Driving terror

Category: World Affairs Topics: Afghanistan, Al-Qaeda, Conflicts And War, Iraq, Terrorism Views: 3612

The recent events of violence have brought the specter of terror back to the fore. These events have been linked to Al-Qaeda -- the shadowy group catapulted to world infamy with the 11 September 2001 attacks in Washington and New York. Al-Qaeda first took form in Afghanistan, and its leaders have ironically been trained, armed and organized by the US. Since the rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan, that country has been a hotbed of fanaticism and terror, as well as a perfect springboard for Al-Qaeda. The group is believed to have a network of members across the world, and the US has already used it as pretext for the invasion of two countries, Iraq and Afghanistan.

The US war on terror has dispersed rather than eliminate Al-Qaeda. The group is believed to be operating in a more decentralized manner, with minor commanders acting independently of the group's leadership, but according to its policy and directives. This situation has given rise to sporadic acts of terror all over the Middle East, disrupting reform and upsetting development plans in more than one country. Furthermore, Al-Qaeda has taken its handiwork to Europe, London being the latest -- but in all likelihood not the last -- instance. This staunchly anti-American group has proved resilient in its maneuvers, its mayhem proceeding unabated.

Since the invasion of Iraq, Al-Qaeda has changed its tactics, with field commanders choosing targets and methods more freely. Cluster cells operate almost independently, but central command is believed to coordinate and assess attacks, particularly those mounted simultaneously. Al-Qaeda is thought to cooperate with other militant groups as well as with the remnants of Iraq's Baathist regime. Again, these groups operate in separate cells with minimum coordination from above. There is evidence that Al-Qaeda offers money as well as logistical help to groups moving from one field of operations to another. 

Most of the political violence in the region is taking place in Iraq, where resistance is too intricate to be solely blamed on Al-Qaeda. The picture around the region is less coherent though. Dormant cells are believed to be currently in place in the Arab world as well as in Europe and the US. The way in which these cells will behave depends on the events in Iraq and other parts of the region. For example, certain attacks may be carried out to force Arab and non-Arab governments to take a stand against foreign occupation in the region. What makes the situation even more volatile is that, since 11 September, the US has been treating Arabs and Muslims -- individually and collectively -- as mere pawns in the war on terror, totally ignoring the fact that terror is linked to its own foreign policy in the region. Both inside and outside the Middle East, terror has a strong link with international and regional politics.

Despite all appearances, terror cannot be pinned on any particular religion. Militant organizations with no known religious links have existed in the US for sometime and may start carrying out operations and attributing them to Al-Qaeda. This is a real threat, and decision makers should keep it in mind, for wrong assessments would only make a bad situation worse. What makes dormant terror cells more worrying is that they may eventually acquire non- conventional weapons -- chemical, biological or nuclear. Information allowing independent individuals to manufacture such weapons are not hard to get by, and some terror groups have used mass destruction weapons before, as in the chemical attacks on metro stations in Tokyo eight years ago.

Terror groups are likely to use more sophisticated techniques of surveillance and attack as time goes by. Evidence suggests that terrorists are getting as technologically advanced as their adversaries, which makes it likely that the course of terror will get bloodier still. Generally speaking, terrorists have varied their techniques according to the targets involved and the impact they wish to have. The London bombings, for example, were so thoroughly planned that the investigators suspected an Egyptian professor, Magdi Al-Nashshar, of involvement. The latter was duly detained in Cairo, but so far investigators couldn't link him to the attacks. 

Reaction to terror, when confined to the security aspect, is both risky and incomplete. Tony Blair has rightly noted that terror is linked to three problems: poverty, lack of democracy and simmering regional conflicts. Foreign policy of major countries is definitely to blame for the rise of terror. The solution to terror, as the UK prime minister admitted, is to alleviate poverty, spread democracy and revise international policy visions regarding the Middle East and other flashpoints around the world.

Terror is an international, not a regional, phenomenon. The absence of an international consensus on the meaning of terror is unhelpful. So far, the international community has been unable to convene a UN-sponsored international conference on terror, although President Mubarak called for such a conference in Strasbourg back in 1986. Terror is likely to continue until its root causes are appropriately addressed. 

Ahmed Abdel-Halim is an expert in military strategy and member of the Egyptian Council for Foreign Affairs.

  Category: World Affairs
  Topics: Afghanistan, Al-Qaeda, Conflicts And War, Iraq, Terrorism
Views: 3612

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Older Comments:
The hypocrisy of Osama Bin Laden's rants is outstanding: from the late nineties, whilst pointing his accusing finger to heaven, he grooms his death worshippers to target and murder innocents. He justifies this unholy ruling by cutting and pasting selected texts from the Qu'ran, making the once holy into a parody of its self. By doing so he defaces the true meaning of meaning of Islam. His thinking is morally bankrupt, socially inept and religiously perverted.

Imagine 'osama-el-Psychopath bin laden' as the caliph, The taliban as his 'civil' servants, sadam's insurgents as his police, the bomb makers as his scientists, the suicide murderers as his foreign diplomats and zarqawi as his judge and executioner. Now some barbaric individuals may salivate at this image, however it is Hell on earth to me.

Now look at Niger, a country in dire need of humanitarian aid. Its people starve, whilst the planners and perpetrators of mayhem and murder carry out their evil deeds. Through their actions they kill hundreds through their inaction they kill thousands.

Lay aside your hate and weapons and discover compassion and solidarity with humankind.