"It's like that old story - you can't keep snakes in your backyard and expect them only to bite your neighbours. Eventually, those snakes are going to turn on whoever has them in the backyard."
While Hillary Clinton made these remarks in the context of Pakistan, the lines go well for all nations that fund or support terrorism (directly or indirectly) on any soil.
When the Soviets invaded Afghanistan in 1979 to preserve the communist government, the United States started funding the rebels and gave them weapons to counter USSR. This is when Al-Qaeda, led by Osama Bin Laden, gained prominence. The militant organisation, along with other rebel groups, managed to drive out the Soviets but it didn't take long for the CIA's blue-eyed boy to turn rogue.
Miffed with America's patronage of Israel and the superpower's role in the Persian Gulf War, Osama started attacking US assets worldwide. And on September 11, 2001, the world woke up to terrorists hijacking four planes and attacking the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon. Nearly 3,000 people were killed in the attack.
The aftermath of the September 11 attacks, particularly Operation Enduring Freedom and the Iraq war of 2003, didn't only change the dynamics in Central Asia but all across the Muslim world, stretching from West Africa to the southern Philippines. Radical and dogmatic interpretations of Islam gained ground in many Muslim societies and fundamentalist groups conducted attacks in different parts of the world. Several European nations also suffered terrorist attacks in the subsequent years.
According to a Forbes report in 2018, the four deadliest militant groups in the world at present are — Islamic State (Daesh), the Taliban, Al-Shabaab, and Boko Haram.
The rise of radical Islam has also prompted the rise of right-wing extremism. A 2015 report by the Committee on Homeland Security said, "Our nation (United States) is grappling with a new wave of terror... Whether inspired by Islamic terror or white supremacy, assailants share one trait in common: They want to attack the innocent, intimidate our population, and coerce us to achieve their ideological and insidious goals."
The report added that terror plots have surged since 9/11. In fact, the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which was created after the 9/11 attacks, believes the world has more terrorists today than it did on 9/11.
Michael Chertoff, a former DHS official, told Bloomberg, "New threats have emerged in the twenty years (after the attacks). We’ve seen several cases where extremists on the right have committed acts of violence... We’ve also had situations where jihadi sympathizers have been inspired to carry out attacks."
Last month, the Taliban, designated as an outlaw group in several nations, took control of Afghanistan as the US pulled out its troops from the war-torn nation. This is the same group that the US military had once dislodged and their leaders were sent to the caves of the Tora Bora. The month also witnessed Islamic State Khorasan (ISIS-K) carrying out a suicide attack at the Kabul airport that claimed at least 200 lives.
Suggesting a rise in extremism, a United Nations report in June revealed that 8,000-10,000 fighters from Central Asia, the North Caucasus region of Russia, Pakistan, and the Xinjiang region in western China have poured into Afghanistan. They have become part of the Taliban or Al Qaeda or the ISIS-K.
Meanwhile in India, the Maoists remain the deadliest militant group. In Syria and Iraq, the civil war has given birth to several terror groups that continue to carry out killings, mostly in the name of religion.
In neighbouring Pakistan, there’s a high threat of terrorism and sectarian violence. Terror groups like Tehrik-e Taleban Pakistan and Daesh are active in the country.
Since 9/11, the number of violent jihadi groups has also risen in Africa. Countries like Mali, Mozambique, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria, and Burkina Faso are particularly affected.
According to a United Nations report on counter-terror measures, over thirty UN-associated entities that are members of the Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force (CTITF) are working together to address terrorism and related threats. "We provide leadership, coordination and capacity-building in support of Member States’ efforts to take practical steps to prevent and counter-terrorism through a wide range of activities, projects, and programmes," says the UN (Office of Counter-Terrorism) website.
The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) has devised a counter-terrorism policy based on three main pillars — awareness, capabilities and engagement. "NATO supports the development of new capabilities and technologies to tackle the terrorist threat and to manage the consequences of a terrorist attack," reads the NATO website.
Similarly, the Council of Europe pledges to help member states fight terrorism more effectively by strengthening and improving their national legislation.
In the recently-held BRICS (Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa) meet, member states adopted a counter-terrorism plan.
(Edited by : Anshul)
First Published: IST