Tag Archives: Terrorism

Terrorism in European Diasporas: Al-Qaeda, the Tamil Tigers, and the Importance of Ideology.

By Jessica Ward
Crowd Outside Kings Cross station from bombing

In his book, Leaderless Jihad, Marc Sageman presents a bottom up model for al-Qaeda terrorist radicalization, claiming that individual level social factors are responsible for radicalization, to the extent that “al Qaeda had no need for a separate recruitment program”1. He posits that European Muslims are particularly sensitive to radicalization because of an increased rate of failure to assimilate. This basis of this theory is that the logic behind radicalization doesn’t have a lot to do with ideology itself. It is instead connected to social factors such as the influence of family and friends, “it turns out that joining the global Islamist terrorism social movement was based to a great degree on friendship and kinship”2. Max Abrams supports this theory, claiming that “most individuals engage in a cost benefit analysis of whether to participate in an organization based on its personal inducements, which have little if any connection to the organization’s stated goals” and that “many terrorist foot soldiers and even their leaders never develop a basic understanding of their organization’s political purpose”3. Inherent to this model is the idea that ideology is unimportant, and what are important to the radicalization process are friends, family, and social networks. This is why diasporic populations in Europe are more vulnerable to radicalization then Muslims living in their home countries or America4: alienated, they hang out at mosques and join other young Muslim men, eventually going from ‘just a group of guys’ to terrorists.

This theory has been subject to harsh criticism, citing the continued strength of al-Qaeda central leadership, and claiming that what we need to fear is “the realization of strategic organizational decisions al Qaeda made at least a decade ago” and that al-Qaeda is dangerous because:

“Al Qaeda is much like a shark, which must keep moving forward, no matter how slowly or incrementally, or die. Al Qaeda must constantly adapt and adjust to its enemies’ efforts to stymie its plans while simultaneously identifying new targets. The group’s capacity to survive is also a direct reflection of both its resilience and the continued resonance of its ideology,” Hoffman 5.

The supporters of this “grassroots model” do not claim that it extends beyond al-Qaeda. Although Sageman mentions the Irish Republican Army (IRA), and Abrams does support his findings with those concerning the IRA, Euskadi Ta Askatasuna (ETA), the Red Brigades, and the Weather Underground amongst others, this model, which claims to be based on social scientific principles, makes no claim to be anything but very specific and not broadly applicable. But if this model of terrorist radicalization is correct, and “the link between a Diaspora and terrorism appears strong,”6 then what kind of evidence is there for radicalization of European diaspora populations for causes other than Islamist terrorism?

One group which offers a strong contrast to al-Qaeda’s patterns of radicalization in diasporic populations is the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), an ethno-nationalist group based in Sri Lanka. They are listed on the U.S. State Department list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations7,  and in their own words, they claim to be “the heart and soul of the Tamil struggle for self-determination” and “ a political organisation as well as a military power, running a de-facto administration in the majority of areas in north-eastern Sri Lanka”8.  The group was largely responsible for the thirty year long Sri Lankan civil war and the deaths of 64,000 people9. It has been largely inactive since the death of its leader Velupillai Prabhakaran in May of 2009.  The LTTE is one of the most notorious terrorist groups in modern history, having been one of the first to use the tactic of suicide bombing on a large scale. Their “Black Tiger” division is responsible for the invention of the suicide belt, a device widely used by suicide bombers throughout the world today10. At their peak they had between 7,000 and 15,000 armed combatants, and were responsible for the assassinations of Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1991 and Sri Lankan President Ranasinghe Premadasa in 1993, as well as many prominent Sri Lankan politicians, and attacks on various important military and civilian targets including “naval ships, oil tankers, the airport in the country’s capital of Colombo, and Sri Lanka’s most sacred Buddhist relic, the Temple of the Tooth… Colombo’s World Trade Center and Central Bank.”11

The Tamil population, comprising about 66 million individuals in total12, is dwarfed in size when compared to the world’s 1.57 billion Muslims in the world13. However, like al-Qaeda, the potential diasporic population that could become radicalized is large. Most of the world’s Tamil population, approximately 61 million people, lives in India.  However, it is estimated that 150,000 people of Tamil descent live in the UK, of which 67,000 were born in Sri Lanka14. Unlike the Muslim population, there is little evidence of Tamils in Europe or North America becoming radicalized and joining the LTTE as fighters15.  Tamils in Europe, who primarily reside in the United Kingdom, face the same factors that are described as leading to radicalization and joining al-Qaeda. Many are refugees, low-income, living away from their families. The social experiences described by Sageman of Muslims in Europe who became al-Qaeda members, “They became separated from their families, friends, and culture, many started to feel homesick and lonely. They also felt marginalized and excluded from their immediate environment,”are just as applicable to Tamils as they are to Muslims16. This indicates that the simple of idea of radicalization as a product of alienation and socialization in diasporic populations is not broadly applicable, at least without other considerations.

The LTTE differ in many ways from al-Qaeda. One of the most prominent of these differences is a stark contrast in ideology and scope. While the LTTE efforts are focused intensely on Sri Lanka, especially its Northern and Eastern Provinces (what they wish to be the nation of Tamil Eelam), al-Qaeda’s vision is for a global jihad an eventual world-wide caliphate. For al Qaeda, nothing is outside of their mandate, for the LTTE, their focus is targeted and intense. One difference is their ideology; al-Qaeda fights in the name of God and religion, which the LTTE is a secular movement which fighting in the name of ethnic nationalism.  This means that the appeal of their causes are disparate; al Qaeda’s message, despite the fact that it is widely regarded as too extreme even for other extremists, holds across national borders and has a global base. The LTTE was considered not as extreme by Sri Lankans, but is only fueled by Sri Lankan Tamils, which make up 9-18% of the population of Sri Lanka17. This results in recruiting a larger percentage of a smaller population.

This can also be classified as a difference in the scope of the goal promoted by the ideology. Without getting into the substantive details of their respective ideologies, it becomes apparent that al-Qaeda, a group that sees the world as its battlefield and every Muslim as a potential solider, could be considered an attractive group to join by a more diverse group of people than the LTTE, whose sole purpose is the promotion of nationalism in two provinces of one country. It is this wide-reaching vs. singular focus dichotomy that characterizes the scope of the ideology of al-Qaeda and the LTTE. Had the LTTE chosen to promote a goal with a wider reaching goal, they could have had a much larger reach. Secular ethnic nationalism is a limiting ideology.  Wider reaching goals could include an ethnic conflict narrative, as is seen in the Middle East in Kurdish movements in Iraq, Iran, Turkey, and Syria. By branding the conflict as a struggle for nationhood instead of Tamil rights, the Sri Lankan Tamils excluded possible assistance from the 60 million Tamil people living in India18. Another potential framework for a wider reaching narrative could have been characterizing the conflict as a religious one. It would have been possible for the mainly Hindu Tamils to create an ideology based on religious struggle against the mostly Buddhist Sinhalese majority. A broader religiously based ideology, like the one built by al-Qaeda, could have drawn in Hindus from India and the Hindu Diaspora in Europe and North America19.

Another aspect of the scope dimension is how ideology is applied to territory. Both sides use similar terminology of to describe their conflict, with al-Qaeda declaring war against the United States in 1996 and arguing for jihad, which can be translated as holy war20. The LTTE youth organizations similarly use the term “punitha youtham, a “[pure] holy war” to describe the conflict in Sri Lanka21. However, despite this similar use of language, the realities of the conflict between al-Qaeda and America and the LTTE and Sri Lanka are very different. Despite being labeled a terrorist organization, the LTTE controlled large amounts of physical territory in Northeast Sri Lanka and had military capabilities, such as naval and air divisions, that were far beyond al-Qaeda’s. The conflict between the LTTE and the Sri Lankan government is typically characterized as a civil war, and it has received enough international attention, such as attempts to negotiate ceasefires by India and Norway, to justify calling the conflict a full scale war. Al-Qaeda on the other hand, has never controlled significant amounts of physical territory, instead existing in training camps and hideouts in Afghanistan, cells spread across the world, and ever increasingly on the internet. This lack of physical base made al-Qaeda’s ‘war’ a global one, while the LTTE existed in a specific place in Sri Lanka.

One last differing factor between the LTTE and al-Qaeda which may have caused one to have the ability to recruit in Europe but the other to have no support from European populations is the domestic political conditions in their home bases. Despite a decreasing amount of civil rights for the Tamil minority, Sri Lanka was classified as “free” by the organization Freedom House until 1983 (it has been “partly free” since). In comparison, Saudi Arabia has never been classified as “free” or “partly free” since Freedom House began collected data in 1973. Egypt, the most populous Middle Eastern state, has been either “partly free” or “not free”, having been “not free” since 199322. This relative openness may be a pathway for supporters of the LTTE to stay within the country, making support from Europe unnecessary. The authoritarian societies of the Middle East inflict harsh punishments upon those who support terrorist groups, providing incentive for terrorist sympathizers to leave the country and disincentive for those within the country to support terrorism. The freedom of Europe allows al-Qaeda the ability to plan operations under conditions where the government has limits on its ability to imprison and conduct recognizance within its own borders. Additionally there is less potential cost for becoming radicalized in a European country; where there are strict rules on the justice system, than in the Middle East, where habeas corpus doesn’t necessarily exist23.

Overall, the differences between al-Qaeda and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam can be summarized as a difference in the scope of their ideologies. Al-Qaeda’s vague and unrealistic goals have the possibility of appealing to any Muslim in any country, while the LTTE’s specific goals are only likely to appeal to Tamil people in Sri Lanka itself. The idea of socialization being a pathway to radicalization is not necessarily precluded by this conclusion, but it shows that there are many other factors that lead to terrorism, and that it may not be possible to find a simple answer to the question of why people become terrorists. These differences show that ideology does matter in terrorist radicalization, and that the simple answer of alienated people who create social ties may not be so simple. Recognizing such restrictions may have counterterrorism implications, such as determining where to focus counterterrorism efforts. While it may be possible for a group like al-Qaeda to operate anywhere, and thus counterterrorism efforts should be done everywhere, it is unlikely that group like the LTTE that has a specifically focused ideology will have much of a foothold outside of its area of focus, thus making counterterrorism efforts against the LTTE in places like North America or Europe lower priority that efforts in South Asia. Additionally, as history has shown, this may be a reason why al-Qaeda has survived the death of many of its leaders and continues to be a threat after the death of Bin Laden, but why the LTTE has become essentially defeated after the death of its leader Velupillai Prabhakaran.

Jessica Ward is a Research Intern at the Conflict Records Research Center, Institute for National Strategic Studies.  Ms.Ward is a senior Political Science major with Interdisciplinary Honors in International Security Studies at Stanford University.


Endnotes

1. Sageman, Marc, Leaderless Leaderless Jihad: Terror Networks in the Twenty-First Century, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2008, 70

2.  ibid, 66

3. Abrahms, Max, “What Terrorists Really Want: Terrorist Motives and Counterterrorism Strategy”, International Security, Vol. 32, No.2, Spring 2008, 95, 99

4. There are many reasons why European immigrant populations are more prone to radicalization than American ones are. Possible explanations include harsher American visa requirements, and thus the ability to hand pick professionals and intellectuals for immigration and not allow in those who may be vulnerable, the relative weakness (or non-existence) of the American welfare system, which allows unemployed Europeans to spend their time on terrorist activities, but in America, “by the time American young Muslims sympathetic to the jihad get home from work, they are too exhausted to do much,” as well as the American national myth of the “melting pot,” which serves as a mechanism for assimilating immigrants, as opposed to the European national myths of a “national essence” (Sageman 90-102).

5. Hoffman, Bruce, “The Myth of Grassroots Terrorism”, Foreign Affairs, May/June 2008

6. Sageman, 65

7. U.S. State Department, “List of Foreign Terrorist Organizations,” 27 January 2012, http://www.state.gov/j/ct/rls/other/des/123085.htm , accessed 25 July 2012

8. “About Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam,” http://www.eelam.com/ltte, accessed 25 July 2012

9. Hussain, Syed Rifat “Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE): Failed Quest for a Homeland”, in eds. Mulaj, Kledja, Violent Non-State Actors in World Politics, Columbia University Press, New York, 2010. 381

10. Bhattacharji, Preeti “Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (aka Tamil Tigers) (Sri Lanka, Separatists),” http://www.cfr.org/terrorist-organizations/liberation-tigers-tamil-eelam-aka-tamil-tigers-sri-lanka-separatists/p9242 , 20 May 2009, Council on Foreign Relations, accessed 25 July 2012

11. Hussain, 384

12.  Ethnolouge, “Tamil,” http://www.ethnologue.com/15/show_language.asp?code=tam; accessed 25 July 2012. This defines a Tamil person as a speaker of the Tamil language. While there can be other definitions, this is the one with the most reliable data.

13. Pew Research Center, “Mapping the Global Muslim Population: A report on the Size and Distribution of the World’s Muslim Population”, 7 October 2009, http://www.pewforum.org/Mapping-the-Global-Muslim-Population.aspx

14. Dissanayke, Samanthi, “UK Tamils Polarised by Powerful,” British Broadcasting Company, 8 December 2008, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/7742134.stm, accessed 25 July 2012. The United Kingdom does not keep data and race and ethnicity at the levels of the United States, but it does keep data on the country of birth of its citizens. 150,000 figure and estimate, 67,000 figure from the 2001 census.

15. There is evidence of some financial support from European and North American Tamils. “Members of the Tamil community abroad say the culture of fear that surrounds such tactics is enough to coerce them to fund the LTTE. The U.S. State Department says the LTTE has also used charitable groups, like the Tamils Rehabilitation Organization, as a front for fundraising. These forms of funding have made the LTTE one of the wealthiest militant organizations in the world.” Bajoria, Jayshree, “The Sri Lankan Conflict,” http://www.cfr.org/terrorist-organizations/sri-lankan-conflict/p11407 , Council on Foreign Relations, 18 May 2009, accessed 25 July 2012.

16. Sageman 68

17. 8.5% by ethnicity, 18% by language. CIA World Factbook, “Sri Lanka,” https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/ce.html,  Central Intelligence Agency, 13 July 2012, accessed 25 July 2012.

18. India did support the LTTE early on in the conflict, with LTTE members being armed and trained by the Indian Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) in the early 1970s. There were also alliances between the LTTE and secessionist groups in Tamil Nadu. Both of these withdrew support from the LTTE in the early 1980s. Bajoria

19. Despite Hinduism’s reputation in the West as being non-violent, there is substantial evidence of violence associated with Hinduism in modern India, including the destruction of the Babri mosque in Ayodhya in 1992, the 2002 Gujarat riots, and growing anti-Christian and right wing Hindu extremist violence.

20. Bin Laden, Osama, “Declaration of War against the Americans Occupying the Land of the Two Holy Places,” http://www.pbs.org/newshour/terrorism/international/fatwa_1996.html, PBS Newshour, August 1996, accessed 26 July 2012. A more literal translation of jihad is struggle, thus its use in Islamic religious rhetoric which argues for the promotion of “the greater jihad,” an internal struggle.

21. Wilson, A. Jegaratham, Sri Lankan Tamil Nationalism: Its Origins and Development in the 19th and 20th Centuries, 2000, London, C. Hurst Co.

22. Freedom House, “Freedom in the World, 1973-2012,” http://www.freedomhouse.org/report-types/freedom-world, accessed 25 July 2012. India and Western Europe are considered “free” for most years in this period.

23. This argument can be found in Huckabey, Jessica M. and Mark E. Stout, “Al Qaida’s Views of Authoritarian Intelligence Services in the Middle East,” Intelligence and National Security, Vol. 25, No. 3, 327–349, June 2010

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Murky Waters: Implications of a Syrian No-Fly Zone

Syrian Flag

by Dylan Maguire, Research Intern
Edited by Dr. Denise Natali, Minerva Chair

As the events in Syria continue to unfold and new accounts of atrocities committed by Bashar al-Assad’s regime against the Syrian people are reported, calls for the international community to take decisive action will grow stronger.

At a recent panel held at the Rethink Institute in Washington, DC, an affiliate of the Turkic American Alliance, senior staff from the Syrian Center for Political and Strategic Studies as well as the Syrian Expatriates Organization called for the imposition of a no-fly zone to create and maintain a humanitarian corridor inside Syria proper. All of us who are following the events transpiring in Syria want to encourage policy options that will stop the killing and lead to a transfer of power from the dictatorial regime to one that reflects the true aspirations of the Syrian people. However, before the legitimate use of military power can be employed in a responsible manner it is important that all of the possible consequences of such a policy are explored. Recent history provides us with two interesting case studies, Iraq and Libya. When examining these cases it is important to remember that the stated goal in Libya was Qaddafi’s departure while in Iraq it was population protection and humanitarian relief.

After Operation Desert Storm and the surrender of the Iraqi Army, the Kurds in the North and the Shia’s in the South revolted against Saddam’s regime. The international coalition decided to impose a no-fly zone over portions of the north and south of Iraq to prevent Saddam from using his air force to put down these rebellions. In addition to preventing Iraqi over-flight in the north, coalition ground forces also began distributing humanitarian aid among the Kurds. While Saddam was unable to use fixed-wing aircraft to suppress those in revolt, he made effective use of helicopters, artillery, and ground troops. The coalition air assets could have expanded their target options to include these ground forces, but they did not. In fact, there were almost no Iraqi planes for coalition pilots to engage as Saddam largely respected the no-fly zone knowing that his ground forces were more than capable against the lightly armed resistance. There are three lessons to be learned from this episode. First, no-fly zones are only effective against other aircraft, when ground force is used as the means of oppression, then what is called for is a no-drive zone, or in effect a conventional air campaign. Second, lightly armed resistance movements will not be able to mount decisive counter-regime operations unless they are supported by conventional air power. Third, dictators like Saddam and Assad are well aware of the capabilities of all parties involved and will play their cards as effectively as possible. They will do so by limiting their exposure to overwhelming air-power while using their conventional ground forces to demolish the local opposition.

A good example of a no-fly zone expanding into a no-drive zone is the recent NATO air campaign in Libya. The limited operation to prevent Qaddafi from using his air force against the resistance quickly turned into a conventional air campaign as Qaddafi made use of his armor and artillery to pound revolutionary cities into submission. When allied airplanes began to attack these formations Qaddafi ordered his forces to shed their uniforms and heavier equipment. They changed their dress to appear like the opposition forces in order to confuse NATO pilots. This in turn led to the need for on-the-ground coordination between Libyan revolutionary forces and NATO command and control to prevent friendly fire casualties. What had begun as a limited no-fly zone quickly morphed into NATO acting as the air force for the Libyan revolutionary forces. Again there are three main lessons that can be taken away from this case. First, in these types of operations mission creep is not a possibility but a certainty. Second, dictators like Qaddafi and Assad will not hesitate to change their ground strategies to realize the full potential of their own forces, even if that means breaking all of the recognized laws of war, such as wearing uniforms and driving marked vehicles. Finally, by wedding allied airpower to local opposition forces, western nations will be taking ownership of the conflict and all that entails. When non-combatants are unintentionally killed by allied air strikes it could potentially help to further entrench the dictator’s base, or possibly turn locals against allied forces.

In addition to the lessons that can be learned from these two cases there are other questions that must be answered before the US military engages in any operations in Syria. In the Iraq case, only certain areas of the country were protected by the no-fly zone. In Syria how will the no-fly zone and the humanitarian corridor be defined? Will the no-fly zone only protect a few of the varied ethnic communities in Syria? If coalition forces choose only to protect certain communities, this would have an effect on the domestic balance of power once Assad was ousted. How long will the no-fly zone be established for and who will pay for its upkeep and enforcement? If the Assad regime falls, will the US become responsible for the creation of a new government in Syria? By taking on these responsibilities the US would be committing itself to a new round of nation building in the Middle East.

The killing taking place in Syria at the hands of the Assad regime is unconscionable and must be recognized as such by the full international community. Yet, beginning an air campaign to limit Assad’s military capabilities could turn into a full-fledged conventional battle between allied power and the hardcore elements of the regime. Leaving aside issues concerning UN Security Council resolutions and Russian intransigence, the US must realize that in committing to a no-fly zone policy it will be in effect declaring war on Assad’s regime. If that is truly the desired policy, then a real war plan making use of the full capability of the US military must be employed. However, it appears that this is precisely what the Obama administration is seeking to avoid. Thus, it must refrain from taking actions, such as imposing a no-fly zone, which will inevitably lead it to the same place.


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al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb…

The Evolving Threat of al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb
Strategic Forum #268
by Andre Le Sage, PhD

 

Map of northern africaAl Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) poses the greatest immediate threat of transnational terrorism in northwest Africa and is escalating its attacks against regional and Western interests.  Since 2007, the group has professed its loyalty to Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda’s senior leadership and claimed responsibility for dozens of attacks in the sub-region. These attacks have included the use of suicide bombers, improvised explosive devices, kidnapping operations, and assassinations.

AQIM’s targets include African civilians, government officials, and security services; United Nations (UN) diplomats and Western embassies; and tourists, aid workers, and private sector contractors. As a result, combating AQIM is the focus of substantial foreign security assistance provided by Western countries, including the United States and France, to their partner nations in the Maghreb and Sahel. In 2005, the United States created the Trans-Sahara Counter-terrorism Partnership (TSCTP) to coordinate activities by the Department of State, Department of Defense (DOD), and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to combat terrorism in the region.  Now including 10 African countries,3 TSCTP operates with a combined annual interagency budget of approximately $120 million.

At present, the threat posed by AQIM may appear manageable, particularly to policymakers concerned that additional U.S. involvement in the region may exacerbate Islamist militancy and increase regional tensions. However, as described above, events on the ground in northwest Africa indicate a serious potential that the threat posed by AQIM will continue to grow. In this context, the United States needs to be prepared to take more aggressive actions to disrupt, degrade, and ultimately defeat AQIM and should clearly determine in advance what level of increased AQIM activity would represent a direct threat to U.S. national security interests.

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The Commonwealth Games, Terrorism and Major State War

 By Dr. Thomas F. Lynch III, Center for Strategic Research

Taj Mahal in New Delhi, India

Taj Mahal

When does an international sporting event double as a highly plausible prelude to major state war?  When the event is in India, when Islamic radicals in Pakistan have declared the event a coveted target for terrorism, and when already high tensions between India and Pakistan have risen precipitously over the course of a long, hot and exceedingly wet summer.  Welcome to the 2010 Commonwealth Games – beginning in New Delhi, India on October 3rd!

Despite their obscurity in America, the Commonwealth Games are truly a major international sporting spectacle. They are the fourth largest quadrennial sporting event in the world, behind only the Summer Olympics, the Soccer World Cup, and the Asian Games.  More than 4000 world class athletes along with tens of thousands of supporters and spectators from 54 countries that once comprised the British Empire  will compete in a mixture of seventeen summer Olympic sports and several ‘uniquely British’ sporting events.  The Games of 2010, held in New Delhi from October 3-14, are the first event of such magnitude hosted on the Indian subcontinent; and, more critically, in a nuclear armed state on high alert against its nuclear armed neighbor. 

Those now gathering in New Delhi, therefore, are at grave risk.

The risk of a terrorist strike at the 2010 Commonwealth Games is real, and has metastasized severely over the past few months.  Militant Islamist groups like Lashkar-e-Tayibbah (LeT) of Pakistan and Indian Mujihaddin (IM) in India have promised an attack of the Commonwealth Games for some time.  Last February, longtime LeT leader Ilyas Kashmiri  (now believed hole-up in western Pakistan’s tribal areas) threatened the Games with a dramatic strike.   The violence between Indian paramilitary units and Muslim youth in Kashmir that has killed more than 60 young Muslim protesters and injured hundreds of others over the course of the summer has fed a stream of anti-Indian propaganda in Kashmir and across Pakistan.  Passionate editorials in Pakistani newspapers and Friday sermons from many Deobondi Muslim mosques cry out for retaliation against India for taking innocent Muslim lives, inspiring young Pakistani radicals to volunteer for the attacks promised by Ilyas Kashmiri and championed by many more extremist groups.  Ominously, the massive civil relief effort demanded from the Pakistan military and intelligence agencies since the beginning of historic flooding in August has diverted resources and constrained resolve to closely monitor, much less effectively disrupt, covert preparations for a terrorist strike against the Commonwealth Games just as such preparations are likely to be culminating.    

Despite massive security preparations by an Indian anti-terrorism paramilitary and police establishment believed competent in many ways, but stung deeply by the carnage of Mumbai in 2008, the prospect for a catastrophe attack of these Commonwealth Games looms large.  On September 16, India’s indigenous IM movement took credit for the terrorist attack by two men on a motorbike that opened fire injuring two Taiwanese journalists in front of the Jama Masjid Mosque in New Delhi.  Should India’s security preparations fail and a strike against the Commonwealth Games traceable to Pakistan occur, historic Indian restraint would be at risk.  India has staked huge national pride in these Games, and the blow from a successful Islamist terror strike would be enormous.  Legendary Indian restraint – exercised in 2002 after the Islamist terror attack in the New Delhi parliament and after the 2008 Mumbai attacks – would be at risk.   Indian frustration with Pakistan’s ongoing failure to make good on its promise to successfully prosecute even one conspirator in the Mumbai attacks would amplify almost certain nation-wide cries to retaliate against Pakistan for its history of terror group support.   Groups from across India’s political spectrum would view any Indian retaliatory strike – even a limited conventional one against selected Pakistani targets – as overdue; and, the specter of uncontrollable escalation in retaliatory strikes between two nuclear armed neighbors could fall quickly into place.

Where does this leave outside observers, to include American policymakers?  Given that India’s security preparations are complete, and Delhi’s historic aversion to outside assistance in matters of its security business has minimized external involvement – without many options.  However, there are a couple of political and information-sharing actions that might help avert a worst-case scenario.   President Obama, Prime Minister Cameron, President Sarkozy and Prime Minister Hu Jintao should each call Prime Minister Singh to extend best wishes for a successful Commonwealth Games and to pre-commit the rapid deployment of any resources the Indian government might need in the event of a tragedy.  They should also call Pakistani President Zardari and Prime Minister Gilani to remind them – and Pakistan’s military and intelligence establishment – that any terrorism activity against the Commonwealth Games traceable to Pakistan is hugely unacceptable; and, that Pakistan’s military and intelligence establishment should immediately and completely share information of potential plots with the Indians directly – or through western interlocutors – in a timely manner that foils terrorist plans before they can occur in Delhi .   These steps taken, those of us from nations without athletes in the 2010 Commonwealth Games need beware and keep our fingers crossed.    A most dangerous moment is at hand, but a positive outcome can yet be written.

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Uganda Bombings Take Precedence at AU Summit

By Susan Stipanovich, Center for Strategic Research

The 15th African Union Summit is currently taking place, from the 19th to the 27th of July in Uganda.  The summit is being held in Munyonyo, about 12 kilometers south of the Ugandan capital of Kampala, which was the site of twin bombings at viewings of the World Cup two weeks ago on the 11th of July.  Though the theme of the summit focused on health and development, reports emerging from the conference indicate that the recent bombings have taken precedence in the discussion for the diplomats in attendance.  A moment of silence was observed in honor of those killed by the attacks, which were credited to the Islamist extremist group Al Shabaab, based in Somalia.  The attacks have led to speculation about the strength of Al Shabaab, who have never before committed an attack outside of Somalia. 

African Union Leaders at the Uganda Summit Some argue that the attack was planned and carried out under weakness, but many reports and observations imply otherwise.  It is widely believed by experts in the field that Al Shabaab’s greatest advantage is the weak Transitional Federal Government in Somalia, which has failed to provide viable governance and protection for Somali citizens. 

 “The recent bombings in Kampala have changed things greatly. We have just witnessed AU leadership during the opening of the summit today paying more attention on terrorism coming (from) Somalia,” Adris Piebalgs, European Union commissioner for development said.  U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder also spoke at the summit, saying the United States “recognizes that ending the threat of al-Shabaab to the world will take more than just law enforcement. That is why we are working closely with the AU to support the African Union’s mission in Somalia … we pledge to maintain our support.” 

Perhaps the unfortunate attacks will raise awareness and action towards the growing threat of terrorism emerging from the Horn of Africa, a front in the ‘War on Terror’ that has received little mainstream attention. 

 For more on this, see: http://edition.cnn.com/2010/WORLD/africa/07/25/uganda.african.union.summit/#fbid=glwzqxrVnCK

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