Cablegate: Media Reaction: Admiral Fallons's Visit To

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.






E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: Media Reaction: Admiral Fallons's Visit to

Admiral Fallon's Visit to Bangladesh
Summary: "The Daily Star" op-ed says that there is no reason
to question the veracity of Admiral Fallon's statement,
since, one would like to believe, it stems from very sound
intelligence. If what the Admiral has said is based on
specific information, then perhaps all the speculation
regarding the presence of terrorist groups in Bangladesh be
proven correct.
The following are excerpts from the op-ed article:
"Pacific Commander's Expos"
Independent English language newspaper "The Daily Star" op-
ed by security expert Brigadier General (retired) Shahedul
Alam Khan opines (4/21):
It seems that everybody except the relevant persons in
Bangladesh has indubitable intelligence on the doings of the
militants in this country, that have turned, or are in the
process of turning, Bangladesh into a hotbed of terrorism
and a safe haven for terrorists. And, all that is happening
in our neighboring country, or that is going to happen in
the future years, related particularly to its security in
its Northeast, is being planned and fomented by extremists
housed in Bangladesh.
Now we have the Chief of the Pacific theatre of the U.S.
Military Command reveal in no uncertain manner that
international terrorist organizations are active in
Bangladesh. There is no reason to question the veracity of
his statement, since, one would like to believe, it stems
from very sound intelligence. And, if what the Admiral has
said is based on reports and specific information, then
perhaps all the speculations regarding the presence of
terrorist groups in Bangladesh will have been proven
correct. Although the U.S. admiral was very careful not to
attribute religious label to the terrorist group or groups,
it is a safe guess that it is Islamic terrorists he was
referring to. It is quite natural for the Americans to be
concerned at this development. And so must we in Bangladesh
also be, if what the U.S. admiral said is an accurate
representation of the facts on ground.
But is there anything new in the Admiral's remarks?
Absolutely nothing, to be frank. That Bangladesh has become
a convenient route of transit of both illegal weapons and
drugs, that complement each other, is a well-established
fact. It does not need a Mahan or Mackinder to determine the
likely destination of these weapons. And, even the most
uninformed would not suggest that these were smuggled in to
be used as agricultural inputs. However, merely being a
conduit does not necessarily make a country a suitable
operational area for international terrorists with an agenda
to implement or a message to convey, for that is what
terrorism has come to be now, a way of expression, vile that
may be. Of course there is hardly any doubt that many of the
illegal weapons meant for other destinations have found
their way into the hands of local criminal.
Nobody will take issue with the admiral's general
formulation regarding the whys and wherefores of terrorism;
i.e. why does the phenomenon emerge after all. Given the
current divisiveness in our society and the flux that we are
encountering, one can say, even at the risk of being labeled
a heretic, that terrorism may well become a mode of
expression, unless we wake up and take notice of the
developments in and around us.
Apparently, acts of terrorism in Bangladesh have been
limited to bomb attacks that have taken more than 150 lives.
No one has claimed responsibility for these acts. This is
not quite the way of the hard core terrorists, whose first
objective is to announce their presence and their political
and religious agenda by taking credit for acts of damage and
destruction perpetrated primarily on innocent civilians,
such as those we have seen committed in Bangladesh,
particularly in the last two or three years.
None of the government investigations into these incidents
has been made public, and we are not to know whether the
government has any definitive information on the presence of
terrorist groups in Bangladesh. However, if one were to take
the Foreign Minister's remarks to be factual, there are no
such groups in Bangladesh with trans-border linkages. In
this context, I can hardly resist quoting a portion of
yesterday's Daily Star editorial, which the government
should do well to consider while addressing the issue. It
says: "We ought to keep in mind that the thread of
international terrorism in our part of the world runs right
across the Middle East to South East Asia. One must not,
therefore, discard out of hand the possibility of its
tentacles existing in Bangladesh, without a serious
investigation into the matter. We are not sure whether that
has been done with any seriousness."
That there has been no classical terrorist activity in
Bangladesh does not mean that there are no latent groups
waiting for an opportune moment to spring into action. And
there are perhaps telltale signs that are clear enough to
compel action on the part of the government.
Thus, the U.S. offer of cooperation to address the issue
must be viewed objectively. It would however not be wrong to
suggest that the remarks of our Foreign Minister, whose
first reaction, according to press reports, was that the
issue of terrorism did not come up for discussion at all,
yet in the same breath said that Bangladesh would not
countenance the growth of terrorism in its territory, is
demonstrative of the denial syndrome of our government
insofar as it relates to this sensitive issue.
It may be that the Admiral has left more things unsaid than
what he has said. What we would like of the U.S. government
is to share with the Bangladesh government information
regarding the presence and operation of terrorist groups on
our soil. We should not be satisfied with statements that
merely restate what is already known. Tangible evidence must
come forth so that concrete action can be implemented.
It is just not enough to merely proscribe parties or groups
suspected of links with international terrorism. Effective
action must be taken not only to render these groups
ineffective and incapable of cooperating with outside
agencies in fulfilling their agenda, whatever that might be,
but also to prevent germination of such elements in our
country in the first place.

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