A respected think tank concluded Wednesday that the United States has lost influence as a result of failings over the Iraq war, encouraging its detractors — including Iran and Russia — and jeopardizing stability in Asia and the Middle East.
In its annual report on global security, the International Institute of Strategic Studies painted a bleak picture of conflict in the Middle East, an emboldened al-Qaida and growing Islamic radicalism across Europe. New European leaders offer hope of a fresh approach in the fight against terrorism, the report said, but success is unlikely with the White House struggling to command global respect.
With weak leadership from Washington, "the risk is that simmering international tensions will spill over and endanger global prosperity," the report said.
The institute warned that a string of thwarted terrorist plots in Europe highlights the increased radicalization of Islamic communities on the continent — and a wider failure to disable Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida network.
"The United States and its allies have failed to deal a deathblow to al-Qaida; the organization's ideology appears to have taken root to such a degree that it will require decades to eradicate," the report said.
In Iraq, U.S. troops need more support from Iraqi politicians to deliver improved security, the institute said. "There are grave doubts, about the ability, let alone the willingness, of the Iraqi government to do this," said the report.
If the additional 30,000 U.S. troops deployed this year does not bring "sustainable security and political compromise" by early next year, the surge will have failed, the think tank said.
Iraq damage to last for years
Authors of the study asserted that the damage to international security and American standing from the Iraq war will take years to repair.
An insurgency is also growing in Afghanistan, fueled by those whose livelihoods have been destroyed by conflict and disaffected young men displaced to Pakistan, the institute said. The report proposed that the international community encourage Afghanistan's government to draw moderate Taliban leaders into the political process.
Figures released in July showed Afghanistan's illicit heroin-producing poppy harvest set another record this season. There may have to be an acceptance that "poppy is too deeply woven into the national psyche and local economy to be eradicated wholesale," the report said.