There are no doubts about the danger that Al Qaeda poses and the necessity to confront it even on the level of national security. But the question is: who has the right to combat Al Qaeda? Does America have the right to enter any country to fight the organization or should the matter be left to the respective state?
This dilemma surfaced recently when America intervened in Pakistan in particular. Washington invaded Pakistani territory on the pretext of fighting terrorism without considering the ramifications, as the Americans did not hesitate to send their jets and launch their rockets in Pakistan and to target the Al Qaeda organization and its fighters.
We all saw how the downfall of [former Pakistani President] General Pervez Musharraf was another history lesson because of an uncalculated alliance with America. Musharraf was a powerful figure in the war against Al Qaeda but one of the chief reasons for his demise was the immeasurable alliance with Washington at the expense of what was happening in Pakistan itself, even if part of the alliance was a result of immense pressure from the US.
What America must realize is that the mission to fight “Al Qaeda” in Pakistan in particular must be left to the Pakistani forces. It is true that international cooperation against terrorism has taken on a universal dimension and now there is a network where information is exchanged in order to confront terrorism; however the fight must be left to the country in which Al Qaeda is present.
The problem that Washington does not seem to understand is that the worst thing is when a Pakistani member of the security forces is fighting Al Qaeda believing that he is doing so in defense of America. Pakistan is a tribal region and the last thing that a Pakistani wants to do is to fight one of his own people for Washington’s sake. When the fight against Al Qaeda is fought by security forces that believe that Al Qaeda is an evil to their religion and country then the fight will be a ferocious one and the members of security forces will put their lives at risk for this cause.
A Saudi official related a story to me about a clash between a Saudi security unit and an Al Qaeda cell. The official said that before the unit was to carry out the raid, he knew that the individual leading the raid was related to one of the wanted members of the cell so he decided to replace the unit completely, taking the psychological element into account. The official added that a few moments later, the leader that he wanted to change said, “I will follow instructions but I will resign because I wasn’t given the chance to defend my religion, country and the reputation of my kin.”
The official stated that the leader’s reaction was highly appreciated and he decided immediately to entrust him with the raid. According to the Saudi official, the operation was one of the quickest and most violent of raids against the organization and it ended in absolute success.
I believe that this is the secret of success behind security operations in Saudi Arabia. The members of security forces believe in what they are doing for the sake of their religion and country. This is what Washington must realize in Pakistan. Are Pakistani members of the security forces fighting for Pakistan or America?
What America doesn’t realize is that as much as it believes that it is fighting Al Qaeda, it is helping the organization spread and is helping to mobilize fighters for it. The Americans should have learnt their lesson from Iraq where the Sahwa Councils took up arms against Al Qaeda and have been more successful in driving it out than the Americans.