Defense Update News Commentary

Tuesday, April 06, 2004

The Growing Threat of Global Terrorism

Through the shock of 9/11 the world has awakened to a new era in terrorism, a totally different phenomen, which existed before the attacks on the United States. In the aftermath of those fateful days, the US started its unrelenting campaign against terrorism, under the slogan " War Against Terror".
But as 2004 opens, the free world is facing new threats, from a source, it never had dealt with before: Global Terrorism without borders and without restraints.

The US led campaign against the al Qaeda bases in Afghanistan, was no doubt, a brilliant military operation demonstrating skill and determination but it remains to be seen wether it achieved its full expectation: 'to rid the world of terrorism'.

Even the aftershock of the Iraqi campaign has not produced a full remedy to this
growing threat to world peace. In fact, while the al Qaeda infratructure has been virtually destroyed in its Taliban base, it is reinventing itself as a global network of terrorism, its cells scattered all over the world, operating under the motto to' wage merciless war under the banner of Islam against America and its allies'.


Leading experts on global terrorism have expressed their view on counter-terror operations at the ICT conference.

A most important aspect was to define terror as such. " One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter" is an evasive slogan much used by nations wishing to avoid direct confrontation with the problem. Without a clear definition of this subject, international cooperation in countering post-modern terror will be impossible.

Al Qaeda is running a sophisticated propaganda campaign to keep the free world public guessing as to what will come next. The organisation, is still very active in 'selling its message' to the Islamic world and there seems to be no lack of volunteers to fight and die 'in the name of Allah'.

To counter global terrorism an important rule must be observed: to fight terror with its own tactics. But in a democratic society this is not always feasible. Thus highly trained special counter-terror units have to wage unrelenting war against this threat, frequently even operating along ( and beyond) the 'thin line' fringes of the law.

Indispensably necessary is to take out the terrorist leadership by all means. These are the key figures as well as the spiritual guides of all terrorist operations. Although much has been achieved during the last years since 9/11, and top chieftains have been killed or captured, new leaders, some of them even more ruthless than their mentors are reaching command level. These younger zealot leaders are much more dangerous, as they are well trained in modern technology, capable to wage war over the threshhold of global terrorism- 'mega-terror' with non-conventional weapons.

In order to enhance internatonal counter terrorism activities, Dr Ganor has recently established a new academic forum called The International Counter-Terrorism Academic Community, with aim to address joint effort in developing 'think tanks' in support of national and international counter terrorism agencies.
One of the objectives of this new forum is to encourage the creation of a new league of nations to stand against the looming sourge which threatens world peace. This new union will include Western states and Third World countries led by the United States, Russia and hopefully the European Union and China.

The Origins of Modern Islamic Fundamentalist Terrorism
Terrorism - Part I

The modern Islamic 'Jihad' (holy war) started with the invasion of Afghanistan by the Soviet Union in the late seventies. Soviet forces were met by determined resistance by the Afghan 'Mujehideen' fighters, a major faction of which was the notorious Taliban.
Among the many Moslems rushing to fight in Afghanistan against the 'communist infidels' was a little known organisation by the name of Makhtab Al-Khidamat (MAK), the precursor organization to al Qaeda, led by Osama bin Laden.

From all over the Moslem world thousands flocked to join the Mujehideen to fight off the Soviet invasion and suprisingly, the ragtag army of Islamic warriors drove out the superpower, winning a smashing victory. This made a lasting impression on the consciousness of the Moslem world, giving new vigour to Islam, having suffered centuries of humiliation under the yoke of western imperialism. Flushed with the fruits of victory, the 'Afghan Alumni' as the veteran fighters become to be known, were barred by their own governments, fearing that these radical zealots presented mortal danger to the secular Moslem states from which they had departed. Some applied for asylum in the US, the country, which had supported the Mujehideen during its fight against the Soviets, but many remained in Afghanistan and became involved with Osama Bin Laden's newly created Al Qaeda organisation. Thus, through strategic shortsightendeness, the US-supported Afghan veterans were to emerge into a totally new kind of international terrorism, which two decades later was to threaten the entire free world and primarily the United States itself.

Over the years Bin Laden organised Al Qaeda into an effective chain of command structure. The organisation functioned at multi-level basis. At the top, a professional cadre of experienced operators, was in charge of planning large-scale attacks, such as the 1998 Embassy bombings or the monumental event of 9/11. Next in line were large numbers of well trained and highly motivated amateurs, charged with individual operations, like suicide attacks on minor targets and finally independent local groups spread around the world, sympathetic to al Qaeda's spiritual message, actively seeking to carry out attacks in the name of the 'Global Jihad', but without direct formal connection to al Qaeda as such. The latter are the most difficult to detect, as they operate under changing names and locations and are highly departmentalised terror cells.

Placing himself as 'Emir', Bin Laden named Ayman al-Zawahiri as al Qaeda's spiritual leader heading a religious 'shura' council of 30 scholars which issued the various 'fatwah's (religious laws) aimed to promote the al Qaeda cause throughout the Moslem world. Next in line were three committees:

The military committee in charge of training, weapons acquisition and operational planning.
The financial committee was charged to run global funding
The intelligence group provided target information, organised forged documents and safe houses in various countries.
At a later stage a special media group was established.

For nearly a decade al Qaeda remained, virtually safe, hiding under the auspices of Taliban in Afghanistan. But Bin Laden was a caucious person with a far sighted vision. In order for his organisation to prevail, anticipating that sooner or later the US would try to destroy his Afghan infrastructure, he formed a worldwide network of his disciples, funding terror operations, which started on small scale until more ambitious objectives were attacked. The first NY twin tower bombing in 1993 was only linked to Bin Laden, but the twin 1998 US embassy attacks in Kenya and Tansaniya were the direct work of his affiliated groups. By then al Qaeda had emerged into a highly dangerous terrorist organisation spreading world wide reputation among the Islamic world, culminating on 11 September 2001 with the simultaneous mass murder attacks in New York and Washington.

The US led Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan virtually destroyed al-Qaeda's infrastructure, depriving it from its major training bases. But its military capabilities to wage war through its surviving global terror reach remains intact. In fact, expert terror analysts have estimated, that Bin Laden's global terrorist network has yet to come into action, with dangerous 'sleeper' cells waiting for the signal to strike with 'mega-terror' even using non-conventional methods to achieve the ultimate goal, spreading fear and panic throughout the western world.

The increased American presence in the Middle East, especially in the strategic Gulf, after the lightning Iraqi Freedom campaign has left a tremendous impact, not only through its military achievements, but raised the motivation of Islamic fundamentalist movements to avenge what they believe the infidel's real intention to destroy Islam and deprive it from its natural wealth, the strategic oil reserves. What the leaders of modern 'Jihad' preach to their disciples is to wage an uncompromising war for the survival of Islam, not only as an ancient faith, but actually save it from extinction.

Osama Bin Laden's global strategy is based on three stages:

- to spread his vision of 'Dar-el-Islam' ( the realm of Islam) first to the Moslem countries ruled under secular leaders, but having already deep rooted Islamic radical factions in opposition, or in highly departmentalised secret cells waiting for their opportunity to strike and achieve power.

- however, Bin Laden is aware, that to topple those strong autocratic regimes in the Middle East, the US presence must first be eliminated, or forced to withdraw through, military or public pressure.

US and French withdrawal from Lebanon in the early eighties, after the Hizbollah suicide attacks, its hasty withdrawal from the botched intervention in Somalia and most of all Israel's forced withdrawal from South Lebanon in May 2000, have already set the stage for Bin Laden's strategic aims. Sofar the ongoing guerilla war in Iraq have failed to weaken the US determination to stay and fight it out there.

All eyes in the Islamic world are poised on the American conduct of the guerilla war in Iraq and much depends on its outcome. Should it fail, then Bin Laden's al Qaeda network will get into high gear to shift into the next step, the final stage of Jihad.

- Once the 'new colonialists', led by the United States are chased out, Islam could regain its former glory through the 'ultimate battle' to spread its rule, first in the Middle East and later from this new power base to the rest of western society, through inspiring the growing Moslem minorities already firmly established in these countries.

While most of the western scholars regard such a vision as megalomatic nonsense, a sober assessment of the real threats from what is named Post-Modern Terrorism should be taken very seriousely, as this phenomen is new and has already achieved substantial success in creating world wide panic, not to mention, a significant change in global strategic priorities.