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Opinion: Collaboration is the key to counter-terrorism work in the Middle East

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U.S. President Donald Trump watches from the White House Situation Room as American forces close in on Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi at a compound in Syria on Saturday, October 26, 2019. /VCG Photo

Editor’s note: The following article is taken from the Chinese-language “Commentaries on International Affairs.” The article reflects the author’s opinions, and not necessarily the views of CGTN.

The White House has announced that the fugitive leader of the Islamic State group, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, committed suicide during a raid by the American military on Saturday. Russia later said it didn’t have any reliable information about the operation, casting doubt over the credibility of the White House’s claim. Meanwhile, state leaders and high-ranking officials in other countries have expressed cautious optimism over the news.

From 2014, the Islamic State occupied vast areas in northeast Syria and northern Iraq, becoming the deadliest terrorist organization after Al-Qaeda. But in March, it lost its last foothold as a result of years of joint suppression efforts by the international community, and the killing of al-Baghdadi was just a matter of time. If his death can be verified, it will undoubtedly be a heavy blow to the Islamic State group and will boost the confidence of the international community in its fight against terrorism.

That said, although Osama bin Laden, al-Baghdadi, and other senior terrorist leaders are now dead, their followers are still waiting for a chance to strike back. Given there were 639 terrorist attacks in 42 countries in the first half of last year, international counter-terrorism efforts still face arduous challenges.

One of the major challenges is overcoming the damage resulting from previous policy decisions of some western countries in the Middle East. Take Syria as an example: In order to overthrow the legitimate government of Syria, some western countries provided large sums of money and weapons to any opposition force willing to take up arms against the government. Some extremist organizations took advantage of the situation and rapidly expanded under the guise of opposition forces. It was not until 2015, when extremists launched a slew of terror attacks in major European cities such as Paris, that the United States became serious about supporting the Kurdish forces and joining hands with Russia, Iran, Iraq, and Syria to clamp down on the major radical organizations to prevent further attacks.

Terrorism is a common security challenge facing the international community that no country can wall itself off from. Coordinated multilateral effort needs to be maintained if the scope of terrorism is to be effectively and lastingly reduced. As Afghanistan’s first deputy for the Ministry of Defense, Zia Yasin, has pointed out, only when the world reaches an agreement on a common definition for and approach to addressing terrorism will it make sense to fight terrorism.

In the meantime, the international community’s years of experience in counter-terrorism has shown that relying on military means to eliminate terrorism is unsustainable, and it can worsen existing conflicts. It’s only by adopting economic and ideological measures and realizing social reconciliation and the improvement of people’s livelihoods that the root causes of terrorism can be eliminated and common security realized.


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