Maximising Diplomacy in Counter-Terrorism

Chris Blackburn

Chris Blackburn

Chris Blackburn is a political analyst and writer based in the UK. He worked as a junior team member for the US National Intelligence Conference and Exposition (Intelcon 2005), which was organised by Slade Gorton and Jamie Gorelick; who were both members of the US National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (9/11 Commission).

As the drumbeat for action against terrorist networks in Pakistan gathers pace we have to realise there are diplomatic option which the international community can use to apply pressure to Pakistan. The majority of the UN Security Council (UNSC) have suffered from the direct effects of Islamist radicalism. Their citizens have paid by losing their lives, paying higher taxes to pay for security services  and having their civil liberties seriously eroded. Therefore, it is logical that governments use the United Nations to try to solve the international problem- Pakistan.

If international pressure creates a seesaw effect on Pakistan’s multi-polar society then so be it, but, at least the history books could say we tried to save her. Over the last decade we’ve allowed Pakistan a large degree of breathing space; acknowledging that Pakistan’s militant problem has not always been of its own making. However, there does come a point when Pakistan’s complicity in strategic jihad can’t be ignored.

I believe that we are near that point; that realisation. It would only take one more major attack or a game changer like a 9/11 or Mumbai style event- which will inevitably lead to a massive retaliatory attack on Pakistan’s militant infrastructure. Bob Woodward’s recent book Obama’s War has made it clear that the option is official White House policy. A rather dangerous expose from Washington D.C.’s premiere journalist; the book is chilling in its conclusions.

Woodward’s revelations will undoubtedly give confidence and greater motive to those who want to further inflame tensions in South Asia and beyond. But, I hope rather than allowing those conditions to develop we should try to unify international pressure to the problem. The Pakistani problem must be addressed sooner rather than later. The Security Council is the prime venue, if not the only venue.

This week Bangladeshi authorities, acting on timely intelligence, have arrested Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) operatives from their hideouts in Dhaka and nearby Tongi. It’s not the first time Bangladeshi intelligence and Special Forces units have managed to apprehend some of Pakistan’s most dangerous terrorists from Bangladesh, a country which houses over 150 million Muslims and is relatively moderate. Since the late 90s, Lashkar operatives, with the backing of Pakistan’s ISI, have setup logistical support networks in Bangladesh and India. There are also reports that Pakistani militant groups receive support from Pakistani expatriates in the United States and the United Kingdom. It would be logical to deduce that if the groups wanted to attack targets in the US and Europe they would use these networks in future.

Pakistan’s jihadi groups have developed international networks with skill and precision. Accusations of state sponsorship shouldn’t be discounted. It’s become a major problem for intelligence agencies, politicians and security services. If politicians and diplomats fail to get to grips with the problem, either through their conflict aversion or cowardice, then the military and intelligence actions will soon become the only option available. The consequences of this could be devastating. However, there have been major developments in counter-terrorism cooperation since the 9/11 attacks. Intelligence agencies have stepped up their cooperation and have begun to work out exactly how groups like LeT and Osama Bin Laden’s wider International Islamic Front operate together on a international level.

The support networks of Islamist militants are beginning to unravel as analysis and interception techniques are advancing due to better ICT and communications technology. Intelligence agencies and the military have often pooled their resources to contain the menace and it’s beginning to pay dividends. However, in frustration at lack of progress and poor leadership the findings of the intelligence community are now being made public to shame their politicians into some kind of action. It was inevitable the intelligence community and the military which are facing state sponsored insurgencies would start to leak intelligence because of failing policies.

Pakistan’s militant groups have infiltrated the wider region in South Asia and sit primed to destabilise any government they see fit. Even if militants are patronised by so called rogue elements of the ISI it doesn’t really make much difference anymore. There have been major developments this week; Interpol has issued a ‘red notice’ for the perpetrators of the Mumbai terrorist attacks. The international agency has named Lashkar-e-Taiba figures alongside members of Pakistan’s ISI for their complicity in the Mumbai atrocities which killed over 160 and wounded over 300 people.

 The US and India have begun to share intelligence from David Coleman Headley, a Pakistani American Lashkar operative who was arrested last year. The US and EU countries have concrete evidence that ISI was involved in the suicide bomb attack on the Indian embassy in Kabul in 2008. The recent drive to pressure Pakistan publicly from political, military and intelligence leaders must be followed up with greater UN involvement and international pressure.

The threat of mass casualty terrorism will continue to haunt the world for decades to come unless we put Pakistan’s problems on the international stage. The UNSC must be allowed to engage the problem. It might just work. The exstreme option is now publicly known thanks to Bob Woodward, unfortunately, it will probably spur Lashkar-e-Taiba and their affiliates into pushing for a mass attack in the near future.

We need international pressure quickly before it’s too late even if the ‘good’ ISI tries in vain to help us. If anything UNSC action will put the international community behind Pakistan’s democrats and put some wind back in their sails. It can be an uplifting and reassuring experience for politicians, and their citizens, to feel they are being supported by international bureaucrats from the UN.

It is not an easy task as Pakistan is in the grip of a civil war. Karachi is a mess. We must help the Pakistanis even if it hurts their national pride. We should be deaf to claims of violations of sovereignty. If we don’t put Pakistan in the glare of international focus it will inevitably start to effect the Security Council’s legitimacy and reason for being. We won’t begin to make any progress in the battle against radical Islamism if we continue to ignore the lack of diplomatic and international pressure on Pakistan. The UN is there for a reason. Use it.


Chris Blackburn is a political analyst and writer based in the UK. He worked as a junior team member for the US National Intelligence Conference and Exposition (Intelcon 2005), which was organised by Slade Gorton and Jamie Gorelick; who were both members of the US National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (9/11 Commission). He then went on to become a track leader for the Intelligence Summit 2006, which focused on the deteriorating security situation in Bangladesh and South Asia. Chris has briefed journalists on extremist movements and terrorism. He has also worked with productions teams from BBC’s Panorama and Channel 4’s Dispatches. He has also written for David Horowitz’s, The Spittoon, The Weekly Durdesh and others.

One Response to “Maximising Diplomacy in Counter-Terrorism”

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    Thats actually very interesting how you can spend all your life talking about such boring stuff lol

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