|Excerpt from "Terrorism in Asia"|
ASIA: BLEEDING UNDER
Asia is the largest land mass on Earth, with 60% of the world's population living there. There are about 50 nations in Asia, and it is best to think in terms of regions. The dividing line between Asia and Europe is considered to be the Strait of Dardanelles that extends up from Turkey and connects the major lakes, and then the Ural Mountains above that. The dividing line between Asia and Africa is considered to be the Suez Canal.
Central Asia refers to the Stans (explained below), Afghanistan, Pakistan, parts of Iran, and most of China, Mongolia, and Russia.
East Asia consists of Japan, Korea, parts of China and Mongolia, and some islands in the Pacific.
Southeast Asia is Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Singapore, the Philippines, Myanmar (Burma), Malaysia, Indonesia, East Timor, and Brunei.
South Asia consists of India, parts of Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan, the Maldives, and sometimes, parts of Afghanistan is included.
West Asia (or the Near East) consists of parts of Turkey (Asia Minor), the Sinai Peninsula of Egypt, the Arab Peninsula, and all the Middle Eastern territories that were once part of Mesopotamia.
consists solely of Siberia, its related provinces and districts, and the Russian
Far East. In addition, there are numerous Volcano Islands in the region that
are considered part of Asia, as well as the Pacific Rim islands such as
Australia and New Zealand. The Pacific Ocean has an estimated 30,000 islands; no
one knows the exact number. The Indian Ocean has exactly 15 islands (most under
French control), and the Antarctic Ocean or Southern Oceans have 45 islands.
The South Asian region, or Indian subcontinent, is the most densely populated,
and following Africa, is the second poorest region of the world.
province in China to Mindanao in the Philippines and Kashmir in northern India,
a disparate array of Muslim extremist groups around the region have threatened
retaliation in response to Osama bin Laden's call for jihad against the US and
its allies. While some of these threats may amount to little more than bellicose
rhetoric, others deserve to be taken seriously.
Any resistance movement is generally only as good as the weapons it uses, and that is something that has bedeviled the poorly-equipped Taliban-led anti-US forces in Afghanistan for a long time.
The resistance has steadily taken
steps, though, to beef up its arsenal to include modern automatic weapons and
ground-to-air missiles. This it has done in part by forging closer links with
the resistance in Iraq, as well as with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil
Eelam (LTTE) in Sri Lanka.
Al Qaeda concluded that its attack on the USS Cole in Yemen in 2000 was a failure, even though 17 American sailors were killed. As a result, al-Qaeda sent a team to the LTTE to gain expertise in maritime combat operations. The LTTE, as part of its longstanding battle against the Sri Lankan government, has developed a relatively sophisticated maritime wing.
The interaction was brief and
inconclusive, and al-Qaeda subsequently rejected the idea of maritime combat,
deciding instead to fight the United States on land. Nevertheless, the links
established between the two groups were to prove useful in another way.
Al Qaeda now works with the LTTE to get weapons, including automatic arms and ground-to-air missiles. The weapons are paid for in cash, as well as in drugs originating from Afghanistan, according to the sources. The drugs primarily are sent to Scandinavian countries and Thailand, the latter being a traditional base from which the LTTE has smuggled weapons.
This is a perfect arrangement as resources are complemented - the Tigers get ideological support, while regular arms supplies on the other hand go to al-Qaeda, which ultimately feeds its fronts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"The smuggling channels are the same that the
Tamil Tigers have adopted for years [with international arms cartels]. The
latest weapons originate through arm dealers, as well as those stolen from arms
depots and shipped from South America and Lebanon. They are transferred from
ship to ship and sometimes offloaded at small ports, and from there, using
various channels, they reach the final destination," the source said.
In the firing line
In the mountains and on the plains
of Afghanistan, the resistance operates in several ways, ranging from suicide
bombings to attacking convoys and brief pitched battles.
The resistance movement in Afghanistan has now acquired that system in bulk. There are possibilities that some pieces will also have been supplied to Iraq.
After the Taliban retreated in the face of the US-led invasion of Afghanistan in late 2001, the Afghan resistance was largely scattered. The Taliban did preserve some heavy weapons, but these could not be easily accessed due to the strong US military presence, and many caches were seized.
Furthermore, some of the armory, especially missiles, required special storage facilities to prevent exposure to harsh climatic conditions, but this was not possible, and the weapons were damaged.
Slowly, as the resistance took firmer root and with the help of money from foreign Arab fighters who had fled to the tribal areas of South and North Waziristan in Pakistan, the resistance acquired missiles, guns and ammunition from the indigenous home-made arms industry at Dara Adam Khel near Peshawar.
However, these arms were of poor quality and
simply not good enough to take on the US-led forces in Afghanistan. For
instance, the home-made M16 rifles were only semi-automatic and the G-3 rifles
lacked the original specifications and accuracy which had made the original
version of the weapon popular. Locally-made rockets did not fly properly and
lacked sensors, which made them all but useless.
Authentic weapons are, of course, expensive. Now the Taliban has solved this problem by tapping into Afghanistan's - and the world's - richest cash crop, poppies. Using contacts among the warlords who control the drug trade, the Taliban are able to divert some of the money, which is then earmarked for weapons purchases.
With the drug money and the networks of the LTTE, the Afghan resistance is now well positioned to sufficiently arm itself to take its war with foreign forces in Afghanistan to a new level. Despite the deployment of an estimated 80,000 troops along the Afghan border in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), the situation is far from stable in the region that is crucial to Islamabad and Washington. This was confirmed in the preceding week, when at least 40 persons died in a welter of violence.
At least 14 people were killed and 50 others sustained injuries when a bomb exploded on December 8 ,2005 in a market in the Jandola town of South Waziristan. On the same day, beheaded bodies of two Frontier Corps personnel were discovered near Wana, headquarters of South Waziristan. The two were among four soldiers abducted on December 6.
In the adjacent North Waziristan, violence erupted on December 6 when local Taliban cadre clashed with a group of bandits and 21 persons were killed in the subsequent clashes. In macabre fashion, the Taliban also reportedly strung up the bodies of five dead bandits and displayed one head on a pole.
Notwithstanding several military operations in the area and Islamabad’s claim that the situation is under control, official statistics for the year 2005 (till September 1) indicated that 300 civilians had been killed and about 800 injured while the number of dead army personnel was more than 250 and more than 600 have been injured.
The sheer volume of incidents of violence in Waziristan during 2005 has been high, with the South Asia Terrorism Portal (based on a daily monitoring of Pakistan’s English media) recording 112, although, given the erratic reportage and Islamabad’s understated accounts, the actual numbers could be much higher.
Geographically, the violence that was earlier confined to South Waziristan has currently spread to North Waziristan and could extend to other areas, especially the North West Frontier Province. Much of the recent violence and subversion, it bears mention, has occurred in the background of a change of Corps Commanders in Peshawar, with Lt. Gen. Muhammad Hamid Khan replacing Lt. Gen. Safdar Hussain on September 23.
The death toll in FATA during 2005 is also, without doubt, linked to developments in Afghanistan. Fatalities across the border in the current year, according to open sources, have been the highest since the Global War on Terror (GWOT) began, with at least 1,500 persons, including 84 American troops, killed. Last year, the death toll was about 850. Clearly, American and Afghan forces have failed to control the violence on their side of the border, particularly in the Khost, Paktia, Zabul and Paktika provinces.
In FATA, terrorists, primarily foreign elements supported by local collaborators, have successfully targeted pro-government tribal leaders, journalists and other civilians, apart from the Pakistan Army. While initial estimates mentioned an estimated 600 Taliban/Al Qaeda operatives hiding in FATA, recent official statements claim that the figure has dropped to 100-150. If this were actually the case, there could be little justification for the presence of the at least 80,000 troops in the area, or explanation for the continuously rising trends in fatalities.
Recent operations demonstrate that the Taliban and Al Qaeda operatives remain in possession of, or have access to, sophisticated arms and ammunition. Thus, for instance, on September 13, 2005, troops seized a large cache of explosives and ammunition after raiding a madrassa near Miranshah in North Waziristan, which was being run by a relative of Taliban ‘commander’ Jalaluddin Haqqani. 21 people, including 11 foreigners, were arrested during the raid. "We have recovered 15 truckloads of ammunition and weapons from there," Lt. Gen. Safdar Hussain disclosed after the raid.
the internal security problems faced by South Asian states also have
cross-border dimensions. For instance, the Maoist insurgency in Nepal, the
ethnic problem in Sri Lanka, the increasing use of Bangladeshi territory by
Islamic extremists, the
menace of drug trafficking and narco-terrorism etc. have a spill-over effect in their neighbourhood. Nepal, and continue to engage terrorist and extremist organisations, as well as subversive elements, which are based on their soil and operate against India.
The South Asia Terrorism Portal has compiled the following comparative figures of fatalities due to terrorist acts in South Asia during 2000-2004.
One cannot help noting that, in Pakistan, total fatalities in terrorism-related violence rose from 154 in 2003 to 878 in 2004. Bangladesh also saw a rise from 88 to 249. It would seem that states that have sought strategic gains through terrorist enterprise are finding it increasingly unprofitable. It is doubtful if they have the intention or the capability to put the genie back in the bottle.
Pakistan has been using terrorism as an
instrument of state policy and a strategic weapon against India since 1956. It
has been sponsoring acts of terrorism against India in J&K and in other parts of
India. Pakistan emergence and recognition as a frontline state in the US-led
global war on terror has not stopped it, through its Inter Services Intelligence
(ISI), from continuing to aid terrorist organisations operating against India. The proportion of non-Kashmiris involved in the militancy in the State has been steadily rising from about 6% in 1992 to about 60% in 2002. Pakistani nationals belonging to
four Pakistani organisations, (which are all affiliated to bin Laden's IIF), operating under the guise of Kashmiris, are responsible for a majority of the terrorist acts in J&K. Their jihad is not just against the Govt. of India, but against Hindus in general. Their ultimate objective is the formation of an Islamic caliphate in South Asia.
There has been increase in communal tension and
Islamic extremism in Bangladesh since the return of the BNP to power in October
2001. Some international Islamic terrorist groups have established their
presence in Bangladesh, in alliance with various
indigenous fundamentalist organisations. Various terrorist groups operating in India’s Northeast region often find safe havens and operational bases on Bangladesh’s territory. There are reports that some BNP leaders have business linkages with leaders of terrorist organisations such as the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA).
Nepal has been in the throes of an insurgency being waged by the Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (CPN-M) since 1996, resulting in the loss of over 8,000 lives. It reached unprecedented levels in November 2001. With the Maoists and the security forces dramatically escalating violence after the breakdown of the
cease-fire and 'peace negotiations' in August 2003, the total fatalities in Nepal increased from 2,105 in 2003 to 2,451 in 2004. The linkages between the Maoists in Nepal and those in the bordering states in India would remain a major concern in 2005 also.
Though Bhutan is itself largely free from terrorist violence, the existence on Bhutanese soil of camps of terrorist organisations that operate in India Northeast continue to arouse serious apprehensions. The Royal Government of Bhutan has, however, been applying pressure on ULFA, National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) and the Kamtapur Liberation Organisation (KLO) to remove their camps from Bhutanese territory.
Authorities in India have been following the dual path of negotiation on grievances and firm handling of violence. The near and long term prospects of this approach would very much depend on the intentions and capabilities of the two primary state sponsors/supporters of terrorist groups in India - Pakistan and Bangladesh. Terrorism based on Islamic extremism would eventually fail in South Asia as Muslims as well as power structures within the sponsoring/supporting states are increasingly targeted. The immediate decisions on the extent of support by the current state sponsors would be
critical in determining how long it will take to reach this unavoidable termination. The concerned state sponsors seemingly support the ideological (or religious) presuppositions of the Islamic terrorist groups.
External factors have encouraged such ambivalence
and support. The ultimate outcome of US actions in Iraq will be important in
defining the future capabilities and activities of Islamic terrorism in India
and the rest of South Asia. The experience in
Iraq so far has been a severe disappointment for all those that have a stake in the success of the Global War on Terror. This has been compounded by the tolerance extended to Pakistan's two-faced approach to terrorism and Islamic extremist mobilisation. The
ideology of jihad continues to be taught in a majority of educational institutions in that country. Extremist forces in Bangladesh have also flourished under the benign neglect of the international community.
The Indian Scene
India remains one of the most terrorist affected countries. The greatest of non-military threats to her national security stem from terrorist enterprises that fall into the following four broad categories:
- State-sponsored and state-supported trans-border terrorist campaigns in J&K and the Northeast;
- Disruptive influence of pan-Islamic extremist and terrorist outfits;
- Activities of Maoist insurgent groups; and
- Ethno-centric militancy, including possible spill over from Sri Lanka.
According to figures available in the public domain, the total fatalities caused by insurgencies and terrorist violence in India showed a marked decline in 2004 - down to 2,897 from 4,171 in 2003. The most significant decline was in J&K, from 2,542 in 2003 to 1,810 in 2004. There has been a reduction (by about 60%, according to the Union Home Minister) in the scale of intrusions in recent months. The reduction may be due to various causes including US pressure on Pakistan, ongoing Indo-Pakistan dialogue, India's improved border security infrastructure, and the efforts to redress genuine grievances. One should, however, be aware of the danger of Iraqi terrorist alumni replacing the Afghan terrorist alumni of the 1990s vintage in the vanguard of jihadi terrorism.
Declines in total fatalities were witnessed in Assam (from 505 to 354); Tripura
(from 295 to 167); Meghalaya (from 58 to 35). As for left wing extremism, which
is now prevalent in as many as 13 States, the fatalities reduced from 539 in
2003 to 259 in 2004.
Marginal increases were, however, registered in Manipur (from 198 to 214) and in Nagaland (from 37 to 58). Ongoing efforts to address genuine grievances, more efficient counter-measures and a downscaling of cross-border camps and other support may be contributory causes for this welcome decline in fatalities. It remains to be seen whether this is a clear trend or only a temporary respite. There is, therefore, no cause for complacency or dilution of efforts on all relevant fronts.
The year 2004 saw the initiation and/or persistence of a number of processes of negotiation with terrorist and insurgent groups. The limited Indo-Pakistan detente has made the erection of an effective fence along the Line of Control and international border in J&K possible. The central government has continued the efforts to have a meaningful dialogue with separatist elements in J&K. The peace process in Nagaland has been going on for nearly seven years and the Govt of India is actively seeking the involvement of a number of other insurgent groups. Andhra Pradesh has for long been the heartland of Naxalite violence - particularly by the erstwhile People's War Group (PWG, or CPI-ML), known as People's War or Communist Party of India-Maoist after its merger with the Maoist Communist Centre (MCC) in September 2004. The most significant actors in the insurgency in that State have started negotiations with the State Government. The peace process initiated by the Congress Government after it assumed office in
May 2004 has resulted in a steep decline in Naxalite violence. The encounters came down from 57 upto 14 May to five in the remaining period of 2004. Fatalities declined from 45 extremists, seven police personnel and 59 others to four. The Naxalites, however, continue to exploit the opportunities offered by the peace process to consolidate and expand their activities; and have repeatedly reiterated their commitment to armed revolution. The Naxalite movements, which get little support from outside, accounted for less than ten per cent of total fatalities in 2004.
future of the various peace processes will largely depend on the relative
strengths (real and perceived) of the government and the militant groups. If the
latter are able to consolidate their positions and secure an advantage over the
state - as has been happening in Sri Lanka - they may be tempted to escalate
their demands to the point of a breakdown and reversion to violence. On the
other hand, if the state negotiates from a position of demonstrated strength,
these groups could weaken with the passage of time and may be inclined to accept
the maximum benefits offered and rejoin the mainstream.
One of the greatest risks in 2005 had been an increase in suicide terrorist missions. With the hardening of soft targets and the authorities adopting the dual path of negotiation and hard response to violence, suicide missions have become the preferred low-cost option. Special efforts are needed to reduce the casualties in such attacks, even while ensuring zero-escapes, so that the costs of such missions also become prohibitively and unacceptably high.
Terrorism can be contained and could even be defeated. India has to overcome the general inability of democracies to put together the political will, the resources and the strategies that are necessary to prevail over terrorism. Most of the indigenous terrorism can be handled through required reforms that would remove economic and caste-based inequalities, good and honest governance and effective policing. The Govt of India should be prepared to raise the threshold of tolerance in relation to cross-border terrorism and to serve credible notice that India is ready to exercise her right of hot pursuit. The determination should be made evident that, if left with no other viable alternative, India would not be averse to adopting the Bush doctrine of pre-emption and take suitable overt or covert action to neutralise the bases of terrorism outside of our national borders. Once India's capabilities and determination are made clear, the state sponsors of terrorist acts against Indian interests would realise the prohibitively high and unacceptable cost of such sponsorship.
Pre-emptive action in others’ territory is an illegal act according to International Law. It should be opted only if all the other options are exhausted. Though India knows that there are training camps for terrorist in the neighbouring states, it is yet to take any action because of political reasons.
The government of India has formulated its own Navy and Army doctrines, but in the case of terrorism, unless there is a counter terrorism doctrine it would be very hard to combat terrorism. US is the only country that has a counter terrorism doctrine which is made public. It has laid out a clear policy of how it would react in the case of terrorism. If the counter terrorism doctrine is not made public then they are the very reasons that public would stop having faith on the government in case of being any terrorist attack.
Without the cooperation of the current regime it is not possible for a country to take any action on the terrorist groups that is acting within the territory of the other. In almost all the cases the countries that harbour terrorist groups do not allow the other country to enter into its territory to combat terrorism. In these times, the states do not take pre-emptive measures but use right of activity either itself or with the help of surrogates.
The are two reasons for India not taking action
on Bangladesh, first, there is a fear that Hindu population living in Bangladesh
would be affected; second, its good relations with Bangladesh’s and certain
section of polity.
Southeast Asia is home to more than 300 million Muslims. Indonesia - a country with the largest concentration of Muslims - Malaysia, Brunei and the southern Philippines are all experiencing in varying degrees an upsurge of Muslim-inspired militancy.
In Indonesia, groups such as the Laskar Jihad, the Mujahedeen Council and the al-Islah an Jundallah have ties to al-Qaeda. Many of these groups, fighting what they considered to be a "holy war" against Christians in the Malukus, have members who have been trained in al-Qaeda-run camps in Afghanistan and in Basilan in the southern Philippines. Additionally, the Laskar Jihad group is reported to maintain recruitment fronts in Kedah in Malaysia.
Similar links to al-Qaeda have been forged by the Muslim extremist Abu Sayyaf Organisation based in the Philippines. The founding member of Abu Sayyaf, Abdurajak Janjalani, and senior commanders such as Abu Sabaya were recruited in 1988 by Osama bin Laden's brother-in- law, Mohammad Jamal Khalifa, in the Philippines to fight in the Afghan war against the Russian occupation forces.
Apparently, Janjalani and other recruits from around Asia joined volunteers from the Middle East in an International Islamic Brigade - the 055 Brigade - which was funded by Osama bin Laden. This brigade, which continues to recruit in the Middle East and Asia, forms the nucleus of al-Qaeda's terrorist network.
Reportedly, the majority of recruits who do not remain with al-Qaeda return to parent groups such as Laskar Jihad, Abu Sayyaf and more recently Kumpulan Mujahedeen Malaysia (KMM), which was responsible for recent bomb attacks in Jakarta.
The arrest and conviction of Ramzi Yousef, an al-Qaeda member, for his part in the 1993 World Trade Centre bombing in New York established that Yousef and Abdul Hakim Murad, another of the convicted bombers, had visited the Philippines in 1995 with bin Laden's brother-in-law Jamal Khalifa to set up safe-houses, funding ventures and training facilities for Abu Sayyaf members.
This was the prelude to a planned series of bombing operations in the region, which apparently would have included Yousef blowing up 12 commercial flights, including two departing from Hong Kong.
Khalifa resided in the region for a number of years in the mid-1990s and was reportedly instrumental in opening bank accounts in Hong Kong, Thailand, the Philippines and Singapore. Some of these accounts were allegedly related to so-called charitable trusts - such as the International Islamic Relief Organisation - which are believed to have financed groups such as Abu Sayyaf and Laskar Jihad as well as set up religious schools in the southern Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia, which were then used for recruitment purposes.
Problems also beset a number of states that border Afghanistan and are crucial to the US-led military campaign. An al-Qaeda affiliate, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), has links to opposition forces in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan and has also recruited Uygurs and Kazakhs from China's Xinjiang province and from Kazakhstan. The IMU and a Kyrgyzstan group, the Hizb-ut-Tahir, are believed to have operational and support infrastructures in a number of border areas including the Ili valley and Kashgar, which are both in the far west of Xinjiang province.
The porous borders between Xinjiang province and the various Central Asian republics make it difficult, despite the heightened security, to prevent a possible escalation of secessionist violence which might occur should the Taleban and its supporters find it expedient to attempt to widen the conflict.
Meanwhile, in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, the governments of India and Pakistan have been waging what amounts to a proxy war. Pakistan, a key component of the US-led coalition's "war against terrorism", has supported a number of Kashmiri extremist groups who have waged a 12-year terrorist campaign to end what they regard as India's illegal occupation of the predominantly Muslim southern part of Kashmir.
Kashmiri groups such as the Jaish-e-Mohammad, the Harkat-ul-Mujahedeen and the Lashkar-e-Taiba, originally enjoyed Pakistan's patronage but have now become increasingly reliant upon support from the Taleban regime and al-Qaeda.
While none of the terror groups in Southeast Asia, with perhaps the exception of the Abu Sayyaf, appear to have the capability of operating beyond their traditional borders, the emerging evidence of al-Qaeda involvement in the region since at least the mid-1990s suggests that bin Laden's group may already have established an operational infrastructure within Southeast Asia.
Unlike the US, Europe and even South America - notably Ecuador - where suspected members of al-Qaeda have been arrested in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, ominously there have so far been no such arrests in this region.
Failure to combat terrorism will have the greatest impact on the developing economies of Asean, East Asia and China - with ongoing terror threats lopping up to 6 per cent off their combined economic growth after 10 years, according to a new Australian study.
Aside from the short-term economic impact of terrorist attacks, a persistent threat of terrorism has significant medium to long-term impact on the world economy, according to the study by Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
The report, Combating Terrorism in the Transport Sector - Economic Costs and Benefits, suggests that terrorism causes economic 'shocks' resulting in lower output for periods of up to 10 years or more.
The shocks are a combination of permanent productivity decline as resources are diverted to security needs, along with a rise in perceived equity risk causing investors to shift to more secure investments, the study noted.
It concluded that developing nations would suffer more significant declines in economic growth than their developed counterparts because of their heavier dependence on exports and foreign direct investment.
For the combined China, Asean-4 (Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines and Thailand), and other East Asian economies (Hong Kong, South Korea, Taiwan and Singapore), economic activity would contract by around 3 per cent, or US$95 billion (in 2002 dollars) after five years, according to modelling simulation.
This compares with US economic activity which would be about 2 per cent, or US$220 billion, lower than what would otherwise be the case. For Japan, the drop is estimated at 2.75 per cent, or US$100 billion.
After 10 years, the impact will be more severe, with China's and the Asean-4's gross domestic product predicted to fall by close to 6 per cent. The other East Asian economies would see GDP declines of about 5 per cent.
The report also highlighted actual incidents including the Bali bombing which reduced Indonesia's GDP by up to 0.56 per cent and the Spanish Basque region which has seen a 10 per cent decline in the region's per capita GDP as a result of ongoing terrorism.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has estimated that the loss of US output from terrorism related costs could be as high as 0.75 per cent of GDP, or US$75 billion per year.
The Sept 11 terrorist attacks in the US are also estimated to have reduced stock market wealth by US$1.7 trillion while another study over the period 1975-1991 showed that heightened terrorism reduced average annual foreign direct investment flows to Spain by 13.5 per cent and to Greece by 11.9 per cent.
In the Australian study, investment in the Asean-4 falls after a five-year period by over 3 per cent of GDP, or US$25 billion. For China, it is 3 per cent or US$43 billion, and for the other East Asian economies, it is 2.75 per cent or US$34 billion.
The United States has assembled a superficially impressive international coalition against the threat of terrorism. Many countries in that coalition, however, contribute little of significance to the fight. Even worse, the willingness of some members of the coalition to actually combat terrorism is doubtful. Indeed, given their record, some of those countries appear to be part of the problem, not part of the solution. That concern is especially acute with respect to Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and China.
Saudi Arabia enlisted in the fight against terrorism only in response to intense pressure from the United States following the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Even then, its cooperation has been minimal and grudging. For example, Riyadh has resisted Washington's requests to use its bases in Saudi Arabia for military operations against Osama bin Laden's terrorist facilities in Afghanistan.
Even that belated, tepid participation is an improvement on Saudi Arabia's previous conduct. The U.S. government has warned that it will treat regimes that harbor or assist terrorist organizations the same way that it treats the organizations themselves. Yet if Washington is serious about that policy, it ought to regard Saudi Arabia as a prime sponsor of international terrorism. Indeed, that country should have been included for years on the U.S. State Department's annual list of governments guilty of sponsoring terrorism.
The Saudi government has been the principal financial backer of Afghanistan' s odious Taliban movement since at least 1996. It has also channeled funds to Hamas and other groups that have committed terrorist acts in Israel and other portions of the Middle East.
Worst of all, the Saudi monarchy has funded dubious schools and "charities" throughout the Islamic world. Those organizations have been hotbeds of anti-Western, and especially, anti-American, indoctrination. The schools, for example, not only indoctrinate students in a virulent and extreme form of Islam, but also teach them to hate secular Western values.
They are also taught that the United States is the center of infidel power in the world and is the enemy of Islam. Graduates of those schools are frequently recruits for Bin Laden's Al-Qaeda terror network as well as other extremist groups.
Pakistan's guilt is nearly as great as Saudi Arabia's. Without the active support of the government in Islamabad, it is doubtful whether the Taliban could ever have come to power in Afghanistan. Pakistani authorities helped fund the militia and equip it with military hardware during the mid-1990s when the Taliban was merely one of several competing factions in Afghanistan's civil war. Only when the United States exerted enormous diplomatic pressure after the Sept. 11 attacks did Islamabad begin to sever its political and financial ties with the Taliban. Even now it is not certain that key members of Pakistan's intelligence service have repudiated their Taliban clients.
Afghanistan is not the only place where Pakistani leaders have flirted with terrorist clients. Pakistan has also assisted rebel forces in Kashmir even though those groups have committed terrorist acts against civilians. And it should be noted that a disproportionate number of the extremist madrasas schools funded by the Saudis operate in Pakistan.
China's offenses have been milder and more indirect than those of Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. Nevertheless, Beijing's actions raise serious questions about whether its professed commitment to the campaign against international terrorism is genuine. For years, China has exported sensitive military technology to countries that have been sponsors of terrorism. Recipients of such sales include Iran, Iraq and Syria.
Even though Chinese leaders now say that they support the U.S.-led effort against terrorism, there is no evidence that Beijing is prepared to end its inappropriate exports. At the recent APEC summit, China's President Jiang Zemin was notably noncommittal when President Bush sought such a commitment. Whenever the United States has brought up the exports issue, Chinese officials have sought to link a cutoff to a similar cutoff of U.S. military sales to Taiwan -- something that is unacceptable to Washington. Al Qaeda’s Passage to China
In mid-September, Al Qaeda diverted a small but potent force from Iraq to a new mission: the opening of a new front in China. The unit was smuggled into the Chinese border town of Kushi in the Xinjiang Uygur province in November, after a meandering journey . There, the terrorists were quickly absorbed by the al Qaeda infrastructure of local Uygur Muslim extremist cells.
Their plan of campaign in the first stage was to reach Beijing, Guangzhou and Shanghai for strikes against US embassies and consulates, American firms operating in China and American tourists.
The terrorists slipped north from Konduz into Tajikistan and onto the Kyrgyz section of the strategic Fergana Valley which straddles Central Asia. There, they rendezvoused at two places, Osh and Jalal-Abad close to the Kyrgyz-Uzbekistan border, establishing jumping-off points for both China and Central Asia.
The Islamist terrorists were guided from Konduz into Kyrgyzstan by armed men of al Qaeda’s operational arm in Uzbekistan, the MUI, which also has tentacles in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, as well as training camps in the Fergana Valley. The commander of these cells is Tahir Yuldashev, an old comrade of Osama bin Laden who fought alongside him in Afghanistan. In 2004, Yuldashev returned to Tashkent from the badlands of Pakistan’s South Waziristan and was ordered to prepare facilities in Osh and Jalal-Abad for the incoming terrorist unit. His payment was a section of the force to boost his campaign against Uzbek president Karimov.
The unit from Konduz accordingly divided into two heads – the largest proceeding from Osh into China and fetching up in Kushi, while the second group assembled in Jalal-Abad, turned west and crossed into Uzbekistan to set up base in the Fergana town of Andijon.
American and British military and intelligence officials picked up the group’s arrival at the Konduz training facility, but decided after consultation that the large-scale forces needed to eradicate the facility would be hard to muster. They therefore resolved to await events and meanwhile find out where the mysterious al Qaeda force was heading.
Washington reported the arrival to Moscow, hoping the counter-terror-trained Russian Motorized Rifle Division 201 stationed in Uzbekistan would step in to wipe out the al Qaeda intruders. The Russians declined to take action, but said they would not object to Beijing sending Chinese troops over the border to tackle the incoming terrorists.
This was the first time Moscow had ever consented to the Chinese military stepping into Central Asian soil and joining the war on terror in that region.
Clearly, the Kremlin, which frowns on American military bases and movements in Central Asia, was not eager to pull American chestnuts out of the fire
The skirmishing between Washington, Moscow and Beijing over who should tackle the al Qaeda menace – if anyone – had the result of opening the door for al Qaeda to move a force across half the globe from Iraq to the Far East unhindered and plant it in western China and eastern Uzbekistan.
The Chinese government was caught totally unprepared and did its best to tune out the loud alarums sounded by Chinese military and security chiefs.
However, on November 9, the Chinese police alerted the US embassy in Beijing to a possible attack by Islamic rebels on luxury hotels throughout China. The US embassy accordingly advised American visitors to “review their plans” to stay at four- and five-star hotels in China over the coming week.
A sharper notice was issued in the southern Chinese town of Guangzhou relaying “credible information” that a terrorist threat may exist against official US government facilities in the city. American citizens in south China were advised to remain alert to possible threats.
China’s Ministry of Public Security responded to these warnings, which were obviously sourced in Chinese police circles, with anger. A statement accused an unnamed “foreign citizen” of fabricating the so-called attack on four- and five-star hotels in China. The Chinese foreign ministry chipped in with, “Chinese public security has never issued such a warning for foreigners on the hotel issue,” its spokesman told reporters. “Chinese hotels are safe!” he added.
However, while Chinese officials are doing their utmost to calm fears that could affect the tourist industry, a terror alert is indeed in force in Chinese cities.
It is time for China, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia to prove by their deeds, not just their words, that they are serious about contributing to the campaign against international terrorism. In China's case, that means ending all militarily relevant exports to regimes that have sponsored terrorism. In the cases of Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, it means defunding terrorist organizations and the extremist "schools" that provide them with recruits. It also means severing ties with such terrorist movements as the Taliban and the Kashmiri insurgents. The world is watching the actions of all three countries.
The recent attacks in Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Chechnya and Iraq show that the smaller organizations, most of whose leaders were trained in al Qaeda camps in Afghanistan, have fanned out, imbued with radical ideology and the means to create or revitalize local terrorist groups. They also are expanding the horizons of groups that had focused on regional issues.
With most of its senior leadership
killed or captured and its financial structure under increasing scrutiny, Osama
bin Laden’s network, now run largely by midlevel operatives, relies increasingly
on these groups to carry out the jihad, or holy war, against the United States
and its allies. Al Qaeda has turned to inspiring and instigating
One senior U.S. official said al Qaeda’s children are “growing up and moving out into the world, loyal to their parents but no longer reliant on them.”
Intelligence officials and analysts said the evolution poses new challenges to efforts to combat terror, because rather than facing a few defined, recognized targets, counter terror forces must confront dozens of small groups that are much more difficult to trace and attack. And, they said, knocking out one small group does not have the same crippling effect as taking down a major leader of a large organization.
“The threat has moved beyond al Qaeda,” said
Rohan Gunaratna, a terrorism expert at the Singapore-based Institute of Defense
and Strategic Studies. “While al Qaeda was the instigator of recent attacks,
very few have actually been carried out by al Qaeda.”
While two of the most high profile recent attacks — the May 12 and Nov. 9 suicide bombings in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia — appear to be the work of al Qaeda, few other recent strikes appear to be the direct work of that organization.
A new group, the Islamic Great Eastern Raiders’ Front, took responsibility for Thursday’s car bombing in Istanbul. Jemaah Islamiah, one of the more well known al Qaeda affiliates, took responsibility for a suicide bombing Aug. 5 that killed 12 people at the JW Marriott Hotel in Jakarta, Indonesia. On June 5, a female suicide bomber killed at least 17 people in Chechnya. And within 48 hours of the May 12 attack in Riyadh, four other significant attacks were carried out by obscure groups in Pakistan, Morocco and the Philippines, killing scores of people.
A senior FBI official said the main link among the groups appears to be their shared experiences in the al Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan. Approximately 20,000 people from 47 countries passed through the camps from the mid-1990s until the U.S-led invasion of Afghanistan in October 2001, officials estimate. The camps served as a place where fighters were trained and indoctrinated, keys to building the future network as they returned to their homelands.
Gunaratna described the al Qaeda camps in Afghanistan, as “a terrorist Disneyland, where you could meet anyone from any Islamist group.”
U.S. and European intelligence officials said the creation of terror franchises is due in part to the success in capturing or killing al Qaeda’s senior leadership and pressuring individuals and institutions that funded the movement.
Paul Pillar, a CIA analyst and terror expert,
said that the growth in communication among terrorist groups was partly “a
matter of the groups maturing” and partly because “we were able to hammer al
Qaeda, which pushed the locus of activity elsewhere.”
One of bin Laden’s major contributions in the spread of terrorism, Pillar said, was “was putting the anti-American perspective at the forefront. It has been so successful that it has thoroughly affected even these groups that are more regionally focused. . . . Anti-Americanism sells, particularly in the Middle East.”
Another CIA official said, however, that “making an enemy of the United States is not a wise career move,” and that the United States had intimidated some groups from executing terrorist attacks.
Most terrorism experts, including U.S. and
European intelligence analysts, said they also are seeing new similarities in
the groups’ communication techniques and the use of explosives.
For example, officials said, al Qaeda members have taught individuals from other groups how to use the Internet to send messages and how to encrypt those communications to avoid detection. Bomb and chemical-making techniques have been passed around. Investigators have found the same kind of fuse being used on different continents.
“People noticed a flow of ideas,” said one government terrorism expert. “One group will pioneer a certain kind of fuse and transfer it around.”
The financial structure of terrorism also has shifted, officials said. “There is no pool of money now that everyone can draw on,” said a senior U.S. official. “There is no longer a fairly knowable group of large donors or entities. Now, groups in Indonesia raise money there. Groups in Malaysia raise money there. There are many more targets, and much harder to find.”
Many of the local groups, unable to draw on the
web of organizations and donors that have supported al Qaeda, rely on petty
crime, drug trafficking and extortion to pay the bills, intelligence officials
said. Because the groups are hitting softer targets in attacks that require less
sophistication to carry out, money is not a major obstacle, the officials said.
“You don’t need a lot of money for most of what we are seeing now,” one official said. “Many of these cells don’t appear to be very well-funded, but what is more important than money is human capital. And human capital doesn’t seem to be in short supply.”
There is also growing concern over the possible role of al Qaeda-affiliated groups in the attacks on U.S. troops in Iraq. In recent weeks, insurgent forces there have attacked several high-profile targets, including the United Nations headquarters, the Jordanian embassy and a compound occupied by Italian forces. U.S. officials have said that up to 2,000 fighters have entered Iraq to fight U.S. troops.
“Al Qaeda is as much an ideology as a structure,” said Magnus Ranstorp, director of the Center for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence at the University of Saint Andrews in Scotland. “Iraq is now the center of gravity, but I think they are seeking out soft targets and hitting from every flank imaginable by any means. This is an ongoing, raging war with all the gloves off.”
Michael Pillsbury, a Pentagon terrorism
consultant, argued that the evolution of the terrorist groups is analogous to a
process of corporate merger and acquisition. At a terrorism conference earlier
this year at St. Andrews College, Pillsbury said regionally-focused terrorism
groups with their own particular agendas join with al Qaeda to learn their
operational techniques or benefit from their contacts, but are not subordinate
to al Qaeda.
For example, he said, Jemaah Islamiah, seeks to create a pan-Islamic state in Asia, an agenda that has little to do with driving U.S. forces out of Saudi Arabia or other goals of bin Laden’s. “They like to get advice and equipment from al Qaeda but still have their own political agenda,” Pillsbury argued.
The evolution of terror methods has prompted a
debate within the intelligence community over the best tactics to pursue,
knowledgeable officials said. One option would be to focus on destroying al
Qaeda in an effort to wither the franchises. The other would be to devote almost
equal attention to destroying the smaller, regional groups, a strategy Pillsbury
said would be more politically sensitive and would require broader intelligence.
“If they can make an instrument of local groups, it will make up for the losses al Qaeda has suffered,” said Margret Johannsen, a political scientist who studies terrorism at Hamburg University. “They won’t need international financing; they won’t need a base as in Afghanistan. [Al Qaeda becomes] an idea, a banner, and that is very dangerous.”
(Excerpt from "Merchants of Terror, Vol. V",
Published by CIPRA Books.)
Douglas Farah and Peter Finn: Al Qaeda’s terror style spreading, THE WASHINGTON POST, Nov.1, 2003
Syed Saleem Shahzad, Armed and dangerous: Taliban gear up, Bureau Chief, Pakistan Asia Times Online
Kanchan Lakshman, Clueless In Waziristan ,Outlook, New Delhi, Dec 14, 2005 at http://www.outlookindia.com/full.asp?fodname=20051214&fname=kanchan&sid=1