Terrorism: September 16, 2001


Police Work- Declaring war on terrorists is not the same as going after a nation. Terrorists are a truly multinational operation. There is no one "organization" that controls all terrorist operations on the planet. Picking Osama Bin Laden as the target is also not as simple as it seems. The "Bin Laden Organization" is more like a fan club than General Motors. What makes Bin Laden particularly dangerous is that he is enormously popular as a symbol. Moreover, he also possesses excellent management and leadership skills, plus access to large sums of money. To put it into a little more perspective, you can think of the Bin Laden group as a recruiting, training and consulting organization. By concentrating on these tasks, rather than operations, terrorism becomes more lethal. These support functions are vital to the success of terrorist acts. Through the 1990s, terrorists around the world were crippled by the demise of the Soviet Union and the its extensive support for terrorism. The extent of Soviet support was not revealed until the early 1990s and it became obvious that the Soviets had been the principal trainer and supporter of terrorism for several decades. 

When Bin Laden got into the international terrorism in the early 1990s, he was walking into a vacuum created by the disappearance of Soviet support for terrorism. Using the contacts, experience and skills acquired in Afghanistan during the 1980s, he began to build a new terrorist support organization. He also preached against dictatorship in Moslem nations and the real or imagined sins of the West against Moslems. The new terrorist organization recruited, screened and trained a new generation of Holy Warriors (terrorists). The main target was the West, particularly America. Although Bin Laden preached against Moslem tyrants, he did not encourage terrorism in these nations. One reason was that most of the victims would be innocent Moslems, but he also realized the extensive police forces in these nations could make it much more difficult for him to recruit and operate.

While Bin Laden's organization trained thousands of terrorists, but only a few were good enough to carry out operations in the United States. Many of Bin Laden's graduates became terror consultants, visiting Moslem groups that agreed with Bin Laden's beliefs and, if the group appeared to have a chance, provide technical assistance, money and training. 

This lose organization comprises over 10,000 active members, many more supporters spread over the entire planet. The many other major terror organizations like Hamas and Hizbollah cooperate with Bin Laden and share resources. The terrorists often take legitimate jobs for money and cover, or criminal activities for money and resources available from the criminal underground (false IDs, weapons and the like.) 

The training camps are targets you can attack, but camps don't commit terrorist acts, terrorists do. When attacked, the terrorists flee and blend into the local populations. Moreover, Bin Laden's people have created training materials in the form of manuals, CD-ROMs and videos. Camps can be reestablished elsewhere if the terrorists remain at large. Capturing, examining and destroying the camps is military work. The terrorist training camps exist in several countries like Afghanistan, Iran, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Sudan. The most productive camps are in Afghanistan. But the primary assets of the Bin Laden organization are people, not camps. To run down a majority of the people would require a massive police effort. The military can be useful if you must, for example, invade Iraq to destroy the camps there. But mainly it's police work, and this won't be as quick or spectacular as a military operation. But the police approach is the only one that will work. 


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