Terrorism and national security


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Terrorism and national security

  2. 2. [2] Policy BriefTERRORISM AND NATIONAL SECURITYEMERGING ISSUES AND CONTINUING TRENDSA DECADE AFTER 9/11Rommel C. Banlaoi A decade after September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States, terrorism continues to pose anenormous threat not only to Philippine national security but also to regional stability and world peace. This virulent threat is becoming more and more dynamic and is continuously evolving into ahighly complex and uncompromising form that makes the threat even harder to prevent, if not tototally eliminate. It has been said that 9/11 gave terrorism its new ugly face. Ten years after 9/11, we now learned that terrorists have the ability to face-lift and change itsalready nasty image. It has the proclivity to innovate in order to survive the harsh environment ofcounter terrorism. Like a chameleon, terrorists can blend with their surroundings to evade arrest andpursue their clandestine operations. The changing face of terrorism continues to pose a tremendous challenge for global, regional andnational counter terrorism, particularly if law enforcement authorities have a static view and traditionalunderstanding of the whole gamut of problems associated with this menace. Globally, Al-Qaeda remains to be the main international terrorist group with worldwide influence. However, the July 22, 2011 terrorist attacks on Norway that killed 76 persons have aptlydemonstrated that Al Qaeda, which promotes Islamic Fundamentalism, does not have the monopoly ofterrorism. Even a “lone wolf ” embracing Christian Fundamentalism can also commit hideous terroristacts. Through the decisive counter-terrorism efforts of the United States supported by its allies andpartners in the global war on terrorism (GWOT), Al-Qaeda’s original global infrastructure has beenpractically crippled. Its complex and carefully woven global network has been utterly discovered,effectively disrupted and some even totally paralyzed. Al Qaeda founder, Osama bin Laden, is already dead. In fact, almost two-thirds of the originalleaders and members of Al-Qaeda have been neutralized to date as a result of GWOT. Its centralleadership has practically crumbled and its regional affiliates and adherents successfully dispersed.
  3. 3. Terrorism and National Security Emerging Issues and Continuing Trends, A decade after 9/11 [3] After ten years of vigorously waging the war on terror, Al-Qaeda is no longer a strong notoriousforce as it used to be. Al Qaeda is now having difficulties mounting another catastrophic attacks beyond its main areasof operations in Afghanistan, Algeria, Iraq, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen. With this, American PresidentBarrack Obama, in his introduction to the current U.S. Counter Terrorism Strategy, proudly declaresthat Al Qaeda has been put “on the path to defeat”. But that is not the reason for the whole world to be complacent. While Al Qaeda has no doubt weakened ten years after 9/11, it is not yet a spent force. Al Qaedamay have been seriously wounded in battle, but it is not yet dead. It still gets its life support fromremaining followers and inspired adherents worldwide. Thus, there is still a need for us to be more anxious because Al Qaeda is still a wicked force tocontend with. As stressed by US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, “We have made serious inroads inweakening al Qaeda. [But] there’s more to be done. There are these nodes now in Yemen, in Somaliaand other areas that we have to continue to go after.” The 2010 Country Reports on Terrorism prepared by the US State Department admits that Al Qaedacontinues to pose a threat. There is no doubt that Al Qaeda still has the malevolent intent and growing capabilities to wreakterrorist havocs. Some, if not many, of its regional affiliates and global adherents are still alive andready to make trouble. Almost 500 Al Qaeda-linked and Al Qaeda-inspired commanders - with theirown associate members worldwide numbering around 10,000 - are still active to disturb peace andundermine global, regional and Philippine national security. In Pakistan alone, there are still around 300 fierce Al Qaeda fighters associated with Lashkar-e-Taiba (LET) and Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). In Afghanistan, around 100 hardcore Al Qaedaoperatives are still active and still getting support from Talibans. Even in the United States, there are atleast 40 Americans who have traveled to Somalia to join the Al Qaeda inspired Al Shabab. It is also important to note that some Moro rebels have also been reportedly affiliated with AlShabab (locally known as Markasos Shabab). There are also reports of an undetermined number of AlQaeda-inspired personalities staying in the Philippines. Hence, there is a need for us to face the grim reality that ideology of Al Qaedaism lives on evenafter the death of Osama bin Laden. The violent extremist ideology of Al Qaeda still resonates to like-minded groups worldwide suchas Islamic Jihad Union (IJU) of Uzbekistan, the Islamic Army of Great Britain, the Eastern Turkistan
  4. 4. [4] Policy BriefMovement of Xinjiang (China), the Al-Harakatul-Al Islamiya of the Philippines, the Lashkar-e-Jhangviof Pakistan, the Harkatul Jehadul Islami operating in Bangladesh, India and Pakistan, and JemaahIslamiyah of Indonesia, among many others. Remaining masterminds of terror associated with Al Qaeda have proven to be very resilient,keenly observant and highly elusive. Though Al Qaeda may have already lost its steam as a result of the series of democratic uprisingsin the Arab world, it can still morph into a newer face under the leadership of Ayman Al Zawahiriwhose brand of Islam contains the key ingredients for violent extremism. Al Zawahiri has evenreleased a video last August 2011 urging Al Qaeda followers worldwide to avenge the death of Osamabin Laden. Through the use of Internet and Islamic propagation activities, Al Qaeda still has the commitmentto promote religious intolerance, particularly to young and gullible Muslim population worldwide. Itcan still inspire and instigate sectarian violence in conflict-affected areas of the world with disgruntledMuslim population that includes the Philippines. In fact, Al-Qaeda is producing a magazine called Inspireto spread its violent extremist ideology worldwide. At present, Al Qaeda is already weak as a group. But it can still throw its remaining weight around because Al Qaeda is still relatively influential asa movement. As a movement, Al Qaeda has become a “complex adaptive system” that has the survival instinctto evolve by adjusting to its “constantly changing” environment. While Al Qaeda celebrates its victories,it also learns from its mistakes. As a complex adaptive movement, Al Qaeda now operates through whatSeth Jones calls five tiers: central al Qaeda, affiliated groups, allied groups, allied networks, and inspiredindividuals. Al Qaeda is still determined to destroy America and other Western targets. Based on the seized documents of Osama bin Laden in the aftermath of his death, Al Qaeda plannedto attack oil tankers to create economic chaos in the West. The US also warned of possible Al-Qaedaattacks in the mainland using a small plane. India has recently unearthed Al Qaeda plans to attack itsmajor cities through its commander, Ilyas Kashmiri. Even in China, the Al Qaeda linked East TurkestanIslamic Movement (ETIM), based in Xinjiang Province where Uyghur separatists are active, is alsoplanning future attacks. In Egypt, the home country of the new Al Qaeda chief Al Zawahiri, Al Qaeda has re-established acell in Sinai to plan attacks, particularly against police stations. In Spain, a Islamic militant with a Moroccan
  5. 5. Terrorism and National Security Emerging Issues and Continuing Trends, A decade after 9/11 [5]descent was arrested for propagating violent extremism and for endorsing terrorist attacks on Westerntargets. In mounting attacks, Al Qaeda has already mastered the use of suicide terrorism, particularly inAfghanistan, Algeria, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen - with a strong possibility ofexporting these skills to the Philippines. Al Qaeda’s use of indiscriminate bombings of vulnerabletargets has made terrorism its new repulsive face. The use of these skills continues to inform thepresent and future activities of its affiliates, adherents and followers around the world.Worst, Al Qaeda is developing new explosives to wreak havoc. Al Qaeda’s affiliates in Yemen have produced a new chemical bomb made of poison ricin, a whitepowdery toxin that if annihilated in malls, airports or subways is very lethal. Al Qaeda operatives in theUnited Kingdom have also created a new version of a liquid bomb, an improved version of thenitroglycerin explosive invented by Ramsey Yousef while in the Philippines in 1994. In other words, Al Qaeda has weakened organizationally. But the security threat it poses has not been totally eliminated. Al Qaeda is battered, but it is still breathing and moving. It still has the great illusion of creatinga Pan-Islamic caliphate throughout the Islamic world that includes Southeast Asia. In Southeast Asia, the Al Qaeda-linked Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) has also weakened a decade after 9/11. Most of its key operatives have also been killed and arrested, particularly those responsible in the2002 Bali bombing and other subsequent bombings in Indonesia and the Philippines. Some of itsmembers have left terrorism behind as a result of serious rehabilitation and de-radicalization programsin Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore. Like Al Qaeda, JI organizational set-up is already in utter disarray. Its original Mantiqi structure ispractically demolished. In fact, JI has already lost its original luster and is now heavily factionalized. However, terror threats in Southeast Asia persist because around 700 remaining JI members arestill active in Java, Indonesia and to a lesser extent in Cambodia, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippinesand Thailand. Currently, JI is rapidly evolving into a new venomous form. In Indonesia, for example, personalities recently accused of terrorist acts have ceased to identifythemselves with JI. They have been identified with another group called Jamaah Ansharut Tauhid(JAT) legally established by Abu Bakar Bashir who is also known to be a JI leader.
  6. 6. [6] Policy Brief Among the known JI personalities in Indonesia, we need to pay attention to Aris Sumarsono. Sumarsono is a JI military chief and a protégé of Abdullah Sungkar, the founder of JI. He is believedto have helped prepare the bombs used in the 2002 Bali bombings that killed 202 people. Sumarsono is being rumored now to have already replaced Omar Patek who became the mainlink of Al Qaeda with JI. He was reported to have visited the Philippines and established links with theASG and other Moro rebels. Sumarsono is also believed to have established links with Basit Usman, amaster bomber operating in Central Mindanao. Al Qaeda and JI influences have reached the Philippines through the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG)and some Muslim armed groups associated with Al Khobar Group (AKG) and the so-called SpecialOperations Group (SOG) of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). It is already a public knowledge that as early as the 1990s, Al Qaeda presence in the Philippineswas already established through the activities of Mohammad Jamal Khalifa who is the brother-in-lawof Osama bin Laden. Ramsey Yousef, the perpetrator of the 1993 World Trade Center Bombing, wentto the Philippines in 1994 to hide and design the Bojinka Plot, which aimed to bomb the twin tower ofNew York City using 11 jetliners. Khalik Sheid Mohammad, identified as the principal architect of 9/11 bombings, was also in thePhilippines in 1995 to work with Yousef in designing the Bojinka Plot and the twin plots to assassinatePope John Paul II and US President Bill Clinton. But the person that revealed Al Qaeda operations inthe Philippines was Abdul Hakim Murad who was arrested in the Philippines in 1995 for his participationin the Bojinka Plot. JI presence in the Philippines was also established in the late 1990s in Central Mindanao througha training camp in Mt. Cararao. The 2000 Rizal Day Bombings were attributed to JI. Father Rahman Al Ghozi, JI principal bombmaker operating in the Philippines, confessed that he provided the necessary explosives for the 2000Rizal Day Bombings. Nasir Abbas, a former JI instructor and now working for the Indonesiangovernment on de-radicalization programs, admitted that he belonged to the JI Mantiqi 3 in thePhilippines, which planned the 2000 Rizal Day Bombing. In Mindanao, JI has become more of a trademark to describe foreign military jihadists enteringthe Philippines to preach the gospel of violent extremism. Locally, Abu Sayyaf calls them Java men ifthey are Indonesians. Among the Moro armed groups in the Philippines, JI links with the ASG is more robust and activeat present. Three high profile JI personalities, namely Marwan (Malaysian), Mauwiyah (Singaporean)and Qayyim (Indonesian) are still working or seeking refuge with ASG commanders. Other “low-profile”
  7. 7. Terrorism and National Security Emerging Issues and Continuing Trends, A decade after 9/11 [7]JI personalities operating in the Philippines have the following aliases: Sanusi, Bahar, Abu Jihad, Usman,Mustaqueem and Hamdan. It is estimated that around 30 JI personalities are still in the Philippines hiding in Sulo, Basilan,and Tawi-Tawi with ASG followers. Some are said to be operating in Central Mindanao together with AlKhobar, the so-called MILF-SOG and some personalities allegedly identified with the Bangsamoro IslamicFreedom Fighter (BIFF) now called Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Movement (BIFM) of Umbra Kato. Speaking on BIFM, this new armed group can make the peace talks between the Philippinegovernment and the MILF problematic. With a current estimated strength of more than 1,000 armedfollowers (Kato has a self-proclaimed number of 5,000) pursuing an armed struggle to advance theBangsamoro right for self-determination, the BIFM can make peace in Mindanao very elusive. The BIFM has become a residual armed Moro group that is a party to the complex conflict inMindanao but not a party to the now intractable peace process. BIFM reported ties with somepersonalities associated with the Misuari’s Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), JI, the so-calledMILF-SOG and other armed groups complicate the already complex armed violence in the SouthernPhilippines. Philippine law enforcement authorities tagged JI-MILF-SOG behind the August 2, 2011 bombingin Cotabato City that killed a person and wounding of 10 others. The Improvised Explosive Device(IED) used in the January 25, 2011 Makati bus bombing, on the other hand, carried the JI-Al Khobar-MILF-ASG signature called by explosive experts as the “Bandung device”. The ASG is one of the groups suspected to be responsible for the Makati bus bombing that killedfive persons and wounded at least 14 others. The ASG, however, is already a very tiny group of less than 100-armed followers. Though theArmed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has estimated the strength of the ASG to be around 400, followersof ASG are, in fact, difficult to estimate because of its links with various armed groups associated withlocal bandits, warlords, local politicians and even followers of the MILF and the MNLF. ASG’s encounter with the Philippine Marines in Patikul, Sulu on July 28, 2011 (that led to thedeath of 7 and wounding of 21 Marines) has demonstrated that the ASG, though already weakened, isalso not yet, strictly speaking, a spent force like its idol, Al Qaeda. The instruction of President BenignoSimeon Aquino III to crush the ASG is a tantamount admission that the ASG is still a very potent forceto contend with. Though the ASG continues to be a miniscule group compared with the strength of the AFP, it canstill inflict tremendous damages against military forces not only because of ASG’s mastery of the terrainbut also because of ASG’s new precarious combatants who are aggressively young and brutally bredin war.
  8. 8. [8] Policy Brief Military forces are trained to fight the ASG. But new ASG combatants live to fight and they fight tolive. There is now a new ASG whose followers are younger, more exuberant, more perilous and moreenterprising. The new ASG has become a loose network of a few Moro rebels operating with many youngMuslim mercenaries who have become established bandits and hardened criminals engaged inextortions, arms smuggling, drug trafficking and kidnapping for ransom. Some ASG adherents areprotected by local warlords and corrupt public officials who are entrepreneurs of violence in Mindanao. As a result, the ASG has become so resilient. It gets its staying power from the predatory politicsand violent economies of Mindanao that create individuals to embrace violent extremism and terrorism. In short, terrorism emanating largely from ASG and its cohorts continue to pose serious threatsto Philippine national security because terrorism is evolving to a form we never knew before. Al Qaeda’s violent extremist ideology that endorses acts of terrorism still resonates to MuslimFilipinos who are disgruntled with the situation or not satisfied with their current socio-economic,political and personal conditions. This ideology is being used to justify barbaric acts of ASG for socio-economic, political and personal reasons. Remaining leaders of ASG prey on young and illiterateMuslim Filipinos to commit acts of terrorism. The 2010 Country Reports on Terrorism laments that the Philippines continues to be one of theworld’s terrorist safe havens despite the fact that terrorist acts in the country have declined in 2010. While the global war on terror has given us a better understanding of terrorist threats ten yearsafter 9/11, the present threat we face is dynamic and has the ability to metamorphose into somethingelse in order to survive. Some threats have regrettably mutated into a more terrifying form with theirgrowing nexus with crimes, banditry, clan conflicts, warlordism, and other expressions of armed violence. The current terrorist threats we face, particularly in the Philippines, are deeply enmeshed with ahost of many other issues associated with internal armed conflicts, private armed violence, warlordism,rido or clan warfare, personal vendetta, and ordinary crimes. To confront the threat of terrorism, the Philippines passed in 2007 the Human Security Act,which serves as the country’s anti-terrorism law. But the government is currently facing difficulties inimplementing this law. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has also passed in 2007 the ASEANConvention on Counter Terrorism. But ASEAN also has a problem enforcing this convention. The more nuanced approach to address terrorist threats is found in the United Nations GlobalCounter Terrorism Strategy adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2006. This strategy promotes
  9. 9. Terrorism and National Security Emerging Issues and Continuing Trends, A decade after 9/11 [9]the four measures of counter terrorism, to wit: · Measures to address the conditions conducive to the spread of terrorism · Measures to prevent and combat terrorism · Measures to build States’ capacity to prevent and combat terrorism and to strengthen the role of theUnited Nations system in this regard · Measures to ensure respect for human rights for all and the rule of law as the fundamental basis of the fight against terrorism All these measures point to the inconvenient truth that terrorist threats cannot be addressed bythe military or law enforcement authorities alone. Terrorist threats are deeply rooted in many complexissues that are beyond the capacities of law enforcement authorities to handle. Thus, addressing terrorist threats requires a whole-of-government approach. But the government cannot do it alone. It requires the support of the whole society. The whole-of-government approach in sync with the whole-of-society approach can lead to the whole-of-nationapproach to combat terrorism. But terrorism has a regional dimension needing a whole-of-region approach. Implementing these approaches is easier said than done. But it is important to say these in order to raise our awareness on the need to develop aninnovative approach to confront a national security threat we call terrorism. Rommel C. Banlaoi is the Chairman of the Board and Executive Director of the Philippine Institute for Peace, Violence and Terrorism Research (PIPVTR). He is the author of the books Philippine Security in the Age of Terror (2010), Counter- Terrorism Measures in Southeast Asia (2009), and War on Terrorism in Southeast Asia (2004). This speech was delivered at the 5th National Convention of the Philippine Society for Industrial Security, Inc., held at the Waterfront Hotel, Cebu City on 9 September 2011. The views expressed in this brief belong to the writer and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of the Institute. IAG as a platform for policy debates continues to publish articles and analyses from various authors to create more “tables” for shaping public policy for peace and good governance.
  10. 10. Shaping Public Policy for Peace and Good Governance The Institute for Autonomy and Governance (IAG) is anindependent and non- partisan think tank founded in 2001 togenerate ideas on making autonomy an effective vehicle forpeace and development in the Southern Philippines. IAG is aninstitutional partner of the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung in thePhilippines. IAG is located at the Alumni Center, Notre DameUniversity, Notre Dame Avenue, Cotabato City, Philippines,Telefax (64)421-2071.Email: info@iag.org.ph and Website:www.iag.org.ph and www.iag2001.wordpress.com KAS is in 5th floor, Cambridge Center Building, 108Tordesillas Corner Gallado Street, Salcedo Village, Makati City,Metro Manila, Philippines, telephone 894-3737.