Questions & answers on terrorism by one of India's foremost intelligence experts. Updated April 10.
- What is retributive punishment terrorism?
- What kind of terrorist groups resort to punishment terrorism?
- What are the major examples of punishment terrorism by religious groups?
- What are the examples of punishment terrorism carried out by non-religious groups and individuals?
- Is there really an organisation called Al Qaeda and why are the Al Qaeda and the other organisations associated with it in the International Islamic Front For Jihad Against the US and Israel considered the most dreaded of the punishment terrorism organisations?
- Does it mean that the Al Qaeda and the International Islamic Front are not as dangerous as they are projected by the US to be?
- What is catastrophic or new terrorism?
- What is the significance of the terrorist strikes of September 11,2001, in New York and Washington DC?
- Was the international coalition led by the US right in the manner in which it hit back at the new breed of punishment terrorists with overwhelming use of military force?
- What is the set-up of bin Laden like?
- How come bin Laden's Al Qaeda has not so far mounted any major act of punishment terrorism against Israel?
- How come Al Qaeda has similarly not mounted any major act of retributive punishment terrorism in Jammu& Kashmir and in other parts of India, either against India or against Israel or against the USA? What explains its concentrated anger against the US, apart from the Palestine issue?
- Does it mean that India does not have to fear any major act of retributive punishment terrorism?
- What provoked Osama bin Laden's terrorist strikes of September 11, 2001?
- Was bin Laden directly involved in the planning and execution of the attack on USS Cole and of the September 11 strikes in the US?
- What provoked the punishment terrorism against Daniel Pearl, the journalist of the Wall Street Journal of the US, who was kidnapped on January 23, 2002, and killed subsequently?
- Was it the Al Qaeda itself which carried out his kidnapping and beheading?
- Has Musharraf told the USA the complete truth about the Pearl case?
- Did Aziz alert Musharraf and Lt.Gen.(retd)Moinuddin Haider, the Interior Minister, who was co-ordinating the investigation, about the surrender of Omar Sheikh immediately after it took place? If so, did Musharraf immediately inform the US authorities about it and associate them with the interrogation?
- Why has Musharraf resisted US pressure to extradite Sheikh Omar?
- What provoked the grenade attack on a church congregation in Islamabad on March 17?
- Who was responsible for the attack?
- How did the assailants come to know of the real identity of Milton Green?
- What are the positive results so far of the US-led war against terrorism?
- What are the negative results of Operation Enduring Freedom so far?
- What are the disturbing indicators which don't bode well for the future?
- What are the mid-course corrections that are called for?
- What are the future possibilities of punishment terrorism?
- Presuming bin Laden is still alive, what would be his likely targets and what modus operandi (MO) is he likely to follow keeping in view the tightened security apparatus in most countries?
- What is the likelihood of the use of WMD in an act of punishment terrorism?
- What are the pre-requisites for effective prevention of terrorism?
Punishment terrorism is an act of terrorism consciously committed to punish a wrong-doer, who may be a State, a society, a community, a religious group, an economic organisation,an individual etc. It is retributive in nature and does not have any other objective or demand to be achieved beyond the act of retribution. It is the use of terrorism as a weapon to give vent to anger and not to achieve any strategic objective or tactical demand. Whereas objective or demand terrorists generally identify themselves (example: Hamas, the various terrorist groups in Jammu & Kashmir) and claim responsibility or credit for their acts of terrorism, punishment terrorists don't. Objective or demand terrorists want that their followers, their community and the international public opinion should know that they were behind the act of terrorism. For them, terrorism is one way of creating an awareness of their objective and demand. Objective terrorists too undertake punishment terrorism, but they look upon it as retaliatory in nature and not retributive.
What kind of terrorist groups resort to punishment terrorism?
Generally, religious terrorist groups, but examples are not wanting of ideological, ethnic and other non-religious groups and even individuals resorting to punishment terrorism.
What are the major examples of punishment terrorism by religious groups?
- The blowing up of the Kanishka aircraft of the Air India off the Irish coast,
- the explosion at the Narita airport in Tokyo and the synchronised transistor radio explosions in New Delhi, all in 1985 by Sikh terrorists as acts of retribution for the alleged sacrilege of descecration of the Golden Temple in Amritsar by the Indian Army in June,1984;
- the World Trade Centre explosion in New York in February, 1993, by some Muslim extremist elements who felt aggrieved over what they perceived as the betrayal by the USA's Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) after having used them to achieve US objectives against the Soviet troops in Afghanistan;
- the synchronised explosions in Mumbai (Bombay) in March, 1993, by Muslims associated with Dawood Ibrahim, the mafia leader, as retribution for the demolition of the Babri Masjid in December, 1992, and for the alleged massacre of Muslims that followed in Mumbai without the Police protecting them;
- the explosion in the RSS office in Chennai in August,1993, allegedly by elements close to the Al Ummah again because of anger over the demolition of the Babri Masjid;the explosions on many railway trains in North India in December,1993, allegedly by elements belonging to the Students' Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) to mark the first anniversary of the demolition of the Babri Masjid;
- the explosions outside the US barracks in Saudi Arabia in 1996 by unidentified elements;
- the synchronised explosions in Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu in February, 1998, allegedly by the Al Ummah as a retribution for police excesses against the Muslims the previous year; the explosions outside the US Embassies in Nairobi and Dar-es-Salaam in August, 1998, allegedly by the Al Qaeda of Osama bin Laden;
- the attack on the US naval ship "USS Cole" in Aden in October, 2000, possibly by the Al Qaeda; the terrorist strikes against the World Trade Centre in New York and the Pentagon in Washington DC on September 11, 2001;
- the kidnapping and the beheading of Daniel Pearl, the American journalist of the "Wall Street Journal", by terrorists associated with bin Laden in January-February, 2002;
- and the grenade attack on a church congregation in Islamabad on March 17,2002, suspected to be by fundamentalist elements in the Pakistan Army to punish the National Security Agency (NSA) and the CIA of the USA.
It is alleged that Milton Green, who was injured in the grenade attack, was the head of an NSA team attached to the US Embassy in Islamabad for intercepting the communications of the Al Qaeda, the Taliban and Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and that his wife Barbara, who was killed along with their daughter, was an officer of the CIA attached to the Personnel Department of the US Embassy.
What are the examples of punishment terrorism carried out by non-religious groups and individuals?
The assassination of Rajiv Gandhi, former Indian Prime Minister, by the LTTE in May,1991; the assassination of two CIA officers in Langley, Washington DC, by Mir Aimal Kansi of Pakistan in January,1993, who felt angry over the CIA's failure to keep up its promise to get him the US citizenship and a lucrative job in return for the services rendered by him against the Soviet troops in Afghanistan; and the explosion at the federal office building in Oklahoma in 1995 by Timothy McVeigh, who felt angry against the Federal Government for various reasons. The blowing-up of a Pan Am aircraft off Lockerbie in 1989 is viewed as an act carried out by the Libyan State as a retribution for the US bombing of Libya in 1986.
Is there really an organisation called Al Qaeda and why are the Al Qaeda and the other organisations associated with it in the International Islamic Front For Jihad Against the US and Israel considered the most dreaded of the punishment terrorism organisations?
It is doubtful whether bin Laden calls his organisation Al Qaeda, as alleged by the USA. The name Al Qaeda, which means "The Base", does not figure in any of the fatwas, documents or statements known to have emanated from bin Laden. In their telephone and Internet communications, the followers of bin Laden use the domestic codes "al Qaeda", the "company", the "corporate house", the "CEO" etc while referring to him without mentioning him by name in order to conceal his identity. From this, the CIA seems to have come to the incorrect conclusion that bin Laden's organisation is called "Al Qaeda", that it has a cor[orate-like structure, that he runs it like a CEO etc.
It is believed that bin Laden has not given any name to his Saudi-centric organisation just as Carlos had not given any to his. He only uses the title International Islamic Front which he has given to his United Front of like-minded Islamic groups again just as Carlos called his United Front the International Front of Revolutionaries. During its war against International Communism, the CIA disseminated a large number of fabricated documents purporting to come from Moscow.
Similarly, it has been disseminating a large number of fabricated documents purporting to be from the Al Qaeda. A typical example is the so-called training manual of the Al Qaeda.It has been fabricating documents, planting them in different places in Afghanistan and letting them be discovered by journalists in order to give them an air of seeming credibility. The Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA) has similarly been using ostensibly independent think tanks allegedly funded by it and the "academics" working for them for carrying on a disinformation campaign about the Al Qaeda and other organisations associated with it.
Does it mean that the Al Qaeda and the International Islamic Front are not as dangerous as they are projected by the US to be?
No. It would not be correct to say so. The Al Qaeda or by whatever name bin Laden calls his organisation and his associates in the International Islamic Front are the most ruthless terrorist organisations in the world today, which practise retributive punishment terrorism. But, reports about the extent of their penetration in various countries, particularly in South-East Asia, their organisational set-up, training methods etc being spread by the CIA and the DIA with the help of compliant US journalists and academics need to be carefully verified before acceptance. The USA seems to be using such stories spread by it as a means for the return of the US troops to the South-East Asian region on a permanent basis.
What is catastrophic or new terrorism?
There is no commonly accepted definition of catastrophic or new terrorism. However, there is growing convergence amongst professional counter-terrorism experts that catastrophic or new terrorism has one or more of the following components: Use of or threat to use a weapon of mass destruction (WMD); use of or threat to use a weapon of mass disruption such as a computer virus or hacking (WMDIS); capture of or threat to capture an installation dealing with WMD such as a nuclear power station in order to cause mass panic; and use of or threat to use conventional weapons or instruments in an unconventional manner to cause fatal human casualties of 1,000 or more.
What is the significance of the terrorist strikes of September 11,2001, in New York and Washington DC?
Firstly, it was the first act of catastrophic punishment terrorism in recent history;
secondly, it was the first use of a conventional instrument ( a commercial airliner) in a hitherto unthought of unconventional manner to cause human casualties of catastrophic proportions;
thirdly, it was successfully carried out in US territory despite the commonly-assumed competence of the US intelligence and security apparatus;
fourthly, it demonstrated the ease with which determined punishment terrorists have managed to penetrate the State despite its powerful security apparatus as compared to the difficulty which the State faces in penetrating the terrorist apparatus;
fifthly, it demonstrated dramatically to the public the frightening mix of irrationality and rationality (mental lucidity) which is the defining characteristic of all terrorism and particularly punishment terrorism; sixthly, it was a catastrophic act of terrorism watched live by millions of TV viewers all over the world, which posed a visible challenge to the credibility of the State, whether the State be in the US, Russia, China, India, Singapore, Australia or elsewhere and called for an equally visible and ruthless State response with all the might that the State is capable of in order to restore its credibility in the eyes of the people.
The irrationality of the punishment terrorists was seen in their willingness to kill thousands of innocent people to give vent to their anger without worrying about the revulsion which it might cause in the minds of the public or without asking themselves whether their act of retribution was in proportion to their anger over the perceived wrong-doing against them. Their rationality or mental lucidity was frighteningly seen in the manner in which they planned and carried out their act of terrorism in a precision-like manner. It showed a mass destruction mindset, which was able to think of new ways of mass destruction or mass disruption that do not occur to a normal mindset and is prepared to carry them out whatever be the costs involved.
It made the world realise that what it is confronted with is not a new or catastrophic terrorism, but a new breed of terrorists for whom terrorism is their viagra, which gives them a feeling of potence, of power, of invincibility. The normal counter-terrorism methodology which involves equal attention to the political, economic, social, religious and security aspects of terrorism would not work against them. Even if all the political and other non-security aspects are dealt with, the new breed of terrorists would still indulge in their punishment terrorism, if they had the opportunity and the motivation, using some pretext or the other.
Was the international coalition led by the US right in the manner in which it hit back at the new breed of punishment terrorists with overwhelming use of military force?
Initially, in a series of articles, this writer had been critical of this overwhelming military response. Now, in retrospect, he has concluded that there was no other option available to the civilised world if the credibility of the State was to be restored and preserved in the eyes of the law-abiding people.
But after six months of this war against terrorism, the time has come for the coalition to examine the methodology followed so far since October 7, 2001, to see what mid-course corrections are called for and to implement them. The most positive outcome of September 11 was the realisation by the international community that terrorism is an absolute evil and has to be combated as such, whatever be the objective of the terrorists and whether they were domestic or international terrorists.
Another positive outcome was the realisation that the world cannot effectively deal with this new breed of terrorists without effective international co-operation. The networking of the terrorists has to be confronted by an equally determined networking of the political leaderships and professional experts of the civilised world.
One has seen the emergence of such networking, but one is yet to see this axis of the civilised world being given an appropriate shape and structure so that it is able to deter effectively future acts of punishment terrorism.
What is the set-up of bin Laden like?
(For the sake of convenience, the writer will continue to call Osama bin Laden's organisation "Al Qaeda" as he had been doing in the past, even though bin Laden himself does not use this name for his organisation and has been using "Al Qaeda" purely as a domestic code)
Before answering this question, one has to go back to the Afghan war of the 1980s to understand what is happening since 1998. The success of the Islamic Revolution in Iran in 1979 and the international jihad against the Soviet troops in Afghanistan promoted by the covert action division of the USA's Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), with the help of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) of Pakistan, then ruled by Gen.Zia-ul-Haq, led to many negative consequences, which ultimately contributed to the Pakistan-Afghanistan region emerging as the epicentre of punishment terrorism of the most ruthless kind motivated by pan-Islamic ideas.
Firstly, the emergence of the Sunni extremist Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP), which was funded by the intelligence agencies of Pakistan, Saudi Arabia,Iraq and the USA -- each for its own reason. Pakistan and Saudi Arabia backed it to counter the increasingly assertive Shias. Iraq assisted it to create disaffection amongst the Sunni Balochis of Iran. The CIA backed it to use it against Iran as well as the then USSR.
Secondly, the large flow of Saudi money into Pakistan and the encouragement of the pan-Islamic Deobandi groups by Zia as well as the CIA led to the mushrooming of Wahabi-Deobandi madrasas all over Pakistan and the marginalisation of the more tolerant and soft Barelvis who, despite being in a numerical majority in Pakistan, found themselves without political and financial influence.
Thirdly, to rally round the Muslims of the world against the USSR, the CIA consciously encouraged religious fanaticism and pan-Islamism. The intelligence agencies of the US and the West European countries encouraged jobless Muslims in many countries to go to Pakistan, undergo military training in the newly sprung-up Wahabi-Deobandi madrasas and join the Afghan Mujahideen. Between 6,000 and 10,000 Muslims, the majority of them Arabs, went and fought against the Soviet troops in Afghanistan, with Saudi Arabia funding them, the ISI training and motivating them and the CIA and other Western intelligence agencies equipping them. Osama bin Laden, then a blue-eyed boy of the CIA, played an active role in the training and motivation of these mercenaries and led them to battle against the Soviet troops. In addition to the Arabs, jobless Muslims from the Jammu & Kashmir State of India, Bangla Desh, the Arakan area of Myanmar, Southern Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia were also encouraged by the CIA to join this mercenary brigade.
Fourthly, faced with the increasing difficulties encountered by its Slav troops in countering the CIA-instigated pan-Islamic mercenaries, Moscow started sending to Afghanistan the Muslim members of its Armed Forces recruited from the Central Asian Republics (CARs), Chechnya and Dagestan. These troops got infected by the pan-Islamism of the CIA's mercenaries.
Fifthly, a number of new pan-Islamic organisations of Wahabi-Deobandi-Ahle Hadith orientation sprang up in Pakistani soil and these were given the leadership role by the US for leading the mercenary brigade to battle. The most important amongst them were the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HUM), the Harkat-ul-Jihad-Al-Islami (HUJI) and the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET). The HUM and the HUJI were born out of the SSP and shared its anti-Shia orientation. All these organisations were favoured by Zia and his ISI. The HUM, which produced some of the best fighters of the Afghan war, was favoured by the CIA and got the lion's share of the Stinger missiles, explosives and other equipment. Towards the end of the 1980s, the HUM and the HUJI merged to form the Harkat-ul-Ansar (HUA) and separated again in 1998 after the USA designated the HUA as a foreign terrorist organisation under a 1996 law in October,1997. The Jaish-e-Mohammed (JEM) was formed in the beginning of 2000 by a split in the HUM.
Sixthly, after the withdrawal of the Soviet troops in 1988, the USA lost interest in Afghanistan and left the mercenary brigade in the lurch. Promises made to these jobless Muslims at the time of their recruitment that after the war in Afghanistan was over, they would be helped to re-settle in the USA with lucrative jobs were not kept up. Some of these mercenaries went back to their country of origin and joined the fundamentalist groups in fighting against their Governments (examples: Algeria, Tunisia and Egypt). Others stayed behind and were diverted to J&K by the ISI.
The HUM and the HUJI were used by the ISI to rally round the dregs of the war of the 1980s and divert them to India. They did so very successfully. But, at the same time, they promoted jihad in Chechnya and Dagestan in Russia, Xinjiang in China, in the newly-independent CARs, in Bangladesh, in the Arakan area of Myanmar and in the Southern Philippines. The HUJI took over the leadership of the jihadi elements in Bangladesh and the HUM in the rest of the world, including the USA. HUM cadres fought actively against the US Marines in Somalia.
Not having learnt any lessons from the sequel to its policy of encouraging fanaticism and pan-Islamism in Afghanistan and despite the humiliation inflicted on the US troops in Somalia by the HUM in 1993, the CIA asked the ISI to divert part of the dregs of the HUM and the HUJI to Bosnia to assist the Muslims there in their fight against the Serbs. The transfer to Bosnia was funded by the Saudi Intelligence, the arms and ammunition were given by the Iranian Intelligence and the leadership and motivation were provided by serving and retired officers of the ISI and the Turkish intelligence.
Omar Sheikh, who masterminded the kidnapping of Daniel Pearl of the "Wall Street Journal", had his jihadi inoculation in Bosnia just as bin Laden had his in Afghanistan. From Bosnia, they were diverted to Kosovo by the CIA and thereafter again left in the lurch after they had done the USA's hatchet job in the Balkans. After the withdrawal of the Soviet troops from Afghanistan, bin Laden had spent some time in Saudi Arabia and then took up residence in Khartoum in the Sudan from where he was asked to leave in the beginning of 1996 by the Sudanese Government under US pressure. He approached Burhanuddin Rabbani, the then President of Afghanistan, to permit him to move over to Afghanistan. Rabbani persuaded Benazir Bhutto, the then Prime Minister of Pakistan, to let bin Laden shift to Afghanistan. She agreed to this after consulting Washington DC and bin Laden flew to Peshawar and took up residence in Jalalabad. Gen.Pervez Musharraf, her Director-General of Military Operations, supervised the transfer.After the Taliban captured Jalalabad and Kabul in September, 1996, it shifted him to Kandahar. He gathered around him all the dregs of the Afghan war of the 1980s as well as the new jihadis from Chechnya, Dagestan, the CARs, Xinjiang and the southern Philippines and formed in 1998 his International Islamic Front For Jihad Against the US and Israel.
The USA was aware of the presence and activities of bin Laden in Afghan territory since July 1996, but did not move vigorously against him as long as it was hopeful of getting the assistance of the Taliban for the construction of the oil and gas pipeline from Turkmenistan to Pakistan through the Herat area of Afghanistan by UNOCAL, the powerful American company. It moved seriously against bin Laden only after UNOCAL withdrew from the project and after he had formed the International Islamic Front and issued in 1998 his first fatwa against the US, which was signed, amongst others, by Fazlur Rahman Khalil of the HUM.
bin Laden wears two hats. He is the head of the Al Qaeda,which is an exlusively Arab and Saudi-centric organisation, with a strength of not more than 500 to 600 hard-core members, as well as of the International Islamic Front, which is a united front of five pan-Islamic organisations from Pakistan (the HUM, the HUJI, the LET, the JEM and the SSP), three from Egypt, two from Uzbekistan, one from Xinjiang, the Abu Sayyaf of the Southern Philippines and the Taliban. Other nationalities, which have been fighting in Afghanistan such as the Chechens, the Rohinga Muslims of Myanmar, the Bangladeshis, the Malaysians and the Indonesians fight as members of the HUM or the HUJI and not as separate components of the International Islamic Front.
The Front has a total of about 20,000 plus trained cadres at its disposal in the Pakistan-Afghanistan region as well as outside.Of all the pan-Islamic organisations of Pakistan, the HUM has had a very active networking relationship with the jihadi elements in South-East Asia through the Abu Sayyaf as well as the Tablighi Jamaat (TJ) of Pakistan, which has been periodically sending Tablighis to South-East Asia, ostensibly to teach the Holy Koran and to train the Ulema.
To maintain effective internal security in the Al Qaeda and its 055 Brigade, bin Laden does not allow non-Arabs into it. It performs the following tasks: it ensures the personal security of bin Laden; it prevents the penetration of bin Laden's set-up by foreign intelligence agencies; deputes Arab instructors to the training camps of the HUM, the HUJI, the LET, the JEM and the SSP as well as to those of other components of the International Islamic Front; plans and carries out all the anti-US operations of bin Laden, taking local help from the other components of the Front where necessary. However, the other components are not taken into confidence regarding the details of the Al Qaeda operations.
The organisations associated with bin Laden share the following characteristics: extra-territorial loyalty; recognition of only the borders of the Ummah and not of national borders; and willingness to acquire and use weapons of mass destruction (WMD), if considered necessary to protect Islam.
How come bin Laden's Al Qaeda has not so far mounted any major act of punishment terrorism against Israel?
The Palestine Liberation Organisation of Yasser Arafat and its allied groups realise that the PLO would not be able to ultimately achieve its objective without the backing of the US. They, therefore, feel that any impression that they have been taking the help of the Al Qaeda might prove counter-productive and harm their cause. At the same time, it needs to be underlined that the Israeli factor had influenced his selection of some of the targets. He chose Nairobi and Dar-es-Salaam for his terrorist strikes of August,1998, partly because of his assessment that the intelligence and security apparatus there was weak and partly because of the long years of co-operation of the local intelligence and security agencies with their counterparts in Israel. He has not forgotten the role allegedly played by Kenya in facilitating the Entebbe raid of the Israeli security agencies in the 1970s to release the Israeli passengers of a hijacked Air France aircraft. Similarly, his interest in organising a terrorist strike in Singapore is not merely due to the visible US corporate and naval presence there and the frequent visits of US naval ships to Singapore, but also because of the reports of the close co-operation of the local intelligence and security agencies with those of Israel.
How come Al Qaeda has similarly not mounted any major act of retributive punishment terrorism in Jammu& Kashmir and in other parts of India, either against India or against Israel or against the USA? What explains its concentrated anger against the US, apart from the Palestine issue?
Four of the components of bin Laden's International Islamic Front are active in J & K and other parts of India--the HUM, the HUJI, the JEM and the LET. They are essentially Pakistani organisations and are responsible for most of the cross-border terrorism in India. Even they have not so far mounted any major act of punishment terrorism due to the following reasons:
Firstly, like the Palestinians,the indigenous Kashmiri groups, whose local support is necessary for a major terrorist strike, feel that they cannot achieve their objective without US support and , therefore, do not want any Al Qaeda operation against the US or Israel in Indian territory. The Hizbul Mujahideen (HM), presently the most active indigenous Kashmiri group, has scrupulously kept away from the Al Qaeda and the Taliban. The latter too do not like the HM because of its past association with Gulbuddin Heckmatyar's Hizb-e-Islami.
Secondly, to be able to mount a successful terrorist strike against the USA or Israel in other parts of India, Al Qaeda would need local support. In Pakistan and other Islamic countries, particularly of West Asia, the political, military and intelligence establishments had generally been pro-USA, but large sections of the population have been anti-American. The reverse is the case in India. Thirdly, the non-Pakistani components of the International Islamic Front from Egypt, Uzbekistan, Xinjiang and the Philippines do not look upon India as anti-Islam despite the anger of the Indian Muslim community over the demolition of the Babri Masjid and the alleged massacre of Muslims in Mumbai in December,1992, and in Ahmedabad in February-March, 2002.
Because of this, past attempts of the Pakistani components to have the Front re-named as the International Islamic Front For Jihad Against the US, Israel and India did not succeed despite the support of bin Laden for such a move. Foreign Muslims note that despite the large casualties suffered by India in J&K since 1989 (nearly 14,000 innocent civilians and 3,500 security forces personnel killed), India had not resorted to air strikes, destroyed or damaged mosques, madrasas and the Holy Koran, forcibly shaved off the beards of arrested terrorists, seized their copies of the Holy Koran due to fears that they might be using them as secret code books and substituted them with Holy Koran printed by the Army, prevented the Muslim detenus from praying in a group, or tried them in camera before military tribunals as, according to them, the USA has been doing in Afghanistan. They also note that during the recent massacre of Muslims in Ahmedabad, it is the Indian print and electronic media and large sections of the Indian elite, including Hindu leaders, who highlighted the massacre and went to the help of the Muslims.
In contrast, since October 7,2001, practically the entire US elite, including its academics, have been observing a strange silence over what the Muslims regard as the atrocities committed by the US towards those arrested in Afghanistan. They compare the active role played by the US media and academic elite in bringing to light the atrocities committed by the US troops against the Vietnamese in the 1960s and 1970s with its conscious inactivism since October 7,2001, and allege that this inactivism is because the victims now are Muslims for whom the US society as a whole feels no sympathy.
Does it mean that India does not have to fear any major act of retributive punishment terrorism?
No. It would be incorrect to come to such conclusion. There is considerable anger against the Government of India amongst the dregs of the second Afghan war over its alleged support to the Northern Alliance. Past anger amongst Indian Muslims over the demolition of the Babri Musjid has been aggravated by the recent massacres in Ahmedabad. There had been massacres of the members of the minority communities (Sikhs and Muslims) during communal riots in the past too, but what, in the perception of the Muslims, distinguishes the recent happenings in Ahmedabad from those of the past is the total insensitivity of the local administration to the feelings of the Muslims and what they regard as its conscious inactivism and the absence of even a modicum of effort by the Government towards a healing touch. There is, therefore, a strong possibility of a major act of retributive punishment terrorism in Gujarat in the coming months. It need not necessarily come from bin Laden's outfit. There is a greater possibility that it would come from enraged sections of the local Muslims. An encore of Mumbai--March 1993 is on the cards.
What provoked Osama bin Laden's terrorist strikes of September 11, 2001?
The September 11 terrorist strikes as well as the attack on the US naval ship USS Cole in October, 2000, were viewed by bin Laden's set-up as direct retribution for the US Cruise missile strikes of August, 1998, on a factory allegedly owned by bin Laden in the Sudan which was described by the US as a chemicals factory and on the training camps of the Al Qaeda in Taliban-controlled territory in Eastern Afghanistan. Bin Laden's set-up strongly denied that the bombed factory in the Sudan was producing chemical weapons and claimed that it was actually manufacturing anti-malaria tablets for the Sudanese people.
The Pakistani media reported that terrorist training camps belonging to Pakistani organisations such as the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HUM), Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HUJI) etc were destroyed by the Cruise missile strikes, but there was no serious damage to the Al Qaeda's infrastructure. The HUM and other components of bin Laden's International Islamic Front For Jihad Against the US and Israel, however, claimed that what was destroyed were madrasas being run by these organisations for teaching the Holy Koran to Afghan and Pakistani children. They alleged that the US strikes destroyed four mosques, severely damaged another and destroyed 200 copies of the Holy Koran kept in the madrasas. They described this as an act of sacrilege by the US against Islam and as marking the beginning of a new Crusade. During sermons in mosques and madrasas in Afghanistan and Pakistan, they warned that this act of sacrilege would not go unpunished, that they would pay the US back in the same coin and attack the US wherever they could, including in the US itself.
In the forefront of the orchestrated demand for an act of retributive terrorism against the US to punish it for the August,1998, missile strikes was the HUM, which has a presence in the US and had trained at least 16 Afro-American Muslims in the past in order to carry the jihad to US territory.
Was bin Laden directly involved in the planning and execution of the attack on USS Cole and of the September 11 strikes in the US?
No definitive evidence is available with regard to the attack on Cole, but with regard to the September 11 strikes, it is clear from the vidio recording of a conversation of bin Laden with his lieutenants after September 11, which was given to the USA's Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) by Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and which was subsequently released by the US to the media, that bin Laden had an active role to play in the conceptualisation and planning of the strikes in the US.
For security reasons, bin Laden does not generally come into direct contact with those trained in his camps. He used to leave the training, motivation, tasking, briefing and debriefing to Mohammed Atef (since dead in November, 2001) and Ayman-al- Zawahiri. It was also his style to avoid too much of centralised guiding, planning and execution. Those chosen for suicide missions used to be told the adversary to be attacked, where and the type of targets to be attacked, but the actual selection of the target and the manner of execution of the plan used to be left to the discretion and judgement of a ground co-ordinator, assisted by one or more persons.
The ground co-ordinator and his staff, as in the case of the LTTE, used to be different from those who actually carried out the suicide mission. The LTTE employs two teams for each operation. The first team selects the target, recees it, studies the security measures in and around the target, draws up the plan of operation, carries out sand model exercises and discussions to satisfy itself that the plan would work and then trains the second team of suicide volunteers, briefs it and sends it on the mission.
On the other hand, the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET) and the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JEM), both members of bin Laden's International Islamic Front, which have carried out 43 suicide missions in Jammu & Kashmir and New Delhi, use only one team. It is the suicide squad which does all the work from the initial selection of the target, receeing to final execution of the plan. This should explain the less spectacular successes of the JEM and the LET, as compared to those of the LTTE and the Al Qaeda.
From the video recording mentioned above, it was apparent that bin Laden was involved in the details of the September 11 strikes, but it is not clear whether he employed a two-team or one-team modus operandi (MO). But from the precision planning and execution of four synchronised hijackings and strikes, of which three were successful and the fourth failed due to unexpected reasons of resistance from some of the passengers, one could infer with reasonable accuracy that the two-team modus operandi (MO) must have been followed.
There must have been another team of ground controllers and co-ordinators, who knew all the 19 persons involved in the air strikes and co-ordinated their planning and execution. This team must have consisted only of Arabs since bin Laden did not depend upon non-Arabs for such operations designed to have spectacular surprise and impact and any assistance taken from the non-Arab components such as the HUM sleepers in the US must have been of a logistics nature without the non-Arabs knowing any details of the operation. This team of ground controllers and co-ordinators is still at large and has managed to evade arrest. It is unlikely that it is still in the US. It must have dispersed to other countries, most probably to Pakistan.
What provoked the punishment terrorism against Daniel Pearl, the journalist of the Wall Street Journal of the US, who was kidnapped on January 23, 2002, and killed subsequently?
Firstly, the perception (right or wrong, one does not know) in the jihadi circles in Pakistan and in Pakistan's military-intelligence establishment that the WSJ was pro-India and anti-Pakistan.
Secondly, the fact that he was operating from Mumbai (Bombay) in India, where he was based as the head of the South Asian Bureau of the WSJ. Pakistani jihadis and military-intelligence circles look with suspicion on India-based foreign journalists visiting Pakistan as probably having contacts with the Indian intelligence.
Thirdly, the fact that he was Jewish and that his parents were Israeli citizens based in the US. This made the jihadis and military-intelligence circles suspect that he was also working for the Mossad, the Israeli external intelligence agency. It is alleged that while the US media did not reveal his Jewish background till after the confirmation of his death and the departure of his wife from Pakistan, some Israeli newspapers were indiscreet and irresponsible and revealed his Jewish background and the Israeli citizenship of his parents immediately after his kidnapping and before his death.
Fourthly, he was investigating not only the suspected contacts of Richard Reid, the so-called shoe bomber, with organisations in Pakistan, but also the contacts of Gen.Pervez Musharraf and Gen.Mohammed Aziz Khan, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, with Osama bin Laden and making enquiries regarding the whereabouts of bin Laden and Mulla Mohammed Omer, the Amir of the Taliban. This set off alarm bells in the jihadi circles and the military-intelligence establishment, who suspected that he was being used by the CIA to smoke out bin Laden and Mulla Omer.
After his excution, while talking to the media during the SAARC Information Ministers' conference at Islamabad in March, 2002, Musharraf accused Pearl of being over-intrusive in his investigation methods and insinuated that this invited the terrorists' wrath on him. Jihadi and military-intelligence circles have been alleging that a New Delhi-based correspondent of the USA Today has been similarly over-intrusive in his investigation methods. There is anger over his reported attempts to investigate the links between bin Laden's set-up and Gen.Mohammed Aziz Khan, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee.
Was it the Al Qaeda itself which carried out his kidnapping and beheading?
There is so far no evidence to show any direct involvement of the Al Qaeda. The Musharraf Government had from the beginning been claiming that this was an operation by the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JEM), which was designated by President Bush as a foreign terrorist organisation in December, 2001, and which was banned by Musharraf on January 15, 2002, but the kidnapping and murder bore the signature of the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HUM) and the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HUJI), both members of bin Laden's International Islamic Front since its inception in February,1998.
The HUM, in particular, specialises in kidnapping and in the brutal treatment of its victims. It cuts their throat, lets them bleed to death and then beheads them. That is what it did to the Norwegian tourist kidnapped by it under the name Al Faran in Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) in 1995. When it hijacked an Indian Airlines plane to Kandahar in December, 1999, it slit the throat of Rupen Katyal, a newly-married Indian who was returning from a honeymoon in Kathmandu with his young wife, and let him slowly bleed to death in the business class of the aircraft while the HUM hijackers sat around him and read from the Holy Koran. That is what it did to Pearl.
All foreign terrorist organisations trained by the HUM or HUJI such as the Abu Sayyaf of the Philippines and those of Chechnya similarly specialise in kidnapping and treat their victims brutally. All available evidence shows that Pearl was kidnapped, his throat slit and he was beheaded by a HUM group led by Sheikh Omar, presently under trial in Karachi and whom the military regime has refused to extradite to the US lest he tell his US interrogators about his involvement, at the instance of the ISI, in the terrorist strikes on the J&K Legislative Assembly on October 1, 2001, on the Indian Parliament on December 13, 2001, and on the security personnel outside the American Centre in Kolkata (Calcutta) on January 22, 2002, and about his links with bin Laden with the knowledge of the ISI, including his prior knowledge of the plans for the September 11 terrorist strikes which he had conveyed to the ISI.
The Pakistani military-intelligence establishment has been desperately trying to steer the investigation away from the HUM and the HUJI, both of which and particularly the latter have many supporters in the Army. The HUJI, which had plotted with its supporters in the Army led by Maj. Gen. Zaheer-ul-Islam Abbasi to capture power in 1995 and proclaim Pakistan as an Islamic Caliphate, had envisaged making Musharraf the head of the new dispensation. The plot was discovered in time by the Benazir Bhutto Government and crushed.
Amongst those with whom Pearl was in contact before his kidnapping were Sheikh Omar, who belonged to the HUM and not to the JEM, Arif alias Hashim, a member of the HUM, and Khalid Khawaja, a retired Air Force officer who had worked in the ISI and who is related to Sheikh Mubarak Ali Shah Gilani, leader of the Jamaat-ul-Fuqra (JUF), a terrorist organisation with a wide presence in the USA and the Caribbean and with a large following amongst Afro-American Muslims. It was reportedly Pearl's desire for an interview with Gilani which landed him in the trap laid down by the HUM.
In its issue for February, 2002, the Newsline, the prestigious monthly of Pakistan, reported as follows: "During his stay in Islamabad, Pearl also contacted Khalid Khawaja, a retired Pakistani Air Force officer, who had worked with the ISI in an effort to get an interview with Gilani. Rabidly anti-American, Khawaja is related to Gilani through marriage. He developed a close affinity with Islamic militants during his intelligence work. Khawaja was detained a few days after the kidnapping. A bearded man who lives in a sprawling house in Rawalpindi, Khawaja fought as a mujahid besides Osama against the Soviet forces in Afghanistan in the 1980s. That brought him in close contact with various Islamic militant groups in volved in the jihad in Afghanistan and Kashmir.
In an interview with CBS News in July last year, Khawaja said: "America is a very vulnerable country. The White House is the most vulnerable target. It is very simple just to get it." Khawaja is believed to have strong Islamic views as many of his former colleagues in the ISI had. In an interview in October, he told a journalist that the war in Afghanistan was just the beginning of an international jihad. Pearl spoke on the phone to Khawaja several times, but never met him in person."
Well-informed Pakistani sources say that Khawaja had kept Gen.Mohammad Aziz as well as Lt.Gen.Ehsanul Haq, the DG of the ISI, informed of his telephonic discussions with Pearl and of the latter's plans to meet Gilani.
Has Musharraf told the USA the complete truth about the Pearl case?
According to the Pakistani authorities, Sheikh Omar was arrested at Lahore by the local Police on February 12 after Musharraf had reached the US on his bilateral visit, but Sheikh Omar reportedly told the Karachi court that he had himself voluntarily surrendered to the Lahore military authorities on February 5, three days before Musharraf left Islamabad for the US, to prevent the harassment of his wife and baby son by the Lahore Police.
Independent reports indicated that the Lahore Police had rounded up all his relatives except his wife and child in order to force him to surrender. When he did not do so, they issued a warning that they would detain his wife too, thereby leaving the baby with nobody to look after it. He thereupon surrendered himself to a retired Army officer living in Lahore who had worked under Aziz in the ISI. He did not want to surrender to the Lahore Police due to fears of torture. This officer reportedly informed Aziz in Islamabad who had intitially Sheikh Omar questioned by officers of the ISI before handing him over to the Police on February 12. It is speculated that Aziz wanted to make it certain that Sheikh Omar would not tell the Karachi police during his interrogation about the contacts of Musharraf and Aziz with bin Laden.
Did Aziz alert Musharraf and Lt.Gen.(retd)Moinuddin Haider, the Interior Minister, who was co-ordinating the investigation, about the surrender of Omar Sheikh immediately after it took place? If so, did Musharraf immediately inform the US authorities about it and associate them with the interrogation?
No definitive answers are available. Either way, l'affaire Daniel Pearl and Sheikh Omar tends to confirm India's perception of Musharraf as an untrustworthy person. If Aziz had informed him on February 5 itself and Musharraf had deliberately kept the US in the dark, it shows him as perfidious. If Aziz had kept Musharraf in the dark, it shows Musharraf as not in effective control of the military-intelligence establishment in Pakistan.
Why has Musharraf resisted US pressure to extradite Sheikh Omar?
The answer to this is found in a report carried by the "News" of Islamabad on February 18, 2002, which said: "Claiming that his "brothers" were making their presence felt and will continue to do so "on every inch of Indian landscape", Omar has shocked his investigators by narrating his role and that of his "Jihadi colleagues", in the bomb explosion outside state parliament building in Srinagar in October last and shooting incidents in the compound of Indian parliament in New Delhi and outside the American Centre building in Kolkata in December and January last.
"While speaking to various police officials here (Karachi) and in Lahore over the past one week, Sheikh Omar not only briefed his police interrogators on his role in the Pearl Kidnapping case and on the terrorist strikes in India, but also provided police officials specific details of his travel to Afghanistan "a few days after September 11" to have a personal meeting with Osama bin Laden near Jalalabad.
"Omar doesn't hide, police officials said, his ties with several other Arab associates of Osama. Several independent reports and interrogation of two other suspects in Daniel Pearl Kidnapping case have independently confirmed Omar's deep connections in Taliban leadership and his status as a guerrilla warfare instructor in one of the key training facilities in Afghanistan.
"Salam Saqib and Sheikh Adil, two key suspects who had played the central role in sending two e-mails attached with the photographs of the kidnapped Wall Street Journal reporter, have told the police that Sheikh Omar was widely respected in Afghanistan and was considered a role model even for the most famous warriors in the Pakistani Jihadi community.
"Sheikh Omar provided police with
unsolicited specific details about his connections and relationship with Aftab
Ansari — chief suspect in Kolkata shooting case. Giving details of his
communications with Aftab Ansari to police investigators, just a few days before
the shooting incident in Kolkata, Sheikh said he had cultivated Ansari, while
they were both jailed in Tihar prison in New
Delhi in late nineties.
"Discussing the shooting incident inside the Indian parliament building which had left 17 people including five unidentified attackers killed on December 13, Sheikh Omar is understood to have offered police officials the real identities of the Kashmiri militants who had stormed the Indian parliament with an aim at making Indian parliamentarians hostage to seek the release of all Kashmiri freedom fighters from Indian prisons.
"Sheikh Omar said the militant who gave his life while exploding a bomb-laden car just outside the state parliament building in Srinagar on October 2 was "more than a brother to me". Omar said the deceased suicide bomber was a Pakistani who had devoted his life to the freedom struggle in Kashmir.
"Throughout his interrogation Sheikh Omar continued to repeat that "thousands of people were now ready in India and Pakistan to sacrifice their lives to free Kashmir from India and to turn Pakistan into an ideal Islamic state."
"In a remarkable coincidence, Pir Mubarrak Ali Gillani, who was earlier thought to be a suspect in the Pearl kidnapping case, had recounted his services for the state security services before being released by the police in Karachi.
"Omar feels that Mansur Hasnain alias Hyder -- who was also involved in the hijacking of Indian airliner in the end of December 1999 may only have definite information about the present whereabouts of the dead or alive Daniel Pearl," the report concluded.
The ISI exercised pressure on the Editor of the newspaper not to publish this , but he rejected their pressure and published it. The ISI then pressurised the owner of the newspaper to sack the Editor, who has run away to the US fearing a threat to his life from the ISI. It also forced the officers of the Karachi Police to deny that Sheikh Omar had made any such confessions.
What provoked the grenade attack on a church congregation in Islamabad on March 17?
It was an anti-American and not an anti-Christian attack. The principal target of the attack was Milton Green, who is believed to be from the USA's National Security Agency (NSA). He was the head of an NSA team attached to the US Embassy in Islamabad, which was responsible for intercepting the communications of the Al Qaeda, the Taliban and the ISI. He escaped with injuries, but his wife Barbara, who is stated to be a CIA officer attached to the Personnel Division of the US Embassy, was killed along with their daughter. It is believed that many of the 10 other Americans injured in the attack were also either intelligence officers or related to intelligence officers. It was an act of retribution for the role of the NSA and the CIA in Afghanistan and particularly in the death of Mohammad Atef, bin Laden's chief of operations who was in charge of his personal security too, in November, 2001.
Till now, the needle of suspicion points to lower level officers of the military-intelligence establishment who were close to the HUJI. The Musharraf regime is trying to divert the suspicion away from the HUJI . There has been no progress in the investigation.
How did the assailants come to know of the real identity of Milton Green?
According to Pakistani sources, only Musharraf himself, Mohammad Aziz, Lt.Gen.Ehsanul Haq, DG, ISI, his principal staff officer whose name is not known, and Maj.Gen.Rasheed Quereshi, the press spokesman of Musharraf, knew the real identity of Green as from the NSA. The suspicion is Mohammad Aziz tipped off the terrorists.
What are the positive results so far of the US-led war against terrorism?
- Firstly, the Taliban has been replaced by a modern-minded, forward-looking
interim administration led by Hamid Karzai.
- Secondly, the command and control of the Al Qaeda and the other components of
the International Islamic Front are in disarray. They are no longer in a position to co-ordinate their
operations outside the Afghanistan-Pakistan region as effectively as before.
- Thirdly, the training and logistics infrastructure of the International
Islamic Front in Afghan territory has been severely damaged, if not destroyed.
- Fourthly, effective action against terrorist funding by all the UN
member-countries except Pakistan under the UN Security Council Resolution No 1373 has dried up the flow of
legitimate funds for the terrorist organisations, but not clandestine funds.
- Fifthly, the effective networking of the intelligence and counter-terrorism
agencies of the coalition has led to the unearthing of hitherto not-so-well-known networks of the
International Islamic Front all over the world and particularly in West Europe and South-East Asia.
- Sixthly, there has been a greater flow of actionable intelligence than before October 7, 2001, from the interrogation of captured terrorists and documents recovered during the operations in Afghanistan.
What are the negative results of Operation Enduring Freedom so far?
- Firstly, out of the 42 members of the brainstrust of the Al Qaeda, only six
have been killed so far and four others captured. The remaining 32, including possibly Osama bin Laden, are at
large and have found new sanctuaries not only in the bordering tribal areas of Pakistan such as Balochistan,
the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) and the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA, but also even in
Punjab as was demonstrated by the arrest of Abu Zubaida, stated to be bin Laden's No.3, and 19 other Al Qaeda
members (but not members of its brainstrust) in Faislabad on March 28 and 29, 2002.
- Secondly, at least 14 of the principal leaders of the Taliban, including its
Amir Mulla Mohammad Omar, are still at large---again sheltered by the tribals on the Pakistani side of the
- Thirdly, while about 8,000 trained cadres of the Pakistani components of the
International Islamic Front were killed or captured, about 20,000 plus are still at large and are presently
regrouping in Pakistani territory. They played an important role in the battle against the Americans in the
Shahi-Kot area of Eastern Afghanistan (Op ANACONDA) in March, 2002, which was not such a success for the
Americans as they made it out to be. The Pakistani components are the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HUM), the
Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HUJI), the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JEM), the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET) and the Sipah-e-Sahaba
- Fourthly, while it is not possible to quantify the casualties suffered by the
Al Qaeda and the Taliban and the surviving cadres still at their disposal, OP ANACONDA showed that the morale
and motivation of the surviving dregs of the AL Qaeda, the Taliban and the other components of the
International Islamic Front remain high despite the reverses suffered by them since October 7, 2001. While
their capability for co-ordination outside the Afghanistan-Pakistan epicentre of punishment terrorism has been
damaged, at least temporarily, due to the damage to their command and control, they continue to exhibit
surprising co-ordination within the epicentre.
- Fifthly, there has been no major recovery of arms and ammunition by the
coalition, thereby indicating that the International Islamic Front had successfully cached their weapon
holdings in secret hide-outs in Afghanistan and Pakistan beyond the reach of the coalition forces.
- Sixthly, there has been no significant destruction of the heroin
infrastructure in Afghan territory, no major killing or capture of the Pakistani heroin barons who were
running this infrastructure and no major capture of heroin stocks. Before October 7, 2001, there was general
agreement amongst professionals that the Pakistani heroin barons had a secret reserve of at least two years'
market requirement of heroin cached in Afghanistan. It is believed that between September 11 and October 7,
2001, most of these reserves were moved largely into Pakistan and, in a smaller measure, into the Central
Asian Republics (CARs). With these reserves still available to them, the terrorists should be able to maintain
a high level of activity despite the freezing of their bank accounts.
- Seventhly, there are disturbing reports from reliable sources in Afghanistan
that this marked lack of success in the heroin front is due to the fact that the Central Intelligence Agency
(CIA) of the USA, which encouraged these heroin barons during the Afghan war of the 1980s in order to spread
heroin-addiction amongst the Soviet troops, is now using them in its search for bin Laden and other surviving
leaders of the Al Qaeda, by taking advantage of their local knowledge and contacts. These Pakistani heroin
barons and their Afghan lieutenants are reported to have played an important role in facilitating the
induction of Hamid Karzai into the Pashtun areas to counter the Taliban in November, 2001. It is alleged that
in return for the services rendered by them, the USA has turned a blind eye to their heroin refineries and
- Eighthly, the nexus between Pakistan's military-intelligence establishment and
the various components of the International Islamic Front, including the Taliban and the Al Qaeda, remains as
strong as ever. Gen.Pervez Musharraf's ostensible co-operation with the coalition has been far from
straightforward. While pretending to co-operate with the coalition, he has, at the same time, been helping the
surviving dregs in whatever way he can.
What are the disturbing indicators which don't bode well for the future?
- Firstly, the inability of Hamid Karzai to win the respect and support of large
sections of the population. His writ still does not run outside Kabul. Even in Kabul, his control over the
Government is tenuous. He is largely viewed as the USA's mascot. His ambition to have himself continued in
power after the end of the initial six months of the interim administration, with the USA's support, has not
been well received. He has been spending more time travelling around the world than doing his job in Kabul.
Since taking over as the head of the interim administration in December, 2001, he has moved out of Kabul
inside Afghanistan only on three days for hit-and-run visits to places such as Herat, Kandahar and Jalalabad.
Despite being a Durrani Pashtun himself, he does not command the support of even the Pashtun tribes.
- Secondly, the brutal murder of Dr. Abdul Rahman, the Minister for Civil
Aviation, at the Kabul airport earlier this year, the reported attempt to murder Muhammed Qasim Fahim, the
Tadjik Defence Minister and successor of Ahmed Shah Masood as the leader of the Northern Alliance, at
Jalalabad on April 8, 2002, the arrest of over 150 persons in Kabul, described as supporters of the anti-US
Gulbuddin Heckmatyar, in the beginning of April, 2002, on charges of plotting against the Government, and the
death of eight opium farmers due to police firing in Helmand on April 8, 2002, show the worsening
under-current of instability. According to Professor Mohiuddin Dareez, from Kabul University's Department of
Political Sciences, the attack on Fahim's convoy was likely to have been a protest against foreign presence in
Afghanistan. "The attack can more likely be attributed to those who are against the US military presence
and this US-backed government, rather than ethnic or factional reasons," he said in an interview on April
- Thirdly, there is no sense of gratitude in the Pashtun areas in Southern and
Eastern Afghanistan and in the adjoining Pakistani areas of Balochistan, the NWFP and the FATA over the
removal of the Taliban by the US. The liberation of Kabul from the Taliban was greeted by the local population
with wild scenes of jubilation, but there were so such scenes when the Taliban was driven out of the Pashtun
areas of the South and the East. On the contrary, the anger against the US is more than it was before October
7, 2001. Amongst the factors which have contributed to this anger are the large civilian casualties and
damages to mosques due to the US air-strikes and reports of lack of respect for Islam as evidenced by the
actions of US troops such as forcibly shaving off the beards of arrested Al Qaeda suspects, seizing their
copies of the Holy Koran due to fears that they may be used for coding and decoding and replacing them with
Holy Koran printed by the US Army, preventing the detenus from praying in a group, not permitting them to
clean themselves and cover their head during the prayers etc. The image of the "Ugly American" from
the days of the Vietnam war has been resurrected. The Bush Administration might be able to deny or conceal
such perceived anti-Muslim excesses from the rest of the world with the help of the CNN and other compliant
sections of the American media, but it cannot conceal them from the population of the affected areas in
Southern and Eastern Afghanistan, who are seething with anger. It is from such angry people that the new
recruits to the Al Qaeda, the Taliban and other components of the International Islamic Front are coming and
it is this added anger which would generate new acts of retributive punishment terrorism. Surprisingly and
interestingly, this redoubled anger is directed mainly against the US and not against the other members of the
coalition. Not even against the UK despite the active role played by Tony Blair, the British Prime Minister,
to rally support for the war against terrorism. The lack of any critical comments in the non-governmental
sections of US society over the way the US has been handling the war has made the angry elements see the US
society as a whole as anti-Islam and as accomplices in the commission of acts of sacrilege against Islam. The
desire for revenge against the US has acquired added force.
- Fourthly, in Pakistan, there was always a strong sense of anti-Americanism in
the public mood despite the pro-US policies of past leaderships--political or military. This anti-Americanism
has been given added fuel by the surviving dregs of the Al Qaeda, the Taliban and the other components of the
International Islamic Front who have taken shelter in Pakistan and by the uncritical support of Washington DC
to Musharraf and its silence in the face of his blatant violations of the Pakistan Constitution in order to
continue in power. The USA is misreading the situation in Pakistan as badly as it misread the situation in
Iran before the public outburst against the Shah of Iran in 1978-79 led to his being driven out of power. It
has convinced itself, more wrongly than rightly, that there is no alternative to Musharraf if it has to win
the war against terrorism and prevent the terrorists from getting hold of Pakistan's weapons of mass
destruction (WMD). Consequently, its policy has become Musharraf, right or wrong. It does not seem to realise
that under the pretext of co-operating with the US in the war against terrorism, he has been perfidiously
- Fifthly, the evidence of the spread of anti-Americanism and pan-Islamism
amongst sections of the Muslim population of Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines. bin Laden has
no ideology. His actions are motivated by sheer anger. The ideological underpinnings of his International
Islamic Front come not from his brain, but from the brains of the five Pakistani components of his Front, who
advocate a new Islamic Caliphate consisting of three Islamic confederations--one in South-East Asia, the
second in South Asia and the third in Central Asia. It is they who have been projecting for years Pakistan's
atomic bomb as the Ummah's and advocating the right and the religious obligation of the Muslims to acquire WMD
and to use them, if necessary, to protect their religion. bin Laden's language and rhetoric are not his own.
Those have been ingrained in him by his long association with these Deobandi-Wahabi pan-Islamic organisations
What are the mid-course corrections that are called for?
- Firstly, a shift away from the overt military response, which was initially
justified, to a more covert response. Counter-terrorism is a fight against the invisible force of the
terrorists, who act with stealth and cunning. To be effective, the State's response has to be equally
invisible, with equal stealth and cunning. How counter-productive an over-reliance on an overt military
response can be could be seen from the Israeli actions in Palestine.
- Secondly, a realisation that in order to make terrorism wither away, it has to
be denied not only funds, arms and ammunition and sanctuaries, but also---and more importantly--new reservoirs
of fresh recruits. Its motivation has to be diluted. The greater the anger in the community from which the
terrorists have arisen, the greater the flow of new recruits and the stronger the motivation. It is,
therefore, important to ensure that the way counter-terrorism operations are conducted does not add to the
already existing anger. Counter-terrorism is a fight of the civilised force of the State against the
uncivilised force of the terrorists. If the unwise actions of the State make the community perceive it as no
different from the uncivilised force of the terrorists, half the battle against the terrorists is already
lost. bin Laden does not go round looking for recruits. Enraged elements in the Islamic world go to Pakistan
and Afghanistan looking for bin Ladens and their ilk to help them in giving vent to their anger appropriately.
- Thirdly, greater pressure on the military-intelligence establishment in
Pakistan to cut off its links with terrorists of various hues and to effectively co-operate with the
coalition, instead of merely making a pretense of doing so.
- Fourthly, insistence on the Pakistani military regime adhering to its
commitment to restore democracy in Pakistan and going back to the barracks instead of taking advantage of what
it looks upon as the post-September 11 dependence of the US on its co-operation for prolonging the military
rule. Whenever an elected political leadership was in power in Pakistan, the activities of the pan-Islamic
forces were less than under military rule. All the existing pan-Islamic organisations of Pakistan were brought
into existence by Zia-ul-Haq with the help of Musharraf and Gen. Mohammad Aziz Khan, Chairman of the Joint
Chiefs of Staff Committee, for using them to undermine the non-religious political parties and particularly
Benazir Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party and as a strategic weapon to achieve Pakistan's strategic objectives
vis-a-vis Afghanistan and India. It would, therefore, be naive and futile to expect Musharraf, the joint
creator of these organisations, to really help the US in putting an end to them. Since 1971, there have been
seven hijackings of Indian aircraft by Pakistan-sponsored terrorists. All of them took place when the Army was
in power. There was not a single hijacking when an elected political leadership was in power. The effective
antidote to extremism and terrorism is genuine democracy and not prolonged military rule. All the military
rulers of Pakistan have used religious fanaticism to serve their own purposes and never acted against them.
Musharraf is and would be no exception.
What are the future possibilities of punishment terrorism?
As worrisome as before October 7, 2001.
September 11, 2001, marked the culmination of the uncontrolled activities of the surviving dregs of the first Afghan war of the 1980s. The kidnapping and brutal murder of Daniel Pearl, the journalist of the Wall Street Journal, in Karachi marked the beginning of a new wave of terrorism arising from the dregs of the second Afghan war, which started on October 7, 2001. The world will be seeing more and more acts of international terrorism, largely directed against the US and deriving their inspiration from bin Laden, dead or alive, and the surviving dregs of the Pakistani pan-Islamic organisations. The pre-September 11 wave of international terrorism originating from the Pakistan-Afghanistan epicentre was largely the work of the Arab dregs of the first Afghan war, assisted by their Pakistani supporters. The post-September 11 wave of terrorism will be largely the work of the Pakistani dregs, reinforced by the Arabs and the angry elements from South-East Asia, which could emerge as the new epi-centre of international terrorism. bin Laden and his ilk will operate against the US wherever they think objective conditions for their success exist in the form of a weak intelligence and security apparatus and inadequate counter-terrorism capability.
Presuming bin Laden is still alive, what would be his likely targets and what modus operandi (MO) is he likely to follow keeping in view the tightened security apparatus in most countries?
His priorities would be another attack on a US naval ship, particularly on a US aircraft-carrier and a September 11-like strike in US territory itself. The MO likely to be used could include use of a microlite aircraft filled with explosives, his men joining a flying club, taking off on a training flight and crashing on the target and infiltrating his men into the crew of commercial airliners and corporate houses owning aircraft and crashing the aircraft on to the target. The use of the first two MO had in the past been examined by the LTTE, but not actually used. The second one had been suggested to the Sikh terrorists by Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) in the early 1990s. It had asked them to join the Mumbai (Bombay) flying club, take off on a training flight and crash the aircraft on to the Bombay High off-shore oil production facilities. They did not carry it out since they did not believe in suicide terrorism.
What is the likelihood of the use of WMD in an act of punishment terrorism?
One cannot rule out the possibility. The Al Qaeda and the Pakistani components of his International Islamic Front have, in the past, stressed upon the right and the religious obligation of Muslims to acquire and use WMD to protect their religion, if necessary. They have been trying to acquire a WMD capability, but there is no evidence of their having succeeded so far. One of the Al Qaeda cadres arrested in 2000 had reportedly spoken about training lessons in the use of pottasium cynaide mixed with a strong acid for producing poisonous fumes to kill and spread panic.
What are the pre-requisites for effective prevention of terrorism?
- Firstly, an effective security apparatus which, through effective physical
security measures, would be in a position to frustrate the plans of the terrorists even in the absence of
- Secondly, an effective intelligence apparatus to collect timely strategic and
tactical (preventive) intelligence. This is easier said than done. While technical intelligence (TECHINT) has
been an important source of preventive intelligence, TECHINT alone would not be sufficient in many cases.
Human intelligence (HUMINT) is necessary. Preventive HUMINT requires an ability to penetrate a terrorist
organisation, either by recruiting an outside person and motivating him to enter the inner core of a terrorist
organisation or by recruiting a person who is already in the inner core. Such penetration poses ethical
problems since it involves conniving at an act of terrorism by the intelligence officer in order to enable the
recruit win the confidence of the leader of the organisation. In view of such difficulties, there would always
be gaps in HUMINT and this has to be kept in mind while strengthening the physical security measures.
- Thirdly, an effective analytical and assessment machinery. Terrorism is an
unconventional war. Conventional tools of analysis would not suffice. Every intelligence collection and
assessment organisation should have a set of officers, who are able to place themselves in the position of a
terrorist and think, analyse and assess the various possibilities as an angry and irrational terrorist would
do instead of merely as a calm and rational being would.
- Fourthly, a good linguistic capability---particularly in Arabic, Urdu and
Pashtun. It is important to closely monitor all newspapers in these languages, which often carry more news on
terrorism-related developments than the English media.
- Fifthly, a capability for a thorough monitoring of the World Wide Web, which
is increasingly and effectively used by the terrorists for propaganda, motivation, interaction and clandestine
- Sixthly, constantly updated database on various aspects of terrorism.
- Seventhly, an effective and alert crisis management machinery to deal with
acts of terrorism when they take place despite the best preventive efforts of the intelligence and security
- Eighthly, a well-informed and lucid political leadership.
(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies)
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