Originally Published 2005-07-27 13:03:27 Published on Jul 27, 2005
The world is back to 9/10. The jihadi training centres have started functioning full time once again in different parts of Pakistan. The jihadi terrorist training infrastructure in Afghanistan, which the US had destroyed through its air strikes during the course of its "Operation Enduring Freedom", has been fully restored ----this time in Pakistani territory.
International Terrorism: Back to 9"/"10
The world is back to 9/10. The jihadi training centres have started functioning full time once again in different parts of Pakistan. The jihadi terrorist training infrastructure in Afghanistan, which the US had destroyed through its air strikes during the course of its "Operation Enduring Freedom", has been fully restored ----this time in Pakistani territory. This has been stated not only by outside observers, but also by prestigious sections of the Pakistani media such as the "Herald", the monthly published from Karachi by the "Dawn" group of publications.

Afghanistan, which witnessed fairly peaceful Presidential elections last October, has started sliding slowly back into its traditional anarchy. The remnants of the Taliban and the Al Qaeda, which had been driven out of Afghanistan by the US-led coalition, are back in increasing force in the Pashtun majority areas of the country. Others have joined them such as Gulbuddin Heckmatyar#146;s Hizb-e-Islami (HEI), the Hizbut Tehrir (HT) and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU). And they have been getting the support of the fundamentalist political coalition of Pakistan called the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA), which is in power in the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) and is a member of the ruling coalition in Balochistan. The MMA#146;s support for the terrorist elements has been corroborated by none other than Lt.Gen Syed Safdar Hussain , the Pakistani Corps Commander at Peshawar.

Suicide terrorism, which had disappeared from the terrorist landscape of Afghanistan, has made its re-appearance after three years. Following allegations of the descecration of the Holy Koran by the Americans at the Guantanamo Bay detention centre in Cuba, the Islamic world witnessed widespread anti-US demonstrations, but these were peaceful except in Afghanistan, which saw serious incidents of anti-US violence. Not a day passes without clashes, raids, beheadings etc by the terrorist combine in Afghanistan. A US helicopter was shot down killing all its 17 occupants. Three members of a US Special Force unit were killed. Earlier this month, when the US troops chased a raiding party, it crossed over into the Waziristan area of Pakistan. For the first time since the beginning of "Operation Enduring Freedom", the US troops exercised the right of hot pursuit and killed all the members of the raiding party in Pakistani territory.

Pakistan continues to be the most important hub of jihadi terrorism in the world. It is a veritable warren of jihadi terrorists of various hues, generations, vintages and nationalities.There are 220 references to Pakistan in the report of the US National Commission on 9/11, which was released last year. Since the attempt to blow up the New York World Trade Centre in March,1993, there have been very few international terrorist strikes during the investigation of which Pakistan and Pakistanis had not figured in some connection or the other.

In violation of the promises repeatedly made by Gen.Pervez Musharraf to the US, he has not taken any action against the Pakistan-based jihadi terrorist training infrastructure directed against India. Nor has he acted against the Taliban leaders and cadres operating against Afghan and American troops in Afghanistan from Pakistani territory. The only limited action he has taken is against some operatives and cadres of the Al Qaeda, who pose a threat to US nationals and interests. Even that action has not led to the arrest or killing of Osama bin Laden and his No. 2, Ayman al-Zawahiri, who continue to operate from the tribal region straddling across the Pakistan-Afghan border and periodically disseminate video/audio recorded statements inciting their followers in different countries to step up their jihad.

Musharraf#146;s televised address to his nation on July 21,2005, in the wake of the London explosions, calling upon his security forces to crack down on the extremists and terrorists operating from Pakistani territory, has not been taken seriously by large sections of his own people, who look upon the present crack-down, which has reportedly led to hundreds of arrests, as another eye-wash and another instance of shadow-boxing.

This is the third crack-down ordered by Musharraf since 9/11. "How many crack-downs make a genuine crack-down," asks Capt. (retd) Ayaz Amir, the reputed Pakistani columnist of the "Dawn". When his own people don#146;t believe him, it is surprising how the Americans believe him.

Bangladesh has become the second major hub of jihadi terrorism in the Asian region. The terrorist training camps of the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HUJI), a member of bin Laden#146;s International Islamic Front (IIF), located in Bangladesh territory have been training jihadi terrorists from Southern Thailand. Bangladesh continues to provide safe sanctuaries, funds and arms, ammunition and explosives to various anti-Indian terrorist groups---jihadi as well as non-jihadi.

Southern Thailand has joined southern Philippines and Indonesia as another favourite ground for jihadi terrorists in South-East Asia. Since the beginning of 2004, about 800 persons have been killed there---suspected terrorists as well as innocent civilians. Explosions using mobile phones, assassinations of officials at point-blank range and beheadings of not only Buddhists, but also Muslims co-operating with the authorities----these are the terrorist repertoire taught at the training centres in Bangladesh. According to the " Daily Times", a prestigious daily of Lahore, (July 18,2005) jihadis from Southern Thailand continue to come to Pakistan for training and the plan for the jihad in Southern Thailand was finalised at a clandestine meeting oj the jihadi leaders in Lahore.

There have been more acts of suicide terrorism in Iraq during the last two years than during the previous two decades in the entire world. More innocent civilians and government workers have been killed in Iraq by terrorists during the last two years than in the entire world during the previous two decades. In July,2005, alone, there have been 55 attacks of suicide terrorism in Iraq#146;s Sunni Triangle . There has been an unending flow of volunteers for suicide terrorism in Iraq---about two-thirds of them from Saudi Arabia and the rest from Syria, Kuwait, Pakistan and other Muslim countries.

Saudi Arabia continues to bleed despite the ruthless measures taken by the security forces to eliminate the Al Qaeda from its territory. Suspected complicity of elements from the intelligence and
security agencies of the country with the terrorists have made the task more difficult. The energy security of many countries, including India, could be jeopardised, if the terrorists ultimately prevail in Saudi Arabia.

Jihadi terrorism has spread to Kenya, Morocco, Turkey, Spain and the UK and has re-appeared in Egypt from where it had disappeared since 1997. Suicide terrorism has claimed its first victims in the UK. The Muslim immigrant communities in the countries of the European Union (EU) have become the Western hub of international jihadi terrorism. The largest number of terrorist suspects detained for questioning in the EU countries after the Madrid blasts in March,2004, were Moroccans and Pakistanis or people of Moroccan and Pakistani origin. The Saudis, the Egyptians, the Moroccans and the Pakistanis constitute the driving force of jihadi terrorism today, whether in the East or the West.

One finds jihadi terrorists of three different vintages operating in different parts of the world. Those of the Afghan vintage, who are now in their late 30s or 40s; those of the Bosnian vintage, who are now in their late 20s or 30s; and those of the Iraqi vintage, who are in their 20s. They do not all belong to the Al Qaeda or to any other single organisation. They belong to different organisations, divided into a number of small cells, which have learnt to operate autonomously even in the absence of or without the need for a central command and control.

What unites them is not a single organisation or a single united front like the International Islamic Front (IIF) or a single leader, but a widely shared anger against the US and those perceived as co-operating with it. They also have a widely-shared objective, namely, the restoration of an Islamic Caliphate and the elimination of the US influence from the Islamic world. The US occupation of Iraq and the US counter-terrorist methods, with the emphasis on the use of the military approach, have considerably contributed to this anger, but it is not the only reason for the anger. Their perception that the US is the only power capable of standing in their way and frustrating their objective of achieving an Islamic Caliphate is another important factor.

They have proved wrong much of the conventional wisdom regarding terrorism. Poverty is not the cause of their anger. Many of these terrorists are the children of well-to-do, if not affluent, families. Lack of education and the consequent unemployment are not the cause of their anger either. Many of them are university graduates----having done their studies in science and technology. Not all of them are the products of the madrasas. Some of them are the products of reputed secular educational institutions. Not all of them are the products of jihadi terrorist training camps. Many are self-taught in the fabrication and use of explosives.

Many of them are graduates of the Internet, which is their alma mater. They have converted the Internet into a virtual global madrasa and a virtual global training centre. They have mastered the use of the innovations of science and technology better than the intelligence and security agencies. They are technology savvy, without being technology slavish.

As Dr.Marc Sageman, a former CIA operative, has remarked, the international network of jihadi terrorists has grown organically. It has grown like the Internet. It would be very difficult to trace the evolution of the Internet, the various stages in its growth. So too in the case of the international jihadi terrorist network.

This is the nature and magnitude of the threat which the international community faces today and is likely to face for another five to 10 years to come. How to face this threat? What are the post-9/11 lessons? What are the lessons of Ayodhya, London and Sharm-el-Sheikh? How to deal with these terrorist networks effectively and make them wither away?

Lucidity in analysis and assessment has to be the starting point of any effective counter-terrorist and counter-terrorism doctrines. The counter-terrorist doctrine focuses on the terrorist organisations and their networks. It treats terrorism as a modus operandi and as a crime, which has to be eradicated. The counter-terrorism doctrine treats terrorism as a phenomenon, which has non-security related aspects, requiring equal and simultaneous attention. The counter-terrorism doctrine seeks to provide a humane corrective to an exclusively security-driven approach to terrorism.

The first and the most important lesson of 9/11 is that terrorism is an absolute evil and cannot be justified by any cause. Even Musharraf had to admit this in his televised address to the Pakistani people on January 12,2002. No one has underlined this more eloquently than Mr.Kofi Annan, the UN Secretary-General.

In his address on March 10,2005, to the four-day international summit on "Democracy, Terrorism and Security," held at Madrid, to coincide with the first anniversary of the Madrid blasts, he said: " We cannot, and need not, redress all the grievances that terrorists claim to be advancing. But we must convince all those who may be tempted to support terrorism that it is neither an acceptable nor an effective way to advance their cause. It should be clearly stated, by all possible moral and political authorities, that terrorism is unacceptable under any circumstances, and in any culture."

This lesson regarding the unacceptability in a civilised and law-abiding world of the use of terrorism as a means of articulating grievances, even if they be legitimate, has been learnt by the international community after the deaths of thousands of innocent civilians at the hands of terrorists of different hues over the years. We cannot and should not forget this lesson. If we do so, it will be at our own peril.

The spread of terrorism is due to the fact that unity of action against the civilised world by the terrorists is not matched by equal, if not stronger, unity of action by the international community. This unity of action has been weakened, if not thwarted, by hair-splitting arguments over the definitions of terrorism and the root causes of terrorism.

Can we tell the relatives of the thousands of men, women and children killed in Asia, Europe, Africa and the USA that we could not protect them and save their lives just because we could not agree on the definitions of terrorism and what are the root causes of terrorism.

Everybody knows what is an act of terrorism. Hijacking an aircraft is terrorism, even if it be for a political objective. Planting explosives in the means of public transport is terrorism. Targeted assassination of individuals is terrorism. Planting explosives in public places is terrorism. Throwing hand-grenades at civilians is terrorism. Any organisation, which indulges in these acts, is a terrorist organisation and any State, which supports and assists such organisations, is a State-sponsor of terrorism.

The second lesson is that we have to make a clear distinction between the root causes of terrorism and the root causes of anger in an aggrieved community, which are exploited by terrorists. We have allowed terrorists and dubious human rights organisations to define what are the root causes of terrorism, thereby playing into the hands of terrorists.

A root cause of terrorism is what facilitates the murderous acts of the terrorists and helps them to go unpunished. We again owe it to Mr.Kofi Annan for introducing a healthy balance in this debate on the so-called root causes and removing any confusion. He told the Madrid summit on March 10: " Groups use terrorist tactics because they think those tactics are effective, and that people, or at least those in whose name they claim to act, will approve. Such beliefs are the true "root cause" of terrorism. Our job is to show unequivocally that they are wrong."

The conventional wisdom that lack of development is a root cause of terrorism has been proved wrong in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Spain and England. There has been an impressive growth in the Pakistani economy since 9/11. This has had no impact on the growth of terrorism from its territory.

There are five root causes of continuing and thriving terrorism. The first and the foremost root cause of thriving terrorism is the failure of the international community and the individual victim-States to make it clear to the terrorists that terrorism does not and will not pay. A soft State, which fails to deal with terrorism effectively and lets itself be intimidated by the terrorists, is the primary root cause. The action of the Indian Government in December,1999, in releasing some terrorists to meet the demands of some Pakistani jihadi hijackers paved the way for the attack on the Legislative Assembly of Jammu & Kashmir in October,2001, the attack on the Indian Parliament in December, 2001, and the kidnapping and murder of Daniel Pearl, the American journalist, in Karachi in January-February,2002. The withdrawal of the Spanish troops from Iraq soon after the Madrid blasts paved the way for the recent London explosions.

The second root cause of thriving terrorism is the failure of the international community to act firmly against the State-sponsors of international jihadi terrorism. The collapse of the USSR and other Communist States of East Europe brought about the collapse of the Red Army faction of Germany, the group led by Carlos and other ideological groups, which were dependent on the support of the Communist States for their existence. Terrorism bred by other States withers away when deprived of such support. The jihadi terrorists are able to survive because of the support and complicity of States such as Pakistan and Bangladesh. After 9/11, one hears less and less the argument of one nation#146;s terrorist being another nation#146;s freedom-fighter. But, one still finds that one nation#146;s State-sponsor of terrorism is another nation#146;s stalwart ally against terrorism

The third root cause is the double standards adopted by certain nations in their attitude to terrorism. For them, terrorism is what threatens the lives of their citizens and their national interests. What threatens the lives and interests of others is acceptable and understandable behaviour, even if perceived by the victims as terrorism. India has been a major victim of the double standards by the US and other Western countries. Hopes that after 9/11 the US would discard these double standards have been belied. Pakistan#146;s complicity with the anti-Indian terrorists is not viewed with the same glasses as its complicity with the anti-US terrorists. One finds these double standards not only in governmental, but also in non-governmental, including academic circles. It is such double standards which convey a wrong message to terrorists that terrorism pays in certain circumstances.

The fourth root cause of thriving terrorism is the unsatisfactory implementation of UN Security Council Resolution No.1373 by many States, particularly Pakistan, and the failure of the international community to act against them. Pakistan has repeatedly avoided extending mutual legal assistance to India in the investigation and prosecution of terrorism-related cases. It has avoided the arrest and deportation of 20 terrorists figuring in the INTERPOL#146;s Red Corner Notices, who are wanted in India for indulging in acts of terrorism. It has violated the Conventions of the International Civil Aviation Organisation by failing to arrest and deport hijackers. It has avoided freezing the bank accounts of many jihadi terrorist leaders and organisations and of Dawood Ibrahim, the notorious mafia leader, who was declared by the US Treasury Department as an international terrorist in October 2003. The US had requested the UNSC to move for the freezing of his bank accounts. Pakistan has chosen to ignore this.

The fifth and final root cause of thriving terrorism is found in our own civil society and not in those of others. That is the opposition of our liberal elite to the legal empowerment of our police and other security agencies to enable them to perform effectively their counter-terrorist responsibilities. Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi were in the forefront of the national and global battle against terrorism and sacrificed their lives in the cause of counter-terrorism. They never hesitated to give the police and other agencies the required capabilities. How unfortunate their own party should now refrain from emulating their example!.

A satisfactory counter-terrorist doctrine, which provides for effective action to remove the above-mentioned five root causes of terrorism, will help to bring terrorism under control, but it will not help to eradicate terrorism unless it is combined with an effective counter-terrorism doctrine. The counter-terrorist doctrine, which is meant to deal with terrorism as a crime, seeks to neutralise the existing terrorist leaders, their followers and their organisations. The counter-terrorism doctrine seeks to prevent the flow of new volunteers to the terrorist organisations. For this purpose, it pays attention to the grievances of the community from which the terrorist organisations draw their volunteers, in order to deny these organisations the opportunity to exploit those grievances for keeping terrorism alive.

While the counter-terrorist doctrine seeks to remove the root causes of terrorism, which act as its oxygen, the counter-terrorism doctrine seeks to address the root causes of the grievances or anger nursed by the community. Among such root causes of grievances or anger, one could mention perceptions of injustice to the community, perceived violations of its human rights, a perceived insensitivity to their problems and difficulties, over-reaction by the security forces in terrorism-related situations, disproportionate use of force while implementing the counter-terrorist methods, bad governance, poor political leadership, the absence of a grievances monitoring and redressal machinery, the political grievances relating to various issues etc.

Any State has to address legitimate root causes of grievances and anger if it has to stop the flow of new volunteers to the terrorist organisations. The success of counter-terrorist policies depends on the national will and international co-operation. The success of counter-terrorism policies depends purely on the national will.

India is an oasis in a world devastated by jihadi terrorism of the Al Qaeda variety. Our Muslims, whether in J&K or Gujarat or elsewhere in the country, have had reasons for anger. Some of them have even taken to terrorism to give vent to their anger as one had seen in J&K, Mumbai and Tamil Nadu. But their anger, however intense and however justified, has not diluted their patriotism and their sense of values. India#146;s Muslim community, the second largest in the world, has kept away from the Al Qaeda and the IIF. It does not support pan-Islamic ideas of an Islamic Caliphate. About a dozen Indian Muslims went to the Pakistan-Afghanistan border regions in the 1980s to be trained in the jihadi training camps, but they never joined the Muslims from other nations in their jihad against the Soviet troops.

The Americans did not capture a single Indian Muslim in Afghanistan. One Indian Muslim living in Saudi Arabia participated in the jihad against the Serbs in Bosnia. No Indian Muslim has gone to Iraq to join the jihad there.

The report of the US National Commission on 9/11 contains 220 references to Pakistan, but just one reference to India. The reference is about a visit to India by Khalid Sheikh Mohammad for unknown reasons. There is one confirmed instance of a Hindu convert to Islam from East Africa living in the UK helping the Al Qaeda. Another instance has come from Mumbai. There is an as yet unconfirmed instance of a Gujarati Muslim living in the UK being in touch with the Al Qaeda and having played a role in the recent London explosions.

These are exceptions, which prove the general rule that the Al Qaeda and the IIF have so far had no major base of support in India or amongst Muslims of Indian origin living abroad. This speaks highly of our Muslim community, our political leadership, our policy-makers and our security bureaucracy. The world has much to learn from India. How to continue to keep India such an oasis? That is one of the questions we have to address , while drawing lessons for the future. We cannot afford to be complacent that India does not provide a fertile soil for the Al Qaeda. The Al Qaeda may not be active in India, but many of the Pakistani members of the International Islamic Front are. They could turn out to be the Trojan Horse of the Al Qaeda. 

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].

Observations made by the author at the Round Table on "Ayodhya and London: Lessons for the Future", hosted by the International Terrorism Watch Project of Observer Research Foundation (ORF), New Delhi, July 29, 2005.

* Views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Observer Research Foundation.
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