On September 11, 2001,
19 militants associated with the Islamic extremist group al-Qaeda hijacked four
aeroplanes and carried out suicide attacks. Two of the planes hit the twin
towers of the World Trade Center, a third plane hit the Pentagon just outside
Washington, D.C., and the fourth plane crashed in a field in Pennsylvania.
Almost 3,000 people were killed during these terrorist attacks, which triggered
major U.S. initiatives to combat terrorism and defined the presidency of George
It was these attacks
that ultimately took the U.S. into two of its longest and costliest
wars—first in Afghanistan and then in Iraq—as well as bringing the
phenomenon of radical Islamist terrorism to the forefront of the public conscience
in the West. Ultimately it was 9/11 that set Al-Qaeda and, a decade later,
the Islamic State militant group (ISIS), on their paths of
destruction and bloodshed. Since that September morning in 2001, more than
200,000 people have died in attacks on trains, markets, famous boulevards and
concert halls, military compounds, souks and mosques from Baghdad to Boston,
Paris to Kabul. Terrorist attacks may be on the decline, but the world
lives now in a new era of unpredictability and insecurity,
where danger feels omnipresent.
After the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the Bush
administration declared a worldwide “war on terror,” involving open
and covert military operations, efforts to block the financing of terrorism, new
security legislation and more. Bush called on other states to join in the fight
against terrorism asserting that “either you are with us, or you are with
the terrorists.” Many governments joined this campaign, often adopting
harsh new laws and stepping up domestic policing and intelligence work.
to the “War on Terror” has been highly uncertain. Pakistan played a key role in
facilitating the U.S.-led intervention in Afghanistan from shortly after 9/11
up to the present. It has permitted the transit of material across Pakistani
territory to U.S. forces in Afghanistan. Pakistan has also tolerated American
missile attacks launched from Afghanistan against Taliban and al-Qaeda targets
in Pakistan’s lawless border region with that country.
While the United States
and Pakistan have some common goals, their priorities differ markedly. The U.S.
was concerned primarily with the Soviet threat during the Cold War, and has
been focused on the threat from al-Qaeda and its Taliban allies since 9/11.
Pakistan, by contrast, has been primarily concerned with its struggle with
India ever since the two became independent from Britain in 1947. The fate of
Kashmir, the Muslim-majority region that was divided between India and Pakistan
during the first war between them, has been Pakistan’s principal concern. It
also has many others, including which of the two rivals will have predominant
influence in Afghanistan.
Terrorism in Pakistan
originated with supporting the Soviet war in Afghanistan, and the
subsequent civil war that continued for at least a decade. The conflict brought
numerous fighters from all over the world to South Asia in the name
of jihad. The “mujahedeen fighters” were trained by Pakistan’s
military, American CIA and other western intelligence agencies. The post 9/11 War
on Terrorism in Pakistan has had two principal elements: the
government’s battle with jihad groups banned after the attacks in New York, and
the U.S. pursuit of Al-Queda. Also, a major cause of terrorism is
religious extremism while so-called mullahs and movies inject in mind of
innocent people and also the policies of Gen. Musharaf i.e. Lal masjid, murder
of Akbar bughti are also some major causes of terrorism in Pakistan In 2004,
the Pakistani army launched a pursuit of Al-Qaeda members in the mountainous
area of Waziristan on the Afghan border, although skeptics
question the sincerity of this pursuit. Clashes erupted into a low-level
conflict with Islamic militants and local tribesmen, sparking
the Waziristan War. A short-lived truce known as the Waziristan
Accord was brokered in September 2006, This truce was broken by Taliban. They
misinterpreted the conditions of the truce that led to the annoyance of
Pakistani government and armed forces that launched a military operation known
as operation “Rah-e-Rast” against Taliban.
In 2012 Pakistani
leadership sat down to sought out solutions for dealing with the menace of
terrorism and political parties unanimously reached a resolution on Monday 9
September 2013 at the All Parties Conference (APC), stating that negotiation
with the militants should be pursued as their first option to
However, all attempts
of bringing the militants to table seemed to fail while terrorist attacks still
continued. In the end of 2013, therefore, the political leadership in Pakistan
gave a green signal to a military operation against terrorists which was
named Operation Zarb-e-Azb. Operation Zarb-e-Azb is a joint military
offensive being conducted by Pakistan Armed Forces against various militant
groups, including the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), Lashkar-e-Jhangvi,
Jundallah, al-Qaeda, the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), the Islamic
Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) and the Haqqani network. The operation was
launched by the Pakistan Armed Forces on 15 June 2014 in North Waziristan as a
renewed effort against militancy in the wake of the 8 June attack on Jinnah
International Airport in Karachi, for which the TTP and the IMU claimed
responsibility. Up to 30,000 Pakistani soldiers are involved in Zarb-e-Azb,
described as a “comprehensive operation” to flush out all foreign and
local militants hiding in North Waziristan. The operation has received
widespread support from the Pakistani political, defence and civilian sectors.
Despite Islamic teachings against suicide and killing innocent people in
battle, terrorist groups like Al Qaeda and “ISIS,” have used a political
form of Islam known as “Islamism” to justify an unholy war of
terrorism. In 1988, Osama bin Laden founded Al Qaeda. Even after his death
in 2011, Al Qaeda persists, and the more recently formed group ISIS has
attempted to provoke an apocalyptic war with the United States and the West.
Over many years, Al
Qaeda committed terrorist acts killing many innocent men, women, and children.
On August 7, 1998, Al Qaeda terrorists almost simultaneously set off bombs 150
miles apart at U.S. Embassies in the East African countries of Kenya and
Tanzania. The blasts killed 12 Americans and about 250 Africans, most of them
Muslims. The group was also responsible for the September 11, 2001, suicide
terrorist attacks on New York’s World Trade Center and the Pentagon, which
murdered close to 3,000 people. On May 12, 2003, Al Qaeda suicide terrorists
set off bombs in three housing compounds in the capital of Saudi Arabia. The
bombs killed 35 people, including 12 Americans.
Other terrorist groups,
often linked to Al Qaeda, have been responsible for attacks and killings around
the globe. London underground subway bombing in 2005 killed 56 people, and
shootings and bombings in the Indian city of Mumbai in 2008 resulted in over
160 deaths. A bomber attempted to set off a car bomb in New York City’s Times
Square in 2010.
In recent years, a
group calling itself the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (aka ISIS, ISIL, or
Daesh) has risen to power in the Middle East. ISIS is an Islamist organization
that initially formed in Iraq and seeks to bring about a war against the West
centered in Syria. Now a rival of its former allies in Al Qaeda, ISIS has
developed an ideology even more extreme and brutal than other terrorist groups.