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Association of Retired Senior IPS Officers (ARSIPSO)

This is with reference to my letter No. ARSIPSO/GS-BSD-4/2023 dated. 10/08/2023 on the 4th B.S. Das Memorial Lecture, which had to be rescheduled for unavoidable reasons.

The 4th B.S.Das Memorial Lecture to be delivered by Shri Anil Kumar Sinha, IAS (Retd.), on the subject Disaster Management: Creating Safer Communities, has now been rescheduled for October 14, 2023 as per the following:

Conference Room No. 2, India International Centre, Max Mueller Marg, New Delhi, October 14, 2023 (Saturday)

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II—Search for a Winning Strategy

Four years after 11 September 2001, the US led Coalition in the War Against Terror seems to be nowhere near winning the War it launched with much fanfare in 2001.Of course the Taliban have been driven out of power in Afghanistan, a number of important Al Qaida operatives have been killed or arrested ; the Al Qaida training camps in Afghanistan have been closed down; some funding channels have been disrupted and a number of sleeper cells in various parts of the world have been exposed and busted. And, if that can be called a success, there has been no major attack inside the USA after 9/11.

The list of failures on the other hand is long and depressing. The situation in Afghanistan where the Allies in the War against Terror began with some spectacular successes is grim. The Karzai government, facing a serious insurgency threat, is completely dependent on the prop of American arms. Warlords and drug traffickers (many accommodated in the Karzai government ) continue to go about their business as before. Some Taliban notables have come to power by donning the moderate garb while the more belligerent have joined up with Hikmatyar and are engaged in an increasingly worrisome battle with the Americans. Neither Osama bin Laden nor Ayman al Zawahiri nor the Taliban leaders including Mullah Omar have been caught.

In Pakistan
, the group of serving and retired generals ruling Pakistan seems to have acquired a near perfect understanding of the strengths and the weaknesses of the Bush administration and mastered the art of extracting the maximum economic, military and diplomatic gains from the US and its western allies at the minimal cost. Despite being forced to become a US ally in the War against Terror Pakistan has pursued its regional aspirations with determination and success. Aware of the high priority accorded by the Americans to the liquidation of Al Qaida, Pakistan seems to have adopted the strategy of giving up its support of the Arab and other foreign operatives of Al Qaida but has ensured full protection and shelter for the Taliban. The entire Taliban leadership is known to be residing openly and comfortably in Quetta and other towns in Baluchistan. Many observers believe that Pakistan has also been shielding Osama bin Laden. Pakistan has also taken care to keep intact its Jihadi organizations (the instruments for fighting the proxy war against India) despite Musharraf’s numerous proforma announcements of action against them. The most prominent leaders of Pakistani Jihadi organizations—Hafiz Mohammed Saeed, Maulana Masood Azhar, Maulana Fazlur Rahman Khalil and Sayyed Salahuddin are free to pursue their activities unhindered while Ahmad Omar Sheikh, the murderer of Daniel Pearl, supposedly awaiting execution, is understood to be directing Al Qaida operations from the security of his prison. The hate preaching Madrassas still continue what they had been doing earlier. And despite the conclusive proof of having sold nuclear weapon technology to North Korea, Libya and Iran and refusing to let AQ Khan to be interrogated by the Americans or others Pakistan has been rewarded by being elevated to the status of a Major Non NATO Ally of USA. Following his two track policy of overt but limited cooperation, mouthing the words pleasing American ears and using the threat of a possible takeover by Islamic extremists, Musharraf has successfully extracted billions of dollars in financial and military aid from the USA, received US support and approbation for his dictatorial regime and maintained his alliance with the Pakistani fundamentalist Mullahs. The recent attacks against Hindus in Jammu and Kashmir and the bomb blasts in Delhi on Diwali eve provide the most up to date score card of the success achieved by the US in eliminating Terrorism from its fountainhead state. Through these attacks Pakistani Jihadis have also made it clear that even a devastating earthquake makes no difference to their determination to continue their murderous enterprise.

The US misadventure in Iraq, where President Bush claims to be fighting the terrorists (“ We have to fight them there so that we do not have to fight them here”) and seeking to introduce democracy as a cure for Islamic extremism in the Muslim Middle East, things are even worse. After having suffered over 2000 dead (excluding the losses suffered by coalition troops) and more than 15000 injured (some estimates put the figure of the injured at 42-50,000) US troops and having spent billions of US taxpayers’ money none of the professed objectives with which Bush and his allies invaded Iraq have been achieved. In fact most analysts agree that the US invasion of Iraq has served to strengthen the motivation of Islamic jihadists and win fresh recruits to their cause. Even the real US objective (as believed by many analysts) viz. seizing control of Iraqi oil has proved elusive. Many observers have started wondering whether the removal of Saddam Hussein has at all benefited Iraq or its people. Despite the official propaganda, substantial sections of the American people have started demanding the withdrawal of America from the unwinnable and hugely costly war in Iraq. And last but not the least, USA’s image as a responsible and stabilizing power in world affairs has suffered serious damage.


Militant Islam, which before 9/11 used to be spearheaded by the constituents of the International Islamic Front and whose fanatic warriors were largely drawn from Muslim communities of South Asian, Middle East and North African countries has found new centers of support among the Muslim expatriates and their locally born and bred descendents in European countries and has also struck roots in Thailand and Indonesia. Islamic extremists have also quickly learnt to use the facilities provided by the growth in information technology not only for easy intercommunication but also for propagating their ideas and publicizing their achievements. Internet has also placed within easy reach of the jihadis almost every facet of the knowledge required for carrying out their lethal purposes thereby obviating the need for attending Madrassas or training camps Use of satellite telephones has also rendered monitoring of conversations among jihadis fairly difficult.


To the lay observer, the US strategy for countering the challenge of militant Islam appears to consist of trying to decimate AL Qaida, blacklisting of organizations known to be responsible for terrorist acts, blocking the flow of funds to terrorist organizations, denial of entry into US to known or suspected/potential militants, condemnation of terrorism and terrorist acts by states and international organizations etc. US policy planners also seem to believe that introduction of democracy in Muslim countries will be a strong antidote to Islamic extremism, Yet another hope seems to be that the Muslim Ummah will come to accept a liberal, tolerant version of Islam if the head of an important Muslim country sets an example for the rest.
Among other measures that one keeps hearing about in the west are the need for a better integration of the immigrant Muslims and their offspring with the civil societies of the host countries and making proper allowance for the sensitivities of the Muslims by the local authorities.


Why has the USA which commands such vast resources of talent, scholarship expertise and weaponry performed so dismally in its declared War against Terror? One may be tempted to put the blame on the general ineptitude and lack of honesty which has characterized the working of the Bush administration. The none too bright image of the President who depends heavily on the support of a religious constituency was tarnished still further by his alleged assertion of having invaded Iraq on God’s orders !!While the Almighty might or might not have influenced Bush’s decision making, there seems to be no doubt that the lure of hydrocarbons has had much to do with the shaping of the US policy. With the leading lights of the Bush team having such strong connections with oil firms this should come as no surprise. What is surprising is the way in which the oil factor has outweighed all other important considerations.
Among the major handicaps crippling the US effort has been its heavy dependence on its professed ally Pakistan whose ruling elite has been steadfast in its determination to preserve the assets considered vital for the furtherance of Pakistan’s ambitions in India and Afghanistan. Unfortunately these assets happen to belong to the same class of threats which the War on Terror was supposed to destroy. Democracy and liberal Islam remain as much of a mirage as they were when Musharraf seized power after a familiar military coup. Pakistan has also consistently avoided to provide to USA what it was best qualified to provide viz. intelligence about Osama bin Laden and other important targets. Human sources recruited by US agencies have turned out to be expensive and useless. It is nobody’s case that USA is not aware of what is actually happening in Pakistan. The regrettable fact is that the Bush administration has displayed a pathetic inability to make Pakistan do what should have been done.


The allies in the War against Terror still seem to be groping to arrive at a proper strategy for winning their war. Those believing that the introduction of democracy will bring Islamic militancy to an end would be well advised to note how democracy has fared in Muslim majority states of the world. The steady rise of fanatical Islamists in democratic Bangladesh, which was born after having suffered the slaughter of three million of its inhabitants by the their fellow Muslims, should serve to cure all such illusions.
Improving the lot of disadvantaged immigrants may help bring down the crime rate or the outbreak of violent protests but is unlikely to stem the growth of Militant Islam.
The search for an effective strategy must necessarily begin with a proper understanding of the nature of the threat. Some pointers in this direction could be gleaned from the survey of opinions of British Muslims commissioned by the Daily Telegraph after the London Blasts. The survey revealed that 16% of those who answered did not feel loyal towards UK and a full 32% felt that the western society was decadent and immoral and should be brought to an end. The crux of the matter is the question of loyalties and the opinion the Muslims have of their fellow human beings who happen to hold different religious beliefs.
Can the experts in the various fields evolve a satisfactory solution?


The views and facts stated above are entirely the responsibility of the author and do not reflect the views of this Association in any manner.

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