Threat of terror growing worldwide [Archives:2004/775/Front Page]

September 23 2004

When the war on terror began, after the attacks in New York and Washington, D.C., on September 11th 2001, US President George Bush said that he planned to defeat terror groups and make the world a safer place.
But three years later, some believe that success in the war on terror has been limited while the threat of terror around the world has risen.
In the last few weeks there have been organized terrorist attacks ranging from Southeast Asia to the Middle East. Late last month, bombs exploded on two Russian airplanes that killed 90 passengers while the bombing at a security firm that provides safety for Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai killed ten in Kabul.
Two weeks ago, a car bombing outside the Australian embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia, killed nine and injured 180 people. Nearly 350 people were killed after hostages were taken by Chechen rebels at a school in Beslan, Russia. And last Tuesday, two terrorist attacks killed 59 people in Iraq, including a bomb going off while young men were lined up outside the main police headquarters in Baghdad which killed 47.
A recent report said that more civilians have died during the war on terror in the last three years than were killed by terrorists over the last 35 years. The death toll from terrorism amounts to around 22,000 since 1968. But in Afghanistan and Iraq alone, over 30,000 civilians – including aid workers, officials, police recruits and innocent bystanders – have been killed since September 2001.
“It looks like the world has not been this dangerous since World War Two,” said a Yemeni analyst. “It seems like the war on terror is not doing as well as everyone expected.”
The United States and its allies have been able to kill and apprehend hundreds of Al-Qaeda members and have affected the overall structure of its international network. But the US fight against terrorism in Afghanistan is far from over. Even though its invasion ousted the Taliban regime, destroyed terrorist training camps and put Al-Qaeda members on the run in late 2001, Osama bin Laden, the mastermind of the Al-Qaeda's international network, has not been captured. The remnants of the Taliban have been able to regroup and have been fighting 20,000 US troops in the south of Afghanistan that has left up to 1,000 people dead in the last 12 months.
The Taliban are attempting to derail the coming presidential elections next month by focusing on targets not only in the south but also in northern areas, including Kabul, the capital. Over 40 aid workers and a dozen election workers have been killed in the last year.
Major General Eric Olson, Operational Commander of US-led forces in Afghanistan, said that Osama bin Laden and second in command of Al-Qaeda Ayman Al-Zawahiri are probably involved in orchestrating recent attacks.
“What we see are their techniques and their tactics here in Afghanistan,” said Olson. “I think it is reasonable to assume that the senior leaders are involved in directing those operations.”
Olson added that “I don't think we're close at all” to eliminating insurgents in Afghanistan in the near future.
Roughly 140,000 US troops have continued to fight insurgents in Iraq since the invasion in March 2003. A year ago, US soldiers were attacked by insurgents on average 20 times a day. Last month, attacks averaged 87 a day.
Insurgents are also gaining ground. It is reported that more than three dozen cities and towns are controlled by leaders who are against the new Iraqi government and the US occupation. Counterterrorism experts have said that Iraq, now in a state of lawlessness, is becoming the new training ground for terrorist groups.
“The bottom line is that at this moment we are losing the war,” said Andrew Bacevich, former US Army Colonel. “That doesn't mean it is lost, but we are losing, and as an observer it is difficult for me to see that either the civilian leadership or the military leadership has any plausible idea on how to turn this around.”
Some experts on terrorism argue that the wars launched by the United States in two Muslim countries, have inspired terrorist groups to increase attacks. A book written by a senior terrorism analyst at the CIA – called Imperial Hubris: Why The West is Losing the War on Terror – says the US invasion of Iraq has given an advantage to Osama bin Laden and Al-Qaeda.
The author named “Anonymous” said that the invasion was the “icing on bin Laden's cake.” The author added, “US military operations in the Muslim world validate bin Laden's contention that the United States is attacking Islam and supports any country willing to kill or persecute Muslims.”
The book also notes the importance of America's support of Israel that adds more to the hostilities against the United States.
Abdullah Al-Faqih, Professor of Political Science at Sana'a University, said that the US war in Iraq has not only hurt the war on terror but has damaged the image of the United States which is expected to be leading the charge to defeat terrorist organizations.
“The US invasion of Iraq has significantly undermined the global effort to offset terror,” said Al-Faqih. “It made every stereotype about the United States used by terrorists a fact in the eyes of many people in the Middle East. The progression of the war and the blood river created in the name of democracy has given democracy a bad name and elevated terror to a moral position.”
Experts on counterterrorism are critical of the Bush administration's shift from focusing on fighting terrorist organizations to invading Iraq. Richard Clarke, former Counter-Terrorism Advisor to Bill Clinton and George Bush, believes that the US invasion in Iraq has weakened its position in fighting terrorism.
“I think it [the war on Iraq] has done some terrible damage,” said Clarke. “Number one, it has diverted US focus that should have been going after Al-Qaeda. Number two, it has diverted US resources, money that should have been spent to increase our defenses at home. And number three, it has given this increased momentum, ideological support to the jihadists all over the world. So, it's the exact opposite thing from what the United States should have done following 9/11.”
Since the war on terror began, the Yemeni government has taken substantial steps in stamping out terrorist elements. A large number of terrorist suspects have been rounded up, and last month 15 suspects on trial were convicted of being involved in carrying out, or plotting, terrorist attacks in Yemen, including the bombing of the French oil tanker Limburg in 2002 off the coast of Yemen and planning to assassinate the US Ambassador. This week, six defendants charged with participating in bombing the USS Cole at the port of Aden in 2000 are expected to be convicted.
Earlier this month, Yemeni forces defeated a rebel group based in the Saada province 240 km north of the capital. The leader of the group, Hussein Al-Houthi, was killed after two-and-a-half months of intense clashes that left hundreds of people dead.
Recently, US officials not only praised Yemen's performance on fighting terrorism but also announced the lifting a 14-year ban on the sales of weapons to Yemen. Yemeni government sources said that eliminating the ban will boost the country's efforts to fight terrorism.
“Security in Yemen has improved very well in recent years,” said a foreign diplomat based in Yemen. “And there has been very good progress in fighting terrorism.”
But with the threat of attacks and violence currently on the rise worldwide, some are concerned that Yemen might be just as vulnerable as other countries.
“Certainly there is more violence around the world today,” said Mansour Al-Zindani, a member of the Yemeni Parliament and the Committee of Foreign Relations. “Every country has become vulnerable after 9/11 since the values of international law, values of countries and the values of violent groups have changed. We are in a world war against violence, so all countries, including our own, are vulnerable because it is a war against violent groups worldwide.”