The Quandary in Counterterrorism
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Issue Net Edition | Date : 13 Sep , 2021

Calls for the world to unite against terrorism in all forms in bilateral and multilateral forums are not new. India has been suffering cross border terrorism past three decades plus.  Forbes had listed the richest terrorist groups few years back listing annual turnover (which would have gone up) as follows: ISIS – $2 billion; Hamas – $1 billion; FARC – $600 million; Hezbollah – $500 million; Taliban – $400 million; Al Qaeda – $300 million; Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) – $100 million; Al Shabab – $70 million; Real IRA – $50 million, and; BokoHaram – $25 million.

However, calls for collective action against terrorism have risen sharply after the US handed over Afghanistan on a platter to the Taliban, which has Haqqani Network integral to it and indisputable links to Al Qaeda. Having signed the Doha Deal with Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar (UN-designated terrorist holding Pakistani passport) on February 29, 2020, the US is expressing surprise (sic) that the interim government of Taliban has 14 UN-designated terrorists. How did the US expects Afghanistan not to become a terrorist haven which it has been past so many years) when America has no guts to curb Pakistan? General John Nicholson, Commander Resolute Support Force and US Forces in Afghanistan had told journalists in December 2016 that of the 98 US-designated terrorist groups, 20 are in Af-Pak – 13 in Afghanistan and 7 in Pakistan.

On August 30, 2021, UNSC Resolution 2593 was adopted which expressed serious concerns over the Taliban-ruled Afghanistan becoming a haven for terrorist groups and  mounting terror attacks on neighbouring countries; demanding Afghan territory not be used to shelter, train terrorists, plan or finance terrorist acts. It mentioned commitments given by the Taliban in this respect and also referred to UNSC Resolution 1267.

Under UNSC Resolution 1267, LeT and Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) as well as Haqqani Network, ISIL (Da’esh) and Al-Qaeda are proscribed terror entities along with associated individuals, groups, undertakings and entities. JeM founder MasoodAzhar and LeT leader Hafiz Saeed are also listed as global terrorists. India could persuade China and Russia to refrain from vetoing UNSC Resolution 2593 only after the reference to Taliban as terrorist was removed from the draft prepared on August 16 – indicating they consider Taliban beningn?

On September 9, 2021, Prime Minister NarendraModi chaired the 13th BRICS summit which wasvirtually attended by Russian President Vladimir Putin, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa and Chinese President Xi Jinping. Addressing the summit, Modi said that India has adopted the BRICS Counter-Terrorism Action Plan, and that India has received full cooperation from all BRICS partners during its presidency of the grouping. Putin underlined the Afghanistan crisis which followed post withdrawal of US troops from the country, expressing concern over its impact on regional peace and security, saying, “Afghanistan should not become a threat to its neighbouring countries, a source of terrorism and drug trafficking.”

The BRICS Counter Terrorism Action Plan is one of the key deliverables during India’s Chairmanship of BRICS. The Action Plan will help in increasing intra-BRICS collaboration for combating terrorism, radicalization, financing of terrorism, misuse of internet by terrorists, and will also help curb travel of terrorists, strengthen border control and protect soft targets. This action plan is follow up of the BRICS Counter Terrorism Strategy adopted by BRICS leaders in 2020.

The need for collaborating in effective counterterrorism has been under discussion by the UNSC, UNGA, SCO, ASEAN, BRICS and other forums in the past too but the ground situation is demonstratively becoming worse;reducing counterterrorism collaboration to mere resolutions and documents. The UN has little power to enforce resolutions given conflicting geostrategic aspirations among the P-5 and powerful nations who continue to promoteterrorism, use proxies themselves and protect those who are overtly training, financing and exporting terrorism.  In fact, terrorism has become the currency of power.

Take the US and UK who have used Pakistan and Turkey to train and arm the ISIS and Taliban respectively, also using Pakistan to establish ISKP and pumping ISIS-ISKP into Afghanistan. Recently declassified papers in UK reveal that the UK has been helping the Pakistan-Taliban alliance, abetting killings of British troops in Afghanistan in the process. The US also did not take any action to curb Pakistani support to Taliban resulting in the killing of over 2,400 US troops and hundreds of civilian contractors and American nationals in Afghanistan.

Dmitry Medvedev, deputy head of the Russian Security Council says that according to intelligence agencies ISIS terrorists in tens and thousands in Afghanistan are located near the border with Central Asian countries. This may be one reason that Russia decided not to attend inauguration of Taliban’s interim government scheduled on the anniversary of 9/11.

Medvedev has also said, “Terrorists can repeat September 11, joint efforts are needed in the fight against this evil.” But how can there joint effort in counterterrorism when powerful nations are using terrorism to increase their geostrategic sphere of influence. The US has painted the Taliban white and will probably do the same for HaqqaniNetwork because Taliban says it otherwise will be in violation of the Doha Deal. For the US, suddenly ISIS-ISKP is the only major terrorist group in Af-Pak though it continues to infiltrate them into Afghanistan thtough Pakistan to spread terrorism in Central Asia.  

Despite Pakistan (and China) extensivelysupporting the Taliban-Haqqanis past decades, America has nothing against Pakistan which Washington is using to spread terrorism. The excuse given by the US scholars is that Pakistan being a nuclear state the US can take no action against it. If this is the logic then shouldn’t China and Russia help Iran become a nuclear state earliest to drive another nail in America’s coffin?

As to China and its fork-tongued leader Xi Jinping, less said the better. China has been promoting terrorism in India, Myanmar, Nepal (Maoists insurgency) and of course fully supporting Pakistani proxies and the Taliban. If it is worried about terrorism, the only reason is that Chinese nationals have begun to get targeted by terrorists, continuation of which can adversely affect its BRI projects which are akin to entrails hanging out of China’s stomach. Besides, the only terrorist organization China abhors is the ETIM and the Uyghur.

Beijing’s only demand on the Taliban is to not let ETIM and the Uyghur evolve on Afghan soil, which the Taliban have reportedly promised. But then promises are promises at a particular moment. Qari Fashuddin Badakshani, Taliban’s new army chief reportedly has had long association with Uyghur and the ETIM. How Taliban will or will not use Badakshani’s links as leverage over China only time will show. Interestingly, the Trump administration had taken off ETIM from the US-designated terrorist list.

Under the circumstances, there is no hope of terrorism abating unless the big nations shun terrorism, which appears a chimera. On the contrary terrorism may become uglier with more advanced technology placed in the hands of the terrorist. The bad news for India is that the US is not likely to press Pakistan to stop exporting terrorism. Apparently, America wants South Asia as a whole destabilized (same as Middle East/West Asia) to reap the benefits. Meanwhile deliberations and resolutions would continue providing solace to nations through whatever pyrrhic diplomatic wins can be crafted.      

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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

Lt Gen Prakash Katoch

is a former Lt Gen Special Forces, Indian Army

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