Combating international terrorism
Joint Counter-Terrorisme Centre of the Federal Criminal Police Office
© picture-alliance / dpa
Terrorism strikes at society’s most fundamental values and violates the groundrules governing nations and the international order. It is not just an internal security problem, however, it also has a major foreign policy dimension. The many trouble spots around the world, the decline in state authority in some regions, increased mobility and ongoing improvements in communications technologies all combine to make global terrorism a real and growing danger. As a global problem, it clearly requires an international response.
The attacks of 11 September 2001 drove home both to governments and ordinary people that terrorism is a huge and constant threat. Our ideas of the typical terrorist – background, motives, weapons and methods – have changed as well. We used to think of individuals or cells involved in terrorism as being impoverished, oppressed people with often sectarian mindsets. What we are seeing now, however, is a new and to some unfamiliar terrorist profile: well-off, educated and seemingly perfectly integrated into Western society.
Unlike many of their more “traditional” predecessors, those responsible for the 11 September attacks made no prior demands backed up by threats. They struck without warning with the intention of inflicting maximum damage, at most supplying any “justifications” ex post facto. The possibility of terrorists deploying weapons of mass destruction had previously been a matter of some debate, but 11 September showed that thousands can be killed and billions of dollars damage caused using highly conventional means.
Given the heterogeneous nature and rapidly changing face of global networks such as al Qaida and its associated groups as well as the variety of terrorist profiles, the main dilemma governments face in the fight against terrorism is the extreme difficulty of preventing terrorist attacks. This underscores that international cooperation is key.
The many abortive attacks prevented through police cooperation is a clear indicator of how successful coordinated action can be when conducted systematically. Only a comprehensive and differentiated approach can effectively prevent and combat international terrorism. Such an approach clearly also involves repressive measures, including notably intelligence and police work, which must be conducted at both national and international level. Since 11 September 2001 and especially since the 2004 and 2005 attacks in Madrid and London, the European Union has taken considerable steps – also in response to a series of German initiatives – to improve police and judicial cooperation still further.
Ultimately, however, repressive measures will be ineffectual without a clear focus on terrorism prevention. In this area, too, the international community hasmade significant headway in recent years. Such efforts include, for example, the Action Plan and Strategy for Combating Radicalization and Recruitment to Terrorism adopted by the EU in 2005.
Ensuring human rights are fully respected and protected is a crucial part of combating terrorism. The German Government believes it is unacceptable for the state to do anything that violates human rights and fundamental freedoms. That is the only way we can be credible and convincing when we stand up for our values and our open societies.
Last updated 19.09.2011