By Sajjad Shaukat
In the aftermath of the death of Al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden who was killed in a covert military operation by the US in Pakistan’s city, Abbottabad, contradictory statements of American high officials including their media continue against Pakistan, its armed forces and especially spy agency, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) as part of a propaganda campaign. In this respect, by ignoring the sacrifices of Pak Army and efforts of ISI in relation to war on terror, America is distorting Pakistan’s image.
Meanwhile, various sources suggest that videos released by the Pentagon about Osama Bin Laden are actually fake. British daily, Guardian (Online) and BBC have also indicated suspicion about his death at Abbotabad. On May 2, in the ARY TV channel, Pakistan’s former Chief of Army Staff, General Mirza Aslam described Osama’s death by the US raid as a big drama, adding that he was already died in Tora Bora fighting.
Bin Laden’s last genuine video appeared in the late 2001 when the CNN in February1, 2009 indicated that he got diabetes and kidney problems. On December 26, 20001, Egyptian newspaper, Al-Wafd disclosed that a prominent official of the Afghan Taliban movement announced that Osama bin Laden died a natural death. He was buried in Tora Bora. In the past, Russia and Afghan President Karzai had also verifed his death about in 2002. On the other hand, making Osama as a scapegoat of US external and internal policies, a number of fake video messages were telecast intermittently on various TV channels and websites by some elements like CIA in order to achieve their political aims.
However, whether Osama died earlier or on May 2, this year at Abbotabad, it does not matter because of the fact that Al Qaeda has already franchised. In this context, US war on terror in the aftermath of September 11, 2001 catastrophe, leading to developments such as American invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq, which is now being waged on global and regional level by Washington’s various tactics and on the other side, response of Al Qaeda militants by clandestine attacks, as shown through a number of suicidal missions in Bali (2002), in 2003 in Khobar, Riyadh, Jakarta , Madrid, and a continued ‘different war’ in Iraq and Afghanistan resulting in many casualties of Americans and Europeans clearly point out that Al Qaeda has organized itself on world level.
As regards the previous bombings, US magazine Time wrote in December 1, 2003, “Al-Qaeda’s decimated Old Guard may no longer be able to mount elaborately detailed plots executed by trained terrorists under its direct command. But US counter-terrorism officials believe that remaining inner core has put out a general go-head to Islamist cells worldwide. Attack whenever and whereever you can, sometimes the mothership may provide financial and logistical support, but the dirty work seems to be handled by local, autonomous units that are intimately familiar with their areas and can plan and attack below the radar of local security forces”. “The pattern”, says Rand Corporation terrorism expert Bruce Hoffman, “is to send a handful of professional terrorists to make contact with existing local terrorist groups who provide the cannon fodder-that is the suicide bombers.”
Although Al-Qaeda’s inner core has been reduced by arrests and deaths, but it has survived. According to a Singapore based expert, the tens of thousands of fighters trained in its camps in Afghanistan dispersed to their former countries. In most of the cases, these are unstable Muslim nations such as Somalia, Sudan, Yemen, Algeria, Uzbekistan, Nigeria, Indonesia etc. but a significant minority came from Western countries.
In the words of the former CIA Director George Tenet, “In this new phase of franchise terrorism, Al-Qaeda has been described as an idea rather than an organization, a global movement infected by Al-Qaeda’s radical agenda…it still acts as an inspiration to groups, from Chechnya to Palestinian territories that have minimal contact with the network. Links among the regional networks of the Islamic activists make the movement appear invincible enhancing its status and power.” In this regard, Turkish officials had remarked that the double car bombings in Istanbul were the work of homegrown extremists, inspired and trained by Al Qaeda.
It is mentionable that in July 7, 2005, a series of bomb attacks on London’s transport network killed more than 30 people. The then British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw had said that the bombings had “the hallmarks of an al-Qaeda-related attack.”
On October 13, 2003, US weekly Time had revealed that the militant, namely Riduan Ismauddin-better known as Hambali was behind the bombing of Bali and the Jakarta’s JW Marriot Hotel, as he confessed during interrogations after his arrest. His further confessions before the American intelligence agencies pointed out, “how closely interlinked the Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) and Al Qaeda had become.”
It seems that by following successful tactics of slipping and regrouping like the Taliban of Afghanistan, Iraqi Al Qaeda combatants had successfully reorganized themselves to launch attacks against the invaders with hi-technology weapons. Besides roadside bombs, ambush assaults and suicide attacks, some other tactics of the Al Qaeda-related militants are hostage-taking, creating insecurity, influencing the decisions of the governments and building diplomatic pressure. Even in other countries like Philippines, Al Qaeda radical combatants are acting upon the similar war tactics.
Nevertheless, since 9/11, the US applied coercive diplomacy on the weak states without bothering for the public backlash and internal instability in these countries. In this respect, Pakistan, Indonesia, Yemen and almost all the Gulf states decided to join Bush anti-terrorism war. While Pakistan has become a special target of the US drone attacks. And in collusion with Indian RAW and Israeli Mossad, Washington wants to destabilse Pakistan because it is the only nuclear country in the Islamic World.
Nonetheless, despite various steps taken by the US since 9/11 to confirm the identity of the people or target located by certain types of technical intelligence—at a CIA listening facility in Virginia, 6000 pieces of intelligence are examined. Phone conversation in remote parts of the world is monitored by satellite. Despite its vast resouces, technical intelligence e.g. satellites, unmanned aerial vehicles and human intelligence—extraordinary long-range aerial military capacity, US intelligence agencies, especially CIA failed in detecting Bin Laden and destroying Al Qaeda’s terrorist network for more than ten years as various subversive acts such as targeted killings, bomb blasts and suicide attacks in Israel including some other countries and an unending wave of the same in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan show. Instead, ISI captured masterminds and renowned commanders of Al Qaeda.
In fact, it is a ‘different war’ and the American enemies like Al Qaeda warriors are unseen. Geographically and ethnically, they are interwoven with other races and sects of the concerned countries and multicultural societies of the west. This element of intermixing especially in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Philippines, and other Islamic states provides them a cover to conceal the identity and gives an advantage to follow a strategy of slipping and regrouping including run-and-hit operations. Because of this element, most of the Al Qaeda leaders succeed in keeping themselves anonymous and untraceable.
It is true that transnational militant groups attempt to challenge the unipolar order with asymmetrical means such as terrorist strikes, while the state actor like the United States also uses the same tactics through state terrorism as noted in case of Afghanistan, Iraq and drone attacks including May 2 military raid in Pakistan, which violated the sovereignty of Islamabad. India and Israel also employ various tactics of state terrorism in the controlled territories of Palestine and Kashmir.
If US-led India and Israel think that the current campaign of state terrorism would enable them to eradicate Muslim political opposition with force in the long term are badly mistaken. The radical Islamic movement is not a corporation that can be bankrupted and closed down, or a political party that could be banned by a government. It is due to the atrocities—political and economic injustices of the US-led world status quo that Al Qaeda Jehadi activists manipulate the same by seeing their political activity as part of their faith and if they or their commanders die or are arrested, there are others to follow.
It is noteworthy that during the illegitimate invasion of Iraq by the US-led forces, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak had rightly said that thousands of Osamas would be created. Notably, Saddam Hussein was captured and hanged. Similarly, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Al-Qaida leader in Iraq was killed by a US air raid. But instead of decreasing, resistance agianst the occupying forces increased in that country. In these terms, if Osama has died in a US military operation in Pakistan, it does not seem that Al Qaeda will also be eliminated as it has already franchised.
Sajjad Shaukat writes on international affairs and is author of the book: US vs Islamic Militants, Invisible Balance of Power: Dangerous Shift in International Relations