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Unknown knights: Countering terrorism with conviction

Mar 23,2019 - Last updated at Mar 23,2019

In 2018 alone, the General Intelligence Directorate (GID) and its renowned counterterrorism squad thwarted 62 terrorist operations abroad and 32 internally. This is a conviction-based global service. One can only imagine the mayhem that could have ensued, globally and locally, if a few of these operations were to be carried out. The above mentioned pieces of evidence demonstrate that the threat of terrorism has not faded away and will not fade away anytime soon. Terrorism is rooted in prejudice, grievances and xenophobic ideologies. Terrorists are intolerant exclusionary individuals and they will continue to be out there no matter what governments do globally and locally.

Therefore, the fight against terrorism goes beyond covert attritional operations and this requires a deeply seated conviction not only among those fighting terrorism, but also their political, social and operational environments. At the political level, George Tenet, in his book, co-written by Bill Harlow, “At the Centre of the Storm”, offers a respectable insight about political quibbling; politicians never allocated all requested funds when asked for by his agency in the years leading to September 11. Had resources been allocated satisfactorily with less risk-averse politicians, the September 11 attacks could have probably been foiled too. In the resource-poor Jordan, known successes far outweigh its allocations compared with similar agencies.

Jordan’s political counterterrorism environment is rooted in “conviction” as opposed to a service to other countries, as a global public good. The global service Jordan is delivering stems out of deeply a held historical anti-terrorism conviction. Terrorism hit Jordan since the 1950s, with the assassination of King Abdullah I, premiers Hazza Majali and Wasfi Tal, diplomats, hijacking of planes, seizures of buildings, bombs in public buildings, targeting security installations and personnel, attacking hotels and killing civilians indiscriminately. David Ignatius’ novel “Body of Lies”, although a fictional book based on actual events, offers a good insight about Jordan’s GID fight with terror and how Jordan dismantled a complicated terrorist organisation.

Nearly 70 years in the fight made Jordan a pioneer, innovator of strategic and tactical methods and an experienced data hub. Preventing terrorism and countering it, along with its incubating environment of radicalisation, not only requires a global effort, but most importantly necessitates turning data into information and timely actionable intelligence.

Allies of Jordan in the fight against terrorism, as a well as adversaries, know very well how generous and efficient Jordanians have been. They should also know that Jordan is committed to the global public good of fighting terrorism as a conviction of strategic importance, not a tactically-ridden wave of convenience. It would be useful to know how many operations were foiled by other intelligence agencies to build better awareness of what is done behind the scenes so that we can live while they work for peoples’ safety and peace of mind. After all, people here refer to security agents as the “wakeful eye”. Civilian agencies need to step up to match the efficiency of the security establishment. Otherwise, the cost is going to be high for all.


The writer is chairman of NAMA Strategic Intelligence Solutions. [email protected]

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