FATA Islamists; an American Perspective

By A Khokar   28 October 2008



On the eve of September 11th of this year, President Bush spoke at the dedication event of the new 9/11 Memorial at the Pentagon. He discussed military war on terror since 2001 at length. In light of George W Bush resolve and describing American response to 9/11 attack on US soil that Al Qaeda then supposedly was operating some where from the Tora Bora mountains hide outs with an escape plan to flee to melt down around their old sanctuaries across border in FATA Pakistan, when their stay at Tora Bora becomes untenable. They had carried out 9/11 attack on US soil in the name of Islam.


One may hark back 60 years or so to December 1941 and to the words that have been attributed to Admiral Yamamoto, the commander of the Japanese battle fleet, as he sailed back from the surprise attack against Pearl Harbour. While his sailors and officers were celebrating their success, the Admiral remained sombre. He recognized that, by provoking a country of such size and power- United States, Japan had actually just sealed its fate. He reportedly rendered the prediction by saying that they had “awakened a sleeping giant.” As we all know, Admiral Yamamoto was right. Once awakened to the true threat of Japanese and Nazi tyranny, America summoned her resolve, mobi­lized her resources, built a dominant military machine, and fought with grim determination until the Axis Powers surrendered. Al Qaeda’s attacks on September 11, 2001, similarly awakened American to a totalitarian threat—this time to the threat of violent Islamic extremism. And it similarly stirred United States to mobilize its will and resources to build the capacity to defeat that threat.


 Seven years on and into that building process now, and under President Bush’s leadership US have seen some concrete results: US and her foreign partners have disrupted a number of high–profile terrorist plots, including a plot to destroy the Library Tower in Los Angeles, an attempt to blow up British airliners over the Atlantic Ocean, and a planned attack on Ramstein Air Base and Frankfurt International Airport.  US and her allies (in this case Pakistan being at fore front) have removed dozens of senior terrorist leaders from the battlefield, including the architect of the 9/11 attacks, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Abu Zubaida, and Abu Musab al–Zarqawi.  United States is seeing hopeful signs in Muslim communities around the world, with mainstream Muslim voices speaking out against Al Qaeda and recent polling showing Muslims increasingly rejecting Al Qaeda’s vision and its campaign of indiscriminate violence—attacking mosques, bombing girls’ schools and wedding ceremo­nies, and killing the innocent.


  US looks it as a success in making it harder, costlier, and riskier for terrorists to raise and move money around the world, which is complicating Al Qaeda’s daily operations and hampering its global reach. And most importantly, United States find itself relieved that this has prevented another attack on US homeland for more than seven years.  While describing the ‘Nature of the US Enemy’, US feel that they are making progress against the terrorists; this war on terror is far from over. This war is not like World War II or any of this nation’s previous wars; it will not end at some defined time with the passing of a sword or the signing of surrender on the deck of battleship. United States finds that his war is different because Al Qaeda is different. Al Qaeda is not like a nation–state whose power is defined by its armies, its land, or its industry— tangible national assets that are subject to destruction or capture by traditional military conquest.


Al Qaeda’s power is much more diffuse, much less tangible, and therefore much more difficult to destroy. Their power is in their message of hate and the alluring but ‘false narrative’ that they are the defenders of a religion under assault from the West; a message that resonates among some of the desperate and misguided throughout the world. It is in clever use of modern communications of Islamists, with which they spread that message of hate and mobilize the operations that turn that message into violence. It is in the financial support systems through which they receive funding from extremist supporters and corrupted charities. It is in their network of cells and trained personnel that gives them a presence and an operational footprint throughout the world. It is in their demonstrated ability to take advantage of weakly governed areas of the world to establish safe havens and operational bases; just as they did in the 1990s in Afghanistan; as they have done over the past few years in the border regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan in shape of Tehrik e Taliban Pakistan; and as they are now trying to do in Yemen and the Horn of Africa. It is in their strategic affiliation with regional terrorist groups such as Al Qaeda in Iraq, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, and potentially others; a strategy that expands the group’s reach into different regions of the world and helps to ensure their survival.


And finally, this can be seen that United States does not hesitate to submit to the phenomena that the power of Al Qaeda lies largely in their patience. Al Qaeda and its affiliated fanatic networks are not fighting for short–term political gains. They are prosecuting a long–term war to eradicate values such as freedom of religion and freedom of speech. They want to remove Western influence and institutions from the Muslim world and re-establish a totalitarian seventh century caliphate from Spain to Indonesia. And they plan to carry out this war over the course of generations and centuries. For that reason, they can be patient, methodical, and brutally precise in their operations, and that makes them all the more dangerous. For all these reasons, we long ago recognized that Al Qaeda would not be defeated overnight. We also recognized that this war would require building a new counterterrorism apparatus with new approaches and relationships, new authorities and tools, and a new organizational structure—in short, a fundamental transformation of the government’s counterterrorism architecture.


 The 9/11 attacks, and the horrific impact they had on our entire country, produced a clear mandate for the government to undertake this transformation and to build a whole new operational paradigm. That building effort started while the fires were still burning on September 11th, and it continues to this day. US are in seven years into that effort now, and it is seen as a great progress has been made. As US prepares for transition in Washington that the new President will have to take stock of all the progress made and make an assessment as how possibly to equip him self to carry on the fight. In order to adopt a strategy of Prevention; the new President will have to establish the core principles to ensure that America is preventing further attacks on the homeland. This world is faced with fanatics who were willing to die for their perverted cause; US could no longer rely on the traditional enforcement paradigm of deterring terrorism largely through prosecution and punishment after an attack. Instead, US had to focus all national assets and international relation­ships to detect and neutralize threats abroad before they matured into terrorist attacks at home.


President George W Bush has already called on all countries to counter the hateful ideology of US enemy with a message of tolerance and liberty, and he declared that those who harboured or supported terrorists would be treated as enemies. The President’s message was clear: We were facing a new type of enemy that required a new type of counterterrorism.


History is likely to repeat itself that US may vigorously enhance its efforts to quell and exterminate the will of Islamist Terrorist by destroying all their possible dens and sanctuaries where ever the terrorism breeds. America is all out to under take any such actions as to eliminate Al Qaeda and its supporters by using all the possible means at hand: especially to move in and eliminate the Terrorist sanctuaries in FATA used as safe havens in Pakistan. But probably the Islamists and general masses in Pakistan are not aware of it. They have failed to recognize that these Islamists playing up in FATA have “awakened a sleeping giant”, who is now knocking at our doors so violently to undo us.     



US Homeland Security and Counterterrorism perspective.