Five Years of Egypt’s War on Terror
On July 24, 2013, then-Defense Minister Abdel-Fattah El Sisi asked for a popular mandate to fight terrorism, marking the declaration of “war on terror” that has lasted five years. The war on terror has been used to justify a wide range of activity in the name of establishing security. As attacks and assassinations occurred with greater regularity after the summer of 2013, so too did counter-terror operations and arrests across the country. New or amended legislation broadened the scope of crimes and actors that could be prosecuted to establish “national security,” and, despite the increased evidence of rights abuse, torture, and other forms of repression over the past four years, most domestic and international actors have offered nearly unconditional support.
A year after the tafweed (mandate) speech, the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy established its Egypt Security Watch project to address questions that, despite the significance of the developments occurring around the war on terror, remained unanswered: How severe was the problem of terrorism in Egypt? Who were the actors carrying out these attacks? Were the state’s efforts adequate and appropriate to mitigate violence? What are the long-term prospects for establishing security in Egypt?
TIMEP’s first Egypt Security Watch report warned that the country’s “current strategy appears poised to achieve only a tenuous suspension of terror activities in Egypt at best and may simply drive violent actors to hone their recruitment strategies.” Our findings today indicate that, while the number of attacks reported each day have abated somewhat, Egypt is in a similar place as it was when the war on terror was declared. Those governing Egypt and its security bodies have failed to adapt tactics to evolving security threats, to develop a long-term strategic counter-terror policy, or to carry out a holistic program to prevent radicalization that opens channels to peacefully express grievances, rather relying on collective punishment and politicized tactics. This approach leaves Egypt no closer to eradicating extremism, preventing future radicalization, or achieving long-term stability than at the start of the war on terror.
This report outlines trends and developments that have taken place in the past five years of the war on terror and examines the legal and political context in which they have occurred. Finally, it offers summary findings with the aim of furthering efforts to establish peace and security that center rights and the rule of law as their foundation. After our four years of data collection and research, we have firmly concluded that only a rights-based framework can establish the long-term security and stability sought by the Egyptian government, its citizens, and its allies around the world.