A terrorist safe haven is an area of relative security exploited by terrorists to indoctrinate, recruit, coalesce, train, and regroup, as well as prepare and support their operations. Physical safe havens are often found in under-governed territory or crossing international boundaries. Global communications and financial infrastructure, especially those created by electronic infrastructure such as the Internet, global media, and unregulated economic activity, can allow terrorists to fulfill many of the same functions without the need for a physical sanctuary. These "virtual" havens, are highly mobile, difficult to track, and difficult to control.
Physical safe havens provide security for many senior terrorist leaders, allowing them to plan and to inspire acts of terrorism around the world. The presence of terrorist safe havens in a nation or region is not necessarily related to state sponsorship of terrorism. In most instances cited in this chapter, areas or communities serve as terrorist safe havens despite the government's best efforts to prevent this.
Denying terrorists safe haven plays a major role in undermining terrorists' capacity to operate effectively, and thus forms a key element of U.S. counterterrorism strategy as well as the cornerstone of UN Security Council Resolution 1373 that was adopted in September 2001. UNSCR 1373 specifically targets terrorists' ability to move across international borders and find safe haven, to solicit and move funds, and to acquire weapons; it also calls on states that do not have laws criminalizing terrorist activity and support to enact such laws.
Terrorists exploit electronic infrastructure such as the Internet, global media, and satellite communications for recruitment, training, planning, resource transfer, and intelligence collection between and among terrorists and terrorist groups. Like many others, terrorists view the Internet as the most powerful and inexpensive form of communication yet developed. Harnessing the Internet's potential for speed, security, and global linkage gives terrorists the ability to conduct many of the activities that once required physical haven, yet without the associated security risks. With the ability to communicate, recruit, train, and prepare for attacks, any computer may function essentially as a "virtual" safe haven. Closing these havens demands concerted action at the global and regional levels.
The Internet also has empowered the enemy with the ability to produce and sustain its own public media outlets and to present its own distorted view of the world to further its agenda. Terrorists are placing encrypted messages in electronic files to hide photos, maps, and messages on innocent third-party websites, chat rooms, and bulletin boards.
There are several thousand radical or extremist websites worldwide, many of which disseminate a mixture of fact and propaganda designed to challenge information gleaned from other sources. Traditions of tolerance, political asylum, and multiculturalism are key elements of open societies. The enemy has been savvy in exploiting this and in having a consistent message easily heard in the cacophony of the global media and the Internet. Countering the messages that terrorists propagate cannot be done quickly or easily; it must become part of a long-term strategy.
Physical Safe Haven
The remainder of this chapter provides a survey of the status of selected potential and physical safe havens worldwide.AFRICA
The sparsely inhabited Trans-Sahara region provides safe haven for terrorist groups operating in North and Northwest Africa.
Parts of Somalia, which has no functioning central government, have become havens for terrorist and other illicit activities, threatening the security of the whole region.
The Sulawesi/Celebes Sea
East Asia includes a maritime safe haven area composed of the Sulawesi/Celebes Sea and Sulu Archipelago, which sit astride the maritime boundary between Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines. The physical geography of the thousands of islands in the region makes them very difficult for authorities to monitor. Thus, they are well suited to terrorist operations and activities, such as movement of personnel, equipment, and funds. This area represents a safe haven for the AQ-linked Jemaah Islamiya (JI) group.
Although most of Europe is not a physical safe haven in a literal sense, domestic terrorist groups, as well as AQ and its associated terrorist cells, remain the principal groups of concern in Europe. North African Salafist groups are especially active, such as the Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group, the Armed Islamic Group, and the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat. Moreover, extremist groups recruit and proselytize heavily in some major European cities. The presence and activity of such terrorist cells was dramatically highlighted by the London bombings in July. In addition, terrorist groups opposed to the Middle East peace process such as HAMAS and Hizballah have active propaganda, fundraising, and other support activities in Europe.
Smuggling, illegal immigration, and narcotics trafficking networks traverse the Mediterranean Sea between Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East, providing opportunities for potential terrorist movement and support.
Cyprus forms a transit and support hub for various organizations operating in the Eastern Mediterranean and Levant. The Kongra-Gel/PKK has an active presence in Cyprus on both sides of the buffer zone, which it reportedly uses as both a fundraising and transit point. The Kurdish community in the south of Cyprus is estimated at approximately 1,500.
Over the past decade, insurgent activities in Chechnya, Daghestan, North Ossetia, and surrounding areas have created opportunities for establishing a terrorist safe haven in the north Caucasus. The Pankisi Gorge area of Georgia was previously noted as a safe haven; however, Georgian authorities were largely successful in eliminating it. Georgian internal troops continued to carry out operations to rid the Pankisi Gorge of terrorists. The identification and safe removal of hidden weapons caches in the Pankisi area enabled Georgian security forces to secure and protect it from terrorist acts or transit. Although border guard and customs reform continued, Georgia was still used to a limited degree as a transit state for weapons and money. Georgia made efforts to close its borders to those who wished to smuggle money, weapons, and supplies, but was hindered in particular by corruption at border checkpoints, as well as by lack of territorial integrity in the separatist areas of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
SOUTH & CENTRAL ASIA
For decades, the mountainous and sparsely populated Afghan-Pakistani border has been an autonomous area, with little control by Islamabad or Kabul. The Northwest Frontier Province (NWFP) and Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of Pakistan have been a safe haven for AQ fighters since the fall of the Taliban in December 2001. The FATA also includes Islamist groups and local tribesmen who continue to resist the government's efforts to improve governance and administrative control at the expense of longstanding local autonomy. Bringing government services to this region, and turning an AQ safe haven into a regularly administered province of Pakistan, remains an important objective in the global war on terror.
Through substantial efforts since 2004, the Government of Pakistan has deployed more than 80,000 security forces into the FATA and made some improvements in health care, education, and social services. These operations have disrupted the terrorists but also affected tribal institutions in the area, requiring efforts to build new political and economic institutions. Meanwhile, the Afghan Government, in concert with U.S. forces and the international community, continues efforts to build security on the Afghan side of the border. The border areas remain a contested region, however, with ongoing insurgent and terrorist attacks and AQ-linked propaganda activity.MIDDLE EAST
Iraq is not currently a terrorist safe haven, but terrorists, including Sunni groups like al-Qaida in Iraq (AQI), Ansar al-Islam (AI), and Ansar al-Sunna (AS), as well as Shia extremists and other groups, view Iraq as a potential safe haven and are attempting to make it a reality.
Terrorist groups coordinated and conducted attacks on Iraq's utility infrastructure and
claimed responsibility for kidnappings and attacks on Iraqi personnel working at refineries and electrical stations. Terrorists' efforts to disrupt and destroy Iraq's energy infrastructure not only made the Iraqi Government appear incapable of providing essential services, but hindered economic development. These attacks also sought to undercut public and international support for Iraq.
Efforts by the Iraqi Government, the United States, Coalition partners, and the international community are helping to thwart AQI's ambitions, but the battle is far from over. Not all of Iraq's neighbors have supported the international community in this effort. In particular:
The Lebanese Government recognizes several terrorist organizations, including Hizballah, which holds several seats in Parliament, as "legitimate resistance groups" and permits them to maintain offices in Beirut and elsewhere around the country. The Lebanese Government recently agreed to work to control the weapons of Palestinian militias outside the refugee camps within six months and, for the first time, is discussing possible limits to Hizballah's arms. Although Syria withdrew its military forces in April 2005, it maintains an intelligence presence in Lebanon and continues to offer support and facilitate arms smuggling to Hizballah and Palestinian terrorist groups. Because the Government of Lebanon does not exercise effective control over areas in the south and inside the Palestinian refugee camps, terrorists can operate relatively freely in those areas.
Several terrorist organizations continued to maintain a presence in Yemen throughout 2005. The Government of Yemen recognizes HAMAS and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) as legal organizations. HAMAS conducted extensive fundraising through mosques and other charitable organizations and maintains offices. In December, HAMAS leader Khaled Mishal visited Sanaa and met publicly with President Saleh. Al-Qaida's operational structure in Yemen has been weakened and dispersed, but concerns remain about the organization's attempts to reconstitute operational cells there. Yemen continues to increase its maritime security capabilities, but land border security along the extensive frontier with Saudi Arabia remains a problem, despite increased Yemeni-Saudi cooperation on bilateral security issues.
Colombia Border Region
This region includes the borders between Colombia on one side, and Venezuela, Ecuador, Peru, Panama, and Brazil on the other. Rough terrain, dense forest cover, and lack of government authority and presence in this area create a safe haven for insurgent and terrorist groups, including the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). Brazil, Ecuador, Peru, and Panama have adopted an unstated policy mix of containment and non-confrontation with Colombian narcoterrorist groups, while Peru pursues the domestic terrorist group Sendero Luminoso (SL). FARC used remote areas to house prisoners and hostages and to stage and train for terrorist attacks in cities.
The Triborder Area
Suspected supporters of Islamic terrorist groups, including Hizballah and HAMAS, take advantage of loosely regulated territory and proximity to Muslim communities in Ciudad del Este, Paraguay, and Foz do Iguacu, Brazil, to engage in illegal activity and illicit fundraising.
Venezuelan President Chavez has an ideological affinity with two Colombian terrorist organizations, the FARC and the National Liberation Army (ELN), which in turn limits Venezuelan cooperation with Colombia in combating terrorism. The FARC and ELN regard Venezuelan territory near the border as a safe haven and often use the area for cross-border incursions. In addition, splinter groups of the FARC and another designated terrorist organization, the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC), operate in various parts of Venezuela and are involved in drug trafficking.