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JURIST - Feature: The War on Terror
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The War on Terror

In the wake of 9/11, Bush declared a "War on Terror," sparking US anti-terrorism efforts in the Philippines, Djibouti, Kenya, Ethiopia, Somalia, Lebanon, Yemen, Pakistan, and wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. On October 7, 2001, the first military action in the War on Terror was launched against the Taliban government of Afghanistan, which was believed to be harboring and supporting al Qaeda. This, according to Khan, could provide a justification for "India ... to wage war against Pakistan: Israel against Syria, Lebanon and Iran; the United Kingdom against the supporters of the Irish Republican Army; Spain against the backers of the Basque independence; Russia against the patrons of Chechnya." He also warned that the War on Terror would be "long and bloody," as US military efforts impacting civilian populations radicalize a new generation of extremists.

Shortly following the launch of military operations, several al Qaeda cells were captured in Afghanistan and the Taliban government was removed. Despite these initial gains, regional instability persisted. Free elections were held in 2004, electing then-interim president Hamid Karzai to a full term in office. Since this time, the Karzai government has attempted to deal with problems including corruption, discrimination against women, electoral malfeasance and other human rights abuses. In an analysis of the Afghan criminal justice system, JURIST contributor Sahr MuhammedAlly found that it contains "a lack of professional capacity and resources for judges, lawyers, police and prison officers; physical infrastructure devastated by years of war; and institutionalized corruption." Combat operations were still ongoing in Afghanistan on the tenth anniversary of September 11, 2001, although Bush's successor, President Barack Obama, marked 2014 as the date of withdrawal of combat troops.

The US has frequently been criticized for its actions in Afghanistan and elsewhere during the War on Terror, including various allegations of torture, mistreatment of prisoners, and other human rights abuses stemming from the Afghanistan War. Several American soldiers have been charged with unlawful killing of Afghani civilians. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) sued former US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on behalf of eight former detainees who claimed they were tortured and abused by US personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan. However, the suit was ultimately dismissed.

The War on Terror, though a 13-nation coalition, did not enjoy universal international support. The ICC began investigating NATO troops due to allegations of war crimes in Afghanistan in 2009. Spain has consistently been critical of the War on Terror, arguing in 2005 that the US should be prosecuting suspected terrorists through civilian courts rather than military action.

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