( Written at the request of the “Times of India”)
The soon-to-be 10-year war against Al Qaeda and its affiliates waged by the international community under
Its successes have been in eliminating Osama bin Laden and a number of other high value targets of Al Qaeda and its affiliates in the Af-Pak region, Yemen and Iraq and in repeatedly thwarting their attempts to mount another 9/11 style catastrophic terrorist strike in the US Homeland. The international community has also been able to prevent so far any major threat of maritime and weapons of mass destruction terrorism from materializing.
These successes could be attributed to the strengthening of physical security through improved national capabilities and international co-operation, modernization of counter-terrorism capabilities and techniques, improvement in the collection of human and technical intelligence and follow-up action thereon and stricter laws to deal with terrorism.
The failures have been in the inability of the international community to destroy the terrorist infrastructure in the Af-Pak region,
The morale, the infrastructure and the innovative and constantly improving modus operandi of the terrorists continue to pose a high level of threat, which is likely to continue in the short and medium terms. The terrorists might not have been able to mount another 9/11 style strike, but they have shown an ability to spread the areas of their operations and to take the intelligence and physical security agencies by surprise.
We saw proof of this in the terrorist strikes in
Another development of concern has been in the availability to the terrorists of a much larger reservoir of potential recruits. In the initial years of the war against terrorism, terrorists for pan-global operations came mainly from amongst Arabs .Now they come increasingly from the Pakistani community in the Af-Pak region and in the West. International terrorism, which was largely an Arab phenomenon before 9/11, has now become a mixed Arab-Pak phenomenon with Pakistani organizations such as the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET) moving into the driving seat.
The successes in the ground and air-mounted counter-terrorism operations of the
If the international community has to finally prevail in the war against terrorism, counter-terrorism operations in the Af-Pak region have to be directed as much against the terrorist infrastructure as against its leaders. Terrorist operations against leaders such as OBL are spectacular, but final success will come only if the spectacular is combined with painstaking and surgical strikes against the infrastructure.
The decision of the
The Arab veterans of the Afghan war of the 1980s against the Soviet troops were behind the wave of terrorism of the last decade. The Pashtun-cum Punjabi- cum- Arab veterans of the wars of the last decade against the US-led NATO troops in
While investigation, forensic and physical security capabilities in the rest of the world have improved after 9/11, ours seem to be stagnating as seen from our failure to prevent the 26/11 and 10/7 strikes in Mumbai and the terrorist strike in Pune in February last year. Our inability to successfully investigate any of the post-26/11 strikes despite the availability of greater international cooperation is a matter of serious concern.
Our intelligence machinery and counter-terrorism agencies continue to suffer from major deficiencies. Action to revamp our agencies and counter-terrorism infrastructure has been more in rhetoric than in action.
Counter-terrorism leadership has to flow from the Prime Minister downwards. This has not happened. The opposition has totally failed to keep the debate focused on our deficiencies. Our counter-terrorism debate has been reduced to a meaningless slanging match marked more by partisan agendas than thoughtful ideas. ( 3-9-11)
( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail: email@example.com . Twitter: @SORBONNE75 )