[China Daily] U.S. changes anti-terrorist strategy

By Fu Xiaoqiang

 The death of Osama bin Laden and the turmoil in the Middle East and North Africa are two factors that determine the trend in global terrorism in 2011 and call for renewed counter-terrorism efforts in the post-bin Laden era. The United States has changed its anti-terrorism strategy by shifting its focus from fighting terrorism abroad to rooting out homegrown terrorist threats.

Bin Laden’s killing has dealt a hard blow to Al-Qaida, which, however, remains a real threat. Circumstances in Pakistan and Afghanistan seem suitable for Al-Qaida’s survival, which, together with other terrorist groups, has made the tribal areas in these two countries its “home”. Al-Qaida’s core leadership, including the now top leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, has sustained the loss of bin Laden and adapted its strategy to the new circumstances to target the US and the West.

On one hand, Al-Qaida will take advantage of the turmoil in the Middle East and North Africa to look for new sources of funding and launch attacks against the West. On the other, it will strengthen its ties with other terrorist groups in Central and South Asia and help militant groups such as the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan to revive terrorism in the regions.

Countries and regions like Yemen, Somalia and North Africa that are mired in unrest and have been plagued by economic backwardness, social disorder and poverty are the fertile grounds that Al-Qaida needs for its expansion and to spread its extremist doctrines. Western countries, concerned about their own interests, either cite neutrality for their inaction or help intensify the turmoil, resulting in the runaway development of Al-Qaida and other jihadi groups.

This year, Al-Qaida’s offshoots on the Arabian Peninsula and in North Africa, along with the Somali Youth League, have exploited the regional turmoil to become a major international terrorist threat.

On its part, Western society, facing the sovereign debt crisis and other social problems, has exposed its right-wing extremism, as was seen in terrorist plots in Norway, Germany and Belgium. This poses a further challenge to the fight against global terrorism.

The killing of bin Laden is a milestone in Washington’s decade-old “war on terror” and more importantly, a starting point in strategic makeover in the new era. Global counter-terrorism efforts will no longer remain the top concern but one of several security issues, because the economic downturn has rendered huge spending on anti-terrorism initiatives unsustainable.

Though international terrorists could not infiltrate the US borders in recent years, Washington still faces the threat from homegrown extremists and terrorists, who have plotted, unsuccessfully though, more than 20 terrorist attacks. The US realizes that the high-budget fight against terrorism abroad does not necessarily guarantee safety at home. The terrorist threat since the Sept 11, 2001 attacks has been a source of pain for the US, but now it has to make way for the restoration of the economic order and better response to the world’s emerging powers.

Hence, the White House is phasing out its measures and shifting its fight against terrorism from overseas to within its borders. In June, the US issued the National Strategy for Counterterrorism, contracting its anti-terrorist front to regional anti-terrorist operations to concentrate efforts on eliminating Al-Qaida and its offshoots, and stressing the importance of using intelligence, drones and other low-cost but effective anti-terrorist means.

In August, Washington unveiled another document, Empowering Local Partners to Prevent Violent Extremism in the United States, which prioritizes the prevention of infiltration of extremist thoughts and elimination of the grounds that give rise to homegrown terrorists, and advocates a national anti-terror mechanism that combines governmental and community efforts. Washington has devised a strategic implementation plan for the document to facilitate cooperation between state governments and local communities with close supervision of the Internet and social networking sites to foil Al-Qaida’s attempts to radicalize and recruit terrorists from the US.

The US is changing the pattern of its fight against terrorism overseas, too. It will continue to intensify its military deployment, enhance its combat competence in Afghanistan and hunt down Al-Qaida and Taliban leaders. But more importantly, bin Laden’s killing has made the US aware of the possibility of low-cost but highly effective ways, which rely more on international cooperation, to fight terrorists.

Thanks to the help from its allies and partners in the fight against terrorism in South Asia and the Middle East, including Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Yemen, the US has succeeded in unearthing terrorist plots time and again, which highlights the increasing importance and necessity of international cooperation in countering global terrorism.

Complete at source: http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/indepth/2011-12/29/c_131333990.htm

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