important to bring about greater coordination among countries and chalk out a
strategy to exploit the fault lines between terrorist groups such as the
Islamic State and al-Qaeda.
question uppermost in many minds since last week is whether Brexit will have an
impact on the fight against terror. There is nothing to suggest that when
Brexit becomes a reality, the British resolve to counter jihad and all that
goes with it will be greatly diluted.
the country will have to contend with a possible disruption of international
law enforcement networks and its effect on counterterrorism. There is one view
that in isolation from the rest of the present European Union (EU), Britain may
actually be better equipped to deal with infiltration of jihadist elements
through stricter border control and monitoring of traffic from the EU
countries, which have had a considerable influx from West Asia last year.
All this is
in the realm of speculation. Much will depend on the course terrorism takes in
the next few years. In this context, one cannot ignore how Hafiz Saeed, the
Jamaat-ud-Dawa chief and mastermind of the 26/11 Mumbai attacks, has reacted to
Brexit. In his view, the U.K. was now paying for its past sins, especially the
support it lent to the U.S. and other European nations in working against
supporters of ‘jihad’. In a public address in Faisalabad, Pakistan, a few days
ago, Saeed is learnt to have appealed to his followers to step up their
campaign with a view to seeing “the end” of other nations like France, Germany and
Italy as well.
State Department’s annual Country Reports for 2015 released a fortnight ago
highlights the growing decentralised and diffused nature of terrorism globally.
Gone are the days of al-Qaeda’s undisputed leadership. It is certainly present
in many regions, but with much less authority and spread. The Islamic State
(IS) has undeniably stolen a march over it with its magnetic appeal, stark
brutality and the enormous resources it commands through sheer looting and
control over oilfields, mainly in Iraq.
lining is that there are indications that the IS has not lately been able to
weather the onslaught of coordinated action by Western nations. The substantial
expulsion of IS fighters from the cities lying on the routes connecting the two
strongholds of Raqqa in Syria and Mosul in Iraq is evidence of this. Air
strikes at modular refineries, petroleum storage tanks and crude collection
points have also resulted in an erosion of IS resources. The close monitoring
and check on volunteers from around the globe wanting to go to Syria and Iraq
has also reduced the strength of active fighting forces available to it.
reverses in West Asia have, however, been somewhat neutralised by the IS’s move
to establish affiliate organisations in Asia, especially Afghanistan and
Pakistan. There are uncorroborated claims of small actions in the latter
countries, but there have been counter-attacks by the Afghan government,
coalition forces, and particularly the Taliban, which has not taken kindly to
the rise of the IS. Support from the local population has also been
has to be reckoned with against the backdrop of reports last year of escalating
tension between al-Qaeda and the IS in some regions that triggered local
violence. In particular, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has shown
itself to be a resilient force in an already conflict-ridden Yemen. Ultimately,
it seems, counter-terror strategists will have to exploit these ego clashes to
gain at least temporary operational advantage. The 2015 Country Reports reveals
the greatest concern about the unmitigated violence in Africa. Perhaps the most
deadly of the groups which are active is Boko Haram of Nigeria, which declared
its affiliation to the IS last year.
greatest strength of Boko Haram, as also of a Somali outfit like al Shabaab
(that was responsible for the attack on the Westgate mall in Nairobi in
September 2013), is its capacity for unleashing high-decibel attacks on unwary
and soft targets. Governmental efforts to thwart terrorism in the region have
been commendable though the outcome has been only a modest reduction in
violence. The African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), to which many
countries including Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda contributed soldiers, has been
fairly effective against al Shabaab. In the process the joint force suffered a
large number of casualties last year, somewhat stalling the offensive.
and Law Enforcement
State Department believes that whatever gains have been made in countering
terror have been the result of greater coordination among nations across the
globe. This has taken the form of enlarged and up-to-date watch lists shared
with many nations affected badly by terror. Worthy of mention here is the
evolution of a comprehensive Passenger Name Record (PNR) that makes it
mandatory for airlines to let authorities know names of passengers on a flight
in advance of take-off. A European Counter Terrorism Centre in Europol (something
equivalent to Interpol) was another development to beef up the offensive.
question that is repeated again is whether such arrangements can help to thwart
the lone wolf who is becoming more and more the rule rather than an exception.
The answer is ‘no’! How do we frustrate a person who is convinced that a
Caliphate established after liquidating all other religions is the only answer
to what he considers an unequal world order, before he inflicts mass casualty
on innocent communities?
is that an ounce of optimism is preferable to a pound of cynicism. Simultaneous
to efforts aimed at deradicalisation will have to be the strengthening of law
enforcement and the rest of the criminal justice system.
detention at the merest suspicion — as long as such action is provided for in
law and is subject to eventual oversight by the judiciary — of persons who
share and disseminate (orally or electronically) an ideology that incentivises
killing of fellow beings is the only way to help prevent atrocities like the
one we witnessed recently in Orlando, U.S. Human rights activists will cry foul
at this. But we must remember that they are getting marginalised every time a
Paris, Brussels, Orlando takes place.
R.K. Raghavan is a former CBI Director and
current Chairman of the Special Investigation Team, Gujarat.