Talk To al-Qaeda: Says Top British Cop

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When asked by The Guardian whether Britain should attempt to talk to al-Qaeda, he said: “If you want my professional assessment of any terrorism campaign, what fixes it is talking and engaging and judging when the conditions are right for that to take place..."

[International: Confronting al-Qaeda]

    

A top ranking British police officer has done what was hitherto seen as a career ending move by openly suggesting that the time was right to talk to al-Qaeda.

Chief Constable Sir Hugh Orde, head of the Police Service of Northern Ireland, is convinced that policing in itself will not defeat terrorist who are hell-bent on carrying out their actions by any means necessary.  

The senior police officer, who is the frontrunner to replace the current Metropolitan Police Chief Sir Ian Blair, who is due to stand down in February 2010, speaks from his experiences of combating the Irish Republican Army (IRA) during decades of sectarian violence in Northern Ireland-and the IRA’s bombing campaign on mainland England.

When asked by The Guardian whether Britain should attempt to talk to al-Qaeda, he said:  “If you want my professional assessment of any terrorism campaign, what fixes it is talking and engaging and judging when the conditions are right for that to take place.  Is that a naïve statement?  I don’t think it is…It is the reality of what we face.  If somebody can show me any terrorism campaign where it has been policed out, I’d be happy to read about it, because I can’t think of one.”


The “War on Terror” has made countries that had, prior to the Iraqi invasion, felt very secure and not threatened by any al-qaeda inspired terror activities, suddenly see themselves as being at greater risk from attacks because of their support for the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan, critics contend.  Some of these countries have consequently withdrawn their forces from Iraq – Poland and Spain-comes to mind. Recently, the Australian Prime Minister Kevin Ruud- fulfilled an election promise of bringing home from Iraq that countries combat unit.  On Sunday around 500 Australian fighting forces pulled out of their bases in southern Iraq. They have now been replaced by American forces.

The battle will not be won militarily – might-is-not-right, in this case, critics say.  The tactics employed by al-Qaeda reflects their acknowledgement and acceptance that their enemy is vastly superior in conventional warfare---that is why they don’t gather in large groups for long periods and they don’t have defined battle "front-lines" or barracks, where they would be sitting ducks for the  highly sophisticated computer-age-generation American military hardware, the critics contend.

Instead what they do is mingle with their enemy-masquerading as ordinary citizens - then suddenly hit you hard with a "sucker punch" before vanishing into the crowd-because they usually dress in civilian clothing-depending on the mission they are carrying out-they sometimes wear the same uniform as other law enforcement personnel in Iraq.

The battle for the hearts-and-minds of the Iraqi people will also be a hard task to achieve as long as Tanks and Humvees-with their amour piercing mounted Gatling guns-are rolling in the background, the critics contend. Sir Orde said:  “If you look at some of the biggest risk my people have taken, it is talking to people who historically they would not have dreamed of talking to.  Were we going to actually police our way out of the troubles?  No.  Are we actually going to police our way out of the current threat? No.” He added:  “It means thinking the unthinkable,” the Guardian reports. The harder al-qaeda are hit the more resolute they become-their leaders are killed but the vacuum is immediately filled. 

Moreover, many Muslims have for a long time seen this as a war on Islam-and nothing to do with terrorism anymore.



Allimadi writes for The Black Star News from London.


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