The U.S. is failing to rein in its primary target
in the "global war on terror" al-Qaeda according to
poll [.pdf] of 23 countries across the globe.
Conducted for the BBC World Service by the University of Maryland's Program
on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) and Globescan, the poll reveals that
in every country surveyed but one, respondents think that the U.S.' actions
have failed to weaken the international terror group.
It was al-Qaeda's attacks on New York and Washington on Sept. 11, 2001, that
sparked the U.S.' international war. Al-Qaeda's then-refuge, Afghanistan, has
been engulfed in a war of varying intensity since then. The U.S. opened a second
front in its war on terror in 2003 with the invasion of Iraq, which apparently
had no ties to the al-Qaeda terror network.
"Despite its overwhelming military power, America's war against al-Qaeda
is widely seen as having achieved nothing better than a stalemate, and many
believe that it has even strengthened al-Qaeda," PIPA director Steve Kull
said in a statement that accompanied the release of the report.
Averaged across all the nations surveyed, only one in five respondents think
that al-Qaeda has been weakened, 29 percent think the war on terror has had
no effect, and fully three in 10 think that the effort has made al-Qaeda stronger.
Nearly half of the respondents think that neither side is winning the war
Over the past year, top Pentagon brass and the U.S. intelligence community
have expressed concern that al-Qaeda, despite having been initially put on
the run by the U.S. offensive, is gaining strength and that the greatest terrorist
threat to U.S. soil will likely come from al-Qaeda strongholds in the border
regions between Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The Taliban, the al-Qaeda sympathizers who initially gave the terror organization
safe haven when they controlled Afghanistan ahead of the late 2001 U.S. invasion,
is blamed for increasing violence in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. Particularly
in Afghanistan, the Taliban has stepped up its anti-government and anti-U.S.
Even in the U.S., according to the BBC poll, only a third of those surveyed
think that al-Qaeda has been weakened, and a third said that the U.S. war on
terror has made al-Qaeda stronger. Slightly over a quarter of U.S. respondents
think that it has had no effect on al-Qaeda.
Notably, many U.S. allies think that the war on terror has been ineffectual
or actually strengthened al-Qaeda.
"Together with the French, Mexicans have the highest number (nearly half)
saying that the U.S.-led 'war on terror' has made al-Qaeda stronger, and the
largest number rejecting the idea that it has weakened al-Qaeda," said
the report announcing the poll results.
Other allies with the perception that the war on terror has strengthened al-Qaeda
include Italy, with 43 percent; Australia, with 41 percent; and Britain, with
Nearly three quarters of respondents in U.S.-allied Australia, Canada, Mexico,
Britain, Italy, and France think that "neither side is winning" in
the conflict between al-Qaeda and U.S.
While 15 countries said that the conflict is a stalemate, in only three countries
was the most widespread view that the U.S. is winning. Nearly half of Kenyan
respondents, a third of Nigerian respondents, and nearly four in 10 respondents
in Turkey held this view.
The poll also considered respondents' views of al-Qaeda.
"On average, 61 percent of those in countries surveyed say their feelings
about al-Qaeda are negative, 8 percent say they are positive, and 18 percent
say they are mixed," said the BBC report.
In 15 of the countries surveyed, a clear majority of respondents holds a negative
view of al-Qaeda. In five other countries, China, India, Indonesia, Nigeria,
and the Philippines, negative views of al-Qaeda were most common, but not held
Nigeria, despite having 42 percent of respondents with a negative view of
al-Qaeda, had the largest number saying that they hold a positive view toward
the group a quarter of respondents felt this way.
Egypt is the only country where a clear majority holds either positive or
mixed views about al-Qaeda.
Turkey was among the largest majorities with negative views of al-Qaeda, and
the largest of countries polled with "predominately Muslim publics."
In the U.S., an unsurprising 84 percent of respondents had negative views
of al-Qaeda, but 9 percent had mixed feelings, and 2 percent held positive
views of the group.
Broken down worldwide by this preference, just over half of those with a positive
view of al-Qaeda said that the war on terror has made the group stronger, whereas
a third of those with negative views on al-Qaeda felt the same way.
Of those who thought that the war on terror had made al-Qaeda weaker, the
spread between those with positive and negative views of the group was significantly
less (22 to 28 percent, respectively). There was also a smaller spread for
those who thought the war on terror has had no effect 21 percent of
positive views on al-Qaeda and 31 percent of negative ones.
The largest percentage of respondents who think al-Qaeda is winning its conflict
with the U.S. is in Pakistan, where the terror group likely including
its leader, Osama bin Laden is given safe haven by an increasingly assertive
Taliban. Pakistan and Egypt are the only publics where the most common response
to the preference question was not to admonish al-Qaeda with a negative view.
The BBC World Service poll used responses from 23,937 adults in 23 countries.
Globescan did the fieldwork between July 8 and Sept. 12.
(Inter Press Service)