The Legacy of the U.S. Intervention from 1919 to the Present

U.S. Activities in the Middle East

The U.S. has a record of involvement in the affairs of the Middle East. Many view the Middle East as a key to the U.S.’s continued existence as the world’s superpower. This fact probably explains why America has gone to great lengths to gain and sustain political supremacy over the region. During the 20th century until the present, it has executed several invasions, assassinations, bombings, and other forms of intervention in the Middle East, directly or indirectly through its allies or client states.

A notable involvement in the Middle East affairs was the Operation Cyclone. Between 1979 and 1984, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) financed and armed Jihadi warriors to thwart USSR military interventions in Afghanistan.  It also offered training to the Jihadists. CIA also gave direct cash payments to Jalaluddin Haqqani, the leader of the insurgent Haqqani network. The program became the longest and the most expensive CIA covert in history. Analysts also criticize the U.S. for permitting Pakistan to fund Gulbuddin Hekmatyar who has come under criticism for killing civilians (Makdisi 342). The persistent engagement of the U.S in the Middle East was also evident during the Gulf War. In August 1990, Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein began the invasion of Kuwait. Fellow Arab powers such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia called on the U.S. and other Western states to intervene. When Hussein defied the UN Security Council, American troops led an offensive strike (Operation Desert Storm) that lasted for 42 days.

From the 1900s to the present, the Middle East has witnessed an upsurge of extreme factions that have attracted the attention of the U.S. One such group is the Taliban. Taliban is a movement in Afghanistan that controlled most parts of the country between 1996 and 2001. Throughout its existence, the group has received international condemnation for strict interpretations of the Islamic Law and has been in endless conflict with the U.S. government in its role of facilitating terrorism. For example, in 1999, the U.S. influenced the international community to impose sanctions on Taliban over its involvement with Al Qaeda (Biden and Gelbmay.n.d).

Al-Qaeda is an extreme group that emerged in the late 1980s. Its mandate was to offer support for mujahideen in the war against the Soviets. The group received permission by the Taliban to use Afghanistan for training grounds, recruitments, importing weapons, and coordinating other jihadists. Like Taliban, the U.S. has led several attacks on Al-Qaeda, blaming it for terror attacks in America and its allies (Makdisi 363). For instance, intelligence linked the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in East Africa to the terror group. After the 1998 bombings, President Clinton issued an order for missile attacks on all Al Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan. The group received a global condemnation for the 9/11 assaults.  After the attacks, the U.S. deepened its involvement in the Middle East.

For instance, following the attack, President Bush declared the Global War on Terror. In an initial move, the U.S. presented a list of demands to Taliban that included handing over all Al Qaeda leaders, closing all its training camps, and handing over every terrorist and their supporters to relevant authorities. Taliban declined from meeting some of the conditions. In response, the U.S. petitioned the UN to offer support in overthrowing Taliban. Even though the UN Security Council called on all states to help minimize the effects of terrorism, it never approved any military engagement in Afghanistan (Biden and Gelbmay.n.d) . Still, in 2001, U.S. troops began bombing Afghanistan. The aim of this invasion was to dismantle Al Qaeda. By removing Taliban from power, the U.S. believed that it would minimize Al Qaeda’s access to a safe operation base. Even though NATO forces joined the fight in 2003, U.S. maintained command over a large portion of the forces.

The U.S. has continued to carry out several drone attacks in Al-Qaeda bases including Pakistan, Yemen, and Afghanistan. The strikes have resulted in deaths of militias and several civilians. Former President Barrack Obama was reluctant to employ large-scale military intervention for a secret drone warfare. During the Obama administration, the U.S. avoided engaging in direct ground combat in the Middle East. However, it sustained several aerial interventions across the region. For instance, in 2016, a U.S. drone hit Pakistan with a goal of killing the then Taliban leader Mullah Mansoor. The attack came despite efforts to draw the group into peaceful negotiations. Analysts feel that the attacks are likely to heighten tensions between U.S. and the Middle East (Pursley,n.d). According to some analysts, the U.S is likely to continue meddling in the affairs of the Middle East even with the present regime.

Consequences of the U.S. Involvement

The U.S. persistent participation in the Middle East has had serious consequences. Among them is the 9/11 attack. Abdullah Yusuf Azzam was one leader who played a crucial part in the bombings. He was a founding member of Al-Qaeda and encouraged Muslims to help mujahideen in Afghan in their fight against the Soviet invasion. During the 1980s, Azzam emphasized on the political aspects of the Islam faith. He also organized for funds and recruited all who would volunteer to fight for Afghanistan. He played a great role in mentoring of Bin Laden who would later mastermind the World Trade Center attacks.

Before and after the incidence, Al Qaeda revealed that a series of Western involvements in the Middle East prompted the attack. One of the primary issues was the presence of US troops in Saudi Arabia. After the Gulf War (1991), the U.S. maintained thousands of troops in the region. One of the mandates of the Army was to keep no-fly zones over Iraq’s southern parts. Saudi Arabia hosts Mecca and Medina, Islam’s holiest cities. Any military presence in the region would cause huge upsets within the Muslim community (Pursley,n.d). In 1996, Al Qaeda issued a war declaration to the United States for citing their presence in the two Holy Places. Another factor that motivated the 9/11 attack was the sanctions that the U.S. levied against Iraq. In 1990, following the Kuwait inversion, the United Nations (UN) Security Council slapped Iraq with a series of economic sanctions. The U.S. was a principal signatory to the resolution. In 1998, Al Qaeda identified the Iraq sanctions as justifiable reasons to kill Americans. The terrorist group viewed the sanctions as violations of human rights and limits to freedom. The other contentious issue was U.S.’s military support to Israel. Al Qaeda saw Israeli expansion as a crime and identified the United States as leading perpetrators of the offense. Any support that the U.S. would extend to Israel would merit the wrath of the terror group. Al Qaeda’s justification may not provide sufficient defense for the mass killing of innocent civilians. However, they offer insight into the magnitude of the grave consequences that the U.S continued involvement in the Middle East might have on its citizens and allies.

The Way Forward

It is evident that America’s persistent involvement in the Middle East is likely to continue. However, the U.S.’s actions in the region is a primary contributing factor to world terrorism. Critics point out that the U.S. involvement in Middle East affairs is on narrow grounds, to advance its interests. Such views are prevalent in the Middle East and form the basis for the extreme philosophies behind radicalization. Tension is likely to remain high in the region. The Middle East is the most volatile regions in the world and a fertile ground for terrorism (Shaneaug,n.d). It has some the most powerful terror groups in the world. Extreme groups such as the Islamic State (IS) and Al-Qaeda continue to commit atrocities that violate human rights. It is important that the U.S. and the international community act quickly to protect the rights of those in danger such as women and religious minorities (Biden and Gelbmay). However, such a course should take a diplomatic approach, not military threats.




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