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Sunday, November 23, 2003

Progress in the War on Terror?

Gary Sauer-Thompson, on his public opinion blog, had a link to a November 21, 2003 story from the The Australian: "Al-Qa'ida on run: US terror chief."According to the story, the US is on the verge of winning the war on terrorism:

Al-Qa'ida is all but finished and the focus of the war on terror has shifted to its offshoots around the world, US ambassador for counter-terrorism J. Cofer Black said yesterday.

There were fewer than 200 terrorist attacks around the globe in 2002 - the lowest level since 1969.

"The measurables - the yardstick of how we're doing in counter-terrorism is very very positive, and this message always gets lost," Mr Black told The Australian.

He said more than two-thirds of the al-Qa'ida organisation, or 3400 operatives and supporters, had been arrested, detained or killed, and that $US144million ($204 million) in assets had been frozen by 171 countries.

"The guys associated with 9/11 are having a terrible time of communicating, of moving resources and creating and developing terrorist operations," Mr Black said.

"The end is near for these guys, and we will catch Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein.
By the way, Ambassador Black also dismisses the idea that Iraq is a hotbed of bin Laden terrorism:
Mr Black rejected suggestions that Iraq had become a magnet for a new generation of Islamic terrorists, saying most of the trouble was being caused by Saddam loyalists.

While there were undoubtedly terrorists from Syria and Lebanon in the country, "the vast majority of the threat that's currently represented in Iraq comes form the loyalist elite special forces of the Saddam Hussein regime."
Gary Sauer-Thompson argues, based on recent terror attacks in Turkey and elsewhere, that Black has it wrong about Al Qaeda:
I would suggest that the terrorist bombing in Istanbul that targeted the British consulate and the London-based HSBC bank (and last week's synagogue bombings in Istanbul, and the bombing in Saudi Arabia the week before that), indicates that Al Qaeda has managed to regroup and rebuild its operational capabilities in the Islamic world. Rather than Al Qaeda being on the defensive it is on the offensive. Al Qaeda is capable of politically challenging the hegemonic power of the US....The strategy is to challenge US hegemony by destablising Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan----and Pakistan and Indonesia.
Meanwhile, the State Department has now issued its second recent blanket warning for all Americans abroad to be alert for anti-American terror.

The attacks in Turkey, by the way, make me wonder if there isn't at least a little truth in Huntington's work on the clash of civilizations. He argued in summer 1993 that the worst civilizational violence will occur in the "fault lines" dividing civilizations -- places like Yugoslavia, Turkey, Kashmir. Is Istanbul, a great cosmopolitan city, on its way to becoming like Beirut or Sarajevo, which were once tremendous cities?

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