“I am the soldier Ahmed Fathi Abu al-Fattouh,” a young Egyptian in army fatigues spoke to the camera held by a member of the Islamic State in the Sinai (ISS). In a multi-pronged attack on January 29 involving suicide bombers, car bombs, mortars, and gunfire, ISS attacked a military base, a hotel, a newspaper office, and security checkpoints throughout northern Sinai. ISS killed 30 people and took the young Egyptian hostage.
Ahmed Fathi Abu al-Fattouh continued – perhaps from a script, “I want to say to my mother that my brother Ibrahim should not enlist. So that the same thing won’t happen to him that has happened to me. I suggest that every mother not send her son to the army.” Then, referring to the terrorist group that had kidnapped him, he said, “They want to liberate Jerusalem, and soldiers like me are preventing them. I am a soldier that prevents them from liberating Jerusalem because we support Israel. And everything is the president of Egypt’s fault. Everything that happened to me is Al Asisi’s fault. Everything that happened to the soldiers is Al-Sisi’s fault.”
The young Egyptian was then shot to death in front of the camera.A bearded, older man appeared on camera, Kamal Allam, a senior member of the Islamic State in the Sinai whom the Egyptian government has claimed to have killed more than once. “We say to Al-Sisi: stop sending reinforcement to the Sinai. Send all your army to the Sinai so it will die here. We can defeat 10 armies like yours.”
This propaganda video was released on April 11. The timing was not coincidental: that same day, two more ISS attacks in northern Sinai claimed the lives of over a dozen Egyptian soldiers.
Then a few days later – at the end of last week – came a staggering report: the number of terror attacks in Egypt during the first three months of 2015 had climbed alarmingly. The Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy placed the number at 331 – while total terror attacks for 2014 numbered 353. In fact, 9 different terrorist groups operate within Egyptian borders and all but three of them emerged during or after 2011, the year that President Mubarak resigned.
To be clear: Six new terrorist organizations have emerged in Egypt since 2011. And Egypt is not alone – not by a long shot. Terrorist attacks across the globe have skyrocketed since 2010.
A search of the Global Terrorism Database, run by the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism, reveals that since 2011, the number of terrorist attacks worldwide has risen at an unprecedented rate: holding steady at about 5000 in 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011, then jumping to 8500 in 2012 and to 12,000 in 2013. The data for 2014 will come out this summer, but we already know – with the rise of the Islamic State – that statistic is going to be brutal.
In the case of Egypt, some look to President Al-Asisi and wonder what the powerful Egyptian army could be doing that it is not; others point the finger straight at President Obama and U.S. foreign policy during his administration.
Obama pressed Mubarak to resign and Egypt to hold the elections that brought Islamic fundamentalist parties to power. During the Muslim Brotherhood’s rule, arms flowed freely into the Sinai and from there into the Gaza Strip. All nine Egyptian terrorist groups embrace one form of Islamic extremism or another, as does Hamas.
Not all Democrats agreed with Obama’s policies. In her book, Hard Choices, presidential candidate Hillary Clinton reveals that she favored Mubarak transitioning power to a successor, but her suggestion was overruled by Obama.
Obama’s decision to lead the strike force in Libya that toppled Gaddafi and destabilized Libya laid the groundwork for the emergence of terrorist groups such as the Islamic State of Libya.Arms from Islamic militias in Libya cross into Egypt along several routes and are smuggled into the Sinai.
Meanwhile, Obama froze military aid to Egypt whose soldiers were fighting terrorists not only in Egypt, but in Yemen and Libya as well. In fact, Obama only lifted the ban on Egypt two weeks before the young Egyptian soldier Ahmed Fathi was shot to death.
At the global level, scholars will long debate just who and what policies are fueling the steeper-than-exponential rise of terrorist attacks. But one thing is clear: if President George W. Bush left his successor with a war-weary American public stuck in a stalemate, Obama’s legacy will likely be the rise of a global haven for terrorism.
Friedman is an American-Israeli writer and editor in the fields of political science, history, and information technology.