More re­sources, ac­tion needed against ter­ror­ism

China Daily (Canada) - - LIFE -

Lon­don, Madrid, Paris – and now Brus­sels, Europe’s fight against ter­ror­ism is set to con­tinue for some time, prob­a­bly a long time. As world lead­ers ex­press their con­do­lences and out­rage, they also know that there is no quick or easy so­lu­tion to de­feat today’s ter­ror­ists, es­pe­cially the fa­nat­ics who be­long to the Is­lamic State group, the or­ga­ni­za­tion that claimed re­spon­si­bil­ity for the Brus­sels at­tacks.

It is rel­a­tively easy to carry out a ter­ror­ist at­tack whether with an au­to­matic ri­fle, sui­cide vest or home-made bomb. And no so­ci­ety can pro­vide 100 per­cent se­cu­rity against such at­tacks. There are sim­ply too many soft targets, whether train and bus sta­tions, soc­cer sta­di­ums or shop­ping malls.

In all of the re­cent ter­ror at­tacks in Europe the com­mon el­e­ment has been dis­af­fected youths ofMus­lim back­grounds. They ap­pear to have been rad­i­cal­ized partly due to anger atWestern in­ter­ven­tions in Iraq and Syria, and partly due to their alien­ation from the main­stream of so­ci­ety.

In Brus­sels the police es­ti­mate there are up to 50 po­ten­tial ter­ror­ists and their num­bers are aug­mented by those re­turn­ing from ji­hadist cam­paigns in Syria and Iraq. For its size (12 mil­lion in­hab­i­tants) Bel­gium has pro­por­tion­ately more ji­hadists (around 500) in Syria than any other Euro­pean coun­try.

So what is to be done? Bel­gian PrimeMin­is­ter CharlesMichel and French Pres­i­dent Francois Hol­lande have called for a calm and de­ter­mined cam­paign against all ter­ror­ists and urged greater shar­ing of in­tel­li­gence among Euro­pean se­cu­rity agen­cies. Euro­pean lead­ers have ex­pressed their sol­i­dar­ity and full sup­port for Bel­gium. But state­ments are one thing, ac­tion is an­other. Ter­ror­ists and crim­i­nals are of­ten one step ahead of the police in mov­ing from one coun­try to an­other in a bor­der­less Europe. The Paris at­tacks, for ex­am­ple, were plot­ted and car­ried out by ter­ror­ists op­er­at­ing from Brus­sels who only had a three­hour drive to Paris with­out any bor­der checks.

EU lead­ers will now be un­der strong pres­sure to strengthen the mon­i­tor­ing of bor­ders in an at­tempt to make life more dif­fi­cult for ter­ror­ists and other crim­i­nals. This is likely to be ac­cepted by most cit­i­zens who are also con­cerned at the vast num­bers of refugees en­ter­ing Europe from Syria, Iraq and other coun­tries in the past two years.

There will be more re­sources de­voted to police and in­tel­li­gence ser­vices. Bel­gium’s ca­pa­bil­i­ties for sur­veil­lance have al­ready been stretched to the limit. Again cit­i­zens will ac­cept such ex­pen­di­ture as right and proper in the cir­cum­stances.

There will also be a re­newed at­tempt to en­sure that the frag­ile cease­fire in Syria holds and that talks can be­gin on a po­lit­i­cal so­lu­tion. Some politi­cians will try and mix up the refugee cri­sis with the ter­ror­ist at­tacks in or­der to cre­ate a cli­mate which en­ables refugees to be sent away. The EU is al­ready half-way to such a sys­tem with its deal last week with Tur­key. Ankara has agreed to take back any refugees who ar­rive in the EU and who are not el­i­gi­ble for asy­lum; and in re­turn the EU will take one el­i­gi­ble refugee from the hu­man­i­tar­ian camps in Tur­key.

Com­bat­ing ter­ror­ism thus re­quires pa­tience, de­ter­mi­na­tion, greater re­sources and ac­tion on sev­eral fronts, do­mes­tic and for­eign. Ter­ror­ism will not dis­ap­pear from Europe’s streets any­time soon.

The au­thor is di­rec­tor of the EU-Asia Cen­tre in Brus­sels.

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