TERRORISM: FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
INTERNATIONAL TERRORISM MONITOR--PAPER NO.327
REDIFF.COM- YOU HAVE written feverishly on terrorism and related issueS in 2007. Can you tell us how do you rate "global war on terrorism" at the end of year 2007? Are you looking back with satisfaction or not?
The so-called Global War on Terrorism (GWOT) started on October 7,2001, when the US forces went into action against Al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan. It is now in its seventh year. There have been tactical gains, but strategically the situation remains as worrisome as it was in 2001. Among the tactical gains, one could mention the arrest of a number of leading operatives of Al Qaeda, the destruction of the training infrastructure of Al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghan territory, the effective action against the Jemmah Islamiyah of South-East Asia, greater international co-operation against terrorism, the convergence of views in the international community that terrorism is an absolute evil and should not be tolerated, whatever be the objective etc. However, these have been off-set by negative developments such as: spread of jihadi terrorism to Iraq and Europe after the US occupation of Iraq; the resurgence of Al Qaeda and the Taliban from sanctuaries in Pakistani territory; the US failure to trace and eliminate Osama bin Laden, his No.2 Ayman al-Zawahiri and the Amir of the Taliban Mulla Mohammad Omar; the de facto control of North and South Waziristan in the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of Pakistan by Al Qaeda and pro-Al Qaeda organisations; the spread of their activities to the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP); the spectacular eight-fold increase in suicide terrorism (from 6 in 2006 to 50 in 2007 so far) in Pakistani territory since the commando raid into the Lal Masjid of Islamabad in July,2007; an equally spectacular increase in suicide terrorism in Afghanistan from 17 in 2005 to 140 so far this year; the spread of Al-Qaeda inspired terrorism to Somalia and Algeria; and the spread of jihadi terrorist cells to many countries not so far affected by terrorism such as Germany, Denmark and Canada. Since the US is fighting its war on terrorism against foreign Muslims in foreign countries, the restraints, which normally apply when one is fighting against one's own nationals in one's own territory, are not observed. There has been a disproportionate use of force by the US through its Air Force and Artillery, causing large civilian casualties. This has been driving more young Muslims to undertake suicide operations---either individually or as members of known jihadi organisations. Highly-militarised and disproportionate counter-terrorism as practised by the US in Afghanistan and Iraq has itself become a new cause of aggravated terrorism. There is no Laxman Rekha for the US in counter-terrorism. Any method is a good method and any weapon is a good weapon for use against terrorists.
rediff.com- India has witnessed major terror attacks in 2007. What kind of new trends you are reading into these event? Do you agree that terrorists have failed to provoke riots in India?
In India,there has been an improvement in Jammu and Kashmir. Civilian fatalities in J&K decreased from 521 in 2005 to 349 in 2006 and 162 till December 5,2007. Security forces fatalities decreased from 218 in 2005 to 168 in 2006 and 120 till December 5,2007. But there has been a deterioration in the rest of India. There were three jihadi terrorist strikes in 2005, another three in 2006 and eight so far this year.Of the 14 attacks since 2005, three were on Muslim places of worship, two on Hindu holy places, three in public places, three on the legal community, two on public transport and one on a meeting of scientists. Estimated fatalities---300. Improvised explosive devices were used in 13 attacks and a gun in the fourteenth. In J&K, we are having a mixed modus operandi of killing with hand-held weapons and IEDs. In the rest of India, it is mostly with IEDs. It is urban terrorism in the rest of India. It is a mix of urban and rural in J&K. The operational control is still done by Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), but the command and control increasingly operates from Bangladesh ever since Pervez Musharraf assured Shri A.B.Vajpayee, the then Prime Minister, in January,2004, that he would not allow any territory under Pakistani control to be used for acts of terrorism against India. The ISI continues to use pro-Al Qaeda terrorist organisations such as the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET), the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HUJI), the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HUM) and the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JEM) against India. They operate increasingly from sanctuaries in Bangladesh. Since 2002, a small number of Indian Muslim youth from India and the Gulf have been joining these organisations. Instead of taking them to Pakistan for training via Dubai as in the past, they are now being taken by air to Teheran under the pretext of pilgrimage and then to the training camps in Pakistan by road. In this manner, their journeys by road from Teheran to Pakistan and back will not find mention in their Indian passports. Al Qaeda has not operated in India, but it has been looking for Indian Muslim volunteers in the diaspora in the Gulf and the UK since Indian Muslims are still able to travel easily and do not face the same difficulties as the Arabs and Pakistani Muslims. Al Qaeda is likely to continue with its present policy of using the Pakistani organisations on Indian targets. At the same time, it will look for opportunities to attack US and Israeli targets in India. Provoking communal riots was not their only objective. An equally important---if not more important---objective is to keep the Indian population bleeding in order to demoralise them and create perceptions of increasing insecurity in the minds of foreign investors and foreign experts working in India. Disrupting the Indian economy is also an important objective.
rediff.com- Do you think UPA government's overall policy and approach is satisfactory? What are your suggestions?
Not quite. Neither the Vajpayee Government nor the Manmohan Singh Government has been able to work out a comprehensive counter-terrorism policy to deal with the security aspects on the one side and the political, economic and social aspects on the other. In the case of the Pakistani, Bangladeshi and other foreign terrorists, we have to be ruthless in neutralising them through appropriate security measures. In the case of our own nationals----whether Kashmiris or Muslims in other parts of India or the Naxalites--- we have to be more nuanced. A security-focussed approach towards the terrorists and their organisations and a hearts and minds approach to the Muslim community and the poorer sections of our tribal society in Central India from which they have arisen are called for. In dealing with terrorists, who are our own nationals, effective political leadership is as important as effective operational methods by our intelligence and security agencies. This has not been forthcoming. Our response has been ad hoc. Secularism is important in our approach to our Muslims, but not in our approach to the Pakistanis and Bangladeshis creating havoc in our territory..
rediff.com - What is your prediction for the global war against terrorism? Do you think Al Qaeda will continue TO steal the headlines?
International jihadi terrorism of the kind waged by Al Qaeda and its associates will continue to endanger peace, security and the economic well-being of our societies for some years to come. The fight against terrorism and insurgency takes a long time to produce results. We took 19 years to deal with the Naga and Mizo insurgencies and 14 years to bring the Khalistani terrorists under control. The Tamil Nadu Police managed to bring Al Ummah under control in a shorter period----but still about eight years. Leftist ideological terrorism has been with us in some form or the other ever since 1947. Even after 24 years, the Sri Lankan Government has not brought the LTTE under control.The British took more than two decades to bring the Irish Republican Army under control. The French intelligence took 19 years to eliminate the group led by Carlos. Results in counter-terrorism take long in coming. The important thing is to see that the terrorists do not succeed in demoralising our population, weakening our political stability and disrupting our economy. Effective counter-terrorism depends as much on a strong political leadership as on competent intelligence and security agencies.
rediff.com- How do you find Indian people's response to terrorism?
Has been praise-worthy. An important objective of a terrorist is to intimidate the Government and the general population. Our people have never let themselves be intimidated. One saw it after the Mumbai lasts of March,1993, and July,2006, after the Coimbatore blasts of February,1998, and after the attack on the Parliament in December,2001.
rediff.com- How do you see the year 2008? Can you share with us the possible scenarios? Are you hopeful? Why?
I am neither hopeful nor alarmist. Both indigenous and international terrorism will continue at the same level. Possible scenarios: attacks on public transport, energy security and economic targets.There could be spells of mass casualties or mass economic disruption, but the terrorists will ultimately find that they cannot intimidate civilised societies. Defiant and unyielding towards terrorists and their organisations and sympathetic and attentive to the problems and grievances of the communities from which they have arisen should be our guiding star.
( The writer is Additional Secretary (retired), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-Mail: email@example.com)