Wednesday, May 10, 2006

What, if any progress is being made against the global Jihad?

Are we winning the War on Terror? And if we are, how is it that the global Jihad grows in strength?

Contrary to the hysterical protestations of rabid Bush-haters, the President was not wrong for attacking Muslims who had a hand in harming the United States. Though some Muslims who now have joined Jihad may not have done so in the absence of our American military's recent action, what else could the President have done? To do nothing would make us appear weak, self-doubting, and fearful, which would only encourage the followers of Mahomet.

The President's failure in waging this war is in not recognizing the Enemy. Our foe is not a tactic, it is an ideology, a belief system that kills men's souls by giving "divine" approval to the devilish indulgence of his greatest vices and most destructive lusts.

Unless and until the President (and the rest of the world) recognize this fact, all efforts at winning this war will be terribly wasteful of blood and treasure, and ultimately, unsuccessful.

Painting a bleak landscape at The Pioneer:
With Al Qaeda far from being vanquished, and Pakistan and Bangladesh inevitably turning into jihadi outposts in the emerging pan-Islamist network in Asia, India is more than likely to be caught in the vicious tail-wind of the next wave of terrorism, gathering momentum since 9/11.

This wave of terrorism, as mounting evidences reveal, is likely to emerge from the military-governed Pakistan which has been flirting with jihadis for more than two decades - first using them to quell domestic ethnic and sectarian protests, then playing CIA's quarter-master general in Afghanistan unleashing a band of mujahideen on the entrapped Soviet troops. After the Soviet collapse, it was launched against India in Jammu & Kashmir.

No other country has spawned as many terrorist groups as Pakistan. The key protagonists in this wave of terrorism have been the Pakistan Army and the ISI directorate. Irrespective of numerous international sanctions, these agencies continue to assist different hues of terrorist groups that have deep and organic links with Al Qaeda and other jihadi outfits.

Many of these groups, spawned during the Afghan jihad, are now increasingly adopting the world-view of Al Qaeda - creating a pan-Islamic front against those who are opposed to Islam, especially the Judeo-Christian Western nations, to establish the Caliphate. It is, therefore, imperative to understand the changes taking place in the world of terrorism, the impact of such changes on the groups operating in Pakistan, Bangladesh and elsewhere, and how India is likely to be caught in this jihadi maelstrom.

Two significant changes that have taken place since September 11 are the US invasion of Iraq and the expanding base of terrorist recruitment. It is now well established that Iraq has become a battle ground of terrorist networks led by Al Qaeda. It has replaced Afghanistan as the training ground for the next one or two generation of professional jihadis. Analysts believe that Iraq would prove to a deadlier training campus for jihadis than Afghanistan.

A similar situation is brewing in Pakistan's tribal areas, especially Waziristan, where Al Qaeda and its allied groups have been pitted against the Pakistan Army since the spring of 2004. It is estimated that about 80,000 troops have been deployed in the region against a few thousand terrorists who are not only well entrenched but also well equipped and trained to fight the Army. Besides, Waziristan has become a meeting point for the Taliban and terrorists from different parts of the world.

The second factor is the expanding base of recruitment for terrorist groups. Although a large number of recruits come from the Persian Gulf, mainly Saudi Arabia and Yemen, many others are from North African countries, including Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Sudan and Jordan. A significantly large number of recruits are now coming from European countries, mainly France and Britain; and many of them have already fought in Iraq.

The impact of these changes on Pakistan-based jihadi groups is already visible. No longer are these groups solely dependent on madarsas for recruitment and ideological support. In fact, various studies have shown that a significant number of the cadre today comes not from religious seminaries but normal "English medium public schools". The cadre is well versed in communication technology, can effectively use sophisticated equipment like satellite phone, hi-fi wireless radio besides internet and email.

Another change which has been noticed in Pakistani groups is their willingness to transcend strictly ideological beliefs for a common objective. Although there is no love lost between Deobandi and Barelvi groups, or Sunnis and Shias, there is strong evidence that groups like Lashkar-e-Tayyeba (LeT) are quite willing to network with Deobandi groups like Harkat-ul Jihad al Islami (HuJI), Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) and Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM). This coalition of convenience has ominous signs of expansion in India with several minor religious and criminal organisations willing to cooperate for petty gains.

The most significant development, however, has been these groups' willingness to acquire political muscle through developmental and educational activities. One such group is Jamaat-ud Dawa, the parent organisation of LeT, which has been openly courting the political leadership in the recent past.

Notwithstanding the war on terrorism, it is becoming increasingly evident that jihadi outfits in Pakistan, though outlawed, have been able to consolidate their cadre, training and financial networks in the past three years. This is posing a threat not only to India but also Pakistan, as recent attempts to assassinate General Pervez Musharraf revealed.

More alarming is the possibility that these groups, already using transnational criminal syndicates for collecting funds and weapons, could, in the near future, forge deeper links with terrorist groups in South-East Asia and extend their scope of operations from Karachi to the Straits of Malacca.