By Drew Berquist
Fighting an ideology is no easy task and compounding matters is the fact that we continue to allow several “allies” to run amuck in the region and threaten our way of life.
Since the tragic events of September 11th, the United States and her international partners have witnessed an ever changing and dangerous way of life as terror has spread at a catastrophic rate. Sadly, there does not appear to be an end in sight. As a result of this shift, soldiers, intelligence officers, law enforcement figures and all those who support them, have spent nearly fifteen years combatting terrorism in both Afghanistan and Iraq, not to mention a handful of other conflict areas throughout Africa and the Middle East. While great successes have occurred with respects to eliminating key terrorist figures and strongholds throughout the Middle East, South Asia and Africa, we continue to fight an uphill battle. Fighting an ideology is no easy task and compounding matters is the fact that we continue to allow several “allies” to run amuck in the region and threaten our way of life.
As an example, efforts in Afghanistan surged and proved to be highly successful in the early and mid-term points of the campaign. This was largely due to the consistently heroic efforts of our men and women on the ground and willingness of our country to combat terror abroad so we would not have to at home. Unfortunately, political pressure prior to even taking office swayed our current administration to abandon the effort, wasting the lives of so many patriots that were lost in the war torn country. Still, perhaps the more detrimental issue in Afghanistan has existed across the border and no U.S. administration has ever adequately tackled the issue. Pakistan, a nuclear capable country, has long been considered one of our strongest allies in the volatile region and subsequently we provide them more than a billion dollars in aid to keep the relationship in check, and ideally benefit from the assistance of their government. However, they are among the most deceitful countries that myself and my colleagues have encountered. The government frequently interferes with U.S operations in the region and more specifically meddles with Afghanistan in the most violent of ways in order to keep their lowly neighbor down. U.S policy makers are well aware from their internal briefings that the Pakistani government provides protection for the Pakistan-based Taliban, and several splinter groups, who plan and execute frequent attacks within Afghanistan to destabilize the region. These attacks very frequently target U.S. officials and installations and have far too often been successful. Still, despite their aggressive intelligence posture toward our diplomats within Pakistan and their well-documented support of extremists, we continue to pour aid into the country thus becoming our own worst enemy.
Separately, with the emergence of ISIS in the past two years, the focus for many in the international community has shifted toward Iraq and Syria. While, Pakistan continues to be up to no good and should be cut off from U.S. support, perhaps a more appalling partner has had the spotlight shined upon them – again with no repercussions. Turkey, a nation led by authoritarian President Tayyip Erdogan, has become a massive issue, in this case on a global scale. While publicly decrying the acts of ISIS in general terms, Turkey’s government has quietly purchased oil from the self-declared state, thus aiding their ability to fund operations both in and out of the region. It does not stop with oil though. Turkey has turned a blind eye to countless extremists along the border, allowing them entry and exit, and released far too many terrorists within their country after initial capture – claiming they lacked sufficient evidence. While I cannot comment on specific operations, I can tell you the U.S. has provided information on a great number of occasions that have either been used by the Turks to give a warning to the targeted individual, or the individual has been arrested showing passive support by the Turks before releasing the detainee just days later. As a result of the migration issues that have occurred due to ISIS’ land grab, Turkey’s willingness to accept these individuals and the strategic location of Turkey on the Mediterranean Sea, this problem has not only become terrifying, but may be impossible to reverse. ISIS has utilized Turkey as a staging area for individuals going in and out of Iraq and Syria and deploys fighters from Turkish seaports into Europe to carry out operations. Given the limited cooperation by the Turkish government and quiet support to the Sunni extremists, individuals are able to disappear once in Turkey and either perform their role within the fractured state, or worse utilize one of dozens of ISIS’ smuggling routes into Europe where we lose even further fidelity. Shockingly, Erdogan allows all this despite the fact that ISIS has on several occasions attacked Ankara and Istanbul, and more recently a wedding in Gaziantep killing 50 people. While a statement was made condemning the Gaziantep attack and blaming ISIS, the country continues to allow the dramatically rising level of nefarious activity to occur.
If we continue to reward poor behavior, not only will Pakistan and Turkey continue to take advantage of our weak policies, but several other will follow suit.
Still, despite all of this, and the recent coup effort, which temporarily grounded U.S. air operations combatting ISIS from Incirlik airbase in Turkey, the United States continues to rely upon Turkey as a partner in the region and has done little in the way of reducing aid to the Middle East’s new terror hub. As a result of our inaction, we put ourselves and our European partners in grave danger. The recent uptick in attacks throughout Europe all stem in one fashion or another from the growing ISIS problem in Turkey. If Turkey is unwilling to clamp down on extremists in the region, it falls upon us to make bold decisions and punish our once allies by cutting aid and moving our military installations to other, more permissible environments. If we continue to reward poor behavior, not only will Pakistan and Turkey continue to take advantage of our weak policies, but several other will follow suit.
Drew Berquist is the founder and a Senior Contributor for OpsLens. Drew served as a counterterrorism officer for the United States Intelligence Community, where he performed more than thirty deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan to conduct intelligence operations. Drew has commented on national security matters on Lou Dobbs, Dennis Miller and a number of other shows throughout the country. Follow Drew and his staff of contributors on Twitter at @OpsLens
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