Targeting islamist terrorism in asia pacific: an unending war
Three years into the US-led "War on Terror," the international coalition against terrorism remains fragmented. Despite the killings of many key al Qaeda leaders as well as worldwide disruption of its bases, financial infrastructures and networks, al Qaeda has demonstrated remarkable regenerative and adoptive capabilities. Al Qaeda remains resilient enough--mutating into new forms and adapting to the changing operational environment--to continue with its campaign of terror, targeting not only the interests of the United States, but its allies and supporters worldwide. At the strategic level, the spirit of cooperation has been undermined by some of the policies of the United States. At a tactical level, the failure can be attributed to two major factors. One is the failure to understand the nature of the threat, especially the "al Qaeda phenomenon" in its entirety, including the vision, sense of mission, capabilities, acumen and the organizational skills of Osama bin Laden. Second, and most important, is the failure to address the core issues and the ideology that underlie the militant Islamist threat. With Iraq emerging as the new epicenter of global terrorism, the center of gravity of terrorism seems to have shifted back to the Middle East. However, this does not make the threat less salient in the Asia Pacific region. In the region, the threat lies in the ideological challenge posed by an alternative vision of the state represented by a pan-Islamic caliphate or by the ideal of an Islamic state governed by Shar'ia law. It is therefore incumbent upon Asia Pacific countries to manage the threat of radical Islamic terrorism by preventing transnational groups such as al Qaeda from utilizing separatist and ethnic or religious conflicts in the region for their broader global revolutionary agenda.