Anti-Terrorism Alliance

Fight against Al Qaeda heralds new age of regional anti-terrorist cooperation


By ZHANG LIJUN

Frequently occurring global terrorist attacks in 2004 have greatly impacted global stability, as well as exerting deep-seated and long-term influences on the future of international politics. The March 11 Madrid bombings, for example, completely changed the political situation in Spain and is believed a major reason for Spanish troops retreating from Iraq.

Nowadays, quite a large number of terrorist attacks are launched by local militia groups, separatists and religious extremists, rather than Al Qaeda members. They follow the deeds of Al Qaeda and mean to achieve their political objectives and enhance their international influence through terrorist attacks. Al Qaeda’s terrorist attacks more likely set an example for them. International terrorism has entered a new booming period.

Arc Region Alert

NEW PARTNER: June 17, Afghan President Hamid Karzai (first right) joins presidents of Shanghai Cooperation Organization member states at the organization’s annual summit in Uzbekistan, ushering in a new era in regional anti-terrorist cooperation

The arc of countries that make up the northeastern part of Africa to the Middle East, Central Asia, South Asia and Southeast Asia occupies only a small area on the world map. However, this region has caught most of the world’s attention. The deep-seated issues such as ethnic contradictions, religious conflicts, border disputes and rampant activities of various terrorists and religious extremists have plunged this region into a state of turmoil. After the September 11 terrorist attacks, the United States has made the region its major anti-terrorist battlefield and launched two large-scale wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, remarkably influencing the stability of the region. Most of the recent globally significant terrorist attacks have taken place in this region. The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) estimates that a total of 25,000 various extremists are responsible for terrorist activities worldwide, most of whom are based in this region. These terrorists possess large amounts of capital and modern hi-tech weaponry, posing direct and key threats to the United States.

It is clear Al Qaeda and the remnant forces of the Taliban will never accept defeat and they will launch revenge attacks on the United States and countries that support U.S. anti-terrorist campaigns. They kidnapped and killed U.S. hostages in Saudi Arabia, conducted a series of attacks in Afghanistan and Iraq and attacked Pakistani troops. Meanwhile, separatists, local militia groups and religious extremist forces follow the example of Al Qaeda and conduct attacks for their own interests or to expand their international influence. During three days from March 28 to 30 this year, several terrorist bombings and armed attacks took place in Uzbekistan. Experts believe these attacks were conducted by the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), the largest Islamic extremist organization in Central Asia.

Al Qaeda Effect

Various terrorist and religious extremist forces regard Al Qaeda as their role model and strengthen their connection with Al Qaeda to coordinate their own efforts. Terrorist attacks are developing into a global network.

Before the September 11 attacks, terrorists and religious extremists in the arc region ran rampant. But they only put their emphasis on specific and regional targets, focusing on separatist activities, religious conflicts and vendettas. At that time, they were not interested in establishing Muslim extremist regimes throughout the world and launching all-round terrorist attacks on countries such as the United States and Israel. More importantly, they had little connections with Al Qaeda.

The United States witnessed its darkest day in history on September 11, 2001, when Al Qaeda waged large-scale terrorist attacks on the country. The attacks severely harmed the world superpower.

Terrorists and religious extremists in the arc region were overjoyed by the attacks and took it for granted that terrorist attacks were their best weapons. They started to follow the example of Al Qaeda. After the Afghanistan war, large quantities of Al Qaeda members and remnant forces of the Taliban fled to Central Asian, South Asian and Middle East countries. They formed alliances with local terrorists and religious extremists to retaliate against local governments and people and facilities from western countries, such as the United States.

The CIA revealed that Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf narrowly survived two assassination attempts on December 14 and 25 last year. After investigations and interrogating suspects, Pakistani police believe the two incidents have an international background. C4 plastic explosives, which had never been used in any attacks in the country before, were found in the two attacks. This kind of explosive was used in the Bali bombings in Indonesia in 2002, while the kingpin of the bloody attacks was identified as a head of Al Qaeda-linked Jemaah Islamiya. C4 plastic explosives are also the frequent weapons of Al Qaeda. In September last year, the Qatar-based Al-Jazeera news network broadcast a tape purportedly from Al Qaeda second in command Ayman Al-Zawahri, in which he condemned Musharraf for betraying Islam, appealing to Muslims in Pakistan to rise and overthrow the president.

Meanwhile, terrorists are increasing the scale of their attacks. In the past, it was shocking news if a terrorist attack caused casualties of 10 people. But now, terrorist attacks may take place in succession and it is very common to see an attack claimed dozens of lives. On the other hand, these terrorists have shifted their targets from citizens of the United States and its allies to common locals, UN staff and even citizens from other Third World countries. They mean to bring pressure to bear on governments and influence domestic politics in these countries through damaging the images of governments. Those citizens from other Third World countries and UN staff thus become victims of political and ethnic conflicts in some hotspots.

Reasons for Terror

U.S. policies during its anti-terrorist campaigns are the major reasons to accelerate the instability in the arc region. The campaigns changed the social and economic development of many countries that are at the forefront of anti-terrorist campaigns. In Pakistan and many Southeastern Asian countries, governments were challenged by domestic Islamic forces. Their economic development receded and domestic contradictions became intense, which in turn stimulate Islamic extremist forces to launch anti-governments attacks.

U.S. preemptive strategy in its anti-terrorist campaigns and its ambition to reform the current political systems of some countries also made a great impact on power holders in these countries, especially in the Middle East.

Economic and social problems are another reason for the rise of terrorism. Most of the countries in the arc region are plagued by sluggish economy where a large gap exists between the rich and the poor. Problems such as poverty and unemployment are serious. Even in Saudi Arabia, the richest country in the region, problems such as corruption and wealth gap are alarming. All these provide fertile ground for the development of terrorism. Some unemployed young people who are disenchanted with their lives may be recruited to conduct terrorist activities.

The instability in some countries in the arc region, which saw regime changes as a result of violent changes in their political and social systems, has also given rise to the spread of terrorism. Some enlightened scholars from the United States and western countries stress that the United States should give equal importance to the economic and social problems of the above-mentioned Islamic countries during its anti-terrorist campaigns, such as increasing its assistance to education, health and other sectors of these countries. Unfortunately, in recent G8 Summit, President Bush put forward his Broader Middle East and North Africa Initiative, putting emphasis still on the political reforms of Middle East countries.

Experts point out that from a long-term angle, the Al Qaeda effect will exert great influence on the entire international situation, posing a threat to the vitality and liability of international anti-terrorist cooperation and the international anti-terrorist alliance. Strong military forces and fierce military mopping up cannot control and eliminate terrorism. On the contrary, it may strengthen it. Eliminating poverty, dispelling injustice and seeking co-development may be the only way to smash terrorism.

NATION INTO A RAGE: Jun 22, Republic of Korea citizens protest the government’s decision to deploy more troops to Iraq in the face of local captors’ threat to behead a Korean hostage in revenge
BACK HOME: Afghan soldiers carry the 11 bodies of the Chinese workers who were killed in a terrorist attack in the country onto a plane for China
NO CHANCE FOR TERRORISTS: April 23, an anti-terrorist maneuver is launched in Lanzhou, Gansu Province, with the aim to improve coordination among concerned departments DARK DAY IN SPAIN: Terrorist bombings in Spain on March 11 this year result in a tilt in the country’s domestic politics

China, Another Target for Terrorists?

Few Chinese had imagined they would become targets of terrorist attacks, believing in the shield built on the Chinese Government’s insistence on peaceful settlements to all international disputes. However, several terrorist attacks directly against Chinese in recent months have sounded the alarm.

Chinese engineering personnel were on the receiving end of a car bombing on May 3 in the seaport of Gwadar in Pakistan, in which three died and nine were injured. On June 10, a group of terrorists attacked a construction area manned by Chinese workers, killing 11 and injuring four. Different people have different views on these murders. Pakistani scholars say that the terrorist attacks in Gwadar should not be simply considered being launched by religious extremist organizations. They believe a new terrorist organization that premeditated to destroy the Sino-Pakistani friendship is responsible for it. A Chinese reporter stationed in Afghanistan said that the location of the terrorist attack on Chinese workers lies in the northern part of the country, neighboring Tajikistan, an area controlled by Tajik forces of the Northern Alliance where the remnant forces of the Taliban cannot penetrate. It was probably conducted by militants loyal to local warlords. In addition, many local Chinese and experts agree that the Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement, a Muslim separatist organization, should be held accountable for the massacre.

With the rising of China’s overall national strength, an increasing number of Chinese go abroad for investment and project construction. China’s neighboring countries are the first step of China’s “going global” strategy. The unstable arc region covers a large part of China’s neighbors. Chinese has become a new target for terrorists and China should take precautions for future attacks. Meanwhile, China should strengthen communication and coordination with related countries to prevent attacks. Terrorist attacks should not become obstacles to China’s “going global” strategy.

During this year’s Shanghai Cooperation Organization Summit in Uzbekistan in June, presidents of the organization’s six member states—China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan—formally launched the Regional Anti-terrorist Structure, and pledged in a joint declaration to cooperate in fighting terrorism and new security threats.

China’s domestic terrorist threats are mainly from the East Turkistan separatist forces in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, which have ganged with international terrorist organizations, such as Al Qaeda. China should learn the U.S. lessons to draft terrorism prevention plans and establish anti-terrorist troops. Meanwhile, measures should be taken to further crack down on international terrorism, national separatism and religious extremism. Terrorist attacks may change the overall strategy of some countries, but it will not influence China’s modernization-oriented development path.