Homeland Security

Changing Face of Terror
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Issue Vol 21.2 Apr-Jun2006 | Date : 17 Nov , 2010

Phenomenon of terrorism as a global menace is of recent origin. History of terrorism is as old as the human civilisation. However, recent decades have witnessed exacerbation in occurrence of terrorist incidents in almost all parts of the globe in general and Asia and Europe in particular. Having remained confined to the Middle East and some parts of Europe until the decade of 1980s; terrorism also ensnared some parts of Asia, particularly South Asia into its fold during the 1980s.

The decade of the 1990s witnessed turmoil and political instability in the post-Soviet republics, Afghanistan and some other countries of the Third World, provided fertile ground for terrorism to thrive.

The Cold War’s denouement during the 1990s as the harbinger of stability in emerging new post-Cold War order was viewed by some analysts with skepticism. While others viewed this ‘unipolar moment’1 as affording the United States a unique opportunity to create a durable peace that would provide order and stability globally.2 However, the events of 9/11 changed those perceptions.

The decade of the 1990s witnessed turmoil and political instability in the post-Soviet republics, Afghanistan and some other countries of the Third World, provided fertile ground for terrorism to thrive.

Prior to September 11, 2001, there was no cumulative global will to counter the menace of terrorism and occurrence of terrorist violence either in Jammu and Kashmir in India, or Afghanistan or West Bank or elsewhere as it was seen as an isolated event not impinging upon global security.

However, Osama bin Laden-led al Qaeda had deeply embedded its network in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan by late 1990s and Taliban-al Qaeda combine was to emerge as the most dangerous transnational terrorist group having expanded its networks in over 60 countries during that period. Incidents of bombings of US. embassies in East Africa involving al Qaeda during 1997-1998 were not perceived in terms of al Qaeda’s potential to threaten American survival.3 Lack of concerted action on the part of international community to deal effectively with the menace of terrorism had caused loss of over 35,000 innocent lives in the Indian State of Jammu and Kashmir4 alone and approximately 10,000 lives in different parts of the globe during the period 1991-2001.5

The al Qaeda terrorists’ attacks on World Trade Centre (WTC) in New York and Pentagon Headquarters on September 11, 2001 virtually shook the international community in general and the United States in particular, to wake up to the menacing reality of terrorism.

In the aftermath of September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the US President, George W. Bush, described the tragic events not as ‘terrorist acts’ but as ‘acts of war’. He categorically resolved that Washington would make “no distinction between the terrorists who committed these acts and those who harboured them.”6 There were strong suspicions about al Qaeda’s involvement in 9/11 attack.

Another dangerous development that provides teeth to “˜New Terrorism is the tendency among lesser known terrorist groups to gravitate towards al Qaeda.

The US-led international coalition forces launched massive attacks in Afghanistan against Taliban-al Qaeda combine and by the middle of November 2001 the last bastion of Taliban had fallen. With the fall of Taliban regime, a coalition of Northern Alliance was installed and subsequently an elected government headed by Mohammed Karzai assumed the reins of power in Kabul and is still in power.

The remnants of Taliban and al Qaeda activists are still hiding in the rough and rugged mountainous regions of Afghanistan and bordering Pakistan. Although a segment of coalition forces and US troops is still stationed in Afghanistan, but the fragile situation there is still vulnerable to the attacks of Taliban-al Qaeda activists.

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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

Dr Anil Kumar Singh

Dr Anil Kumar Singh, Executive Editor, Aaj Tak and author of the book Military and Media

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