Counter-Terrorism: The War Moves East

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August 12, 2008:  Iraq is quickly being displaced by South Asia as the area with the most terrorist activity. Currently, about a third of the world's terrorist casualties are occurring in Iraq (currently, about 40 a day). Until al Qaeda and the local Sunni Arabs decided to use terror tactics to restore Iraq to Sunni rule, the Persian Gulf saw little terrorist activity. Well established police states saw to that. But South Asia has never had that kind of iron rule, and many terrorist groups have had more opportunities, for a very long time. Moreover, their recent defeat in Iraq has sent al Qaeda operatives, technicians and cash to Afghanistan. This showed up last March, when, for the first time, there were more terrorist deaths in Afghanistan (527) than in Pakistan (351).

Terrorism has been common in Pakistan for decades, mostly between Islamic radicals who don't like each other very much. But since the Afghan Taliban were overthrown in late 2001. The Islamic radicals became quite angry with the U.S. presence in Afghanistan, where remnants of the Taliban continued to fight for power, or to support their main financial base among the heroin gangs. The Taliban and al Qaeda leadership were hiding out in the tribal areas of Pakistan, where the government was having a hard time finding and catching all of them.

Pakistan has some unique problems. It's not just the national average illiteracy rate of 66 percent (and unemployment rate of ten percent) that causes so much unrest. In the tribal territories along the Afghan border, the illiteracy rate is over 90 percent, and the unemployment rate is unknown, but believed to be very high, even if you count most of those seemingly idle guys with guns, as employed. The tribal areas contain less than ten percent of the population, but far more of the armed unrest and terrorism. There are similar situations in rural India (the northeast and northwest, as well as communist rebels all through the jungles and hills of eastern India.) Sri Lanka, the island nation off the southern coast of India, has been fighting separatist terrorists for decades, and recently has been a major source of terrorist activity in South Asia.

The shift of terrorism activity from the Middle East (Iraq, Lebanon and Israel) to South Asia won't be as abrupt as it may seem. South Asia has had problems with terrorists decades before it became a big problem in the Middle East. Things will settle down in the Middle East, but will continue to get messier in South Asia.

 

 


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