OCTOBER 6, 2018
The Donald Trump administration, in its new National Strategy for Counter-Terrorism (NSCT), declared that Sikh terror group Babbar Khalsa International poses a risk to United States’ personnel and interests overseas by carrying out assassinations and suicide bombings against major economic, political and social targets.
According to the NSCT unveiled by the White House on Thursday, the document said that the Sikh terror group “seeks, through violent means, to establish its own independent state in India and is responsible for significant terrorist attacks in India and elsewhere that have claimed the lives of innocent civilians.”
“Babbar Khalsa International seeks, through violent means, to establish its own independent state in India and is responsible for significant terrorist attacks in India and elsewhere that have claimed the lives of innocent civilians. Such groups may avoid or deprioritise targeting United States interests for now to avoid detracting from their core goals but frequently conduct assassinations and bombings against major economic, political, and social targets, heightening the risk to United States personnel and interests overseas,” the document said.
Babbar Khalsa is responsible for the bombing of the Air India Flight 182 in 1981 that claimed 329 lives on the Emperor Kanishka, a Boeing 747 airliner.
The NSCT document also listed Boko Haram, Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) as groups that pose a potential threat to Washington saying these terror groups “employ a range of political and terrorist tactics to undermine local governments and conduct attacks.”
“In addition to ISIS and al-Qa’ida, dozens of other radical Islamist terrorist groups are working to advance more locally focused insurgent or terrorist campaigns, while still posing a threat to United States persons and interests overseas. These groups, including Boko Haram, Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan, and Lashkar-e Tayyiba, employ a range of political and terrorist tactics to undermine local governments and conduct attacks. These organizations will probably prioritise regional goals over attacks against the homeland or United States interests because of resource constraints or political considerations. However, many of these groups are hostile to the United States, maintain networks of sympathizers around the world, and retain ties to ISIS or al-Qa’ida, underscoring their potential threat to United States interests,” NSCT document said.
The US State and Treasury Departments had in 2001 listed LeT as a terrorist organization, while Babbar Khalsa and International Sikh Youth Federation were listed in 2002.
In July, the US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) took action to disrupt LeT’s fundraising and support networks by designating two of the group’s financial facilitators, Hameed ul Hassan and Abdul Jabbar, as Global Terrorists.
Separately, the Department of State also put Abdul Rehman al-Dakhil on the list of ‘Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT).’ Dakhil was a longtime member of the US-designated Foreign Terrorist Organisation (FTO) and Lashkar e-Tayyiba (LeT) and was an operational leader responsible for LeT-led attacks in India between 1997 and 2001.
In November 2010, the Department of State amended its designations of LeT to include the alias Falah-e Insaniat Foundation. In March 2012, the UN amended its Sanctions List to recognize the Falah-e Insaniat Foundation as a front for LeT.
In a joint statement adopted by the foreign and defence ministers of the United States and India after the inaugural 2+2 dialogue in September, the two sides welcomed the expansion of bilateral counter-terrorism cooperation and announced their intent to increase information-sharing efforts on known or suspected terrorists and to implement UN Security Council Resolution 2396 on returning foreign terrorist fighters.
The United States’ counter-terrorism strategy stated mentioned Islamic State (ISIS) as the foremost radical Islamist terrorist group and the primary transnational terrorist threat to the United States, despite ongoing coalition civilian and military efforts by Washington that have diminished the group’s footprint in Iraq and Syria.
“ISIS retains the financial and material resources and expertise to launch external attacks-including against United States interests-and its senior leaders continue to call for attacks against the United States. The group’s global reach remains robust, with eight official branches and more than two dozen networks regularly conducting terrorist and insurgent operations across Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Middle East,” the document said.
It added that despite huge setbacks, the dreaded terror group maintains a sophisticated and durable media and online presence that allows it to encourage and enable sympathisers worldwide to conduct dozens of attacks within target countries, including the United States.
The document stated that al-Qaeda’s global network “remains resilient and poses an enduring threat to the homeland and United States interests around the world.”
“Consistent United States-led counterterrorism pressure has removed many of its senior leaders and reduced the group’s ability to operate in South Asia, but its affiliates continue to plan and carry out terrorist attacks against the United States and our allies, as well as raise funds from individual supporters through the international financial system,” the strategy added.
The document said that veteran leaders of al-Qaeda are working to strengthen the group’s presence in several regions, including in Syria, from where it aspires to launch terror attacks against the US and its partners.
Underlining that both ISIS and al-Qaeda have inspired people to carry out such attacks on American soil, the White House said that it will “probably remain the most frequent form of radical Islamist terrorism in the United States for the next several years.”
The document stated that the ISIS and al-Qaeda have demonstrated their capabilities repeatedly to conduct terror attacks both in the United States and its interests and continue to plot new attacks and inspire susceptible people to commit acts of violence on American soil.
The strategy also named Iran as the “most prominent state sponsor of terrorism”, by supporting militant groups across the Middle East region and cultivating a network of operatives that pose a risk in the United States and elsewhere across the world.
“These groups, most notably Lebanese Hizballah, use terrorism and other asymmetric means in partnership with Iran to expand their influence in Iraq, Lebanon, the Palestinian territories, Syria, and Yemen and to destabilise their rivals. Hizballah fields powerful military and intelligence elements, possesses large stocks of sophisticated arms, and maintains extensive networks of operatives and sympathizers overseas, including individuals in the homeland,” the Trump administration noted.
Apart from al-Qaeda, ISIS and Iran, the document also listed the Nordic Resistance Movement, a prominent transnational, self-described nationalist-socialist organisation with anti-Western views that has conducted violent attacks against Muslims, left-wing groups and others. It also mentioned the neo-Nazi National Action Group, which was banned by the United Kingdom in 2016 for its promotion of violence against politicians and minorities, operates in British soil “but has engaged with like-minded groups in the United States, Estonia, France, Germany, Latvia, and Poland-expanding the potential influence of its violent ideology.”
Stressing on the use of technology by the terror groups to thwart United States’ counter-terrorism efforts, the strategy said that the outfits established “state-like governing institutions” within their safe havens, by deploying sophisticated explosive devices to defeat aviation security measures and using high-quality media products to recruit extremists in the West.
The document further stated that the new approach of combating radical Islamist terrorism, Iran-sponsored terrorism and other forms of violent extremism will not limit to the United States, but will include its allies.
“We will broaden our range of partners to combat radical Islamist terrorism, Iran-sponsored terrorism, and other forms of violent extremism; encourage capable partners to play a larger role in counterterrorism efforts; and assist other partners so that they can eventually address terrorist threats independently,” the White House said.