Europe must brace for more attacks
Lt General S A Hasnain, PVSM, UYSM, AVSM, SM (Bar), VSM (Bar) (Retd.), Distinguished Fellow, VIF

The tragedy in Paris is most regrettable; loss of more than 160 innocent lives at the hand of extremist elements anywhere is despicable. Yet, the message coming out from this attack is that the world is nowhere near any guarantee of safety and security from elements that nurse grudges against society and follow and promote extreme ideologies. Details suggest that terrorists struck the Petit Cambodge Restaurant and Stade de France, in the latter location a match between France and Germany was in progress. Paris police also reported that an attack occurred at the Bataclan concert hall, where the American band the Eagles of Death Metal was performing. Apparently, coordinated attacks took place at more than five locations with the finger of suspicion pointing towards Islamic radicals of an undetermined organization. No group has claimed responsibility so far. Conjectures are easy in such a case, the question is specificity. It is no secret that the conflict in Syria and Iraq has its effects in Europe and it is also true that that a game of one-upmanship within the murky world of Islamic radicals is very much evident. One should have expected early claimants of responsibility but quite obviously the group responsible wishes to keep this in the area of grey for some tactical advantage. Allowing conjectures to develop is sometimes advantageous for such groups. On the face of it, it appears to be either a Daesh or an Al Qaida mission.

Daesh’s name is mentioned first because ever since its meteoric rise in Jun 2014 its devilish intent has marked it as the leading Islamic terrorist group. Its financial state and organizational capability is also some light years ahead of all others. Most importantly, the French footprint in its ranks is large. From among the 5000 odd Europeans in the Daesh cadre almost 1200 are said to be from France. That itself should be sufficient pointer. However, the Al Qaeda (AQ) is not dead and out yet. We would be making a mistake if we have blinders on while looking at bin Laden’s group which till recently had iconic status within the terror world. AQ has had its share of differences with Daesh; it has lost its space and reputation and is eager to make a comeback. Terror organizations find no better way of messaging effectiveness than by a high profile act in which many innocent lives are lost.

Europe’s vulnerability to terror stems from a couple of factors. Firstly, the growth of expatriate population which lacks means of integration. Un-integrated populations, ghettoized and profiled to lower levels of employment remain seething. Second and third generation immigrants are quite unlike their parents who as first generation entrants are usually grateful for the solace they find in advanced society even if they have to be second class citizens. Not so with second and third generations whose aspirations are different and disappointments quicker. They are the ones who create turbulence in society and are more vulnerable to influence of radical ideologies through social media. As Europe’s population decreases or ages and its dependence on expatriates continues for the sustenance of low end jobs this problem is going to see no end. In all terror related issues the ‘action reaction’ theory works. There will be crackdowns on immigrant societies in France and other European countries and these will lead to more alienation; alienation always leads to greater radicalization and the chain continues.

Secondly, vulnerability also increases because of returning youth from West Asia where they had gone to seek adventure. Many probably have come back and are already part of modules or have become sleeper agents. Thirdly, the immigrant crisis involving the surge of people from West Asia and North and East Africa is taking away much attention. National boundaries do not seem relevant any longer and terrorists obviously are making full use of it. Fourthly, social media and availability of networks is aiding terrorists like never before. Defeating terror in major urban centers in the developed world or even other locations is becoming an increasing challenge with terror groups always remaining a few steps ahead of counter terror groups. For every ten attempts thwarted if even one effort of the terror groups succeeds it negates all previous success.

France, as much as other European nations will need to be careful about the response to this terrible event. Retribution within society against vulnerable societal elements will always be counterproductive. European society is mature and such responses from people are really not expected but emotional moments can sometimes create uncontrollable triggers. Those have to be guarded against. The last time casualties of such magnitude occurred, was on 7 July 2005, in London. The UK Government was extremely professional in its handling of the post event situation. The French Government similarly demonstrated great maturity after the Charlie Hebdo attacks in 2014.

Lastly, this event should only urge Western nations towards greater synchronization and energy in efforts to defeat Daesh and other radical groups in Middle East. Cooperation with Russia is essential without looking at the tactical implications in West Asia itself. The larger strategic picture of international security demands that Middle East, the core center of the security problems of Europe, be calmed. For that defeating Daesh is implicit. Knee jerk reactions have to be avoided within France, Europe or elsewhere. Thankfully pictures on visual media demonstrate extraordinary calm in France, just as there should be and is expected from an old and mature nation.

(Lt Gen Syed Ata Hasnain, is a former GOC of the Indian Army’s Srinagar based 15 Corps, who studies international terrorism very closely. He is associated with Vivekanand International Foundation and Delhi Policy Group, two major think tanks of Delhi).

Published In IBN Live 14th November 2015, Image source:
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Vivekananda International Foundation)

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