26-11: Beware of small strikes
So, while India should keep its terror radar highly operational to look for the blips indicating a big strike, it should not put its antenna down looking for smaller strikes. This especially since the Lashkar-e-Toiba has been able to build a wide network of sleeper cells across India, mostly in the south, and far away from well-oiled security apparatus.
What needs flagging is a report that has sent security planners scurrying to draw up a new blueprint of response. The Al-Qaeda has released a plan to militant websites, which was picked up by its English-language magazine called Inspire. The plan details a new strategy called `Operation Haemorrhage'. Basically, it is a plan to use low-cost technology and cheap-to-assemble gadgets to effectively cause maximum damage.
Operation Haemorrhage plans to achieve three goals: trigger fear and chaos, disruption of normal life (example, throw airlines schedule into a tailspin) and make governments spend more money and time on building up security layers and walls.
An example of `Operation Haemorrhage' was the failed cartridge parcel bomb plot last month which cost the Al-Qaeda just $ 4,200 to assemble. All it needed was two cell phones costing $150 each, two HP printers ( $300 each), shipping, transportation and other miscellaneous expenses adding up to $4,200.
For a measly $4,200, the financial damage was massive. It disrupted global air cargo systems and grounded flights, causing a huge `haemorrhage' to the economy. It reflected a new strategy of low-cost attacks designed to inflict broad economic damage.
26-11: Beware of small strikes
The parcel bombs were discovered in Dubai and London. The parcel bomb sent from Yemen and taken off a cargo plane at a British airport was timed to explode over the eastern seaboard of the United States.
Had the bomb exploded, the effect would have been devastating. The attack failed as the authorities got a last-minute tip off from a Saudi source. But Inspire said it was not disappointed. The fear, disruption and added security costs caused by the packages made what it called 'Operation Haemorrhage' a success.
The terrorists have become so audacious that they are laying out their plans well in advance. Inspire said that the al-Qaeda was "laying out the plans for the enemies in advance because our objective is not maximum kill but to cause (damage) in aviation industry." It said the plot was the work of "less than six brothers" over three months. The plot, the group wrote, "will without a doubt cost the US and other Western countries billions of dollars in new security measures."
Al-Qaeda calls this the "strategy of a thousand cuts." "To bring down the US we do not need to strike big," it said. "In such an environment of security phobia that is sweeping the US, it is more feasible to stage smaller attacks that involve less players and less time to launch and thus we may circumvent the security barriers America worked so hard to erect." The failed Times Square bomb plot was part of this strategy.
26-11: Beware of small strikes
This would be the LeT plan for India too. Often, the LeT draws its inspiration and photostats the plans from the al-Qaeda. What the security apparatus should look out for are plots that would affect the economic fabric of India and a plan that would generate fear, chaos and death.
Hence, the focus should be on vehicles that generate economic growth, sustain the growth and the sparkplugs that often trigger a boom. Key sectors that the LeT may target are: the booming stock markets, real estate, IT and financial institutions. The plan could be to damage and disrupt these sectors -physically or financially.
Disruption and damage could also mean targeting the huge network of railways and airlines across India. While airline security has been tight, the railways would always be a soft spot. And considering the fact that the rush season is due to begin next month, security will have to be tightened.
The LeT is also likely to target `off-security POC' (point of contact) by activating the sleeper cells in smaller cities - example, Pune, Nagpur, Kochi, Vizag.
This need not mean a complete shift from hunting for the `big bang'. The al-Qaeda has been on the job of planning a Mumbai-type of attack across Europe and the US. The outfit has been planning simultaneous attacks on London, Paris and Berlin. What has come their way is the well-networked intelligence apparatus in Europe and US and the no-delay policy of passing on information.
Plans to trigger 26/11 attacks were uncovered through such intelligence snooping by a combined operation involving the intelligence agencies of the United States, United Kingdom, France and Germany.
26-11: Beware of small strikes
The plot was hatched by militants based in Pakistan.
Reports indicated that militants based in Pakistan were planning simultaneous strikes on London and major cities in France and Germany. The plan was in an advanced stage and was tracked by spy agencies.
When the terror plan came to light, the US military began helping its European allies by trying to kill the leaders behind the plot in Pakistan's Waziristan region through missile attacks using drone aircraft.
Unlike the US, India cannot afford pre-emptive strikes to thwart the terror plans of plotters. Considering the volatile geo-political situation that India shares with its neighbours, notably Pakistan, New Delhi will have to devise other strategies. The major one would be intelligence snooping and gathering, intelligence sharing on real-time basis between the Centre and States and between the States.
The other would be to identify sleeper cells and arrest the plotters. The third would be to further shore up security.
Hence, the security engagement post 26/11 will have to be two-pronged: look out for small strikes that could cause an economic and political `haemorrhage,' trigger fear and disruption; secondly, look for the big bang.
Source: India Syndicate & Agencies