Terrorism: July 25, 2005


While Afghanistan is no longer available for terrorist training camps, this has not stopped the training programs of organizations like al Qaeda. Even before Afghanistan became a center for terrorist training, such activities were openly carried on in Iran, Pakistan, Lebanon and Syria. Less open training programs were conducted in Palestinian controlled Gaza, the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia. Clandestine training was conducted in many other nations, but it was the more open camps where the most effective training was carried out. Thats because to be really effective you have to have weapons training areas (for rifles, machine-guns and RPGs), as well as setting off bombs put together by trainees. 

However, things are not so simple in the world of international terrorism. Most terrorist groups are not interested in supporting attacks on the United States. The American campaign in Afghanistan and Iraq has made an impression, and the impression is that actions have consequences. Also, not every Islamic terrorist group has the same strategy and plans. For example, the terrorists in Iran and Lebanon are Shia Moslem. The Shia Islamic radicals  believe in the establishment, by force, of a worldwide Islamic government (the Caliphate), but under Shia leaders. Most Islamic terrorists, especially al Qaeda, are Sunni Moslems, and believe the Caliphate should be run by Sunnis. The Shia and Sunni Moslems have been arguing, and sometimes fighting, over these differences for over a thousand years. Its sort of a Catholic/Protestant thing that has been kept in the background by most senior clerics of both sects. But many less amiable clerics, especially among Sunnis, preach hatred for the other group. Al Qaeda makes no secret of its desire to destroy the Shia, whom they consider heretics. 

Iran, the major Shia nation on the planet, is the major supporter of other Shia terrorists, like the Hizbollah organization in Lebanon, and smaller groups throughout the Persian Gulf. While the Iranian Islamic radicals have loudly preached death to America for over two decades, they have not gotten behind major terrorist attacks against American targets. Iran feared retribution from the United States, and after September 11, 2001, they became even more nervous. Al Qaeda has received some support from Iran, given reluctantly and very quietly, because al Qaeda despises the Shia and has persecuted them. But some of the more radical Islamic conservatives in Iran were powerful enough, and hateful enough, to provide some support to an outfit that was making a major effort to hit the Great Satan (the United States). 

The three places where al Qaeda can train openly, and most effectively, are Pakistan, the Philippines and Palestinian controlled Gaza. None of these areas are perfect for al Qaeda. Pakistan is officially at war with al Qaeda, but the Pakistanis also support Islamic terrorist operations against India. Actually, that support is supposed to have been withdrawn, because of current peace talks with India. But the covert war against their larger, and non-Moslem, neighbor, is very popular with most Pakistanis. So many of the camps are still tolerated, even as the government insists to the United States and India that Islamic terrorism has been shut down. Some Islamic terrorists are under attack, because al Qaeda has declared war on the Pakistani government, and made many attacks on senior officials. Sounds pretty bizarre, doesnt it? It is. But in Pakistan, the bizarre is what often passes for normal. The terrorist training camps along the Indian border insist that they are only training killers for missions inside Indian occupied Kashmir, just across the border. The government insists that this is the case, and that these camps along the Indian border have been shut down anyway. 

In the Philippines, the government is negotiating a peace deal with a Moslem separatist organization, the MILF, which maintains thousands of armed men in the Moslem southern Philippines. The MILF has been fighting, for decades, to establish a separate Moslem state. This campaign has failed, and most MILF leaders want a peace deal with the government. But some MILF factions are not willing to settle, and support Islamic radicals like al Qaeda, and similar organizations in Southeast Asia. These MILF factions have been supporting clandestine al Qaeda training camps in the southern Philippines. These camps have to stay hidden from the government troops, as well as MILF gunmen. Some of the camps have managed to stay hidden, and train a dozen or so terrorists at a time. This is known from the reports of gunfire and explosions in remote mountain areas of the southern Philippines.

In Gaza, Palestinian terrorist organizations have received assistance from Sunni and Shia terrorist groups. The Shia Hizbollah, and Iran, have provided instructors, weapons and bomb making materials. Sunni terrorist groups in Egypt have helped with smuggling weapons and bomb making material into Gaza. The Palestinian terrorists have established dozens of bomb and rocket making workshops in Gaza. The weapons produced are used against Israeli targets. However, Israeli counter-terrorism efforts have been effective, and the bomb making workshops, and the terrorist staff and students, have a high attrition rate. But if you survive the bomb making schools in Gaza, you are one tough, resourceful, and lucky Islamic terrorist. Recent terrorist bombings in Egypt are believed to be made possible, in part, by the availability of the terrorist training in Gaza. 

While Islamic terrorist training camps continue to function, none of them do so without the risk of being shut down, often with great violence. 


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