Saturday, February 03, 2007

Public Perception of the War on Terror

The hunt for Al Qaeda to the general public has been focused mainly in Afghanistan and Iraq. However, it must be realized that this hunt does not solely reside in this region, but expands across all regions of the world. The reason for this lack of knowledge could be traced back to the operational tactics used by US and other ally forces. Additionally, this could also be a cause for the lowered support for the war on terror.

Under a White House directive, the Pentagon after September 11th was given the “authority to hunt and kill suspected terrorists around the globe”. [1] Though the hunt continues to this day yielding very few “high value targets”, these operations are conducted by highly trained special operations units, many of which have been redeployed from Iraq and Afghanistan. Aside from these units’ roles as forward military operators, they also conduct operations very similar to those of intelligence officers. This dual role has called into question their use as spies, rather than as a military fighting force.

These special operations units have come increasingly in the public eye since Islamic forces have fought against the Ethiopian military in Somalia. The United States has been giving the Ethiopian forces updated intelligence reports to almost assure the Ethiopians success in their operations. Recently, an American gunship was used to strike a position believed to be that of several senior level Al Qaeda members in Somalia. Later, American special operations units were used to secure the air strike sight and collect evidence.

The tactics used for fighting the various al qaeda groups vary greatly when comparing Iraq and Afghanistan to those in Somalia. The first two consist of a large military force, the troops are overt in military dress, gear, and they are transported in large convoys obvious to al qaeda fighters. In Somalia, the tactics are much more discreet. These unites are trained in covert counterterrorism forms of combat. They execute their duties covertly whether it is a military operation or an intelligence operation. The styles and tactics used is a major cause for the lack of information the general public has about counterterrorism operations in other parts of the world.

Support for the war on terror has been dwindling and in order to gain it back, the public must have a clear picture of what the tasks at hand are. There is much attention from the news and political leaders about what’s going on in Afghanistan and Iraq, that it is forgotten where else the fight is also taking place. Due to the nature of the warfare taking place in Africa and in order for the public to understand the magnitude of the fight against terror, there must be special attention made to inform the public about other areas of the world where the war on terror is also taking place. Perhaps with an increase in knowledge and understanding, public support may raise to levels seen in years past.

[1] Pentagon Sees Move in Somalia as Blueprint, MARK MAZZETTI, January 13, 2007

No comments: