Originally Published 2005-05-03 11:24:25 Published on May 03, 2005
India has been a major beneficiary of the decision of the Bush Administration to transfer the responsibility for the compilation and analysis of statistical data relating to significant international terrorist attacks from the Counter-Terrorism Division of the State Department to the newly-created National Counter-Terrorism Centre (NCTC) presently headed by John Brennan as the acting Director.
International Jihadi Terrorism: A US Perspective - Part III
India has been a major beneficiary of the decision of the Bush Administration to transfer the responsibility for the compilation and analysis of statistical data relating to significant international terrorist attacks from the Counter-Terrorism Division of the State Department to the newly-created National Counter-Terrorism Centre (NCTC) presently headed by John Brennan as the acting Director.

For nearly two decades, the annual analysis of the State Department's Counter-Terrorism Division was influenced more by political rather than by professional considerations. In their anxiety to play down the role of Pakistan's military-intelligence establishment in the sponsorship of terrorism, jihadi as well as non-jihadi, against India, the officials of the State Department were very selective in the compilation and analysis of data relating to Pakistan-sponsored terrorism in Indian territory. A large number of terrorist attacks carried out by Pakistani jihadi organisations from their sanctuaries in Pakistani territory were consciously excluded under some pretext or the other.

The professionals of the NCTC, who are apparently under no such political compulsion, have changed this practice and, for the first time in 20 years this year, they have taken into account many significant terrorist attacks in Indian territory carried out by Pakistani jihadi organisations, without worrying about its impact on the credibility of the State Department's projection of Pakistani President Gen.Pervez Musharraf as the US' stalwart ally in the so-called war on jihadi terrorism.

The result is there to see in the statistical analysis of the NCTC. The total number of significant international terrorist attacks in Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) increased from 52 as compiled by the State Department in 2003 to 284 as compiled by the NCTC in 2004. The number of fatalities increased from 111 to 434. These figures indicating a more than five-fold increase in the number of terrorist attacks and a four-fold increase in the number of fatalities do not mean there was a steep deterioration of the ground situation in J&K. They only mean that there is better compilation and analysis of the available data by the professional counter-terrorism analysts of the NCTC uninfluenced by political considerations than by the politicised diplomats of the State Department in the past.

The statistical analysis released on April 27,2005, has been described as an interim one, still with many inaccuracies and anamolies, and the Congress and the public opinion have been promised a more comprehensive and accurate analysis in June next. The present analysis was prepared by the NCTC under the supervision of Porter Goss, the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) since John Negroponte, the newly-appointed Director of National Intelligence, who would, inter alia, supervise the functioning of the NCTC, had not yet been confirmed by the Senate.

Negroponte has since been confirmed and sworn in on April 27 and would supervise the preparation of the more comprehensive analysis promised in June. He is from the Foreign Service and has no professional intelligence background. Would he encourage the NCTC to continue to do its job of analysis on professional lines as it has done till now, or would he subject it to the same political pressure as was seen in the State Department? India has to keep its fingers crossed.

What we had on April 27 were two versions of the state of global terrorism last year--- a statistical version as prepared by the professional experts of the NCTC and a somewhat political narrative of the way different countries dealt with the problem as prepared by the State Department. One would be struck by the difference in the approaches of the two. While the NCTC's statistical version did not hesitate to highlight the high level of significant terrorist attacks in J&K by Pakistani jihadi organisations, the State Department's narrative was effusive in its praise of the way the Pervez Musharraf regime dealt with the problem.

The State Department's version said: "Pakistan continues to be one of the United States' most important partners in the war on terrorism. Few countries suffered as much from terrorism in 2004 as Pakistan, and few did as much to combat it. After the two near-miss assassination attempts against President Musharraf in December 2003, groups linked to al-Qa'ida tried to assassinate a corps commander in Karachi in June, and the Finance Minister (now Prime Minister) in July. Nearly 200 people were killed in major Sunni-Shia sectarian attacks. Al-Qa'ida declared the Government of Pakistan to be one of its main enemies, and called for its overthrow. The Government of Pakistan continues to pursue al-Qa'ida and its allies aggressively through counterterrorist police measures throughout the country and large-scale military operations in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) along the rugged Afghanistan-Pakistan border. Pakistani Army and Frontier Corps units destroyed key al-Qa'ida safe havens in South Waziristan Agency (part of the FATA), killing over 100 foreign terrorists and dispersing several hundred more. These operations significantly degraded al-Qa'ida's command and control capabilities in the region, but at a cost of approximately 200 Pakistani servicemen killed in action. In addition to counterterrorism operations in the tribal areas, Pakistani security services are cooperating closely with the United States and other nations in a successful campaign to eliminate terrorism both within Pakistan and abroad. Over 600 suspected operatives of al-Qa'ida and other groups have been killed or captured by Pakistani authorities since September 2001. The Government also cracked down on several groups that had been active in the Kashmir insurgency."

Not a word about the continuing terrorist infrastructure in Pakistani territory and the sanctuaries which the remnants of Al Qaeda and the Taliban, particularly the latter, continue to enjoy in Pakistani territory. The report justly claims credit for the success of the US in destroying the international jihadist terrorist infrastructure in Afghan territory, but fails to draw attention to the continuing infrastructure in Pakistani territory.

The State Department says as follows on Bangladesh: "Bangladesh supports the global war on terror, but its ability to combat terrorism is undermined by weak institutions, porous borders, limited law enforcement capabilities, and debilitating in-fighting between the two major political parties. Bangladesh's long tradition of inclusive, moderate Islam is increasingly under threat from extremist alternatives, already offering an attractive breeding ground for political and sectarian violence. Endemic corruption, poverty, and a stalemated political process could further contribute to the type of instability and widespread frustration that has elsewhere provided recruits, support, and safe haven to international terrorist groups. The Government is committed to enforcing UN Security Council resolutions and actions related to terrorism, including the identification and freezing of assets of individuals and organizations designated as terrorists or terrorist supporters, such as the Saudi-based charity al-Haramain Foundation.

It also ordered the closure of the local Rabita Trust office and the departure from Bangladesh of its expatriate staff. The Bangladesh military maintains a large presence in the Chittagong Hill Tracts, and has been successful in locating hidden weapons. In April it seized a large cache of weapons in Chittagong harbor. Bangladesh is taking steps to improve its effectiveness in preventing maritime smuggling and its capabilities in terrorist interdiction operations."

However, it fails to take note of the sanctuaries enjoyed by the United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA) and other Indian terrorist organisations in Bangladesh territory and of the activities of the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HUJI), a member of bin Laden's International Islamic Front ( IIF), from Bangladesh territory. As in the case of Pakistan, in the case of Bangladesh too, one is struck by a marked reluctance in the State Department to openly articulate concerns over the emergence of the country as a new web of jihadi terrorism, with serious implications for South and South-East Asia. 

The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Distinguished Fellow and Convenor, Observer Research Foundation (ORF), Chennai Chapter. E-Mail: [email protected].

  International Jihadi Terrorism: A US Perspective - Part II
  International Jihadi Terrorism: A US Perspective - Part I

Courtesy : South Asia Analysis Group, New Delhi, Paper No. 1359, May 2, 2005.

* Views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Observer Research Foundation.
The views expressed above belong to the author(s). ORF research and analyses now available on Telegram! Click here to access our curated content — blogs, longforms and interviews.