bombers: The New Wave

After September 11, 2001, readers around the world quickly learned about the basic tenets of jihad and its distortion by al-Qaeda. Now the shelves of Western bookshops are again filled with books on the subject, which gives no sign of going away. Jihad, which means struggle, is “recommended” rather than obligatory for all Muslims, but its interpretation is literally an open book—the lesser jihad to purify one’s soul and perform good deeds for the community, the greater jihad to defend Islam when it is under attack. Each major collection of Hadith, or the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad that were compiled by several Muslim scholars well after the Prophet’s death, contains its own descriptions of jihad, with the result that the discussion of jihad has always been a matter of differing interpretations rather than literal observance.

The jihad of the Afghan Mujahideen against the Soviet troops in Afghanistan in the 1980s was supported by the US and the West. Some 40,000 non-Afghans made it to that jihad, many of them receiving an Islamic education and military training with funds from the CIA and support and sanctuary from Pakistan’s Interservices Intelligence Directorate (ISI). Some fought and died, others went home to spread the message, taking with them long lists of contacts they had made in the university of jihad that they had established in Pakistani cities such as Peshawar. In the 1990s jihad became a much-maligned word as the Afghans butchered each other in a bloody civil war, which both sides claimed was a jihad. Muslims in other parts of the world did the same. They claimed to be carrying out jihad as they were killing their Muslim brothers.

When Osama bin Laden decided to launch a jihad against the US and the West from his new base in Afghanistan in 1996, few took him seriously. Several developments at that time got little attention from Western governments as Afghanistan became the incubator of a new, Arab-led “global jihad” against the West. The fifteen-year-long insurrection against the Indian government of Kashmir introduced the skills of suicide bombing to South Asia. The endless civil war in Somalia eliminated any clear center of power there and freewheeling jihadist groups emerged in the chaos. The Israeli–Palestinian conflict was seen as becoming increasingly insoluble. President Clinton’s failed attempt to foster peace at the end of his administration came just as many Palestinians were beginning to embrace more extremist Islamic ideas.

Two of the books under review are so illuminating about this twilight period in the 1990s that I even wonder if September 11 could have been averted if they had been published a decade earlier. One is Omar Nasiri’s Inside the Jihad, a first-person account by a Moroccan-born spy who infiltrated Islamist groups on behalf of European intelligence organizations in the 1990s; the other is Brynjar Lia’s Architect of Global Jihad, a Norwegian scholar’s account of a top al-Qaeda strategist named Abu Mus’ab al-Suri, who was arrested in Pakistan in 2005 and handed over to the US. He is now one of the “rendered” or disappeared prisoners. Both books are about men who were trained in terrorist camps in Afghanistan in the early 1990s—when bin Laden was not even there—and who then traveled across Europe to mobilize Muslims for the emerging global jihad. The Afghan camps were providing military and technical training, ideological education, and new global networks well before al-Qaeda arrived on the scene.

Yet the young men who trained in these camps were not educated in the Islamic schools called madrasas and they were inspired less by extremist Islamic ideology than by their desires to see the world, handle weapons, and have a youthful adventure. It was a boy’s world of reality games. “I realized that I had dreamed of this moment for years,” writes Nasiri—a nom de plume.

I was in the mountains of Afghanistan and there was gunfire all around me…. There would be handguns and assault rifles and mortar fire all blasting against the mountain. It sounded like a kind of chorus, almost, and sometimes I shivered and praised God for having brought me here.

At that time such young men might have been won over from violent jihad to something more constructive if Muslim regimes and Western countries had realized what was going on. Today alternative education programs teaching useful skills—a major strategy for combating jihad in Iraq, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, and elsewhere—are too little too late, and increasingly difficult to carry out since the terrorists are now far more ideologically sophisticated than they were in the early 1990s.

That twilight period ended with bin Laden’s return to Afghanistan in 1996 when he reorganized the Arabs and other foreigners who saw him as their leader, and offered them a new interpretation of jihad as an unconditional and never-ending war against the West and its Muslim “lackeys” in the Islamic world. When al-Qaeda bombed two US embassies in Africa in 1998, causing heavy casualties among African Muslims, bin Laden was, in effect, openly proclaiming that killing fellow Muslims and women and children was a legitimate part of the game, even though the Koran is categorical about avoiding civilian casualties in war and especially about protecting women and children.

Nobody in the West seemed to suspect at the time how extensively bin Laden had already distorted Islam. His tactics had hardly anything to do with religion and everything to do with gaining political power and influence. Jihad was no longer a defensive maneuver but an offensive weapon that elevated martyrdom. Every religion has had its martyrs—think of the early Christians and Jews defying the Roman Empire—and Islam too has its pantheon of martyrs. But the Koran categorically forbids suicide. Until al-Qaeda began turning religious texts on their heads, martyrdom was accepted only as the last resort of a cornered Muslim warrior and not as a willfully planned death. This radical change in the concept of martyrdom has been viewed by many commentators as the license for modern Islamic terrorism.

Before September 11, al-Qaeda carried out suicide missions, but it also fought its jihad on the conventional battlefield, supporting allies such as the Taliban government, the Kashmiri terrorists, and the Somali warlords. The extremists from the 1990s depicted in the books by Nasiri and Lia would never have considered throwing their lives away in a deliberate suicide attack—their lives meant too much to them and they were having too much fun spreading the global jihad around the world.

Of course al-Qaeda is still engaged in conventional guerrilla wars, fighting US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, but today, seven years after September 11, jihad for al-Qaeda and its worldwide allies increasingly means one thing—suicide bombing. This is the change that must be confronted. Now you are not a good jihadi until you kill yourself in the act of killing many others. Thus in the period after September 11 the extremist interpretation of jihad has undergone yet another metamorphosis, degenerating into a cult of suicide bombing against which there is often no plausible defense. In the martyrdom videos they make just before they blow themselves up, bombers like to taunt their audiences with phrases such as “while you Americans love life, we love death.” When these videos are shown on Western television they make Muslims and the religion itself look quite ridiculous and half crazy. Such videos help fuel anti-Islamic xenophobia in the West—xenophobia that in turn helps provide more recruits to the ranks of suicide bombers in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. It’s a vicious circle.

Yet as is made clear in Michael Bonner’s short, incisive, and highly readable book Jihad in Islamic History, the concept of jihad has constantly changed. Bonner writes that the success of early Islam was owed to the individualistic Arab nomads coming together to form a community that was defined by its faith in God and whose most important characteristic was its care for the poor:

The activity that stands out as most characteristic of this early community (in Mecca)…has to do with the generosity and care for the poor and unfortunate…. We cannot doubt that all this involved a profound transformation, both political and social, in Arabia.

Unfortunately, in contemporary Islamic states the commitment to public welfare is almost nonexistent. With few exceptions, both Muslim elites and extremists ignore the idea that the state has a responsibility to civil society and the poor. Neither are committed to serious social reform, and this failure has helped create crises in many Muslim countries. Still, most ordinary Muslims view Islam as a religion concerned about the welfare of poor people: consider how frequently Muslims invoke Islam as a peaceful religion, and the billions in cash that Muslims privately give as zakat, or charity to the poor.

Bonner goes on to describe how during the era of Islamic expansion into Europe, jihad became “an imperial ideology” used to ensure military successes. During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, jihad became a defense mechanism for resisting British, French, and Russian expansionism into the Muslim world. There is nothing in the long history of jihad, Bonner writes,

that dooms us to repeated violence and failure. The history of the jihad has constantly involved the revival of older idioms and forms, but at the same time, it has always been a history of new political structures and of creative, new solutions.

Take Afghanistan. There was not a single suicide attack during the ten-year-long Afghan war against the Soviets. The first al-Qaeda suicide attack was in September 2001, two days before September 11, when the popular anti-Taliban leader Ahmed Shah Masoud was assassinated by two al-Qaeda suicide bombers. There were hardly any further bombings in Afghanistan until 2004 when the resurgent Taliban mounted six suicide attacks against US and Afghan forces. Then there was an explosion of suicide attacks in the country: 21 in 2005, 136 in 2006, and 137 in 2007.

The carnage has continued to increase. Last year casualties in Afghanistan rose by more than 50 percent although the number of suicide attacks stayed nearly the same. In 2006 there were 1,100 casualties from suicide bombings but in 2007 the number rose to 1,730. The Taliban have aimed at exposed targets—nine hundred Afghan policemen and forty Afghan aid workers were killed last year as a result of all types of attacks including suicide attacks. Guerrilla attacks by the Taliban and al-Qaeda have claimed many more lives.

Suicide attacks have been made possible by the new training and indoctrination provided by al-Qaeda as well as the booming drug trade, which has provided the Taliban and al-Qaeda with enormous funds to compensate the families of young suicides. Even more tragic, women and children are now considered fair game. On November 6, 2007, a suicide bomber struck in Baghlan in northern Afghanistan, killing seventy-two Afghans including five members of parliament and fifty-nine schoolchildren. Another ninety-three children were wounded. Afghan schools are now regularly bombed by the Taliban and some six hundred out of a total of 8,500 have been forced to close down, sending 300,000 students home. Over 150 teachers and students have been killed.

A series of essays in The Taliban and the Crisis of Afghanistan, edited by Robert Crews and Amin Tarzi, describe how the Taliban have thus reinvented themselves with fresh mobilization, new transnational networks in Pakistan and neighboring countries, and help from al-Qaeda. This growth has been financed through the trade in opium poppies and other drugs. The essays describe how by 2006 the Taliban movement had become much more internationalized as Iraqi and Arab trainers arrived in Taliban camps to indoctrinate suicide bombers.

In his essay “Explaining the Taliban’s Ability to Mobilize the Pashtuns,” Abdulkader Sinno points out that following the defeat of the Taliban, the US was at fault in failing to dismantle both the Pashtun power structure and the Pashtun warlords. That gave Afghanistan, he writes, far too early the “illusory symbols of a state.” Instead of “focusing on creating the image of a state, the United States and its clients should have done what the Taliban did before them: dismantle rival power structures.”

In Koran, Kalashnikov, and Laptop, Antonio Giustozzi also writes that the US, after its victory in 2001, curried favor with the Afghan warlords and declined to disarm them in the hope that they would maintain law and order in Afghanistan while US forces concentrated on the war in Iraq. Washington made inadequate investments in Afghanistan, whether for fighting the Taliban or for carrying out nation-building. We see the consequences today as the Taliban’s suicide and conventional combat attacks increase and European countries are more and more reluctant to send troops to the front line as part of the NATO force.

Across the border in the tribal regions of Pakistan, the Pakistani Taliban and assorted extremists have set up a base for launching increasingly lethal suicide attacks against army, intelligence, and police forces in both Pakistan and Afghanistan. In Pakistan, suicide attacks rose from just six in 2006 to fifty-six in 2007, in which 419 members of the security forces and 217 civilians were killed, including a lieutenant general.

The greatest success of the Pakistani Taliban was the assassination of Benazir Bhutto in Rawalpindi on December 27, 2007, just ten days before general elections which her party was expected to win. (Her Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) eventually won the elections after they were postponed to February 18, 2008, and the PPP has since formed a coalition government with the party of Nawaz Sharif.) In the first four months of this year, there have already been nineteen suicide attacks in Pakistan, killing 274 security officials and injuring hundreds more.

In both Afghanistan and Pakistan there are separate but mutually supported campaigns to destabilize the country organized by al-Qaeda, the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban, and other Central Asian Islamic groups. Many of the initial suicide bombers were Pakistani and Afghan orphans or mentally unstable teenagers recruited from asylums, orphanages, and Afghan refugee camps in Pakistan. Taliban leaders correctly predicted that their sacrifice would create a wave of more capable and dedicated recruits. Now a factory-style conveyor-belt system has emerged. Fervent teenagers are being recruited from the Pakistani madrasas in the Pashtun tribal region along the border with Afghanistan. They are moved from safe house to safe house and receive various forms of training. Bombers, for example, are taught to duck their heads when they pull the switch so their head is blown apart and is unrecognizable. Meanwhile separate teams choose the next targets in Afghanistan.

According to European intelligence officials I have talked to in Kabul and Islamabad, the resources for these suicide bombers—leaders, recruitment, training, indoctrination, materials—are all on the Pakistani side of the border, where, so far at least, the Pakistani authorities have done little to root them out. The presence of bin Laden, who is reported to be on the Pakistani side of the border according to US intelligence, acts as an inspiration. The production of suicide belts in the tribal Pashtun region has become a cottage industry, not very different from local handicraft production elsewhere in the third world.

One household makes the detonator, another sews the belt, a third molds ball bearings, and so on. These are then collected and paid for by the Taliban, who claim in their propaganda that they have hundreds of willing youngsters lined up to carry out suicide bombings. Their main problems, they say, are finding good targets and the lack of sufficient explosives. While in Pakistan most suicide bombers are Pakistanis, in Afghanistan they include Afghans, Pakistanis, Kashmiris, Central Asians, Chechens, and, most recently, a German-born Turk, Cuneyt Cifici, who on March 3 rammed his explosive-laden car into a US military outpost near Khost in eastern Afghanistan, killing two American soldiers and wounding another fifteen. Two Afghan civilians were also killed.

A similar human conveyor belt carries Africans, Arabs, and Europeans to Iraq, just for the purpose of blowing themselves up. This year there has been an average of eighteen suicide attacks a month in Iraq compared to eight to ten a month in 2007, according to a US military spokesman in Baghdad in April. The suicide cult has become so accepted that ordinary al-Qaeda fighters are now wearing suicide belts as part of their equipment when they fight conventional battles with US forces. The belts prevent them from being taken alive, allow them to kill Americans even as they die, but above all satisfy a desire to constantly live with and embrace the idea of martyrdom.

However, the tactics of suicide bombings cannot win wars, topple regimes, or influence the deep beliefs of local people. Nor can the bombers drive out US and NATO forces from Afghanistan or allied forces from Iraq. What they do achieve is to create, among an already bewildered populace, a sense of panic, uncertainty, and fear so pervasive that the battle by state authorities and Western forces to win them over is more and more futile. Suicide bombing does not lead to any victory for the insurgents, but creates a political limbo bordering on anarchy in which government forces cannot win and reconstruction cannot take place. The war can last as long as the terrorists don’t run out of suicide bombers.

Tragically, Muslim political and religious leaders have failed to counter this offensive with one of their own. Only a few leading clerics have condemned suicide attacks as haram, or something strictly forbidden by Islamic law, because suicide itself is haram. Others say suicide attacks are not justified against Muslims, but can be carried out against the forces of Western infidels. Hardly any of Pakistan’s Islamic politicians with large followings have openly condemned al-Qaeda and its allies. In fact, most religious leaders are, at least publicly, still in a constant state of denial, insisting that al-Qaeda does not exist, that it is a fictitious creation of the American government as a way to control the Muslim world.

US officials have tried to enlist so-called “moderate” Muslims on their side. This policy has been an abject failure. Right now it is difficult enough for Muslims themselves to define a moderate position, because even liberal, Western-educated Muslims are also vehemently against US policy in the Middle East. Liberal Muslims may be a better term to define those who speak up against extremism, but there are few to be found. Partly because of a lack of literacy, the word “liberal” has become a dirty word to Middle East leaders, who fear that it leads to demands for greater democracy, while the clerical elite feel threatened by the very idea.

There is in fact much internal debate going on about extremism within Pakistan and other Muslim countries—in the press, the universities, the bureaucracies. However, unless the state authorities in the region actively promote a moderate version of Islam and come down hard on extremism, the civil society is not strong enough to do it on its own. Moreover, Western powers can never win the religious argument as long as they continue to occupy Iraq and other Muslim countries with armed forces.

The aim of US strategy should not be to find “moderates” and then stamp them with a “Made in the USA” label, but to bolster civil society and democratic institutions. The US has utterly disregarded these in its reliance on military force in its ill-conceived “war on terror.” Instead of spending aid money on trying to improve the quality of the madrasas because Pakistani and other authorities ask for it, Western governments should make more funds available to improve the secular state educational system with better teachers and more schools, thereby offering a real alternative to the madrasas. The Western countries say they want to find moderate Muslims, but they avoid giving adequate and intelligently conceived subsidies for economic development and education. It suits the extremists to have the West split Muslim societies into extremists and moderates, while doing nothing to support the moderates; the outcome has been only to show the extremists who is with them and who is against them.

Since September 11 the US-led war on terror has been out of touch with the sympathies and needs of local populations in Muslim countries. Some 80 percent of the $10 billion in US aid to Pakistan since 2001 has gone to the Pakistani army. The US military spends over $1 billion a month in Afghanistan and over $9.8 billion a month in Iraq to sustain its military effort and build new local security forces. In comparison only a pittance has been spent on reconstruction, nation-building, and shoring up institutions of civil society. When elections have been held or a new constitution has been promulgated (whether in Iraq or Afghanistan), the new institutions of a potentially democratic state such as parliament, political parties, the justice system, and local government have been inadequately supported and have failed on the whole to provide adequate local services.

In Pakistan the US chose to side with President Pervez Musharraf, a military dictator who over the past twelve months has tried to suppress all the democratic forces that might prevent him from staying in power. He curtailed the press, sacked senior judges, and subverted the 1973 constitution. Since the elections in February in which Musharraf’s political allies lost, his power has rapidly diminished as his unpopularity has increased. A new government led by the PPP has allowed the press and television to function freely, and the party is trying to find a new way to deal with extremism and to reinstate the judges. However, the legacy of nine years of military rule is not easy to dispense with. On the one hand Musharraf had battled al-Qaeda and reaped US rewards; and on the other he had allowed his intelligence agencies to give sanctuary to the Afghan Taliban on Pakistani soil as a hedge against the possible collapse of the Afghan government. Such policies have only increased anti-Americanism among an angry public.

The lives of the two jihadis described in the books by Omar Nasiri and Brynjar Lia are useful in showing what might have happened if the policymakers in the West had been more informed and astute. One reads both of these excellent books with the hindsight of what al-Qaeda has since become and how it might have been stopped in its tracks well before September 11.

The Moroccan-born Omar Nasiri (Inside the Jihad) first came under the influence of Algerian jihadis in Belgium in the early 1990s. Soon he also began to work as a double agent for French and later German and British intelligence. He provided Algerian militants with weapons and explosives, underwent training in Afghanistan, and then resettled in London, where he tried to promote global jihad. At the same time, he provided Western intelligence agencies with information about militant movements in North Africa and the Middle East and their exiled leaders in London. He drank, went to clubs, and had girlfriends, and although he was drawn to the doctrines of jihadism, he never becomes a true and uncritical believer. “Only one thing really bothered me…the problem of modern Islam in a nutshell,” he says.

We are totally dependent on the West—for our dishwashers, our clothes, our cars, our education, everything. It is humiliating and every Muslim feels it…. For centuries we ran far ahead of the West. We were the most sophisticated civilization in the world. Now we are backward. We can’t even fight our wars without our enemies’ weapons.

The book has the suspense of a thriller, except it’s for real. In 1995 Nasiri traveled via Pakistan to Khalden, the terrorist training camp in Afghanistan that bin Laden was to later make famous. Here he learned military tactics but was also told that in the jihad, women and children must be spared, that churches, water supplies, and schools should not be bombed, and that nobody of any religion can be attacked while at prayer. “There are many different kinds of jihad, of course,” he writes.

There is the inner jihad,…the jihad of knowledge and scholarship. There is the jihad of the tongue…. There is the jihad waged through actions,… or even giving money to support the ultimate jihad…. The holy war.

What is instructive is that the concept of jihad, as he first encountered it, had rules of behavior that have since been abandoned by al-Qaeda.

He was later dumped by his French handlers, ignored by British intelligence, and took up with the Germans, describing in detail how little European intelligence agencies were concerned about jihadism in the late 1990s. Now settled and married in Germany under an assumed identity, he was horrified by the September 11 operation and this prompted him to write his book.

The Syrian-born Mustafa bin Abd al-Qadir Setmariam Nasar—known as Abu Mus’ab al-Suri—who is the subject of Brynjar Lia’s Architect of Global Jihad, was a committed jihadist from his earliest years. Al-Suri is a journalist by profession, a historian by inclination, and perhaps the most intelligent, well-read, and farsighted agent al-Qaeda has produced.

He has long believed in expanding the territory under the jihadists’ control and today the Taliban and al-Qaeda are once again trying to regain the territory they lost in 2001 in the Pashtun border lands of Afghanistan and Pakistan. “Without confrontation in the field and seizure of land,” he writes, “a state will not emerge for us. And this is the strategic goal for the Resistance project.”

Al-Suri also criticizes bin Laden for carrying out the September 11 attacks, saying they had exposed the Taliban regime to US retribution. It took several years after September 11 for the CIA to grasp that al-Suri was an important intellectual figure in al-Qaeda. Even though he was arrested in Pakistan’s Baluchistan province, his earlier differences with bin Laden probably precluded the possibility that he knew of bin Laden’s whereabouts. US intelligence has now firmly reported bin Laden as being based further north in Pakistan’s tribal areas. If al-Suri is talking to the CIA—in whatever secret place he is being held—he is doubtless proving to be a source of abundant information, particularly about jihadist cells in Europe where he lived and worked for many years.

Two books about future policy by American foreign policy analysts—Daniel Byman’s The Five Front War: The Better Way to Fight Global Jihad and Philip Gordon’s Winning the Right War: The Path to Security for America and the World—effectively criticize the policies of the Bush administration and lay out what they think the next elected US president can and should do, particularly regarding jihadism. Byman is a counterterrorism expert at Georgetown University and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution; Gordon is a former National Security Council staff member and also a senior fellow at Brookings. Both present commonsense ideas and policies that ought to have been pursued a long time ago. From both books one gets the impression that the Bush administration has been so ideological that any ideas rooted in reality have consistently been discarded.

Byman describes the changes in al-Qaeda, the debate about it within the US establishment, and the threat that it poses today. Drawing from a variety of sources, Byman concludes that al-Qaeda’s leaders are intent on controlling territory; their aim remains taking over a government, for example in Afghanistan, which could then be used as a stepping stone for the eventual establishment of a global caliphate. Byman also considers the Iraq war a disaster, writing that it has become a breeding ground for jihadists and that a US victory “cannot be attained.”

He offers alternative strategies on how to defeat al-Qaeda. The military should be dramatically reorganized to address its now “primary” function of fighting insurgencies and, when necessary, “conducting targeted killings of terrorist leaders.” Whether the US alone has the resources and expertise to carry out such policies, however, or whether it will have to rely on multinational collaboration, remains a large question he does not address in any detail.

Byman makes the valid but neglected point that in the Muslim world, al-Qaeda’s propaganda war has been far more effective than that of the US, and that “Iraq has become an enormous public relations boon to al-Qaida.” Today on its Web sites, al-Qaeda is asking for new volunteers who are versed in Web technology and the communications revolution. Al-Qaeda now feels strong enough to publicly promote its international training facilities. The veteran Iraqi jihadi Abu Kasha, who has a training camp for suicide bombers in Mir Ali in Pakistan’s tribal region, released a video in April calling for jihad against the US and its allies and offering to train any foreigners.

Countering such opposition will not be easy. “The bureaucracy that coordinates the US message must be made stronger and given a more prominent role,” writes Byman. “In particular, the bureaucratic rank of such officials must be elevated.” What he cannot supply is just what message the US should be disseminating to alienated young Muslims, aside from “going negative” about al-Qaeda; nor does he suggest how the US is to find the superior and knowledgeable bureaucrats he hopes for. But he identifies some important challenges that American policymakers should be facing.

Gordon makes his position clear from the start. “The administration is failing because it is fighting the wrong war…. It is putting its faith in tough talk and military power when ideology, intelligence, diplomacy, and defense are in fact more important,” he writes. He describes how Bush has consistently mischaracterized the “war on terror,” painting a simplistic picture of evildoers who hate US values. He argues that just as the US won the cold war through containment of the former Soviet Union and a multipronged strategy, a similar strategy is needed to deal with jihadism. It’s a long war that needs ideas, not a short war of the kind US Special Forces are trained to fight.

Gordon writes that to fight the right war the Bush administration should have taken bold steps in its national energy policies and conducted far more intensive and informed diplomacy in the Middle East. He offers a long list of prescriptions—close Guantánamo; spend more on homeland defense; rebuild the US information services; and reduce the US dependence on Middle East oil. He also argues that the US should withdraw from Iraq and engage diplomatically with Iran, which inevitably has huge and growing influence with its Shiite neighbor. It should also “reestablish itself as an honest broker between Arabs and Israelis” and “make far more energetic efforts to bring about an Israeli-Palestinian peace.”

The next US administration would do well to take seriously the analysis and recommendations of Byman and Gordon. There has been an upsurge of fighting and suicide bombing in both Iraq and Afghanistan this year. In Afghanistan from January to March 2008, there were 704 Taliban attacks killing 463 civilians, compared to 424 attacks killing 264 civilians in the same period last year. The American conduct of its war on terror has, in fact, strengthened the impact of the jihadist message and fostered the spread of al-Qaeda and its allies to new battlefields in Europe and beyond. There is no quick solution for the suicide bombings in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere. Only a long, difficult effort to reshape US diplomacy and develop new policies for aid, nation-building, and the use of military force in concert with other nations could do that.

May 14, 2008

Letters

Corrections August 14, 2008

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