Al-Qaeda threat growing in Western Europe
Oct. 19, 2004
ReligionNewsBlog.com • Wednesday October 20, 2004
LONDON: Al-Qaeda is present in more than 60 countries around the world and radical Islam is increasing in Western Europe, where Muslims often feel marginalised, a respected military and defence think tank in London said Tuesday.
The International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) also said that Westerners and Western interests in the Arab world appeared to face greater peril now than before the US-led war in Iraq.
The United States, through its military invasion and occupation of Iraq, had shown a desire to change the political status quo in the Arab world to advance its own strategic and political interests, it noted. “Al-Qaeda seeks, among other things, to purge the Arab and larger Muslim world of US influence,” IISS said.
“Accordingly, the Iraq intervention was always likely in the short term to enhance jihadist recruitment and intensify al-Qaeda’s motivation to encourage and assist terrorist operations,” it said.
As examples of this increased threat, the IISS cited May 2003 attacks in Saudi Arabia and Morocco, the gathering of foreign fighters against the US-led coalition in Iraq, November 2003 attacks in Saudi Arabia and Turkey and the March 2004 train bombings in Madrid. The assessment was contained in the institute’s annual report for 2004 on the military capabilities and defence economics of 169 countries around the world.
IISS said that although half of al-Qaeda’s 30 senior leaders and perhaps 2,000 rank-and-file members had been killed or captured, a “rump” leadership was still intact with 18,000 terrorists potentially still at large. “Radical Islam appears to be on the rise in Western Europe,” it warned, adding that Islamic terrorism was now the “principal threat to Europe”. “Furthermore, the sources of European Muslims’ grievances are increasingly social, economic and political marginalisation in host countries,” it said.
According to IISS, terrorism, illicit trafficking and organised crime facilitated by globalisation, trade liberalisation, and weak borders were the important threats considered in 2004 defence planning.
“New approaches to the way states respond are being sought by governments as they grapple with these increasingly overlapping dangers… “The challenge for states, therefore, is how to integrate their armed forces, border control forces, and police forces into architecture capable of reacting to and managing 21st century threats in an effective and seamless fashion.”
Britain and France were singled out amongst European nations for their swift response to the terrorist threat since the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States, while IISS noted that coordination throughout the European Union had been “harder to forge”.
The institute pointed out the importance of coalitions in conflict and post-conflict situations, comparing the relative success of NATO in Afghanistan with operations by the US-led coalition in Iraq. “The Iraq coalition lacks cohesion among the 10-15 contributing states that make up a multi-national division. Not least among their limitations is the lack of an operational language,” the IISS said.
NATO nations, who had successfully showed their bonding capabilities during operation “Enduring Freedom” in Afghanistan, also showed “greater operational efficiency and cohesion” in Iraq, it said. Peacekeeping was also highlighted by IISS as an area of continued expansion in 2004, especially by EU nations who contributed 55,960 troops — including military observers — to UN and other international missions. This figure compared with 46,312 in 2002. One important lesson the US needed to take from Iraq was that post-conflict and peace-support operations are “manpower intensive and require extra skills,” IISS said.
The use of partially trained reservists with the wrong skills can have disastrous effects, as demonstrated by the Iraq prison abuse scandal, it said.
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