Focus: Two years after the attacks, has the war on terror made the world a safer place?

President Bush says the war is being won, but does the picture outside America support his claim? Paul Rogers offers a global perspective
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Since the destruction of the World Trade Centre and the attack on the Pentagon two years ago, there have been no major terrorist incidents in the United States. There were the anthrax attacks and a brief scare about radiological weapons, but the US as a whole has escaped further atrocities. Some would argue that this means the "war on terror", proclaimed by President Bush, is being won, even though there are repeated warnings of attacks in the US and the UK as well as civil defence exercises such as today's on the London Underground

From a global perspective, however, the picture is very different. The recent increase in violence and insecurity in Iraq, continuing unrest and insurgency in Afghanistan and the global activities of al-Qa'ida and its associates all point to a "war on terror" that is hardly being won.

Since 9/11, some intended attacks on Western interests have been intercepted, but many successful attacks have been carried out across the world, including in Casablanca, Riyadh, Karachi, Islamabad, Mombasa, Yemen and Bali. These have killed or injured well over 1,000 people, and there have also been numerous bomb attacks in the Philippines, substantial paramilitary actions by Chechen rebels and continuing violence in Israel/Palestine including repeated Israeli assassination attacks and Palestinian suicide bombs.

Al-Qa'ida and its associates are heavily involved in most of the actions against Western interests and their level of activity since 9/11 has actually been higher than in the previous two years. More generally, there has developed a degree of anti-Americanism across much of the Arab world and beyond that greatly limits the support for Bush's counter-terror strategy.

That strategy has already included two costly wars. In Afghanistan, close to 3,000 civilians died, together with many thousands of military. In Iraq, both figures are much higher - up to 7,000 civilians killed in just three weeks of war and as many as twice that number of military. In both wars serious injuries are numbered in the tens of thousands.

Hamid Karzai's government in Kabul struggles on against considerable odds and the International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) has helped to produce a more stable environment in Kabul, but elsewhere in Afghanistan the warlords remain in control, opium production has increased and development projects are continually hindered. Nato may now be running Isaf, but the US repeatedly blocks any attempts to extend it beyond Kabul, while 10,000 of its own troops remain engaged in a guerrilla war with the Taliban.

The problem in Iraq is already far worse. US war deaths may be small, but serious injuries are very high with 1,425 casualties already evacuated back to the US, most of them injured since Bush's famous "end of war" declaration on 1 May. Even more remarkable is that 4,500 more troops have been sent home through physical or mental illness.

A bitter war is now developing, focused mainly on supporters of the old regime but likely to bring in militants from many other countries. President Bush claimed from the start that Iraq was a focus for terrorism - a claim for which there was little supporting evidence. But it is now turning out to be a self-fulfilling prophecy. No longer will militants have to attempt attacks in the US, the Americans have come to them, giving them 140,000 targets in the heart of the Arab world.

The Taliban may have been defeated in Afghanistan and Saddam has been ousted in Iraq, but both countries remain deeply unstable and the US and its partners have killed or injured tens of thousands of civilians in the process. Meanwhile, al-Qa'ida and its associates remain highly active and have little difficulty in renewing their leaderships and gaining new recruits.

There is also a deepening antipathy to the West stemming from widening socio-economic divisions and marginalisation that readily forms a basis for the development of radical movements, even leading to rebellions and insurgencies. Many see Bush's war on terror more as an instrument of control than anything else.

Healing such divisions and undercutting the support for paramilitary groups will need specific action such as greatly enhanced security and assistance for Afghanistan as well as the replacement of the current Iraq occupation with a UN-mediated move to internal democratic government. Even more important will be sustained action to transform prospects for sustainable development. Without such change, there is little prospect of winning any war on terror and a much greater prospect of losing it.

Paul Rogers is Professor of Peace Studies, Bradford University. His report 'The "War on Terror": two years on' is published by Oxford Research Group on Tuesday

Date: 22 September 2001

Place: American Airlines flight from Paris to Boston

What happened Briton Richard Reid prevented by passengers from igniting his shoe lined with explosives

Casualties 0

Who was responsible Reid, 29, has associated with British Muslim militants and was a former member of al-Qa'ida Later sentenced to life imprisonment by a Boston court

Date: 17 March 2002

Place: Islamabad, Pakistan

What happened Two attackers enter a Christian church in a heavily guarded diplomatic compound. The men throw grenades at the worshippers before escaping

Casualties Five die including the wife and daughter of a US diplomat, 46 are injured

Who was responsible Believed to be Islamic militants

Date: 11 April 2002

Place: Tunisia

What happened A truck packed with explosives is driven by a suicide bomber into a synagogue full of tourists

Casualties 21 die, most of them German

Who was responsible The bomber is named as Tunisian Nizar Nawar, 24. Tunisian authorities insist he acted alone, but al-Qa'ida claims responsibility

Date: 8 May 2002

Place: Karachi, Pakistan

What happened Suicide bomb explodes on a Pakistani navy bus outside the Sheraton, carrying French engineers

Casualties 14 killed, including 11 French defence engineers, and 34 injured

Who was responsible Pakistani militant group Jaish-I-Muhammad is blamed and suspected of links to al-Qa'ida

Date: 6 October 2002

Place: Yemen

What happened Suicide bomber attacks French oil tanker, the Limburg, spilling 90,000 barrels of oil

Casualties One crewman is killed

Who was responsible Al-Qa'ida claims responsibility and one of its operatives, Mohsen al-Fadhli, is arrested

Date: 12 October 2002

Place: Bali

What happened Explosions destroy Sari Club and Paddy's bar

Casualties 202 die, mainly Western tourists including many Australians and Americans and 33 Britons

Who was responsible Jemaah Islamiya blamed for the attack, and suspected of links to al-Qa'ida. 'Laughing bomber' Amrozi bin Nurhasyim sentenced to death

Date: 23 October 2002

Place: Moscow

What happened 50 Chechen rebels, including female suicide bombers, take 700 hostages at theatre. Siege ends when troops storm theatre after disarming rebels with gas

Casualties 129 die from effects of the gas, including all rebels

Who was responsible Group instructed by Movsar Barayev, leader of ruthless Islamic Regiment of Chechen Fighters

Date: 28 November 2002

Place: Mombasa, Kenya

What happened Suicide bombers drive into Israeli-owned hotel. Twin missiles launched at Israeli jet carrying 272 passengers shortly after take-off, but they explode in mid-air

Casualties 15 die of car bomb, 80 injured - mainly Kenyans

Who was responsible Beirut-based group Army of Palestine claims responsibility, suspected of links with al-Qa'ida

Date: 12 May 2003

Place: Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

What happened Four cars full of explosives are driven into expatriate housing compounds

Casualties 34 are killed including two Britons and seven Americans. More than 200 are wounded

Who was responsible Ali Abdul Rachman Gamdi and Abu Bakr al Azdi, a senior al-Qa'ida operative, are arrested

Date: 16 May 2003

Place: Casablanca, Morocco

What happened 14 suicide bombers set off explosions at Jewish centre, Spanish restaurant and Belgian consulate

Casualties 45 killed, over 100 injured. 12 bombers die in attack

Who was responsible Surviving bombers, Mohammed Omari and Rachid Jalil, sentenced to death with two other Salafist Jihad operatives; 83 members receive convictions

Date: 8 June 2003

Place: Kabul, Afghanistan

What happened Car bomb explodes in central Kabul.

Casualties Four German peacekeepers are killed, more than 30 wounded

Who was responsible Taliban guerrillas are blamed for the attack

Date: 6 July 2003

Place: Moscow

What happened Rock concert targeted by two female suicide bombers, stopped at entrance where bombs detonate.

Casualties 16 die and over 60 are injured

Who was responsible Chechen warlord Shamil Basayev, believed to have links with al-Qa'ida. His motive was to disrupt Kremlin-sponsored presidential elections in Chechnya

Date: 20 August 2003

Place: Baghdad

What happened A suicide bomber drives a truckload of explosives into the UN headquarters

Casualties 24 are killed including Sergio Vieira de Mello, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and Special Representative in Iraq, and a British woman

Who was responsible Saddam loyalists are suspected

Date: 25 August 2003

Place: Bombay

What happened Twin car bombs explode in the busy commercial district of Bombay, by the central market and Gateway of India monument

Casualties 52 are killed and more than 150 injured

Who was responsible The Student Islamic Movement of India and Lashkar-e-Taiba, a Pakistan-based insurgent group, are thought to have worked together on the attack

Date: 29 August 2003

Place: Najaf, Iraq

What happened A powerful car bomb explodes outside the entrance to the Imam Ali mosque during worship

Casualties 80 killed, including Shia cleric Ayatollah Baqr-al Hakim, who was collaborating with coalition forces

Who was responsible Supporters of Hakim accuse Saddam loyalists, though other groups also under suspicion

Research by Sophie Morris