Beyond Bin Laden:Global Terrorism Scenarios

Beyond Bin Laden:Global Terrorism Scenarios


          2011 is an exceptional year in contemporary history. The tectonic shifts in the Arab world, fears of European economic melt down, American debt crisis and riots in Britain are events which have frenetically followed in quick succession hammered in our mind by 24/7 virtual and electronic media. These have to an extent overshadowed one of the seminal occurrence in countering terrorism. This was assassination of Osama Bin Laden, head of the al Qaeda, the Worlds most wanted terrorist for a decade in a cantonment town in Pakistan by United States Special Forces in a midnight raid on 2 May 2011.


          For over a decade Osama has been the symbol of defiance of America, the West and the liberal world.  Chased out of Afghanistan into tribal areas of Af Pak after 9/11, the deadliest terrorist attack in the United States on 11 September 2011, he succeeded in surviving what can now be seen as a mix of ingenuity, improvisation and luck. His group in the meanwhile expanded mainly due to the aura of invincibility that it acquired through 9/11 and Osama’s capability to endure. Thus from Al Qaeda spawned, Al  Qaeda in Iraq, the Arabian Peninsula, the Islamic Maghreb even as the principal wing, al Qaeda Central was being systematically decimated in successful counter terrorism operations from the air in tribal areas of Pakistan and on the ground in Afghanistan.


          The elimination of Osama Bin Laden was a remarkable success for American intelligence and Special Forces. To track down a rebel leader who had cut himself off from communications with the World and operated from an isolated compound in an affluent locality where none would really suspect his presence requires diligence, patience and perseverance of the highest order. The intelligence techniques both human and technical that can literally find a pin in a global haystack are also extraordinary. The raid by US Special Operations Forces was also unique. Launched after careful preparation, using stealth helicopters, the deadly strike force known as the Seals swooped down on the target and in half an hour plus succeeded in achieving the mission and getting away, before local forces had even stirred.


          While there was jubilation around the World, most countries in the Middle East and North Africa did not display a favourable response. In some regions there were gatherings mourning the death of Osama. Pakistan decried violation of sovereignty and the fact that the United States despite sharing special strategic relations had not provided information of the strike.


          The al Qaeda and its cohorts the Taliban launched a series of deadly raids in Af Pak region targeting a number of military and non military assets including a naval base in Karachi. Soon Ayman al Zawahiri, an Egyptian doctor who was known to be the so called second in command to Osama was anointed leader of the Al Qaeda by consensus of its Majlis. In an incident on 6 August 2011 some members of the Seal team which had raided Bin Laden’s compound were reportedly killed in a helicopter ambush in Maidan Wardak in Afghanistan. The, “affiliates and adherents,” as the US Counter Terrorism Strategy June 2011 calls Al Qaeda’s support groups as Lashkar e Taiyyaba and increasingly today individual lone rangers represent a new form of threat.


          The wheel as it appears seems to have turned a full circle as the international community chasing one crisis after another could not capitalise on the deadly blow rendered to the al Qaeda in removal of its Sheikh. The surge of violence in Af Pak denotes that despite many claims by counter terror protagonists, it is apparent that while Osama has gone away terrorism may haunt us in the months and years ahead. 


          Will the World be a better place without Osama or will it sink to the doom that he had predicted continues to be a dilemma? There are many prognostications, some represent plain hope, others are borne out of historical experience while some spring from disparaging cynicism which see the ebb and flow of terrorism either receding or expanding as the years go on.


          This Book is an attempt to work through this maze of uncertainty by examining key vectors related to the rise and fall of Osama Bin Laden and the Al Qaeda to envisage four possible scenarios ranging from the collapse of the state order [seen as unlikely] to containment of terror threat [equally challenged] in three dimensions globally, regionally and locally over the next decade or so.  


          The most significant impact of terrorism is likely to be in South Asia, where Af Pak region remains the centre of gravity so to say of the present genre of religious Islamic extremism. Thus the Book will mainly trace possible trajectory of terrorism in South Asia covering Pakistan, Afghanistan and India. Other streams of the Al Qaeda have received due attention however given significance of the region and impact of its spread in some of the most densely populated, under developed regions of the World the bias remains South Asia.


          The evaluation of trajectory of terror is carried out by examining studies of how terrorism ends thereby providing a sound analytical footing supported by scenario building technique. Given contemporary nature of research the main resources used are statements and interviews of principal actors and primary news articles on Operation Neptune Spear that led to the death of Osama. For Al Qaeda and South Asia a series of works by a host of counter terrorism specialists across the globe have been used and mainly those who have attempted to link the past with the demise of Bin Laden and extrapolated it to the future. Given the reach of the Book to the lay reader and policy planner alike referencing has been simplified.


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