TERRORISM: Its new genres and further challenges [GS II, International Relations]

TERRORISM: Its new genres and further challenges [GS II, International Relations]

CONTEXT:  Two decades after September 11, 2001, when al-Qaeda attacked over American soil, resulting into US invasion of Afghanistan. The developments now in the same series are in the form of  the return of the Taliban in Afghanistan.

The question arises whether the Global war on terror was a failure?

Are there lessons to be learnt from it?


The 9/11 attacks were the aggregate of a series of systemic and structural shortcomings of the U.S. security establishment along with the failure of human imagination. 

A/c Historians, Osama bin Laden’s actions were motivated  by geopolitical and religious objectives, and his obsession with the ‘sufferings of Muslims’ in many far-flung regions. 

He wanted to force the U.S. to alter its policies in areas of conflict, by such attacks. However, he failed and al-qaeda faced the consequences.

Laden’s goal  to destroy the ‘myth of American invincibility’ failed and the Global war on terror neutralised the fears that terrorism was assured to create large-scale chaos across the globe.

Reasons for bin Laden’s failure:- 

  •  Laden and other leaders, all lacked the centrality of vision or power essential to sustain the momentum of such initiatives. 

  • Initially Afghanistan and Pakistan  provided safe havens, and the situation changed once the safe havens were no longer available. 

  • The lack of visibility of the leaders and their diminishing authority over time contributed to the disappearance of the terror momentum and the capacity for militancy and violence.

Challenge continues:-

Two decades have passed since of the Global war on terror is continued, however it did not eradicate terrorism. 

 Terror groups such as al-Qaeda and the IS today pose a persistent challenge. Even after:-

  •  Leadership losses

  • Organisational fracturing

  •  Territorial degradation

  •  Hard intelligence on the myriad terror modules

  •  The absence of a single core for either al- Qaeda or the IS


It would be tempting for intelligence agencies to think that the current low attacks shows the weakening of terror modules, including that of al-Qaeda and the IS , including –

  • low-tech attacks 

  • small arms attacks

  • the occasional use of Improvised Explosive Devices

  • random ‘lone wolf’ attacks 

.The Terrorism, stemming from a mixture of religious fervour and fundamentalist aims, remains vibrant. 

The newer breed of terrorists, though less familiar with teachings of the Egyptian, Sayyid Qutb or the Palestinian, Abdullah Azzam, but they are well-versed in the practical methodologies practised by: 

  •  Jalaluddin and Sirajuddin Haqqanis (the latter is a Minister in the Interim Afghan Government),

  •  Hafiz Saeed of the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and

  •  Maulana Masood Azhar of the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), etc.

 Hence, it is possible to conclude that notwithstanding some temporary setbacks caused by the Global war on terror, the broad contours of terrorism, specially Islamist terrorism, remain much the same.

A warning-

The return of the Taliban in Afghanistan, after humiliating the combined forces of the U.S., the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the Afghan Armed Forces is a grim warning of what lies in store for the neighbourhood. 

Apart from giving radical Islam a fresh lease of life and a new thrust, it has come at a time when the democratic world is demonstrating a diminishing appetite to fight terror away from their own ‘locales’, thus leaving the field wide open to the forces of Terror Inc., of which the Taliban is an indispensable entity. 

Several terror groups which possess varying capabilities such as al-Qaeda, the IS, the Daesh across Asia, the LeT, JeM and the TRF (The Resistance Front, which is backed by the LeT) in India, the Al-Shabab in Africa, etc., are certain to feel energised and gain a fresh lease of life.

In India-

Kashmir is witnessing a new wave of terror attacks reviving memories of the 1990s. Targeted killings of minorities have begun to send tremors across Jammu & Kashmir (J&K), and many other parts of India.

The current situation is against India, with J&K being in the centre of several terror groups, further complicated by Pakistan’s efforts to aid and support them through the use of its ‘regulars’.

 While ‘Zero-day’ attacks like New York (9/11) and Mumbai (26/11) are still very much on the drawing board of terror groups, it is also known that a new breed of terrorists is experimenting with newer forms of terror, specially the possibility of ‘enabled or remote controlled terror’. This is a frightening prospect.

The forms of ‘new era’ terror-

A challenge for Intelligence and terror specialists must begin to anticipate how to deal with ‘new era terrorists’, recruited over the Internet, who would thereafter be guided through different steps, over a sustained period, by anonymous handlers located elsewhere.

 Internet-enabled terrorism — a completely new genre of terrorism — would be very different from what we have seen so far.


THE NEW FORM OF TERROR THAT HAS BEEN EMERGING FROM THE NEW BREED OF TERRORISM IS MORE DEADLY AND THREATENING. Linked to this is the threat posed by cyber-terrorism. Digital sabotage has already entered the armoury of certain terror groups. Cyber sabotage is a distinct possibility in certain situations today. It is well-known that terror groups that have state backing, have the capacity today to employ cyber techniques to carry out hostile attacks on the ICT-enabled infrastructure of another country. India and other countries globally have to collectively think and address the new emerging crisis soon .

Plutus IAS daily current affairs 14 Oct 2021

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