European, South Asian countries need to adopt a multifaceted response to counter terrorism: Think tank
A European think tank is of the view that European and South Asian countries need to adopt a multifaceted response to counter terrorism since the discourse on security has shifted from ‘traditional’ security issues such as inter-State conflict and nuclear war to ‘non-traditional’ threats by non-State actors such as the Al-Qaeda, IS and Lashkar-e-Taiba.
“Terrorism has emerged as one of the key features defining national and regional security discourses and practices in recent decades. The growing importance of non-State actors is exemplified by groups such as the Afghan Taliban and the Islamic State (IS). The Taliban now negotiate directly with the Afghan and United States (US) government whilst the IS used to control vast swathes of territory in the self-proclaimed Caliphate in Iraq and Syria, enacting functions commonly associated with governmental authority and sovereignty such as collecting taxes and providing healthcare,” according to the European Foundation for South Asian Studies (EFSAS).
The main activities of terrorist organisations such as IS and Al-Qaeda have been primarily based in the Middle East, the security threat embodied by them has taken on a transnational and global dimension since the 2001 9/11 attacks, EFSAS said.
The think tank further stated that some European countries have become the target of large-scale terror attacks. “The 2004 Madrid train attacks, the 2005 London bombings, the Bataclan theatre attacks in Paris in 2015, 2016 attacks in Berlin, Brussels, Istanbul, and Paris, and the 2017 attacks in Istanbul and Manchester have shaped not just the European focus and rhetoric on counterterrorism but have also resulted in enhanced anti-Muslim sentiment in Europe.”
“The attacks have left scars in the heart of Europe. In conjunction with the increasing influx of Muslim migrants and refugees, it has raised serious questions concerning Europe’s future security for regional policymakers, security professionals and the European public,” the European think tank said.
Security in South Asia has also been detrimentally impacted by the activities of non-State actors and terrorist organisations. Afghanistan has descended into violence following the re-rise of the Taliban. Lashkar-e-Taiba, a Pakistan-based group, has emerged as the region’s leading terrorist organisation, attacking the Indian Parliament in New Delhi in 2001 and executing an attack of over four days in Mumbai in 2008.
“Other South Asian countries including Bangladesh, the Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal and Sri Lanka have witnessed different extents and forms of extremist violence as well, ranging from small and large-scale attacks to more general issues connected to radicalisation,” EFSAS added.
The think tank elaborates on the modus operandi of three transnational terrorist organisations, including Al-Qaeda, IS and LeT, all of which have proven their capacity to perform large-scale terror attacks on a transnational level and intend to strike targets in both Europe and South Asia in their global jihad.
It recognises that terrorism is a multifaceted phenomenon that will require multifaceted and partially context-dependent responses. It concludes by emphasising the need for enhanced regional integration to combat the organisational structure of terrorist organizations, especially in regard to terror financing.
According to the policy recommendation, an initial step must be the criminalisation of terrorism as such and non-terrorist activities that can help to facilitate terrorist operations, for instance, financing-related mechanisms.
Besides terror financing, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime has mark four other activities that must be criminalised and accordingly by national criminal justice systems including civil aviation violations, offences based on the status of the victim (e.g. matters such as hostage-taking), offences related to dangerous materials (i.e. materials that could be used for the construction of IEDs), and offences related to vessels, harbour installations and infrastructure facilities more generally.
The recommendation said that policymakers can also move to make terror financing legislation a priority of their governments’ foreign policy through internal discussions and pressures, a process that could be facilitated by the omnipresent role of terrorism in contemporary political discourse.
Policy responses concerned with terror financing must focus on not just blocking financial flows but also freezing and seizing the assets of legitimate and illegitimate businesses and individuals connected to terror financing.
The EU could take a leading role in cooperation with organisations such as the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and the Association for Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) through joint activities, training programs and inter-body communication regarding best practices and ongoing investigations.
“By increasing cooperation and dialogue, the EU could also widen its geographical scope of oversight and could use organisations such as Interpol as a means of enhancing communication and enforcement mechanisms.”
In South Asia in particular, improved security coordination on a national and regional level must be accompanied by legal mechanisms ensuring the maintenance of civil and human rights in the criminal justice system.
Counterterrorism legislation must be constructed and practiced in a way that is subject to legal checks and balances and hence cannot be applied arbitrarily, according to the recommendation.