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|September 13, 2001||
Nothing is secure now
The terrorist attacks in New York's World Trade Center and Washington's Pentagon is closely linked with developments in Afghanistan.
After sanctions by the United Nations came into force early this year, the Taleban found it extremely difficult to govern the area under their control.
That was not all. Added to this was the fact that the United Nations sanctions were Taleban specific. So, anti-Taleban forces led by Ahmed Shah Masoud gained considerable advantage.
With extensive military supplies, the summer offensive launched by the anti-Taleban forces was going on against the Taleban.
Then was the fact that the United Nations decided to post observers all along the Pakistan-Afghan border from mid-September onwards. This would have further restricted the Taleban's maneuverability.
Some observers felt the posting of observers on the Afghan-Pakistan border would have crippled Pakistan's massive covert support to a trickle.
All these factors were making the Taleban desperate. First, they attacked Masoud to throw the anti-Taleban forces into a disarray. It had limited success as Masoud was merely injured.
The way terrorists attacked the World Trade Center in New York and Pentagon in Washington indicate that they are acts of desperation with no clear cut objective. The Taleban network might have pulverised the United States for a day. But they do not realise what the consequences of the attack are going to be.
The elaborate networking of the Taleban and Osama bin Laden in 60 countries, spread over three continents appears to have not taken into consideration the amount of damage they would be doing to themselves. The network was supported by Al-Quaida which is Osama's outfit. In fact, Al-Quaida and the Taleban are synonymous. He is funding these outfits. His funding them helps him gain actual control. That is how he was able to mount an action of such magnitude in the United States itself.
What will be the reaction of the United States, is a question everyone is asking. They will resort to carpet bombing Afghanistan and the headquarters of Al-Quaida and attack all the outfits of Osama bin Laden operating in various Islamic countries. Even the ones in the United States will now be taken care of.
You will soon see a repeat of the United States action in Iraq, now happening in Afghanistan and parts of Pakistan like Peshawar which have been the hotbed of terrorist activity.
The response of the United States would be a massive, integrated one. It will not only attack those who actually committed these acts of violence, but would also target those who harbored the terrorist elements. This would, therefore, include Afghanistan, Pakistan and some countries in West Asia. There might be selective targeting of solidarity organizations operating in some Islamic countries.
However, it remains to be seen whether such an action would force jehadi outfits operating in the Indian subcontinent to rethink their strategy of confrontation or not. It all depends on the course of events in the coming weeks as the behaviour of these jehadi outfits would depend on what happens to their sponsors now.
Osama bin Laden has said he was not behind the attacks. Nobody is going to express responsibility for such an action. Bin Laden expressed similar sentiments after the Dar-es-Salaam and Nairobi bombings in 1998 and then the attack on USS Cole in 2000 in Yemen. In these circumstances, no one should expect him to claim responsibility.
Osama wants to attack Christianity and the United States which he considers Satan. He wants troops and citizens of the United States to withdraw from the entire Islamic world.
There is now going to be a realignment of forces in fighting radical Islamic forces all over the world. The Indo-US collaboration to fight terrorism will only increase. However, India should restrain itself from entering a conflict between Christians and Muslims.
Nothing is secure now. India and the world realises that a terrorist can attack anywhere and at anytime.
Dr Sreedhar is a senior research associate at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, New Delhi. He has written numerous books on the Taleban and Afghanistan. Among them are Taliban and the Afghan Turmoil and The Afghan Turmoil: Changing Equations. He spoke to Ramesh Menon.
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