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    The European Battleground

    By Michael Taarnby
    The assassination of the controversial Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh has provoked some uncomfortable debates in Europe. The killer was not dispatched on his mission by sinister al-Qaeda masterminds scheming somewhere from their hideout in Asia. On the contrary, the assassin epitomizes the new European jihadists: a very loosely connected network with little or no organizational links to Osama bin Laden.
    The International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) noted in its 2004 annual report that support and recruitment for Islamist terrorism is increasing worldwide [1]. Any illusions that Europe would be spared a mega-terror attack were shattered with the coordinated attacks on commuter trains in Madrid in the spring of 2004. In the aftermath of that attack, European security services increased their efforts and collaboration to thwart another atrocity. While border security has been boosted significantly to deter terrorist infiltration from abroad, this measure appears to be largely irrelevant to the nature and scope of the problem. The unfortunate truth is that Europe does not need former Afghanistan veterans or skilled al-Qaeda operatives to wreak havoc. In terms of jihad, a small minority of European Muslims are more than capable of attacking their own countries.
    While even the security services experience difficulties in sizing up the threat, a few examples illustrate the scope of the problem. A confidential British study estimated that there are up to 10,000 "active" supporters of al-Qaeda in the UK [2]. German intelligence outlined a recent estimate of about 31,000 Islamic extremists in Germany who are believed to be a potential security risk [3]. Whatever the real figures and the definition of an active supporter, both figures state beyond dispute that militant Islam is firmly entrenched in the European heartland.
    But who are these European jihadists? What little research is available tends to focus on specific Islamist communities within particular countries, consequently a proper understanding of the ideology, socio-economic and psychological profiles of European jihadis remains elusive. Often, their own words present the best material for research and analysis. An interesting example of jihadist correspondence was the letter pinned to the body of Van Gogh with a butcher's knife. The means of delivery guaranteed a wide audience, and in fact the letter does deserve some attention. As shocking as the murder was, it was also intended as a publicity stunt and it succeeded in both respects. A closer look at the letter reveals a remarkable confusion on behalf of the author, or more likely authors as it was signed Saifu Deen al-Muwahhied. [4]
    A juxtaposition of Qur'anic verses taken out of context, HAMAS inspired political diatribe, obscure Talmud references and amateurish analysis of current Dutch political issues; the letter presents a fascinating insight into the jihadi mind. It is a mirror image of a marginalized community of believers who explicitly condemn Europe and Holland and who vehemently label any critics as infidels and apostates. Despite the shrill Islamist rhetoric, the terminology and concepts are rooted in an exclusively European socio-cultural context. Consider this quote from the letter:
    "There shall be no mercy for the unjust, only the sword that is raised at them. No discussion, no demonstrations, no parades, no petitions; merely death shall separate the Truth from the Lie."
    The uncompromising eloquence of the statement signifies a closed community that has abandoned the idea of dialogue and is literally beyond reach. The frequent use, and much more frequent abuse, of Qur'anic references to rationalize the defensive posture of allegedly besieged Muslim communities confuse the origins of the European Islamist ideology. While Islamists have been quite successful in presenting their struggle in religious terms, religion is in fact a secondary issue in the radicalization process in Europe.
    Islamism had very little support in Europe during the 1990s, and even less in the 1980s. It was always a fringe phenomenon that appealed to individuals living on the margins of society. Islamism gradually started to attract a following, in various forms and through various movements, from the mid-1990s onwards. This slow development has accelerated considerably since 9/11 and continues to be reinforced by events in the Middle East and elsewhere. The war in Iraq became a battle cry for European based Islamists who wasted no time in dispatching fighters to link up with Ansar al-Islam and other groups through an elaborate underground network. Given the sizeable European military presence in Iraq this traffic has already led to the bizarre situation where Europeans from different backgrounds have ended up fighting each other in the Middle East.
    As much as it appears to be religious in nature, Islamism is only one strand of a trend that signals a profound transformation of Europe's Muslims. The quest for an identity has found outlets in secular lifestyles, often mimicking that of the host country's culture or at the opposite end of the spectrum, that of jihadist Islam. European Islamism is anything but original; it is an artificial construction that springs from an unsuccessful encounter with European socio-economic structures.
    Instead of a religious awakening, Islamism signifies a spiritual wasteland inhabited by self-appointed prophets and brigands, usually without any form of theological schooling or authorization. This is where terrorist recruitment thrives. Not in mainstream Muslim communities across Europe, but through underground Mosques and social networks of likeminded people.
    While recruitment to terrorist training camps in Afghanistan was conducted more or less openly before 9/11, this is no longer the case. European jihadists no longer travel across the world, which would be pointless since the facilities of al-Qaeda have been dismantled. This would be good news, except for the fact that radicalization and recruitment to jihad in Europe has increased over the last three years.
    Generally speaking, there are three distinct types of European recruits: First, there are the unassimilated newcomers from Muslim countries who find it impossible to adjust to life in European countries. These are not necessarily destitute; members of the Hamburg cell came from a middle-class background. Secondly, there are the 2nd or 3rd generation immigrants who for all intents and purposes should be considered Europeans. They are no longer in touch with their homelands, which to them signify little more than an aberration that can be either romanticized or discarded. On the other hand they feel excluded from mainstream society which they end up rejecting completely. Zacarias Moussaoui is an example of this type because he did not fit into Morocco or France and instead opted for Islamism in the UK. The last type is perhaps the most curious, that of the European converts. Richard Reid, the infamous shoe-bomber, converted in prison and was quickly spotted by British Islamists who exploited him for sinister purposes. A tragic and unassuming figure, Reid almost made the top list of European mass-murderers had his explosive device functioned properly and downed the targeted flight.
    European security services have responded to the challenge by increasing their counter-terrorism staff, some specifically stating that candidates with a non-European background are highly desirable. A parallel recruitment drive has been launched by the terrorists who understand the operational advantage of European citizens. Put in simple terms, MI5 is looking for foreigners while al-Qaeda is principally interested in Europeans.
    It is interesting to compare the European predicament with that of America. It appears as if American Muslims are considerably less susceptible to Islamist ideology and that the security problems facing the U.S. originate from abroad. Not so across the Atlantic. In spite of the rude awakenings in Madrid and Amsterdam, Europe still has a lot to learn about the new trends of Islamic radicalism and jihadi recruitment.
    When the dress code in French public schools provoked furious debates between the champions of French secularism and committed French Muslims, al-Qaeda was quick to exploit the issue [5]. Ominously, al-Qaeda displays a better understanding of the current concerns and assimilation problems of European Muslims than European governments; an understanding that has been skillfully exploited to polarize European societies and to attract new recruits.
    Michael Taarnby is a research fellow for the Danish Ministry of Justice. His current project is entitled, "Islamic terrorist recruitment in Europe."
    South Africa in the War on Terror
    By Andrew Holt
    Last July's arrest of two residents from Johannesburg and Pretoria suspected of having links to al-Qaeda has raised fears that the Republic of South Africa (RSA) is possibly being targeted as a new logistical and operational hub by pan-Islamic extremists. While it is difficult to assess the extent to which militant jihadists have penetrated the country, the RSA has certain socio-economic and political features that would, conceivably, be of interest to al-Qaeda and its affiliate groupings – particularly as they seek to extend the scope of their war against the west beyond the highly visible (and, accordingly, closely monitored) theaters of the Middle East and South, Southeast and Central Asia.
    The July Arrests
    The arrest of the suspected South African militants, who were from Johannesburg and Pretoria, took place following a tip-off to Pakistani police identifying a possible al-Qaeda cell in the eastern city of Gujarat. The two men – since identified as Feroz Ibrahim and Zubair Ismail – were apprehended along with Khalfan Ghailani, one of the FBI's 22 most wanted international terrorists and thought to be a key player behind the 1998 suicide bombings of the U.S. embassies in Nairobi, Kenya and Dar es-Salaam, Tanzania. [1]
    According to the local law enforcement agencies that carried out the detentions, Ibrahim and Ismail were apprehended with detailed maps of Johannesburg, Pretoria, Cape Town and Durban – each highlighting prominent tourist, financial and diplomatic institutions/complexes in the three cities concerned. Subsequent investigations have led Pakistani intelligence to surmise the maps were initial blueprints for a series of spectacular attacks in South Africa that were to have targeted:
    The Johannesburg Stock Exchange
    The Sheraton Hotel (one of the capital's premier hotels for western tourists and businessmen) and the U.S. Embassy in Pretoria
    The national Parliament complex – again in Pretoria
    Various waterfront attractions and restaurants popular with overseas visitors in Cape Town
    The port of Durban, allegedly to coincide with the visit of the Queen Elizabeth II cruise ship. [2]
    The July arrests came on the heels of earlier police and intelligence reports that a plot to attack British and American targets during South Africa's national elections in May (which marked the tenth anniversary of the end of apartheid rule) had been thwarted and that at least five Islamists suspected of involvement in terrorist activities had been expelled from the country. Combined, these events have heightened fears that the RSA is being systematically drawn into the operational universe of the so-called al-Qaeda "nebula," possibly forming the territorial crux of an emerging Islamist sub-Saharan terror network that connects militants across the eastern extremities of the African continent – from Sudan to the Cape of Good Hope. [3]
    South Africa as an Operational Target for al-Qaeda
    Although the Mbeki government does not endorse U.S. policies on the Arab-Israeli conflict or Iraq and is not a major advocate of the global war on terrorism – at least in its contemporary manifestation – the RSA does display the general American preference for liberal democracy and individual freedom and remains part and parcel of the capitalist system that bin Laden insists is preventing Islam from achieving its rightful place as the world's preeminent faith and religion. Commenting on the implications of the Republic's explicit predilection to western norms and values, Greg Mills, the Director of the South African Institute for International Affairs, has observed, "The fact that [South Africa] has a particular view on Palestine or on Iraq…is no guarantee that you will not be attacked." [4] Just as importantly, in at least five respects the RSA provides a relatively benign theater in which to plan and execute terrorist attacks.
    Firstly, while only two percent of RSA's population is Islamic in its religious orientation (the vast bulk of whom are concentrated in Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban, embracing religious beliefs that are neither intolerant nor fanatical) an extremist element does appear to exist in the country in the guise of People Against Gangsterism and Drugs (PAGAD – designated a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) by the U.S. State Department in 2001). The organization, which ostensibly describes itself as a militia devoted to safeguarding the interests of ordinary South African Muslims from the scourge of organized crime, routinely espouses anti-western rhetoric, is an ardent critic of U.S. foreign policy and deeply identifies with the Islamist rhetoric of Qibla – a domestic political group that portrays the secular Pretoria government as a threat to Islamic values. Of greater concern, PAGAD has also been connected to several high-profile attacks in Cape Town, including the bombings of Planet Hollywood in 1998 and a series of urban bombings in 2000. Local outfits of this sort have proven highly susceptible to outside co-option and influence, which as organizations throughout North Africa, and Central, South and Southeast Asia readily attest to, can be engineered in such a way to directly accord with al-Qaeda's own logistical and operational designs.
    Secondly, South Africa is characterized by an advanced and relatively efficient communications, financial and transportation infrastructure. The country's media system is both established and internationally connected, guaranteeing that attacks will achieve the requisite publicity that is so integral to the hatred and fear al-Qaeda both craves and seeks to inspire. Banks are modern, but loosely regulated, providing a viable conduit through which to transmit operational and logistical capital. At the same time high quality roads, a well-run airline industry and a relatively good public train and bus network ensure that operatives can rapidly move between pre-selected attack sites as well as mount quickly put together strikes as and when opportunities arise. In all of these areas, RSA's relative advantage compared to other potential target theaters in southern and eastern Africa (for example, Tanzania and Kenya) is decisive. [5]
    Thirdly, there are numerous soft targets of opportunity in South Africa, many of which directly symbolize western cultural and economic influence. Among the more visible of these are internationally owned hotel chains catering to the thousands of overseas tourists that visit the country each year (for example, Sheraton, Hilton, Inter-Continental, Hyatt), shopping and entertainment complexes replete with prominent symbols of capitalist corporate power, world-class restaurants, nightclubs and major sports stadiums. Unlike more strategic, so-called "hard" targets (such as government buildings and diplomatic missions), these venues tend to be characterized by largely unimpeded public access, concentrating large numbers of people in a single space. They are, in short, easy to attack in a manner that is likely to yield a substantial body count.
    Fourthly, an entrenched and pervasive organized criminal influence has emerged in South Africa, much of which is run by sophisticated syndicates under the control of expatriates from Nigeria, Liberia and, to a somewhat lesser extent, Ghana. These groups engage in a broad spectrum of illicit activities, ranging from credit card and identity theft to the trafficking of guns, people, gems and narcotics (principally heroin, cocaine, crack and cannabis). [6] In an era where support from traditional state sponsors has become increasingly uncertain, such entities are rapidly emerging as a highly important adjunct to terrorist organizational structures. Not only have organized crime groups availed the movement of militants to, from and between attack venues, they have also provided a crucial conduit through which to generate and "hide" illicit proceeds that have subsequently been used to purchase weapons, replenish "battle-related" losses and otherwise sustain overall operational tempos. Al-Qaeda is already thought to have moved to benefit from the illicit sale of "blood diamonds" in South Africa and, following a raid earlier this year on a suspected jihadist safe house in London, is now believed to be actively exploiting a thriving underground trade in passports. [7]
    Finally, corruption at many levels of government opens up opportunities to infiltrate the state security apparatus, bypass formal immigration and customs procedures – particularly at already highly porous checkpoints along the Zimbabwe, Namibia, Botswana, Lesotho and Mozambique borders – and obtain /stockpile logistical materiel. Corruption appears to have played an especially important role in facilitating the acquisition of passports. According to local law enforcement and intelligence officials, syndicates operating within the Department of Home Affairs have been selling identity documents on the black markets for several years – often for as little as $77 – many of which are now being used by al-Qaeda members to illegally enter South Africa as well as facilitate visa-free travel to other parts of the continent and prominent European hubs such as the United Kingdom. [8]
    Addressing the Potential Terrorist Threat in South Africa
    While concerted evidence of an entrenched al-Qaeda presence in South Africa has yet to emerge, the country's western-centric and relatively benign operational character makes such a contingency a realistic possibility. As Peter Gastrow, Director of the Cape Town office of the Institute for Strategic Studies (ISS, one of the leading analytical think-tanks in the country) suggests, there is growing reason to question the assumption that "the period of stability and non-terrorist headlines over the last few years is going to continue." [9]
    Certainly South Africa has recognized the potential danger of extremist Islamic terrorism within its borders and has, accordingly, moved to institute various counter-measures that straddle the police, intelligence and criminal justice communities. [10] However, many of these modalities are bereft of concerted political will, lack sufficient human, material and technical resources and exist in the absence of an integrated and rationalized overall national counter-terrorism strategy. Moreover, there has arguably been no real attempt to link internal security initiatives with a broader array of policies and reforms designed to augment general institutional state development and systems of national governance.
    There is, in short, considerable scope for improving the overall direction of counter-terrorism policy in South Africa. The key will be to formulate policies that reflect an integrated and holistic approach to state security, both in terms of the nature of specific tools and programs and the wider societal contexts in which they emerge. The goal should be one of sustained national resilience that is intolerant to, and effective against terrorist and associated extremist/criminal designs.
    Andrew Holt is a Southeast Asia analyst based in Los Angeles.
    Assessing the Latest Message from bin Laden
    By Matthew Lyons
    Osama bin Laden's videotaped address to the American people, originally broadcast on the al-Jazeera satellite network on October 29, incorporates both new ideas and familiar themes in perhaps his most lucid explanation of the case for jihad thus far. [1] Eschewing the fatigues of a guerilla commander for the robes of a spiritual leader, he is largely successful in coming across as a sincere man anxious to defend the ummah from a vicious aggressor rather than the leader of an amorphous group of militants.
    A significant aspect of this speech is that it is the first time bin Laden overtly reveals his role in the attacks of 9/11. This comes in the passage detailing "the moments this decision [to carry out the September 11th attacks] was taken." While considered a foregone conclusion in the West, many in the Middle East and beyond have continued to express doubt that al-Qaeda was behind the events of 2001. This distinction is very important in the Arab world. As long as many in the streets and coffee shops were able to continue asserting that Muslims were probably not behind 9/11, this point of contention delayed the discussion as to what 9/11 means to the ummah.
    Given his long history of successfully manipulating the media, Bin Laden is almost certainly aware that this rhetorical shift undercuts many who have acted as his apologists. The gamble he takes is that openly assuming responsibility for 9/11 may end up working against him if the so-called "Arab street" is truly unable to accept the massacre of innocents that took place in the attacks. On the other hand, if the passage of time and events since 2001 – particularly the invasion of Iraq – have served to inure the Arab world to the human tragedy of that Tuesday morning and convince it of malice on the part of America, Bin Laden may be more successful at winning support by coming out now than if he had done so in the immediate aftermath of the strikes.
    Not that the speech is without flaws, particularly when viewed from the American perspective. For example, the conspiracies he alleges strike the Western mind as dubious at best. On Arabic-language message boards and in some publications, however, conspiracies involving Israel, America, Haliburton, and so on get much more serious attention than they do in mainstream Western discourse. This kind of talk from him is nothing new, either, and can be found in nearly every lengthy public statement he has made, stretching back to at least the 1998 pseudo-fatwa to which he was a signatory. However, the oil conspiracy is the springboard for a novel statement by Bin Laden:
    "As previously mentioned, it was easy for us to provoke this administration and to drag it [after us]. It was enough for us to send two Jihad fighters to the farthest east to hoist a rag on which 'Al-Qa'ida' was written - that was enough to cause generals to rush off to this place, thereby causing America human and financial and political losses, without it accomplishing anything worthy of mention, apart from giving business to [the generals'] private corporations."
    There are several aspects to this statement worth examining, chief among them the fact that Bin Laden is clearly conscious of the fact that America reacts strongly to allegations of an al-Qaeda presence in a particular location. While this may sound obvious, it is an exploitable aspect of American foreign policy and America's most prominent adversary is asserting that he has already made use of it. He states that "we are continuing in the same policy – to make America bleed profusely to the point of bankruptcy."
    Also making use of dubious figures to highlight al-Qaeda's high rate of return on its investment for 9/11, bin Laden is clearly underlining the continued policy of sabotaging American economic interests. This policy, most clearly underscored in the attack on the World Trade Center, has been successful not only in Iraq but also in the realm of domestic anti-terrorism measures taken in the United States. Given the movement's tremendous success in using spectacular attacks to damage American economic interests both directly and indirectly, the policy statement suggests that more such attacks are still to come.
    Is there truth to his claim that al-Qaeda was not active in Iraq before the invasion, other than in a deception operation? Maybe, but unfortunately the veracity of this claim cannot be determined from the statements of Bin Laden. For one thing, a claim that he tricked America into war is consistent with his rhetorical tactic of using hindsight to claim foresight, as in the case of his claim that planning for 9/11 was inspired by the bombing of civilian high rises in Lebanon in 1982. In addition, al-Qaeda has a strong interest in convincing the world that they were not actually operating in Iraq before the invasion, as there is strategic advantage to discrediting the Bush administration and American intelligence. This advantage is best embodied by taking the example of the Arabic saying that "the fox has changed his ways," which refers to the story of a fox that convinces his prey that he has reformed and no longer wants to devour them. If an American Secretary of State were to go before the United Nations and lay out a case for invading another country based on American intelligence information, the "fox" would be unbelievable. As such, anything Bin Laden can do to add fuel to the fire of American ineptitude and intelligence shortcomings helps ensure that his actual strongholds are secure from American military intervention.
    And while not necessarily covering new ground in terms of his case for jihad, Bin Laden's talk nevertheless explains his argument more cogently than his previous attempts. In careful reasoning early in the speech, Bin Laden goes to great lengths to argue that the United States is an aggressor attacking the ummah. According to Bin Laden:
    "The events that had a direct influence on me occurred in 1982, and the subsequent events, when the U.S. permitted the Israelis to invade Lebanon with the aid of the American sixth fleet. They started shelling, and many were killed and wounded, while others were terrorized into fleeing. I still remember those moving scenes – blood, torn limbs, and dead women and children; ruined homes everywhere, and high-rises being demolished on top of their residents; bombs raining down mercilessly on our homes."
    He calls America "the oppressor" later on, and lays on America the blame for "mass slaughter of children, [the worst] that humanity has ever known." He says, "As I was looking at those destroyed towers in Lebanon, I was struck by the idea of punishing the oppressor in the same manner and destroying towers in the U.S., to give it a taste of what we have tasted and to deter it from killing our children and women." These lines quickly bring to mind the first passage in the Qur'an relating to jihad which instructs Muslims that "Allah loves not the aggressors…kill them wherever you find them…whoever then acts aggressively against you, inflict injury on him according to the injury he has inflicted on you and keep your duty to Allah, and know that Allah is with those who keep their duty." [2] This suggests that bin Laden is speaking not to America in these words, but rather to the ummah. Without directly quoting the Qur'an, he nevertheless evokes it to lay out the case that America is a justified target of jihad and that the attacks of 9/11 were not only permissible, but actually the most fitting recompense for the hostile actions America has taken against the ummah.
    Bin Laden's echoing of this passage is clearest in his reference to the Israeli military's attacks on urban Beirut high rises in 1982, which enjoyed at least tacit American support. The admonition to "inflict injury on him according to the injury he has inflicted on you" is very obviously conjured in the juxtaposition of burning buildings in Beirut and the burning Twin Towers. As noted previously, this is probably a case of hindsight-as-foresight, as it is doubtful that bin Laden actually began formulating 9/11 some twenty years in advance. Nevertheless, the memory of Beirut in 1982 is a powerful motif and serves well to advance Bin Laden's central argument to the Muslim world: the current jihad is a defensive action being carried out in line with the guidance laid out in the Qur'an. Al-Qaeda, and the wider movement of militant Sunni Islam, are founded on the premise of defensive action and cannot function properly apart from that concept. While much about the organization, motives and agenda of these jihadi movements is up for discussion, it is indisputable that they have succeeded in fundraising and recruiting to the extent that they have convinced many sincere and committed Muslims that their struggle is indeed a just jihad.
    Conclusion
    Bin Laden's speech on October 29 is in many ways the ultimate display of his propaganda prowess. He manages to at once fulfill his Qur'anic obligation to offer the "aggressor" the chance to desist, mock the American government and intelligence services, chastise and cajole the ummah, and chart the future course of the global jihadi movement – all the while seeming more reasoned and purposeful than ever. Gone is the Kalashnikov and camouflage. Gone is the truculent tone of his 2002 "Letter to America." Gone are the assertions that America cannot overcome the mujahideen in Afghanistan. Instead, Bin Laden seizes the opportunity of media obsession with a pending American election to metamorphose once again. Combining a deep understanding of the ummah's frustrations with a practical grasp of the Western media cycle, Bin Laden has consolidated his position as the unchallenged speaker for the global jihadi movement.
    Mr. Lyons has spent several years as a counterterrorism analyst advising the American government.
    Soft Targets in Post-Election Afghanistan
    By David C. Isby
    President Hamid Karzai's announcement that terrorism had been defeated in his country may return to haunt him and his administration, but there is no denying the magnitude of the success against terrorism in Afghanistan that was embodied in the results of the recent election. The level of violence associated with the election proved to be much less than that found in many more stable countries. Moreover the post-election visit to Kabul of Pakistan's President Pervez Musharref brought renewed promises of repressing cross-border terrorism. [1]
    The major terrorist threat – remnants of Taliban, al-Qaeda, Hezb-i-Islami and others in a loose, largely Pakistan based coalition – apparently realized that they lacked the strength to make a significant impact on the election and decided not to disrupt it. It may also reflect an increasing overlap between terrorist and criminal activity that makes violent action without material profit unappealing. However, despite Karzai's claim, terrorism in Afghanistan has not been decisively cowed by recent set-backs but is rather searching for new and softer targets while awaiting changes that would facilitate a broader reach.
    Targeting Foreigners
    That new "soft target" is the non-military foreign presence in Afghanistan, especially in and around Kabul. Witness the two suicide bombings in Kabul's famous Chicken Street bazaar apparently targeting either foreigners or Afghans that are working with them. The kidnapping of three United Nations election workers on October 28 and their subsequent release in November made anti-foreigner violence the main post-election news from Afghanistan.
    These actions were part of a trend – albeit limited in scope – of increasing violence against foreigners in Afghanistan. The 2003 toll of 14 foreigners killed was exceeded in the first half of 2004. The non-fatal attack on the Danish Committee for Aid to Afghan Refugees' (DACAAR) Herat office on October 23 was typical of a wave of other attacks occurring there, in Kabul and in Jalalabad, including rocket attacks and attempted suicide bombings. [2] Not all the outcomes are as fortunate. In the past year, the deaths of five employees of the French NGO Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) led that group to withdraw from Afghanistan. However, these previous attacks were largely motivated by crime, as in the deaths of 11 Chinese construction workers in northern Afghanistan in June 2004, or, in the case of two MSF workers who were apparently caught up in local political violence.
    The UN workers kidnapping differed in its targeting of individual unarmed foreigners. While those claiming credit attempted to legitimate kidnapping through Islamist rhetoric – something new in Afghanistan – reports that large ransoms were offered suggests the motivation may have been largely criminal. This also raises questions about the motivation of the larger cross-border terrorist threat: without rupees from Pakistani supporters, how many of them would melt away?
    It is significant that the organization which claimed the kidnapping is a splinter group that had not been heard of before. The Taliban Jamiat Jaish-ul-Musulman (Army of Moslems of the Taliban Society) is led by Mullah Sayid Mohammend Akbar Agha, reportedly a former member of the Taliban and, before that, the Hezb-i-Islami party of Younis Khalis. According to the Afghan press, this organization is composed of Pashtun elements and is part of the anti-Kabul opposition that operates principally from Pakistan. [3]
    Targeting UN or aid workers is an explicit embrace of al-Qaeda methodology as demonstrated in Iraq. It is also an explicit challenge to traditional Afghan values inasmuch as they champion al-Qaeda's vision of a universal jihad. The unwillingness of Afghans to fight and die for al-Qaeda was evident in 2001. There is now even less sympathy for terrorism in the service of jihad.
    The action itself is alien to the strongly-felt national traditions of hospitality to visitors and of Islamic strictures on the treatment of women. This has led to universal condemnation of the kidnapping by the former king, ulema, and political figures. [4] Moreover the Taliban leadership denied that the kidnappers had any connection to them. Afghans were reminded that they did not resort to kidnapping non-combatants even in the 1979-89 war against the Soviets. [5] A number of Afghans even offered themselves as substitutes for the kidnapped aid workers. [6]
    As an ideological statement to publicize anti-Kabul terrorism, the kidnapping was a total failure, though as a potential money-making activity, it made more sense. The willingness to use jihadist rhetoric to justify economically motivated action may be repeated in other areas in the future – particularly in narcotics cultivation.
    Potential for Future Terrorism
    Yet terrorism inside Afghanistan could be revived. There are principally two problems that can transmute into terrorist threats. One is the cultural resentment felt by some Afghans towards the foreign presence. Afghan opinion, ranging from reasoned newspaper editorials to a near-infinite number of bazaar rumors, has cataloged in detail the life of excess and wealth lived by the foreign aid workers in the midst of poor Afghans. [7]
    Rumors of behavior contrary to Afghan standards have led to violent action against NGOs in the past, such as the sacking of the World Vision facility at Nasir Bagh refugee camp near Peshawar in 1990. Nor are Islamic NGOs exempt; the same 1990 riot would have sacked a Saudi facility except for its armed employees. Underlying this action was a current of resentment and economic hardship that provided a motivation for the widespread looting.
    There have been attempts to use this resentment to ignite armed opposition to Kabul. Recently, Maulavi Younis Khalis exhorted Afghans to armed resistance against the foreign presence, citing what he described as the evil cultural influence of these groups that promoted not imperial domination but "obscenity, vulgarity and an ideology of disbelievers" and that "…the main objective of the allied forces is to put the next Afghan generation on an obscene and vulgar path." [8] Despite his political significance in the 1970s and 80s, Khalis has been in poor health for years and carries little authority even in his native Nangarhar province. It is unlikely that this will be a major source for future terrorism in Afghanistan, but cultural resentment is a potential flashpoint that needs to be watched, especially in the context of the long-standing goals to expand the ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) presence beyond Kabul. Keeping a low profile has been an important factor in the success of foreign forces in Afghanistan post-2001.
    More serious is the threat posed by the booming narcotics industry. Afghanistan is now the world's largest opium producer and some estimates point to half the GDP deriving from this source. This has increased the pressure on the U.S. and its European allies to take strong action against opium production. However, if – as has been rumored in Kabul – the anti-eradication campaign is to start next spring and involve the use of air-applied herbicides, then the farmers and agricultural laborers who have come to depend on this crop might be forced into the hands of the terrorists, literally in self-defense of the only available source of income and employment in much of rural Afghanistan, where an unreconstructed infrastructure makes marketing alternative crops problematic. While Afghanistan is not Colombia, a poorly directed counter-narcotics campaign can provide the grassroots support that the terrorist-narcotics nexus currently lacks. Again, economic motivation – agricultural laborers picking up Kalashnikovs to defend their livelihood – is likely to prove more significant than ideology.
    These two paths are certainly not the only way terrorism in Afghanistan may evolve in response to the setback of the successful presidential election. Terrorists may be looking to the parliamentary elections, currently scheduled for next April, to return some of their allies to power. Despite President Karzai's optimism, the U.S. needs to boost its counter-terrorism efforts both inside Afghanistan and in relation to cross-border terrorism originating from Pakistan.
    David Isby is a Washington-based author and defense and foreign policy analyst.

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