After 9/11, US still seeking ways to reduce terrorism

As we remember the terrorist attacks against the United States which occurred on Sept. 11, 2001, there is no letup in the effort to reduce wanton political violence against citizens. The next American president will have to enter office with a coordinated strategy in order to be effective.

There are several areas of concern to focus on in the fight against terrorism. First, the specter of “lone wolf” attacks within the U.S. has increased significantly in recent years. Whereas attacks in Orlando, Fla., (June 2016) and San Bernardino, Calif., (December 2015) may have garnered the most attention, many other attacks elsewhere in America have the same modus operandi.

To counter this phenomenon, we first have to trace the motivation for such radicalization. One likely source is the internet, where terrorist groups continue to find successful ways to recruit foot soldiers. A counter-cyber strategy should be implemented which builds on the current, albeit insufficient, American presence online.

A second worry for global policymakers and officials fighting terrorism is the splintering of terrorist factions from

Dr. Samuel B. Hoff

Dr. Samuel B. Hoff

larger groups, along with affiliations between terrorist groups. On example of the latter trend is the Nigerian-based terrorist organization Boko Haram’s friendship with ISIS since 2015. So far, the most-used American tactic to degrade these groups is to target leadership personnel with drone strikes. It may be necessary soon to employ search-and-destroy missions against entire cells and subsidiary groups in order to prevent them from growing. Without a commitment to send significant U.S. military forces to directly confront terrorism overseas, such missions will have to be conducted by Special Forces on the ground and wider bombing of targets from the air.

The tragic Syrian civil war is that much more devastating due to the presence of multiple terrorist groups fighting for both sides. But Syria is far from alone as an example of a broken nation-state which serves as a cauldron for chaos. Think Lebanon in the 1980s, Somalia in the 1990s, and Yemen in the current decade. There is an urgent need for international action to reduce violence and promote peace in those countries which have disintegrated BEFORE they become host to a plethora of bad guys.

Back in America, attention should be paid to fortifying stationary municipal facilities which serve the needs of large populations, such as power plants and reservoirs. Additionally, transportation services such as trains and cruise ships must improve security. This could be accomplished through a public-private partnership which would take advantage of the strengths of one another.

Improving law enforcement coordination at all levels of American government will help to prevent terrorist attacks and will speed up response if an attack occurs.

The United States has led the fight against terrorism over the last generation, sacrificing thousands of young lives and trillions of dollars spent in the process.

Going forward, America needs the attention and assistance of its allies in lessening the frequency of terrorist attacks. In this regard, certain sharing of intelligence and resources is imperative. The role of the United Nations in battling terrorism has already been enlarged with the pursuit of persons accused of crimes against humanity. When peacekeeping operations are not an option, the proposed UN rapid-ready force composed of volunteers from member-states could be a viable alternative to a large, sustained military presence.

The nearly 3,000 humans who perished in the 9/11 attacks included persons from over 90 countries. The September 11 attacks were the most deadly in world history. Accordingly, the response to the threat of terrorism – whether international or parochial – must be globally generated and sustained until this scourge of civilization is eliminated.

Dr. Samuel B. Hoff is George Washington Distinguished Professor of History and Political Science and Law Studies director at Delaware State University. He participated in a weeklong seminar, Medal of Honor: War on Terror, at Freedoms Foundation at Valley Forge (Pa.) in June 2016. Dr. Hoff has taught and published extensively on U.S. foreign, intelligence, and military issues.

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