A new war on terror or a new search for peace? Learning the lessons of Afghanistan, Somalia and Yemen

In 2016, in the wake of spectacular terror attacks, some Western nations have moved fast to commit to war against Islamic State (IS). Echoing the reaction to 9/11, Western countries are now doubling down on a mix of airstrikes, targeted killings and support to regional and local forces to eliminate IS in Iraq and Syria. Nonetheless, militancy continues to intensify and spread: armed groups have pledged support for IS in 19 countries, and the Taliban, al-Shabaab, and al-Qaeda all remain undefeated.

The West cannot afford to ignore the lessons of the past 15 years – and needs a strategy that leads to peace. This brief draws on new Saferworld reports analysing Western counter-terror, stabilisation and statebuilding efforts in Afghanistan, Somalia and Yemen since 2001. The track record of these efforts is poor, but lessons from them could be the basis for more effective and constructive strategies to achieve peace in the face of terror and instability.

Experience from these three countries suggests a fresh response to terror threats is needed that is:

  • less reliant on military approaches - and more strategic about peace
  • tougher on abuse, corruption and bad governance
  • more discerning about partners and how to engage with them
  • more focused on working with societies to achieve just and lasting peace

This briefing introduces three in-depth reports on Afghanistan, Somalia and Yemen. Together, they explore the issues identified in the initial discussion paper through detailed examination of specific country contexts from a peacebuilding perspective - in order to stimulate further debate on the lessons learnt.

Download A new war on terror or a new search for peace?

Find out more about Saferworld's work on constructive alternatives to counter-terror and stabilisation

“Counter-terror, stabilisation and statebuilding efforts have had significant drawbacks in Afghanistan, Somalia and Yemen. However, the lessons from these contexts suggest a constructive way forward to sustainable peace and security.”