( Written at the request of the Editor of the “Economic Times”, New Delhi )
Osama bin Laden (OBL), the head of Al Qaeda, was killed by the US Special Forces during a past midnight chopper-borne raid on his hide-out at Abbotabad, a garrison town, about 100 kms from Islamabad, on May 1. He influenced thousands of young Muslims , who grew to adulthood in the 1980s and the 1990s, to take to jihadi terrorism as a weapon of defiance. He wanted them to use this weapon to correct what he looked upon as the historic injustices done to the Ummah by the non-Islamic world.
Among such instances of historic injustices to the Muslims, he cited the Jewish occupation of Palestine and the occupation of lands, which, according to him, had historically belonged to the Muslims by non-Islamic forces. He also wanted the Muslims to take to arms against ideological influences that tended to corrupt Islam.
He initially fought against the corrupting influence of the Marxist ideology in Afghanistan against the Soviet and Afghan troops in the 1980s. He saw nothing wrong in accepting the assistance of Western ideological forces for countering Marxism and to force it to quit Afghanistan.
He might not have acquired the iconic image which he developed subsequently but for the use of him by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIAS) and the agencies of Pakistan and Saudi Arabia which projected him as a jihadi fighter par excellence in order to use him for mobilising Muslim youth of the Arab world for the jihad against the Soviet troops and the Marxist ideology.
With the assistance of these agencies, he forced the Soviet troops to withdraw from Afghanistan and helped to bring Afghanistan under the control of medieval Islamic forces in the form of the Taliban. His medieval version of Islam, which is condemned today by the US, was encouraged by the US in the 1980s to use it as a strategic weapon against Marxism .
Having tasted success in Afghanistan, he and his force of Arab youth, trained and armed with the help of these agencies in secret camps in Pakistan turned against their Western benefactors and mentors and transformed their jihad against Marxism into a new jihad against the Crusaders and the Jewish people in the 1990s. The icon of the 1980s, toasted by the US because of his success against the Marxists, became the dreaded Frankenstein’s monster of the 1990s and thereafter.
This jihadi Frankenstein’s monster, jointly created by the agencies of the US, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, became the world’s most dreaded terrorist who spread death and destruction across the world through his Al Qaeda and International Islamic Front (IIC) starting from 1996. The 9/11 terrorist strikes in the US Homeland made the US realize that the reach of this monster of its own creation had extended up to the US.
The slaying of this monster became the driving force of the so-called war against international terrorism. It has taken nearly 10 years and an expenditure of billions of dollars to slay this monster. At the end, the death of this monster came at the place where it was born , namely, in Pakistan. After 10 years of search the monster was traced .
The monster was found hiding in the place where the Pakistan Army was born and where its new officer-recruits are trained every year. Abbotabad is the cradle of the Pakistan Army and in that cradle was found the monster. There were indicators of a cosy relationahip between the monster and one of its original creators----the Pakistani Army and intelligence.
The death of the jihadi Frankenstein’s monster in the cradle of the Pakistan Army has thrown the spotlight even more intensely than till now on another Frankenstein’s monster---- namely, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) of Pakistan.
Since the 1980s,the ISI was was pampered, fed and fattened by the US along with the Pakistan Army. The US, which closed its eyes to the pernicious role played by this State Frankenstein’s monster in sponsoring terrorism of various kinds against India, Afghanistan and other countries, is confused and does not know how to act against this State Frankenstein’s monster after having killed the non-State monster.
The end of OBL will not be the end of international jihadi terrorism. The non-state head of international jihadi terrorism may be dead, but the State of Pakistan, which continues to use this terrorism, lives in a denial mode. Neither the State of Pakistan nor its civil society is prepared to admit that Al Qaeda and its surviving leaders have managed to escape arrest, prosecution or death so far, because of the support extended to them by the State of Pakistan. The same is the case with the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET) and other jihadi affiliates of Al Qaeda.
Unless the US and other members of the international community are prepared to draw the right lessons from the discovery that OBL had been living and surviving in an important garrison town of Pakistan and force the State of Pakistan to stop using terrorism as a weapon of the State, OBL’s death may not mark the beginning of the end of international jihadi terrorism.
OBL may be dead but jihadi terrorism in some form or the other will survive so long as it enjoys the support of the State of Pakistan.( 3-5-2011)
( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India)