Emerging priorities in the war against terrorism
(The views expressed in this column are the author’s own and do not represent those of Reuters)
There are different models that nations have adopted to fight insurgencies. Sri Lanka used all the forces at its disposal. The results, humanitarian aspects set aside, led to the insurgent movement being defeated comprehensively.
In Afghanistan, the Americans used technology to decimate the ruling Taliban, followed by counter-insurgency operations that veered towards the winning hearts and mind philosophy. The results are definitely not a success story.
Combating insurgencies by winning hearts and minds, simultaneously using force, is at the core of doctrines adopted by the free world in the war against terror. The counter-intelligence capacities of militaries have also been boosted exponentially by technology, but the battle against terror is nowhere near its last lap. The way ahead is undeniably in the area of strengthening non-military interventions.
The foremost priority is the denial of funds to terror outfits. Among the myriad methods adopted by terror groups, the most significant funding is from sponsor nations, religious groups, intelligence agencies and the unholy nexus of drugs and terror. The ultimate destination for Afghan opium is said to be Europe or the United States. The money generated is recycled back to Taliban and its ilk through loose international monetary mechanisms. Obviously, the issue requires global coordination.
In many third world countries, regimes, either ruling or attempting to usurp power, use terror outfits for consolidation and expansion of influence zones. These countries have huge mineral resources. Developed and developing economies and multinational corporates need the resources and transact with regimes or groups that can mobilise them, irrespective of the legitimacy of such groups. State-sponsored terror with terrorist groups as strategic partners is the most explosive threat. The attack on Mumbai in Nov. 2008 is a clear example.
Sanctions mandated by the United Nations need to be enforced on nations providing safe havens, funding and logistics to terrorist groups.
The easy availability of weapons from sponsor states and sophisticated cartels that run the global weapons trade needs to be combated. As yet, terror groups have not been able to garner fissile material for crude bombs, but the possibility exists, especially in unstable nuclear nations where terrorist groups have substantial sway and patronage.
With most terror groups distorting religion to generate passion, liberal leaders from such communities being given support and, more importantly, security to propagate the correct tenets and undertake the task of alienating the community from the terrorists, is the most urgent requirement.
The mushrooming of schools that radicalise young impressionable minds needs to be stopped. States encouraging or being passive to the spread of fanatical institutions readying another generation to continue unleashing violence can surely be made accountable by a system of sanctions.
Corruption and governance remain the greater challenges. Terrorists thrive among have-nots. Afghanistan is a typical example where millions of dollars have been usurped.
Accountability will have to be imposed in beneficiary states right at the beginning, notwithstanding the fact that alliances with local power groups will evolve more gradually when their leaders are not bought by paying large sums.