The Shadow Chasers
The Australian, quoting the private think-tank Strator says that terrorist group Jemaah Islamiah (JI) may be developing techniques to attack smaller and even individual targets in an evolution of its tactics. Militant websites described "how to target individual Westerners on the streets of Jakarta and listing locations frequented by Westerners ... smaller, less complex attacks that were significantly easier to mount than the more intricate co-ordinated operations such as the first Bali bombing ... the latest Bali attack kept with JI's year-long attack cycle, there are indications that the group could shorten that cycle". (Azahari, suspected of planning the two Bali bombings and an attack on the Australian embassy in Jakarta was tracked down by an elite Indonesian anti-terror unit assisted by Australian Federal Police, according to an earlier article in the Australian.)
JI may be developing new tactics to blunt the attack against it mounted by the United States and Australia, in part of what might be called the hidden front against terrorism. The Washington Post devotes an extensive article to describe what resembles massive police operation aimed at rolling up terrorist cells all across the globe.
Days after the Sept. 11 attacks, Tenet outlined a global campaign against terrorism to President Bush. It included invading Afghanistan to wipe out al Qaeda's main base of operations as well as a "Worldwide Attack Matrix" detailing operations against terrorists in 80 countries. The matrix also listed priority countries where al Qaeda leaders in Afghanistan were likely to flee during a U.S. invasion.
The Washington Post article favorably contrasts the Tenet method of providing "extensive inducements to offer foreign services" to catch terrorists to Porter Goss' more "unilateral" approach.
When Goss took over, he said he valued these partnerships but announced a goal of improving what he called "unilateral" intelligence collection and operations. "We have gotten more unilateral, though still not as much as I'd like," he told employees in a staff meeting. "It's getting the right kind of people trained in the right places under the right cover against the right targets."
There are plans to send more case officers into the field and to increase deep-cover positions that would require officers to spend longer periods, and perhaps their careers, in one country, integrated into the culture and, in some cases, cut off from the traditional embassy-based CIA station.
However that may be, by some accounts, Australia has combined aspects of the two approaches in its particular area, developing close links with the indigenous security agencies while employing its nationals directly. An article from the Sydney Morning Herald describes how Australian Federal Police (AFP) officers teamed up with their Indonesian counterparts to catch Azahari.
When the net finally closed around the fugitive Jemaah Islamiah bomb maker Azahari Husin this week after a three-year hunt the Australian Federal Police were there, alongside their Indonesian counterparts. The federal police commissioner, Mick Keelty, said yesterday that hand-picked federal police officers were a core element in the "joint tracking team" that picked up Azahari's trail a few days ago and finally pinned him down to a hideout in the East Javanese resort town of Batu.
Another Sydney Morning Herald article, (showing among other things a female Australian Federal Police officer doing forensics at the Azahari death scene) said the tracking team learned learned of Azahari's new tactical methods by sifting through captured material.
"We now have a better understanding of Jemaah Islamiah," Mr Keelty told a counter-terrorism conference in Sydney yesterday. "It does reveal sophisticated surveillance, sophisticated intelligence and recruitment techniques, and actually spells out how and why targets are selected. There's intricate detail on explosive devices, and what to do for fail-safe detonation." The cache also revealed that JI "debriefs" members on terrorist attacks to learn from their mistakes. The latest Bali bombings showed JI is deliberately using smaller devices after facing criticism for the large number of Indonesians killed in previous attacks, like the bombing of the Australian embassy in Jakarta last year.
The huge scope of operations against terrorist cells in Southeast Asia can be seen in US Ambassador Henry Crumpton's (Coordinator for Counterterrorism) October 22 press conference in Manila. In this long press conference, Crumpton describes a war whose battlefields are the Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia and whose combatants include not only the security forces of these countries but also elements from the USA and Australia.
These global low-intensity operations complement the high-intensity battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan. If operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom aimed at toppling the state sponsors of terrorism, actions such as those in Southeast Asia are directed against the terrorist cells themselves. Debate over the Murtha resolution calling for the immediate withdrawal of US troops from Iraq has been curiously divorced from the context of the global strategy against terrorism; as if the reestablishment of a haven Iraq would have no effect on other parts of the War on Terror.
It's also interesting to observe that Azahari, like Zarqawi in Iraq was under pressure to modify his tactics to avoid the backlash generated by excessive collateral damage caused by massive bombs. One wonders whether the enemy practice of using civilians as shields, as discussed by an anonymous Marine in the Washington Times, far from being the stroke of military genius, may in fact cost them the war.
The insurgent tactic most frustrating is their use of civilian non-combatants as cover. They know we do all we can to avoid civilian casualties, so therefore schools, hospitals and especially mosques are locations where they meet, stage for attacks, cache weapons and ammo and flee to when engaged. They have absolutely no regard whatsoever for civilian casualties. They will terrorize locals and murder without hesitation anyone believed to be sympathetic to the Americans or the new Iraqi government. Kidnapping of family members, especially children, is common to influence people they are trying to influence but cannot otherwise reach, such as local government officials, clerics or tribal leaders, etc.