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Al-Qaeda terrorists are beyond deterrence

Al-Qaeda terrorists are beyond deterrence

Author: B L Kak
Publication: The Daily Excelsior
Date: May 10, 2002

The US President, Mr George W Bush, cannot be faulted for his conclusion at the completion of the first phase of the coalition military engagement in Afghanistan. The Taliban are gone and Al-Qaeda has lost its home base for terrorism. And equally significant was his finding as the Americans entered the second stage of the war on terrorism. Terrorists feeling Afghanistan will try to regroup.

That those terrorists on the run hope to strike again has, indeed, been accepted by the US President himself. "These terrorists fighters are the most committed, the most dangerous, and the least likely to surrender". This is how Mr Bush has epitomized the scenario. He has had to reiterate the primary US goal in the war against terrorism-that is, to ensure that the "authors of mass murder are never allowed to gain or use the weapons of mass destruction (WMD)."

True, America continues to be the most powerful country in the world. But it continues to be afraid of Iraq, and North Korea and their terrorist allies, which, to quote Mr George Bush, constitute "an axis of evil" posing a grave and growing danger for their pursuit of WMD. It is, precisely, in this context that the United States is keen to work closely with its coalition to deny terrorists and their State sponsors the materials, technology, and expertise to make and deliver weapons of mass destruction.

The need for such action is urgent. Washington's revised strategy to meet the growing threat from the terrorists, particularly from Al-Qaeda, is the product of the finding of America's Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). The CIA's Director, Mr George Tenet, has, in fact, reiterated, in recent times, that WMD programmes "are becoming more advanced and effective as they mature and a s countries-of-concern become more aggressive in pursuing them." His warning: There is a significant risk within the next few years that the US could confront an adversary - either terrorists or a rogue State.

A set of inputs made available by Public Affairs Office of the US Embassy in New Delhi did reveal that evidence of terrorists' intentions, uncovered in their training camps, safe houses, caves and tunnels in Afghanistan, included instructions of making chemical weapons, diagrams of US nuclear power plants and public water facilities, descriptions of key American historic landmarks and maps of US cities. Other Al-Qaeda stashes in Afghanistan included documents ranging from take identity papers to bomb-making instructions.

No evidence has so far surfaced with regard to the involvement of Al-Qaeda members in building a nuclear weapon But Al-Qaeda has been found accumulating relevant information. A recent CNN report referred to a 25-page document about nuclear weapons and design found abandoned in Afghanistan. The Bush Administration was compelled to warn Pakistan's military ruler, Gen Parvez Musharraf, after two Pakistani scientists were also thought to have shared their knowledge with Al-Qaeda network.

And the possibility of the network having sought a radioactive dispersal weapon, or 'dirty bomb', is not ruled out. While a former member of Al-Qaeda provided testimony in a New York federal court in 2001 that he had set up meetings in Khartoum in the 1990s to help the network try to acquire uranium, Radio Free Europe reported recently on a failed Al-Qaeda attempt to acquire nuclear warheads from Chechan rebels in Russia in 1998. The CIA Director has already placed himself on record as saying that Al-Qaeda was working to acquire "Some of the most dangerous chemical agents and toxins.". He, infact, provided documents showing that a sophisticated biological weapon (BW) research programme was being pursued. Al-Qaeda operatives, the US intelligence agencies have establishment, have been active in at least 67 nations.

The CIA, significantly, has endorsed the recent statement of Senator Richard Lugar that whatever progress has been made by Al-Qaeda or a host of other WMD aspirants, terrorists have demonstrated "suicidal tendencies and are beyond deterrence." One cannot but anticipate that they will use weapons of mass destruction if allowed the opportunity. The minimum standard for victory in the ongoing war against terrorism is the prevention of any of the individual terrorists or terrorist cells from obtaining these weapons.

According to a 2002 CIA report, the threat of terrorists using chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear materials "appears to be rising - particularly since the September 11 attacks". It cities a senior Osama bin Laden operative as claiming during a trial in Egypt in 1999 that his group possessed chemical and biological weapons. No wonder, US Defence Department officials are particularly concerned about the potential of Al-Qaeda to acquire and use chemical or biological weapons because, unlike other terrorists groups backed by a State-sponsor that might place restrictions on their use, Al-Qaeda does not have any state behind it that might stop them.

Recently, the US State Department published a document titled "Patterns of Global Terrorism'. According to it, there are several State-sponsors of terrorism. They also include Syria, Libya, Sudan and Cuba. Syria and Sudan have been faulted for providing safe havens to groups such as the Palestine Islamic Jihad. While Sudan has been interested in chemical weapons acquisition, the CIA report has stated that Sudan may be interested in a WB (Biological weapons) programmes.

Another report published by the Pentagon says that Libya continues to pursue an indigenous chemical weapons production capability and wants to buy long-range missiles. Cuba, with subtle ties with Latin American insurgents, has been reported to have provided safe havens to some Basque terrorists.

Devastatingly blunt in her expression and argument has been the US National Security Advisor, Ms Condoleezza Rice against the world's most dangerous powers. She is for a serious response to action of North Korea, Iraq and Iran. North Korea, to quote her, "is now the world's number one merchant for ballistic missiles, open for business with anyone, no matter how malign the buyer's intentions". Iraq, she says, continues to threaten its neighbours, the neighbourhood, and its people, and it continues to flaunt obligations that it undertook in 1991. And that can mean only one thing: It remains a dangerous regime, and it remains a regime determined to acquire these terrible weapons.

Iran's direct support of regional and global terrorism and its aggressive efforts to acquire weapons of mass destruction, Ms Rice has reiterated, belie any good intentions it displayed in the days after the world's worst terrorist attacks in history. Her verdict: "All these nations have a choice to make - to abandon the course they now pursue. Unfortunately, these terrible regimes have shown no inclination to do so. But the United States and the world have only one choice, and that is to act with determination and resolve."

Will Ms Rice also sit up and direct Pakistan to behave after her statement that the US will draw no distinction between the terrorists and the regimes that feed, train, supply and harbour them? She knows, and the world knows, that Pakistan hasn't stopped crossborder terrorism against India.

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