On Sept. 11th, 2001, the U.S. was subject to the single largest terrorist attack ever committed on our soil. This atrocity was carried out by a militant Islamist group, al-Qaeda, who claimed the attack was in retaliation for continued U.S. military involvement in the Middle East and attacks against Islam as a whole. The response by the United States has shaped its foreign policy for the past decade and a half. Operation Enduring Freedom was launched on October 7 that same year and was marked by the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan alongside some of its closest allies. This combat mission ended last December, but the repercussions of the United States’ bloody and tumultuous presence in the Middle East have only begun to surface.
At present, the Islamic State has control over territory throughout Syria and Iraq inhabited by over 10 million people. The group is harshly fundamentalist, and subjects the people under its control to a multitude of atrocities. A New York Times article published in August recounted horrifying tales of ISIS fighters using the Quran to justify child rape and sexual slavery. The Islamic State poses a very real threat to the safety and rights of civilians within its borders.
Both the ISIS and al-Qaeda are the offspring of misguided and ineffective foreign policy of the U.S. in the Middle East. Al-Qaeda was founded by a radicalized core of Mujahideen fighters funded and trained by the U.S. military to resist the Soviet Union in Afghanistan in the early 1980s. When the jihad in Afghanistan ended with the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the trained and hardened mujahideen fighters turned on the West, enraged in part by perceived anti-Muslim actions carried out by the United States in Palestine, Kashmir, Somalia and Chechnya. Now, the U.S. is set to train Syrian rebels to fight against the Islamic State. While the Obama administration may be searching for moderate rebels to fight ISIS, it remains a dangerous game to be playing.
In the time that has elapsed since that tragic day 14 years ago, the U.S. continues to remain involved in a region that it has no right to be involved in. The continued interference abroad only leads to further distrust and hatred of the United States and the Western world at large. The U.S. needs to detach itself from the Middle East and strive to avoid entanglement in affairs it has no business being in. The U.S. should provide aid to refugees and give humanitarian relief to those stricken by the war. But we must not act alone, without the support of the international community, the support of those at home, and most of all the support of those whom our policies affect.
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Email Patrick Seaman at [email protected]