One step forward, two steps back. This phrase sums up the international fight against terror. If Iraqi forces took back Fallujah from Islamic State (IS) on Sunday, IS killed at least 42 people in Yemen on Monday and 41 people (at time of going to press) in Istanbul on Wednesday. Turkish authorities have confirmed that there were three suicide bombers involved in the attack and “the evidence points to Daesh (IS)”. Some experts feel that the resumption of ties between Ankara and Moscow on Tuesday could have triggered the attack.
As IS is losing ground in Iraq and Syria, the group is focusing on Turkey, Yemen and Libya. Unless the terror group is attacked from all sides and stopped from evolving new tactics to unleash terror, gains, like in Fallujah, will be temporary.
After the 9/11 attacks in the United States, security at airports has made high-impact attacks in high-security zones within airports nearly impossible. In both Istanbul on Wednesday and Brussels on March 22, the outer security cordon was targeted.
The quick response of the Turkish security forces in checking the three terrorists is commendable and it saved many lives. Suggestions to prevent future attacks such as pushing the security ring further away from airports might not be useful because a similar attack would see heavy casualties there as well. To stop such attacks, governments need to constantly review security of high-value targets. .
Wednesday’s attack is the 14th in Turkey and the fourth in Istanbul this year — this raises serious questions about Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ability to counter terror groups. Though initially there was ambivalence about Ankara’s stand against IS, it is now a strong ally in Washington’s war on terror. While focusing on IS and castigating the Erdogan administration for not doing enough, we must not ignore the terror unleashed by Kurdish militants across the country.
Other than the war on terror, governments across the world must focus on another aspect for the political stability in the region: The shrinking space for democracy in Turkey. In the last few months, attacks on journalists have increased and there has been a steady Islamisation of public spaces. In late April, demonstrations broke out in Ankara after Turkey’s parliament Speaker Ismail Kahraman said Turkey, a predominantly Muslim country, need a “religious constitution”. A visible tilt towards the Right has politically benefited the ruling AKP but such achievements will have no long-term benefits. Any unrest in Turkey will also adversely affect efforts to bring peace in the region. The war on terror cannot be won in pieces; it can be won only if all governments work in tandem.