Originally Published 2005-09-11 05:12:29 Published on Sep 11, 2005
What are the imperatives if the international community has to ultimately prevail over international jihadi terrorism of the Al Qaeda brand?
State of Global Terrorism
What are the imperatives if the international community has to ultimately prevail over international jihadi terrorism of the Al Qaeda brand?

First, it has to neutralise the three icons of the movement---Osama bin Laden, his no.2 Ayman al-Zawahiri and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who co-ordinates the activities of the Al Qaeda and pro-Al Qaeda foreign terrorists in Iraq. Their capture or death would not mean the end of international jihadi terrorism, but it would convey a strong message to their terrorist hordes, supporters and admirers that the international community means business and that its will would ultimately prevail. 

The neutralisation of bin Laden and al-Zawahiri would not be possible so long as they enjoy the complicity and covert support of Pakistan's military and intelligence communities. By communities, I mean serving and retired intelligence officers. They do not want the Al Qaeda and other jihadi terrorist organisations supporting it to ultimately prevail over the US. At the same time, they do not want the US to prevail over them either. The present no-win-for-either-side situation suits them. 

President Pervez Musharraf and his advisers in the Pakistan Army and the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) look upon bin Laden and al-Zawahiri as the most important strategic assets Pakistan has after its military nuclear capability. In their perception, the newly-acquired importance of Pakistan in the eyes of the international communityy---particularly in the eyes of the US---is due to their perceived need for Pakistani co-operation in the hunt for them. If the hunt ends successfully for the US with their death or capture, that could mark the beginning of the end of Pakistan's newly-acquired importance. So, they fear.That is the way the Pakistani military mind always works.

How then to neutralise bin Laden and al-Zawahiri despite the lack of genuine co-operation from Musharraf? Offers of huge sums of money as rewards for their betrayal will not work. It worked in the case of Mir Aimal Kansi, Ramzi Yousef and possibly Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM), but it may not work in the case of Osama and al-Zawahiri.The US has to look for other objective allies in Pakistan, who are opposed to the army and the ISI. It has to work for the quick exit of the Army and Musharraf from power. Democratic political leadership represented by non-fundamentalist political leaders would have no vested interest in keeping bin Laden and al-Zawahiri alive and active. Would the Army and the ISI carry out the orders of a genuinely elected political leadership and deliver bin Laden and al-Zawahiri to the US? Most probably, it won't. 

But the Pakistani Police most probably would. Musharraf has totally rendered the Police and the Special Branches of the provincial administrations impotent and kept them out of any important role in counter-terrorism operations.The Pakistani Police in the non-tribal areas would not have the same vested interest as the Army and the ISI in keeping bin Laden, al-Zawahiri and their supporters alive and active.Freeing them from the control of the army and the ISI and restoring over them the supervision of a genuinely-elected political leadership could provide a major break-through in the fight against international jihadi terrorism. 

The second imperative is to ensure that Musharraf really implements the crack-down against extremists and jihadi terrorists announced by him after the London explosions of July 7,2005. This is the third crack-down announced by him since 9/11.The first two crack-downs announced by him in 2002 were a sham.The terrorist organisations banned by him in 2002 continued to function under different names.Their leaders and activists, after being kept under detention for a few weeks, were released on the ground that there was no evidence of their involvement in terrorism in Pakistani territory.No action was taken against the terrorist infrastructure based in Pakistani territory---particularly those directed against India and that of the Taliban. The much-acclaimed madrasa reforms remained mere sound-bytes with no follow-up. 

If glib talk through televised addresses, interviews to foreign journalists,addresses to foreign think-tanks and low and high profile meetings with Israeli and other Jewish leaders could rid the world of the scourge of jihadi terrorism and usher in an era of the much promised modern and moderate Islam radiating its rays of sunshine from Pakistan to the four corners of the world, the international community should now be seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. But, it doesn' t.Glib talk without follow-up action would lead us nowhere.

Musharraf has fooled at least many people for some time. He thinks he can fool all people for all time. It has to be made clear to him that he can't. After the London explosions, he himself admitted to some foreign journalists that he did not effectively implement the first two crack-downs due to fear of a backlash from the jihadi terrorists and other extremist elements. He has promised that this time he means business and the world will see the results. The initial reports from Pakistan regarding the third crack-down are not very encouragimg. 

The third imperative is to ensure that in our preoccupation with dealing with terrorism of today, we do not let ourselves be taken by surprise by the terrorism of tomorrow. Weapons of mass destruction (WMD) terrorism, maritime terrorism and cyber terrorism could be the mutations of tomorrow. The laboratory of at least one of these mutations, namely WMD terrorism,is in Pakistan.The international community has paid little attention to reports of the penetration of the Pakistani nulcear scientists' community by jihadi terrorist organisations such as the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET). Sultan Bashiruddin Mohammad and Abdul Majid, both retired nuclear scientists, who were detained and questioned in the wake of 9/11 because of their suspected contacts with Al Qaeda, are only the tip of the jihadi iceberg in the Pakistani nuclear scientists' community. 

The international community has already seen the damage done by A. Q. Khan, the so-called father of Pakistan's atomic bomb, through his sale or transfer of much of Pakistan's capability to Libya, Iran and North Korea. Was his transfer or sale confined to State actors or were non-State actors such as the Al Queda too his beneficiaries? Only a thorough interrogation of A.Q.Khan by a team of foreign experts in foreign territory would bring to light his links with the non-State actors. By accepting Musharraf's refusal to let him be interrogated by foreign experts, the international community is undermining its own ability to prevent an act of WMD terrorism tomorrow. 

The fourth imperative is to direct the international spotlight on Bangladesh, which has emerged as a major facilitator of international jihadi terrorism.The recent explosions---450 of them--- on August 17,2005, right across Bangladesh proved, if further proof was needed, the extent of the penetration of pro-Al Qaeda and pro-Taliban terrorist elements not only into the local civil society, but also into the local security agencies and armed forces. The blasts were not meant to cause human casualties or material damage. They were meant to demonstrate the organising capability of the terrorist organisation or organisations involved. Many of the blasts were directed at hard, seemingly well-protected targets such as the Government Secretariat in Dhaka, other Government offices in the districts, the Dhaka international airport etc.

The ease with which the terrorists managed to penetrate well-protected targets at dozens, if not hundreds, of places without being foiled even once by the security guards, speaks disturbingly of the extent of the penetration of the jihadi elements into the Bangladesh security set-up. 

The international community--- and South-East Asia in particular--have reasons to be concerned over the spread of the prairie fire of jihadi terrorism into Southern Thailand. The embers, which started this fire, originated from Bangladesh and Pakistan and not from Indonesia or southern Philippines.One only has to read Pakistani newspapers such as the prestigious "Daily Times" of Lahore after the July 7 explosions in London to realise the role played by the madrasas of Pakistan in igniting the jihadi fire in Southern Thailand.Even we in India, who ought to have been better informed than the Thai authorities, were surprised by the presence of over 1,000 Muslims from Southern Thailand in the madrasas of Pakistan as reported by the "Daily Times". 

Any account of the state of global terrorism would be incomplete without a reference to the situation in Iraq , Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia. The US has committed many serious mistakes in Iraq.I have myself been a strong critic of US policies in Iraq since 2003.But all of our criticism should not blind us to the fact that the continuing bleeding of Iraq and its people is largely due to the activities of foreign terrorists from different countries, who have no business to be in Iraq. It is not in the interests of the international community and it is not in the interests of India---one of the worst victims of jihadi terrorism-- that the Al Qaeda and its associates in Iraq prevail. They have to be defeated and eradicated. 

Foreign--including American--analysts have been unwittingly contributing to the spread of a feeling of despondency and defeatism through their ill-informed and unprofessional analysis of the ground situation. Terrorism does not lend itself to a simplistic analysis after each major incident.One has to analyse over a wider spectrum of time and events.By indulging in such simplistic analysis, one might end up by playing into the hands of terrorists.

There are many bad omens in Iraq---such as the continuing high motivation and determination of the terrorists, the seemingly inexhaustible flow of volunteers for acts of suicide terrorism etc.There are at the same time positive signs such as the continuing flow of volunteers for joining the police and other security forces despite their being targeted by the terrorists, the courage and the readiness of political leaders belonging to the Shia and Kurdish communities, who constitute the majority of the population, to persist with the task of re-building the nation despite the threats from terrorists faced by them etc.When large sections of a civil society refuse to be intimidated by the terrorists, that is the beginning of the road to ultimate triumph by the law-abiding sections of the civil society and the State.The international community must persist in Iraq and should not allow the terrrorists to prevail. 

The situation in Iraq cannot improve unless and until the sanctuaries providing the terrorists and the roots of infiltration from the sanctuaries to Iraq are eliminated. The sanctuaries are located in Pakistan and the routes of infiltration pass through Iran and Syria. The fact that these sanctuaries and routes of infiltration continue to flourish speaks poorly of the state of implementation of the UN Security Council Resolution No.1373. The Resolution's focus is not only on the importance of stopping the flow of funds to the terrorists, but also on the importance of stopping the availability of sanctuaries, infiltration routes and other terrorist infrastructure. It is also on the importance of stopping State-sponsorship of terrorism---direct or indirect. 

The time has come for a review of the implementation of the various aspects of the Resolution---not merely its funding aspect--- and to hold States not complying with them accountable.

Since March,2005, Afghanistan has been slowly sliding back into a state of anarchy and lawlessness due to the re-infiltration of terrorists belonging to the Al Qaeda and the Taliban from sanctuaries in Pakistan.A reversal of the post-9/11 gains by the international community in Afghanistan would give added impetus to the activities of the Al Qaeda and its associates.

Warning signals continue to emanate from Saudi Arabia. Despite the claims of success against the Al Qaeda made by the local authorities, the ground situation seems to be as bad as ever. The stability of the regional and international economies depends on the ultimate outcome of the fight against the Al Qaeda in Saudi Arabia. The situation in Saudi Arabia also has an impact on that in Iraq since Saudi nationals constitute a preponderant number of the foreign terrorists operating under the leadership of al-Zarqawi. 

The Madrid explosions of March last year and the London blasts of July,2005, underline the spread of the jihadi virus to the Muslim diaspora in Europe. The fact that both the Spanish and the British authorities were taken by surprise show the continuing large gaps in intelligence coverage by their national intelligence agencies and possible inadequacies in the regional and international networking of the agencies of different countries. How to improve intelligence coverage against non-State actors? How to enlist the co-operation of aggrieved communities for the collection of human intelligence? These are questions to which an effective answer has not been found. 

Answers to such questions cannot be found in a large gathering such as this held under the open glare of publicity.Answers could be found only in restricted discussions of the practitioners of the art of intelligence collection---admitting to each other their inadequacies and picking each other's brains as to how to remove them. (11-9-05) 

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

Note: This article is based on a talk delivered by the author at the "Fifth International Conference on Global Terrorism", Herzeliiya, Israel, September 12, 2005.
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