Geopolitics

Global Terrorism: An Analysis of Fault Lines and Risks
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Issue Vol. 31.2 Apr-Jun 2016 | Date : 19 Jul , 2016

To flourish a terrorist outfit needs financial and logistics support, political patronage and a supportive or submissive population, which is the Centre of Gravity in prospering or combating terrorism (providing recruitment, intelligence, misguided ideology/religious narrative, media and cyber/technological support). To combat such dangerous terrorist outfits and save innocent population, it is of utmost importance to cut down its support system, its patronage and assistance, sincerely and honestly by every single legitimate power in the world, selective degrading of some organisations such as the ISIS with minimum collateral damages and take onboard some religious leaders, who can support the narrative of peaceful coexistence for all communities.

The growing pangs of terrorism are moving beyond the few traditionally disturbed areas to the entire globe…

Apart from waking up the West, the 9/11 attack on the US made everyone realise the potential dangers of terrorism, announcing a different kind of global warfare, the danger of which began to be recognised by the global community. The Nuclear Security Summit held in the US on April 02, 2016, exhibited the grave concern of global powers, about the danger of mini nukes falling into the hands of terrorist organisations. India, which has since long been facing terrorism by proxy, can never forget the scars of the massacre in Mumbai in 2011. Surpassing the one which was held post World War II, the largest rally of French people to condemn the barbaric terrorist attack on innocent press employees in Paris in 2015, took place. Followed by the attack on Metro in 2016, similar attacks in Brussels including the last one on the airport in 2016, Australia, Madrid clearly established the pattern the growing pangs of terrorism are moving beyond the few traditionally disturbed areas to the entire globe.

The establishment and removal of Taliban rule in Afghanistan and the establishment of the Caliphate by the ISIS added the incentive of having territory/forming governments for the terrorist groups. The horrifying genocide of 150 innocent people including 134 children in Peshawar by Taliban terrorists (TTP); the rise of the ISIS and the barbaric massacre of numerous innocents not following their ideology in Iraq and Syria and abroad (including re-inventing slavery of captured women, executing 250 girls in Iraq refusing sex slavery, getting emboldened upon having established a Caliphate in absence of an honest, coordinated, synergised worthwhile response to attack their support system by the world community); the abduction of hundreds of girls and women by Boko Haram terrorists in Nigeria; problems in Yemen; the continued killings of Palestinians/Israelis and Lebanese; terrorist attacks in Indonesia and the numerous killings of innocent Indians by Pakistan-sponsored militants such as LeT in Jamm u and Kashmir, clearly indicate that the world is increasingly becoming a dangerous place to live notwithstanding the tall claims of the ‘Global War On Terror’ by the world community.

As we move ahead in 2016, we find that despite the world community as well as affected countries claiming that they have spent billions of dollars and made all efforts, including the supreme sacrifice of soldiers and innocent people, the unfortunate reality is that despite the declaration of War against Terror, the terror attacks have increased eight times since 2010. After 9/11, despite military operations in the Af-Pak region, the situation is no better except that the areas of terrorist operations have shifted and expanded globally. Also, the threat of its resurgence in Afghanistan is worrying everybody concerned. It is therefore, fair to deduce that there are some serious fault lines in the manner in which the world community is addressing terrorism and these need to be analysed.

A quick look at the illustration describes the basic problems which are making the war against terrorism ineffective. The real causes – perceived, propagated or politically driven, by interested powers are well known and shown in the illustration.

Besides, a narrative of religious fundamentalism and misguided ideologies, unjustifiable suppression of a certain groups of people, poor governance leading to socio-economic disparities, unauthorised settlements or lack of homeland and well directed proxies by interested nations are some of the reasons leading to most of the terrorist situations globally. These lead to the birth of an ideology – right or wrong, emergence of a leader, non-state actors, interest groups or countries which support them and want to use them to their advantage. This further leads to a relentless fight by these groups for the perceived cause, creating a sense of justification to take revenge e.g. misplaced jihad, leading to barbaric and irrational behaviour to the extent of unpredictable suicidal attacks.

There are some serious fault lines in the manner in which the world community is addressing terrorism and these need to be analysed…

If the fight is successful, as in the case of Taliban earlier, and ISIS later, the aim to hijack the Sunni uprising in Iraq and Syria, muster unprecedented support from the Wahhabi Salafi groups proclaiming to be the protractors of Sunnis and wanting to increase the size of the Caliphate to ultimately create an Islamic State out of Syria, Jordon, Iraq, Kuwait, Lebanon and Israel and govern it as a model legitimate Islamic state.

In case the fight is partially or not successful, it continues as an industry, as there are enough sponsors to invest in this industry for perceived political gains and adequate numbers of unemployed youth used to getting all the goodies in life through power of a gun. These groups such as Al Qaida and Taliban thereafter wait for fresh opportunity to emerge, because the genie, once out, cannot be pushed back into the bottle!

To flourish, a terrorist outfit needs financial and logistics support, political patronage and a supportive or submissive population, which is the Centre of Gravity in prospering or combating terrorism (providing recruitment, intelligence, misguided ideology/religious narrative, media and cyber/technological support). To combat such dangerous terrorist outfits and save innocent population, it is of utmost importance to cut down its support system, its patronage and assistance, sincerely and honestly by every single legitimate power in the world, selective degrading of some organisations such as the ISIS with minimum collateral damage and take onboard some religious leaders who can support the narrative of peaceful coexistence for all communities.

There appears to be some unhealthy competition amongst various terrorist groups to grow and prove their terror potential to the world to get more attention, followers, finances and other resources. In the recent times, while the Taliban (TTP) attacked Peshawar, the Al Qaida attacked Paris; the ISIS beheaded a Japanese captive followed by the attack on Tripoli Hotel; the Boko Haram attacked Baga in Nigeria, and the Shiite Houthy group dominated Yemen by taking the Presidential place captive and the trend is continuing.

The ISIS comes out to be the richest terror outfit getting approximately a billion US dollars per day through the sale of captured oil, contribution by interested parties, plundering captured areas, extortion, abductions and ransom. The ISIS has its own currency and administration with a very well organised media and cyber campaign that incorporates technologically savvy cadres from Western countries.

The other interesting trend is that whenever a terrorist organisation is banned, it changes its name, registers as a social welfare organisation and carries on terrorist activities as usual e.g. Hafiz Sayed despite being declared a global terrorist with a $10 million bounty on his head, continues to make provocative speeches at organised gatherings, unchecked by the Pakistani establishment.

The ISIS comes out to be the richest terror outfit getting approximately a billion US dollars per day…

Global Fault Lines in Dealing with Terrorism

Some of the identifiable fault lines for the ineffectiveness of the global War on Terrorism are summarised as under:

•   Double game by most of the global players, interested parties in/of the affected regions. Most regional and global players have their political/ strategic/ economic/ religious interests and they do not mind fighting one terrorist group while helping another. This madness must end, if we want a safe world. e.g. Media reports indicating Saudi Arabia sending money to Sunni militant organisations, at the same time launching air attacks in Yemen without UN sanctions and posing to support multi-lateral forces in fight against terror, covert support by Iran to Shia militants and crying foul when the ISIS attacks their border guards. Theories of “Good and Bad Taliban”, “Good and Bad Terrorists” have done enough damage to global society and need to be discarded. The idea of supporting regime changes on the pretext of peace or any other reasons by global powers has always misfired so far. It needs to be realised that a terrorist is a terrorist and history has proved that whoever propagates this monster, will eventually be beaten and destroyed by it. For example, the attack on Karachi airport, killings in Peshawar and in the Shia mosque with 61 dead in Sindh on January 30 this year are worthwhile lessons. Media coverage “Untangling the Syrian Conflict” in The Times of India, the Times Global, November 20, 2015, clearly brings out the conflicting interests of various parties in tackling the ISIS, and the lack of synergy amongst regional and global powers in dealing with such a sensitive issue.

•  Physical elimination of the ISIS Caliphate by using military force. The US in their National Security Strategy document recognised the ISIS as a major global threat and reaffirmed its commitment to “degrade and ultimately defeat the radical group”. The world community is shying away from the fact that they need to sideline other differences and get together and use force to eliminate the Caliphate in Iraq and Syria, which may require fighting alongside Iran, Syria, other Islamic countries and neighbours. Air and drone attacks alone or merely sending troops to train the Iraqi Army may be inadequate. The magnitude of the crisis and the strength of the ISIS require surgical ground operations to liberate the Caliphate, with boots on ground and not purely by air attacks. In case the Caliphate is allowed to grow or stabilise, it will attract a greater number of Islamic fanatic youth to a so-called pure ‘Sunni state’ which will hurt everyone globally.

The magnitude of the crisis and the strength of the ISIS require surgical ground operations to liberate the Caliphate, with boots on ground and not purely by air attacks…

•  Selective support to terrorism, proxy wars needs to be given up by every country. Erstwhile President Musharraf, when in power, as per media reports, referred to terrorists as his ‘strategic assets or tools’ to be unleashed as per Pakistan’s strategic requirement. The same organisations have multiplied exponentially with some going against the Pakistan Army and the ISI who propagated them. Most intelligentsia identify the Saudi Arabia–Iran rivalry as one of the biggest hurdles in synergising counter-terror operations.

•   Conflicting interests of regional and global players resulting in direct or indirect patronage to terrorists needs to be checked and a global consensus needs to be built on that. The Taliban and Haqqani network were created and supported during the Cold War era, and post 9/11, the tables turned. Arab support to Hamas and getting back damaging response from Israel are some examples of this fault line. There are some countries that want terrorism to continue so that their small arms and explosive industry continues to flourish.

•  Inability of the UN as a central global organisation to control the various militancy-related crisis situations. Besides the UN not being organised for it, the major world powers have not shown any inclination to do so, despite the UN being the most recognised neutral global body. The crises in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria are some of the examples.

•   While combating terrorism collateral damages need to be minimised. Air attacks resulting in killing of innocent people multiply the number of terrorists, because one innocent person killed will create some more terrorists in that family to avenge the deaths.

•  The biggest fault line is that the global community, in its fight against terrorism, unfortunately, is fighting the effects of the crisis in affected areas and not the causes and the support system including people, who are the centre of gravity in combating terrorism. Global banning of recruitment, financial and logistics support, synergising intelligence, moderating cyber and media coverage and the Islamic community issuing counter narrative of peace and co-existence, is the need of the hour.

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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

About the Author

Maj Gen SB Asthana

Chief Instructor, United Service Institute of India.

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One thought on “Global Terrorism: An Analysis of Fault Lines and Risks

  1. Terrorism is a world phenomenon and I agree with the hypotheses propounded by the author. It is high time that the affected world community faces it squarely. Days of sentimental attachments are over. The route cause is the Wahabi and Salalfi islam being propounded by Saudi Arabia. It has homed on to a large part of Europe, Asia and some other countries which are intrinsically not islamic. West encouraged it for fossil energy and presently this dependence is over. Let a concerted effort to isolate these people be initiated to their ultimate neutralisation. We need to learn from the Australian Prime Minister who has categorically told them to follow local laws. In fact the Europeans should be more strict in letting in refugees coming in from Syria. It is now or never. Prevention is definitely better than cure and no more niceties are required. Let the world recreate History and contain this menace. Let us not look at the collateral damages but the ultimate cleansing of the world of this curse.

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