Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Thursday, July 9th, 2020

Terror policies of Bush and Obama in Afghanistan


Terror policies of Bush and Obama in Afghanistan

Barack Obama succeeded George William Bush as the 44th President of the United States of America on 20 January 2009. It marked verily a revolution, a culmination of a long fight of the black (Afro-American) population for equality and human rights. Obama expressed his determination to bring about a qualitative change in internal and external policy which has created an atmosphere of hope and optimism all over the world. In his inaugural speech he has eloquently spoken of his ardent desire to unite US bridging different segments of US population and unite humanity transcending national barriers.  The US, he said, will be friend of every country in the world.  Generally political campaigns speeches are bound to conflict with the ground realities when one sits in position of power. As opposed to Bush Administration earlier Barack Obama has committed himself to base US conduct in global affairs on values which have been beacon light to be emulated by the world effectively demonstrated over the years and more recently by a change in Eastern Europe after the collapse of the Soviet Union. However, on assuming the office, Obama remained as steadfast as any other leader to relentlessly confront violent extremists who pose a grave threat to our security because we reject the same thing that people of all faiths reject the killing of innocent men, women and children.
Terror policy of George W. Bush
Earlier too during the Presidentship of George William Bush security of the country and its citizens remained on the top of Bush’s agenda. At the close of his regime much of the heat of the war on terrorism was turned on Pakistan after the US identified Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and North West Frontier Province (NWFP) as a safe heaven for Al-Qaeda and Taliban insurgent. According to the NewYork Times, President Bush was believed to have given confidential orders in July 2008 allowing US air strikes and ground operations to be carried out against militant sanctuaries within Pakistan without the prior knowledge or approval of Islamabad. The first of such attempts by US troops to launch a ground attack in September 2008 was met with stiff resistance and reportedly thwarted by Pakistan paramilitary soldiers.  These attacks not only caused massive civilian deaths, but were in flagrant violation of Pakistan’s territorial sovereignty. A news report in The News stated that of the nearly sixty cross-border American drone attacks between January 2006 and April 2009; only 10 managed to hit their actual targets, leading to the death of 14 Al-Qaeda leaders and perishing 687 innocent Pakistani civilians. Despite the visible opposition to their use, drone strikes seemed to be a favourite with the Americans as they claim that these attacks have delivered significant body blows to the Al-Qaeda leadership. Not only that, George William Bush, in his final farewell speech from the White House on 15 January 2009, defending his administration’s eight–year long period of war mongering, said that the war on terror, the ideological pivot of his administration, must carry on. The main thrust of his speech was to defend his tenure as president and exhort the new administration to carry forward the global war against terror that his government had launched in the aftermath of the World Trade Centre attacks in 2001.
Terror policy of Barack Obama
At the time Barack Obama took over as the president of USA the focus of the war on terror has come to rest firmly on Pakistan which is seen to have become a sanctuary for Al-Qaeda and Taliban terrorists. A major reason for the Taliban’s growing strength has been its ability to escape across the Afghanistan–Pakistan border into the safety of the latter’s tribal regions and target the US and NATO forces from these areas. In fact Pakistan continues to remain clearly both part of the problem and the solution to the threat of terrorism facing the United States. Indeed the 9/11 Commission had more or less highlighted Pakistan’s deep involvement with international terrorism and recommended a long–term US commitment to provide comprehensive support to Pakistan. A fractured Pakistan that is nuclear–armed is appropriately termed by Western scholars as the “most dangerous place in the world”. In the circumstances US officials have begun to acknowledge the importance of Pakistan pursuing more consistent counterterrorism policies, rather than relying on its past tactics of fighting some terrorists, while supporting others. 
On the other hand, the year 2009 also witnessed a surfacing of the debate within the US administration with measures adopted thereof, to undo the assault unleashed on the international human rights framework during George Bush’s presidency. As the war on terror entered its eight year, it is confronted with several challenges.  Robert Gates, Secretary of Defence, is reported to have told the Senate Armed Services Committee that civilian casualties caused by US air strikes were during the US enormous harm. ‘If Afghans come to see us as part of their problem, not as part of their solution, then we are lost. With anti–American sentiment already on the rise, civilian deaths will only deepen the antagonism. Thus the primary challenge for the US administration was to target Taliban, without causing concomitant civilian casualties. Perhaps it was in this background that president Obama candidly admitted in his Cairo speech that we meet at a time of great tension between the United States and the Muslims around the world but assured the Muslims that he sought a new beginning based on mutual interest and one based upon the truth that America and Islam are not exclusive and need not be in competition. In the situation we can easily expect a change in American behaviour/policy during the Barack Obama Administration.
Marked shift in terror policy
The new President of the United States of America made a significant policy shift in the war against terror. It was in respect of the overwhelming use of military power and war. This was exhibited in full measure in the shock and awe attacks on Afghanistan and Iraq. Perhaps Bush and his close allies in policy-making Vice President Dick Cheney and the former Defence Secretary Rummsfield intended to do the same in case of Iran and Syria.  But US was so embroiled in Iraq that they had no opportunity to actually implement the threats extended to both these countries. Therefore, Barack Obama distanced himself from using the term–global war on terror’ or ‘long war’ cutting these out from the country’s military lexicon, he chose instead to use the phrase “overseas contingency operation”. However, use of another term for global war on terrorism does not make Obama’s policy for a clean break from that of his predecessor’s. In fact America’s military engagement in the region only promises to become deeper and wider. Despite his orders to shut Guantanamo Bay and ban torture, Obama categorically denied any plans to close down the Bagram Theater Internment Facility in Afghanistan, seeking instead to invest $60 million to expand the detention facility to accommodate double its present capacity of about 600 inmates. This, skeptics point out is just one of the several similarities that the Obama Administration shares with its preceding Bush Administration, in that it endorses the continuation of the programme of extraordinary rendition, indefinite detention of terror suspects without trial, and an openness to military commission trials. 
In principle too, the view which extends the boundaries of the conflict to take in Al-Qaeda’s operations around the world, has essentially been maintained by the Obama Administration and is a source of tension between the United States and Europe.  According to current State Department Legal Advisor Harold, Koh, ‘whether a particular individual will be targeted in a particular local will depend upon considerations specific to each case, including those related to the imminence of the threat, the sovereignty of the other states involved, and the willingness and ability of those states to suppress the threat the target poses.  The United States believed that its right to use armed force in self-defence in response to 9/11 extends to strikes against Al-Qaeda operatives on Pakistani territory, when Pakistani forces were incapable of reaching terrorists, since it has been conducting predator drone strikes under those very conditions.
In March 2009 in federal court while filing in the detention context, the Obama Administration proposed a flexible standard for the substantive extent of its law of war authority in its armed conflict with Al-Qaeda and its allies.. Falling under the asserted detention authority were persons ‘who were part of’ or who ‘provided substantial support’ to ‘Al-Qaeda or Taliban forces and associated forces’ that are engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners a standard similar to that used by the Bush Administration.  In a further statement the State Department’s Legal Adviser Koh explained that the United States regards its legal authorities to include ‘lethal force, to defend itself, including by targeting persons such as high-level Al-Qaeda leaders who are planning attacks. Thus, the new administration made no compromise on country’s security.

Rajkumar Singh is Professor and the Head of P.G.Department of Political Science in BNMU, West, Bihar, India.

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