Terrorism: September 20, 2001


The Battlefield Countries, Part 2- The war on terrorism is going to be fought most dangerously in Moslem nations containing populations with many pro-Bin Laden people. Rounding up suspected terrorists in non-Moslem countries is relatively risk free, even when the terrorists are living in Moslem neighborhoods. But Moslem nations are less stable and often the majority of the people are not happy with their own government. Bin Ladens principal grievance is not the United States, but the corrupt rulers of Moslem nations. Countries like Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria, Israel, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Algeria, and Iraq will be dangerous, diplomatically and militarily, to root out terrorists. But each of these nations is a special case because of local conditions.

Israel has long had problems with Palestinian, Lebanese and some Israeli, terrorists. Only in the last year has it seen suicide bombers. Hammas is the largest of several Palestinian terrorist groups in Israel, with Iranian backed Hizbollah in Lebanon. Hammas has specialized in terror attacks on Israeli civilians in Israeli neighborhoods while Hizbollah's constant attacks in Lebanon finally convinced Israel to pull out. Israel has formidable counter-terrorism resources. Although Israel has not been able to prevent terrorist attacks, it has stopped many of them. It's intelligence system and used of targeted attacks on terror group leaders have hurt the terrorist groups more than any other nations anti-terror operations. Israel has long cooperated with America in anti-terror operations. The enormity of the September 11 attacks has isolated groups like Hammas and weakened them somewhat. Hammas has long had some connections with Bin Laden, but has largely stuck to operations within Israel. However, Palestinians have been found participating in terror operations outside the Middle East. 

Afghanistan became involved with international terrorism as a result of the Russian invasion in 1979. Afghan resistance to the Russians drew devout fighters from all over the Moslem world who saw the fight as a struggle between Islam and Godless communism. When the Russians left in the late 1980s, and the communist Afghan government defeated in 1992, the various resistance factions fought each other until a religion based faction (the Taliban) entered the civil war and captured Kabul (the largest city in the country) in 1996. The Taliban recruits came from religious schools set up in refugee camps in Pakistan by devout (and fundamentalist) Moslems from Saudi Arabia. The Taliban have never comprised more than about one percent of the population and have to attract foreign Moslems to fill out their combat units. The thousands of very devout, and very foreign, Moslems in Afghanistan provided an opportunity to create training camps for international terrorists and this is what Osama Bin Laden did. Actually, some of these camps were in Pakistan (in the areas occupied by millions of Afghan refugees.) Pakistan forced Bin Laden over the border into Afghanistan, but the camps remain a recruiting ground for the Taliban. Within Afghanistan, anyone who identifies with international terrorism is seen as an Islamic hero. Officially, the government says it has nothing to do with terrorism, but it tolerates it because the Taliban and the terrorists share so many attitudes towards Islam and the West.

Pakistan has long been home to several factions of radical Islam. The most intense issue is Indian occupation of Kashmir and it's majority Moslem population. This cause is very popular in Pakistan and has made it easy for the Islamic radicals to recruit, raise money and operate. There are many radical groups, and they sometimes fight each other over religious or ethnic differences. And it gets worse. In the northwest there are Pushtun tribes, which have always been a problem for the central government (and before that, for the British colonial government). The largest ethnic group in Afghanistan are Pushtuns (40 percent of the population) and most of the two million Afghan refugees in Pakistani camps are Pushtun. The Taliban is largely Pushtun and the Taliban control the Pakistan refugee camps more than the Pakistani government does. As a result, the activities of Islamic radicals and Pushtuns (both natives and refugees) in the northwest have caused much unrest and instability within Pakistan. This has made it difficult to institute government and economic reforms. The current military government is determined to crack down on the radicals and the refugees. Several months ago, the government began to crack down on the radicals, and have long been trying to get the Afghan refugees to return home. Pakistans willingness to actively support an anti-terrorist campaign is based on the governments ongoing struggle against the radicals and Taliban. Although it was the Pakistani army intelligence people who allowed, and encouraged, the formation of the Taliban in the refugee camps, they have come to regret it. Initially, the Taliban were seen as a force to bring peace to Afghanistan. This they largely did, but at the cost of providing sanctuary and bases for terrorists. But the government risks massive unrest if American troops are allowed to operate in Pakistan. Alas, its a situation where the government is dammed if they do, and damned if they dont.

Algeria fought a bloody war of liberation from French rule in the 1950s and early 60s. When the French left, the rebel leaders were elected to run the government. They liked the job and wouldnt leave. Corruption and economic decline followed. This is the kind of situation that Bin Laden preaches against and in the early 1990s graduates of the Bin Laden camps began to show up in Algeria to lead a rebellion of Islamic radicals against the government. This was compounded by the governments refusal to recognize the results of an election that would have put the radicals in power. The governments rationale was that the Islamic radicals would never allow another election. Whatever the case, the population got tired to the Islamic radicals after about five years, mainly because the radicals main form of combat was to slaughter civilians (often by slitting throats) seen as disloyal to the radicals cause. Even though an amnesty got 6,000 radicals to surrender, thousands more fight on. Many of the Algerian radicals have been involved in international terrorism. The government is eager to cooperate with an international war on terrorism.

Iraq has long offered support for international terrorism. Their motive was not the support of Islam, but the restoration of Arab power in the Middle East. Dictator Saddam Hussein also sees terrorism the same way the Soviet Union did; a cheap way to keep his enemies off balance. Unfortunately, Saddam has not been able to completely help this ongoing assistance for terrorists and this may lead to another coalition invasion, this time all the way to Baghdad.

Libya was once a hospitable place for terrorists, but the government has backed away from that policy since American bombers hit the country in 1986. While not terrorist free, Libya has signed on to the war on terrorism. 


Article Archive

Terrorism: Current 2007 2006 2005 2004 2003 2002 2001 2000 1999



Help Keep Us From Drying Up

We need your help! Our subscription base has slowly been dwindling.

Each month we count on your contributions. You can support us in the following ways:

  1. Make sure you spread the word about us. Two ways to do that are to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
  2. Subscribe to our daily newsletter. We’ll send the news to your email box, and you don’t have to come to the site unless you want to read columns or see photos.
  3. You can contribute to the health of StrategyPage.
Subscribe   Contribute   Close