Behind the scenes
This week has seen conflicting reports over the possible arrest of Al-Qa'eda leader Osama Bin Laden. Regardless of their truth, these reports reveal the existence of a semi-covert campaign, virtually immune to public scrutiny, to hunt down certain groups and individuals, principally from the Middle East, and that the special forces carrying out this campaign are being assisted by a number of regional governments.
At US Special Forces headquarters in Florida, two fully equipped centres -- one for operations and the other for intelligence -- are in charge of running America's anti-terrorist activities. They are subordinated to a single command, codenamed Joint Task Force 121. This top-secret unit, specialising in the pursuit and termination of "high value terrorist targets" was structured to ensure the greatest possible manoeuvrability for mounting rapid strike operations against terrorist leaders and cells. It is said to have been instrumental in the rise in assassinations and arrests of such targets over the past few weeks.
Joint Task Force 121 embodies the Bush administration's core strategy in its war against terrorism. In spite of its success rate in downing a number of Al-Qa'eda figures, the strategy is far from comprehensive. It offers no long-term mechanisms for addressing the deep and complex causes of terrorism. It is also to be feared that it might not restrict itself to Al-Qa'eda targets alone. Indeed, that it may extend its reach to political figures that oppose US policies for a "Greater Middle East".
Saddam Hussein was run to ground in a pit because of improved US intelligence capacities and better coordination between Joint Task Force 121 and the regular occupation forces on the ground in Iraq. However, the landmark capture has not put an end to resistance operations -- or "terrorism", as US official and military jargon would have it. A strategy that offers no radical solutions to the Iraqi dilemma and that, moreover, is probably pursued for its media potential and the consequent payoff in Bush's popularity ratings, can hardly be termed a strategy. Tactic, or even ploy, would seem more appropriate.