Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Thwarting Terrorism

The Taj Mahal Hotel in Mumbai, during the 26/11/08 attacks. photo courtesy: computerweekly.com

What is the best way to thwart terrorism?? Well, how about we start with where and how a regular person becomes a terrorist...

I was reading this article about Ajmal Kasab the 21-y/o sole surviving terrorist from the Mumbai Attacks on 26/11. He was recently arraigned in court, and strong international interest followed what he had to say. Young and alone, Kasab confessed to his deeds, but what struck me was the story that he told...

He told [the judge]... that he was broke and tired of his job working for a decorator in Jhelum, a small town in Pakistan, and making a pittance. He and a friend had hatched a plan. They would earn cash by robbing people. And to improve their banditry skills they would seek out military training from the easiest source available to a young Pakistani man: Islamic militants.

Mr. Kasab and his friend went to Rawalpindi, he said, and asked in the market where they might find mujahedeen. They were directed to the office of Lashkar-e-Taiba. Indian and American investigators say that Lashkar-e-Taiba planned the attacks in Pakistan. Although Pakistan initially denied that any of its citizens had been involved, it has now charged five men believed to be Pakistan-based Lashkar operatives with involvement. The organization’s founder, Hafez Saeed, has not been charged.

In the months before the attack, Mr. Kasab said in court, he and the other attackers were taken to a safe house in Karachi, the coastal city that is the commercial capital of Pakistan and is a world away from the Punjabi village where his family lived.

There the young men were cut off from the world. He said they and their trainers were not told where they would go next nor were they given any details about their mission, though it was clear that it would involve lethal weapons and deadly force.

“They told us we were to wait for some time,” Mr. Kasab said in court. “There was some problem.” They were warned sternly that “nobody will disobey” their orders.

In a month and a half, they were allowed out of the house only once for a training exercise when they were taught how to navigate the inflatable boats that they would use to leave Pakistani waters.[...]

In his TEDGlobal talk this morning, Prime Minister Gordon Brown (who gave a splendid talk largely on foreign policy and Third World Development) said that we needed to start being more effective than the Taliban and other terrorist organizations. The reason these terrorist organizations are SO effective is because they take poor frustrated young men and treat them like human beings. Suddenly they have food, attention, and a roof over their heads, and they have "purpose"; but this comes at a cost...they must sell their souls. The way to turn around terrorism is to more effectively get to these people before the terrorists do.

On this note, I highly recommend reading Three Cups of Tea, and watching this great documentary by Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy who did a phenomenal (and brave) job of covering the Taliban's recruiting mechanisms.

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