War on Terror
The contours of this nefarious joint venture were fairly simple, as an intelligence official puts it, "Use disaffected Indian youth to carry out terror strikes using locally available bomb material. The objectives of the project were twofold: strike terror in the Indian heartland without raising suspicions of Pakistan's involvement."
In intelligence jargon, this is called a plausibly deniable operation. Unlike the 26/11 Mumbai attacks which left behind damning evidence of Pakistani involvement--Pakistani national Ajmal Amir Kasab--this operation would use only Indian nationals. They were recruited by Lashkar spotters either in India, Pakistan or Bangladesh and indoctrinated using propaganda videos showing the Babri Masjid demolition and Gujarat riots. -- Sandeep Unnithan
When video footage of a girl from Swat valley flogged by Taliban shocked entire Pakistan and drew wide-spread condemnation, Ansar Abbasi appeared on Geo TV and defended Taliban's flogging of the girl on the plea that Taliban did what Allah had ordained in Quran. Hence, in his view, condemning Taliban was tantamount to disrespecting Quran. His story on Marriott, lacking all the ingredients of journalistic objectivity, was an attempt to justify the attack on the hotel claiming lives of many innocent civilians. Since hatred for US is justifiably universal in Pakistan, hence, banking on this hatred Ansar Abbasi attempted to justify the deaths at Marriott as collateral damage. The PPP MNA (member parliament from Bhutto's Pakistan People’s Party, or PPP) mentioned in this news report contradicted the story. However, in a hurriedly written piece for Counterpunch, Ansar Abbasi's story was cited to convince the readers that U.S. presence was destabilising the region. The U.S. presence, no doubt, is destabilising the region. But we do not have to base our anti-imperialism on half-truths spun either by Media Mujahideen or Western reporters building their exclusive stories on fake encounters with fake Taliban commanders. -- Farooq Sulehria
Photo: Farooq Sulehria, Afghan journalist based in Sweden
Saudi Arabia's diplomatic mission in Afghanistan is an essential step in its efforts to "whiten its face" and restore its reputation in the West,particularly the United States,which has not forgotten that the majority of the September 11,2001,hijackers were Saudi citizens,and that the government failed to manage the Taliban during the years leading up to those attacks.
For the Saudis,a bid to rehabilitate the Taliban,despite the damage they have caused to the Kingdom's diplomatic standing in the West,serves a strategic purpose.The Kingdom has suffered from the rise of the Shi'a in neighboring Iraq and is keen to maintain Sunni supremacy in the Islamic lands further to the east.Yet they see that,under Karzai,Saudi influence has declined in Afghanistan since 2001,while that of the Iranians has strengthened. -- Mai Yamani
In recent weeks a Pakistan-based jihadi online discussion forum has come to light that is actively frequented by members of Ilyas Kashmiri’s 313 Brigade. This discussion forum set up allegedly by members of a madarsa that was the target of Pakistan military action in Lahore back in 2007 is notable for attracting mostly anti-establishment jihadi sympathisers in Pakistan. A curious refrain in this forum is the deep distrust harboured by participants towards Hafiz Saeed-led Jamaat-ud-Dawa’h and the Lashkar-e-Tayyeba both of which are viewed as proxies of the Pakistan state and the ISI. Of particular interest is one participant in this forum who describes himself as a soldier of Ilyas Kashmiri’s 313 Brigade who was one of the first to affirm news of Ilyas Kashmiri being alive after speculation of Kashmiri’s death in a drone attack back in September 2009. -- Shashi Shekhar
What they had proved once again is that the Taliban could strike at will anywhere in the heart of Kabul, the citadel of Afghanistan protected by the US military. The Taliban have managed to strike at a number of key targets within the city in recent times, including, among others, the ministry of justice, a United Nation’s guesthouse and the Indian embassy. All these have been suicide attacks meant to send a message.
This time too, as the New York Times pointed out, the "effect of the attack seemed primarily psychological, designed to strike fear into the usually quiet precincts of downtown Kabul — and to drive home the ease with which insurgents could strike the American-backed government there". A Washington Post reporter quoted locals who shared this view: "This is to show the Afghan government and the internationals that they can carry out an attack one kilometre from the presidential palace". -- Indranil Banerjie
Many believe that Abhinav Bharat carried out many attacks earlier attributed to jihadist groups — notable among them, the bombing of the Mecca Masjid in Hyderabad in May 2007, and a subsequent attack on the famous shrine at Ajmer. Despite persistent questioning of Abhinav Bharat cadre, though, the investigators have not been able to link the group to the attacks.
Judging by recent Hindutva terror attacks, like last year’s bombings in Goa, it is unclear if they still have the capabilities to mount a sophisticated attack of the kind seen in Pune. Few investigators believe that the organisations — or other Hindutva cells — mounted the operation. “Still”, says one Maharashtra police official involved in investigating both Hindutva and jihadist attacks, “you can’t help wondering — what if?” -- Praveen Swami
One is again hearing whispered preliminaries of the cowardly chorus of this being “not our war, after all”, despite the undeniable fact that Pakistani citizens and members of our armed forces are being blown up, shot and killed in a variety of dramatic ways. ....
No less a personage than the prime minister has been heard asserting that force is not the answer to terrorism (sic) and that ‘dialogue’ is necessary. Dialogue? With unrepentant and exceptionally cruel and violent terrorists? For heaven’s sake, prime minister, what kind of company have you been keeping? Consider the previous others who have endorsed or demanded ‘dialogue’ with these treasonous savages. They have included General Pervez Musharraf (who signed away whole swathes of the sovereign territory of Pakistan that he had usurped when he illegitimately seized power), the likes of Generals Hamid Gul and Aslam Beg, the religio-political parties and their beardless fellow traveller Imran Khan, and such jelly-kneed politicians as NWFP’s Mian Iftikhar Husain who trembled at the suicide bombers standing allegedly behind them as they consigned the hapless people of Swat to a living hell. ....
Counter-terror measures are not military in nature. They are a police matter — an issue of effective law enforcement. In his book, The Idea of Pakistan, Stephen Cohen remarked that while Pakistan was not, in his view, a failed or failing state, the corruption and incompetence of its police apparatus could well drag the country toward that direction. We have seen for example that, again and again, massive quantities of high explosives have been procured, processed, mobilised and utilised in one terrorist act after another; but no intelligence or investigation has been able to penetrate the elaborate financial, logistical and human trails involved. -- Salman Tarik Kureshi, Karachi
The name Yemen means "country on the right." (If one looks toward Mecca from the West, Yemen is on the right side and Syria on the left.) The right side also connotes happiness, and the name of Yemen is connected to al-Yamana, an Arabic word for being happy. The Romans called it Arabia Felix ("Happy Arabia"), because it was rich through trading in spices. (By the way, Obama may be interested to hear that another leader of a superpower, Caesar Augustus, once tried to invade Yemen and was trounced.) If the quiet American, in his usual mixture of idealism and ignorance, decides to bring democracy and all the other goodies there, that will be the end of this happiness. The Americans will sink into another quagmire, tens of thousands of people will be killed, and it will all end in disaster. -- Uri Avnery
But a fissure right down the middle of the online watchdog discourse is whether to take down jihadi sites — as Internet Haganah does — or mine them for intelligence. Anyway, along with assaulting online jihadists, cyberspace will have to be protected — and entire populations and economies dependent on it — from terrorist assaults. Encryption and information safety will call for new defences. Let alone military personnel, very soon we’ll all be paranoid about our PCs and cellphones. In cyberspace, terrorists operate inside the ring we all are in, with technology no longer restricted to superpowers. And there’s no time for online jokes like the Nigerian “b***-bomber” taking Freudian psychosexual growth to a new dimension. -- Sudeep Paul
“Future historians,” wrote Walter Lacquer, “will be intrigued and puzzled by the staggering disproportion between the enormous amount of talk about terrorism and the tiny effort made to combat it.”
Ever since the savage Lashkar-e-Taiba attack on Mumbai in November 2008, Indians have been demanding that the government add muscle to the country’s counter-terrorism defenses...
The key problem is not the lack of institutional arrangement for the management of India’s counter-terrorism response but system-wide deficiencies in skills and capabilities. Vision and hard work will be needed to address them. -- Praveen Swami
Far from being "silent co-conspirators" -- as some are wont to call the Muslim community -- Muslims are an instrumental part of the fight against the terrorists and extremists who act in the name of their faith. It would have been an horrific act of mass murder. A Nigerian man allegedly attempted to ignite an explosive device aboard Northwest Airlines Flight 253 to Detroit, but the device failed, and he was quickly subdued by other passengers. I thank God the plot failed, and I commend the bravery and heroism of those passengers who risked their own safety to help avert a potentially terrible terrorist attack. An investigation into the alleged plot is currently underway. -- Hesham A. Hassaballa
How has occupying two nations at a cost of 5,000 dead, 35,000 wounded and a trillion dollars made us safer from an enemy that more resembles the Apache of Geronimo than the panzers of Rommel? If protection of the homeland against another Sept. 11 is the goal of this war, how relevant to that goal is the building of clinics and schools in Kabul and keeping the Taliban at bay in Helmand?
Are we fighting other people's wars, rather than our own war?
We Americans are today widely hated in the Arab and Islamic world by scores of millions, out of whom al-Qaida need but recruit a few hundred suicide bombers to wreak havoc on our country. Does having 200,000 U.S. troops in their part of the world, fighting and killing Muslims, make our country more secure than defending our borders, keeping radicals out, running al-Qaida down, and tracking and killing them where they are? To win the war we are in, we have to fight the war we are in, not the war we prefer to fight because no one else is so good at it. -- Pat Buchanan
Observers of the Middle East conflict insist that the continuation of the plight of the Palestinians and the injustice that they are suffering on the hands of the Israeli occupiers is a source of anger and frustration for millions around the world. Candidate Obama as well as President Obama in his first 100 days would not have taken his eyes off the ball. Preventing further attacks against American targets will not take place with hard power. Soft power and support of justice and neutrality in the Middle East will provide much better protection than body scanners and efficient intelligence work.
If 2009 is to be evaluated fairly in respect to the issue of Palestine, it would be safe to say that Obama took his eyes of an issue which is of national interest to the US. -- Daoud Kuttab
Like the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan, Yemen, with its mountainous terrain dotted with caves and other natural hide-outs, provides an ideal shelter and launching pad for Al Qaeda. The widespread poverty and the lack of facilities for modern education drive a large number of youth into the arms of Al Qaeda. It has nearly 4,000 madarsas, which are the breeding ground of fundamentalist ideological beliefs.
Yemen had contributed a large number of volunteers for jihad against the Soviet troops in Afghanistan in the 1980s. Many of them returned to Yemen after the withdrawal of the Soviet troops. Some of them were rehabilitated by being recruited to the police and the security forces. Others took to a new jihad -- this time against the US and Israel. Those rehabilitated in the security forces and those, who had joined Al Qaeda, remained in contact with each other having fought shoulder to shoulder against the Soviets in Afghanistan. -- B Raman
When the Americans invaded in 2001 most Afghans welcomed the United States with open arms. …The Americans promised jobs. This is in a country where after nearly 25 years of war there’s no economy to speak of. They promised development and reconstruction, an accountable and responsible government and security.
The reason the situation has completely deteriorated is that the Americans have utterly failed in meeting every single one of their promises. Today, more than half the country is unemployed. In many places the actual unemployment rate is much higher. There are villages I’ve gone to where no one has a job. Forty percent of the country earns less than $14 a month and nearly 50 percent is unable to procure enough food to meet their minimum daily requirements. … A lot of these people are crippled from the various wars — the Russian war, the current war — and the women are prevented from working.
Usually they’ll send their children down from the mountains into the city to either beg or work some small job. In these streets near the mountains you’ll see hundreds of children hawking trinkets, selling gum or outright begging. Many of these children are three or four years old, and they’re the main breadwinners of the family. You’ll occasionally see men trying to sell their daughters. -- Arun Gupta
... Its (9/11) perpetrators were linked to the Brooklyn-based blind cleric, Omar Abdel Rahman. Rahman, many experts have long suspected, was allowed to enter the United States by the Central Intelligence Agency in an effort to infiltrate Al-Qaeda — a high-stakes intelligence gamble that backfired spectacularly.
Ever since news broke that Lashkar-e-Taiba clandestine operative David Headley had been a Drug Enforcement Administration informant, speculation has grown that the Pakistani-American jihadist may also have worked for the United States Central Intelligence Agency. The evidence for the claim is thin. Headley’s links with the Lashkar, Federal Bureau of Intelligence detectives say, was only detected in July, 2009, when he posted inflammatory messages in an internet chat-room. Even at the time of his arrest, they claim, no evidence was available to suggest he had carried out pre-attack reconnaissance in Mumbai. For its part, the CIA has flatly denied any association with Headley.
But the Headley rumours offer an opportunity to examine the efforts of intelligence services around the world to infiltrate the global jihadist movement — and what sometimes happens when their assets turn out to have been double agents, singing the enemy’s song.
...The United Kingdom has never explained its failure to arrest Sheikh (Khalid Sheikh Mohammad) on his arrival in London. It was only in the wake of the 2001 Al-Qaeda attacks on the United States that Sheikh was charged by the United Kingdom with kidnapping its nationals in New Delhi — a delay that his victims described as “a disgrace...London-based Islamist cleric Omar Mahmoud Othman, spiritual mentor to the Al-Qaeda in Europe, is also alleged to have been a double-agent working for the United Kingdom’s domestic covert service, MI5. Known by the alias Abu Qatada, Othman’s followers included the chief suspect in the Madrid train bombings of 2004, and Al-Qaeda operative Richard Reid, who attempted to blow up a Paris-Miami flight with explosives. Nineteen audio cassettes of Othaman’s sermons were found in (Mohamed) Atta’s apartments. For years before the Madrid attacks, MI5 resisted appeals from the European allies for Othman’s arrest. “Abu Qatada”, The Times later reported, “boasted to MI5 that he could prevent terrorist attacks and offered to expose dangerous extremists, while all along he was setting up a haven for his terror organisation in Britain.” -- Praveen Swami
The arrest took India by surprise. The way these things work is that if the US knows about a terrorist, it allows him to fly to Pakistan or India (both frequent Headley destinations) and then tips off the local intelligence service. The terrorist is arrested and tortured to extract information. (Americans are now banned from using torture.) When the terrorist has been wrung dry, he is handed over to the US, along with his confession.
In this case, however, the Americans arrested Headley before he could fly out. He was formally charged, allowed to appoint a lawyer and is now entitled to all the protections of the US Constitution: he would be within his rights to tell Indian investigators to take a flying jump.
Why would the US treat a 26/11 suspect with such consideration?
The only explanation that fits is this: he was an American agent all along. The US arrested him only when it seemed that Indian investigators were on his trail. He will be sentenced to jail, will vanish into the US jail system for a while and will then be sprung again — as he was the last time. -- Vir Sanghvi
The phenomenon of Americans injecting themselves into transnational terrorism points to the need to get away from the usual spatial way of thinking of terrorism in terms of some state territories that are havens and others that are targets, and of radicalism spreading across boundaries like the imagery of oozing red paint or falling dominoes that heavily influenced thinking during the Cold War. President Obama used spatial imagery in his speech at West Point. Mixing metaphors of earthquakes and disease, he described Afghanistan and Pakistan as “the epicentre of the violent extremism practiced by al-Qaeda,” and declared that “we are in Afghanistan to prevent a cancer from once again spreading through that country.” The recent cases give scant support to the idea of an Afghan epicentre having special importance not shared by other unstable countries to which radicals can go. ...
The principal lesson to draw from the recent cases is that terrorism, either generally or specifically the Islamist variety is not solely or even primarily a matter of states, sponsorship, havens, and well-known groups. It is at least as much a matter of angry individuals, angered primarily by certain salient conflicts. It is more a matter of such individuals, already radicalized, seeking out groups than of the groups being Pied Pipers luring the individuals. The United States reduces the problem to the extent that it can help to resolve the conflicts. It exacerbates the problem, and risks becoming more of a terrorist target itself, to the extent that it escalates conflicts and makes them even more salient. -- Paul R. Pillar
The context within which people live their lives shapes everything — from their political outlook to their religious one. The reason there are so many frustrated and angry people in the Arab-Muslim world, lashing out first at their own governments and secondarily at us — and volunteering for “martyrdom” — is because of the context within which they live their lives. That was best summarised by the United Nation’s Arab Human Development reports as a context dominated by three deficits: a deficit of freedom, a deficit of education and a deficit of women’s empowerment. The reason India, with the world’s second-largest population of Muslims, has a thriving Muslim minority (albeit with grievances but with no prisoners in Guantánamo Bay) is because of the context of pluralism and democracy it has built at home.
One of the main reasons the Arab-Muslim world has been so resistant to internally driven political reform is because vast oil reserves allow its regimes to become permanently ensconced in power, by just capturing the oil tap, and then using the money to fund vast security and intelligence networks that quash any popular movement. Look at Iran. --Thomas L. Friedman
Mr. Obama could not be very specific about his Pakistan strategy, his advisers conceded on Monday evening. U.S. operations there are classified, most run by the CIA. Any overt U.S. presence would only fuel anti-Americanism in a country that reacts sharply to every missile strike against extremists that kills civilians as well, and that fears that America is plotting to run its government and seize its nuclear weapons.
Yet quietly, Mr. Obama has authorised an expansion of the war in Pakistan as well — if only he can get a weak, divided, suspicious Pakistani government to agree to the terms. --David E. Sanger and Eric Schmitt
“I have been warning Pakistan,” Home Minister P. Chidambaram said in a speech early this month, “not to play games with us. The last game should be the Mumbai attacks. Stop it there…If terrorists from Pakistan try to carry out any attacks in India, they will not only be defeated but will be retaliated against.”
In the wake of November’s carnage, Islamabad assured the United Nations Security Council that it would proscribe the Lashkar’s parent organisation, the Jamaat-ud-Dawa. A year on, it is yet to do so. Key suspects believed to be involved in the Mumbai attacks, like Lashkar military commander Muzammil Bhat, have not been held. Worse, offices of the Lashkar and groups like the Jaish-e-Mohammad continue to function; and their propaganda magazines, so critical to recruitment, are still being published.
Home Minister Chidambaram’s words point us in the direction of just why these issues need to be taken seriously: another major terrorist attack on India could have consequences that would destabilise both countries, and could conceivably precipitate a regional crisis. In both Islamabad and New Delhi, Mr. Chidambaram’s speech was interpreted as a warning that India would respond to future mass-casualty attacks by targeting jihadist bases and logistical facilities in Pakistan. That, in turn, could snowball into a conflict that would bring misery to all of the peoples of South Asia. No rational person would seek such an outcome, but another major terrorist attack could generate a hawkish public mood in India that politicians would not be able to resist. India, Pakistan, and the world must beware of the possibility that the last shots of last November’s maximum terror attacks on Mumbai might not yet have been fired — and do all that is in their power to avert a far larger tragedy. – Editorial in The Hindu, New Delhi
A year ago this week, the world was horrified by the scenes unfolding on 24-hour news channels in the heart of one of Asia’s great cities. Those who were there, or who witnessed it on television, will never forget those image — especially those from the Taj Mahal Hotel on Mumbai’s waterfront. The cold-blooded killers who planned the attack had deliberately sought to make it as public and horrifying as possible, in the hope of terrorising all who saw it.
It is hard for rational, civilised people to understand what could drive young men to carry out such atrocities -- or what sort of people could dream up such macabre plans. But, a year on, it seems clear that this was an effort to spark conflict in the region -- and that it failed in this aim...
It was quickly recognised that the Mumbai attacks emanated from Pakistan. The British government has been working with the Pakistani authorities over the last year to try to ensure that those responsible are brought to justice, and further such attacks do not happen. I don’t say this simply through empathy for the victims and their families of bombings and shootings across South Asia -- of which there are far too many -- but because terrorism with roots in this region also has a huge impact on my country. As I have said before, three quarters of the most serious terror plots being investigated by U.K. authorities have links to South Asia. Unless and until this threat is dismantled, people in Europe and Asia will continue to face the sort of indiscriminate killing that we saw in London in 2005 and in Mumbai last year. –Sir Richard Stagg, U.K. High Commissioner to India
The Pakistani army has no love for Islamic extremists now, but it differentiates between the Afghan Taliban, which it sees as a potential ally in a pro-Pakistan Afghanistan if US efforts there fail, and the Pakistani Taliban, which is viewed as a threat to the state.
In reality, the two Taliban groups and al-Qaida are closely allied. Both Taliban groups acknowledge the Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar as head of the essential jihad against Western forces in Afghanistan. Even though Afghan Taliban leaders are careful not to fight alongside their Pakistani brothers in South Waziristan, they would be happy to see larger parts of the NWFP controlled by the Pakistani Taliban so that their own base areas could expand....
To avoid a regional debacle and the Taliban gaining even more ground, Obama needs to fulfill the commitment he made to Afghanistan in March: to send more troops — so that US-NATO forces and the Afghan government can regain the military initiative — as well as civilian experts, and more funds for development. He must bring both India and Pakistan on board and help reduce their differences; a regional strategy is necessary for any US strategy in Afghanistan to have a chance. The United States needs to persuade India to be more flexible toward Pakistan while convincing Pakistanis to match such flexibility in a step-by-step process that reduces terrorist groups operating from its soil so that the two arch-enemies can rebuild a modicum of trust. --Ahmed Rashid
A reader of a column of mine on the social consequences of abandoned street children wrote to point out that my prognosis that these little Lords of the Flies would grow up as the new Bin Ladens, primed to wreck vengeance on established societies, was mistaken. “Osama bin Laden’s anger did not develop out of poverty,” she argued, “but out of a middle class malaise”. Of course. And so did Che Guevara’s and Stokely Carmichael’s and that of Marx and Lenin. But this does not exclude the undisputable, well-researched, fact that poverty, particularly when it exists in a society of gross inequalities, breeds violence, crime and the urge to deal out deadly punishment on conventional society. The leaders may be educated; the shock troops often come from the underclass. ...
If one survives to grow up in this environment and by some means of good fortune learns at least the rudiments of why one’s family and people were neglected, is it not likely that an anger will burn within that one day might find its true target? When it does happen we might wonder, as with bin Laden today, why it has taken so long for someone to rise up and hit us in the solar plexus. There were people who forecast a bin Laden twenty-five years ago and they were not taken seriously. Both for them and for us, let us not make the same mistake with the “wretched of the earth”. -- Jonathan Power
Retrospectively, it is clear the Mumbai assault served — successfully — several possible strategic goals for Rawalpindi if not Islamabad as well. First, it exacerbated tensions between India and Pakistan and disrupted the ongoing peace process. Notwithstanding the views of prominent American journalists, this author remains dubious that the Pakistan army would ever want a rapprochement with India given that the security competition with India legitimises its sweeping role in running the state. The ensuing rupture in India-Pakistan relations may have re-energised an enervated Pakistan army that loathed Musharraf’s various policies.
Second, the anticipated military response from India afforded Pakistan a convenient opportunity to move forces to the east from the west, where it was engaging the Pakistani Taliban in what was, at that time, a deeply unpopular war. In April 2008, one Pakistani officer had remarked to this author that it was a bad time to be in the Pakistan army because he had joined to kill Indians not Pakistanis. The tensions that followed the attack on Mumbai resuscitated the relevance of Pakistan’s conventional conflict amidst international insistence that the army invest in equipment and training, as well as doctrinal reorientation, for counterinsurgency operations. The attack demonstrated — to the military and intelligence organisations — that attacking India remains a central ambition of their organisations and gave a fillip to those militants who were impatient with Pakistan’s post-9/11 “moderated jihad” strategy. -- C. Christine Fair