Terrorist Safe Havens - COUNTRY REPORT (Released- 2014)

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  1. sorcerer

    sorcerer Senior Member Senior Member

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    Bureau of Counterterrorism
    Country Reports on Terrorism 2013
    Report


    Terrorist safe havens described in this report include ungoverned, under-governed, or ill-governed physical areas where terrorists are able to organize, plan, raise funds, communicate, recruit, train, transit, and operate in relative security because of inadequate governance capacity, political will, or both.

    As defined by section 2656f(d) of Title 22 of the U.S. Code, the term “terrorist sanctuary” or “sanctuary” excludes the territory of a country the government of which is subject to a determination under section 2405(j)(1)(A) of the Appendix to Title 50; section 2371(a) of Title 22; or section 2780(d) of Title 22– the state sponsors of terrorism. Accordingly, information regarding Cuba, Iran, Sudan, and Syria can be found in Chapter 3, State Sponsors of Terrorism.


    AFRICA


    Somalia.
    In 2013, large areas of territory throughout Somalia provided safe haven for terrorists. Following significant military offensives in 2012 that pushed al-Shabaab out of most urban areas of southern and central Somalia, al-Shabaab still maintained freedom of movement and some control in some rural areas,as well as a destabilizing presence in some urban areas. In each of these areas, al-Shabaab could organize, plan, raise funds, communicate, recruit, train, and operate in relative security due to inadequate security, justice, and governance capacity. The absence of anti-money laundering and counterterrorist finance laws, regulatory bodies, and counterterrorism law enforcement resulted principally from a lack of capacity, rather than a lack of political will.

    In 2013, the city of Barawe served as al-Shabaab’s primary urban safe haven. Al-Shabaab also maintained a presence in the Golis Mountains of Puntland and in some of Puntland’s larger urban areas. Al-Shabaab continued to operate largely uncontested large sections of rural areas in the middle and lower Jubba regions, the Lower Shabelle region, and the Gedo, Bay, and Bakol regions. Additionally, Somalia’s long unguarded coastline, porous borders, and proximity to the Arabian Peninsula allowed foreign fighters and al-Shabaab members to transit throughout the region. Areas under al-Shabaab control provided a permissive environment for al-Shabaab operatives and affiliated foreign fighters to conduct training and terrorist planning. However, foreign fighters maintained limited freedom within al-Shabaab due to internal strife within the group. The capability of the Federal Government of Somalia (FGS) to prevent and preempt al-Shabaab terrorist attacks remained limited in 2013, although the FGS was committed to countering terrorism and collaborating with international partners, including the United States. As 2013 came to a close, AMISOM was preparing for another offensive against al-Shabaab in conjunction with Somali National Army troops following the UN Security Council’s authorization of 4,000-plus additional troops for AMISOM.

    According to independent sources and NGOs engaged in demining activities on the ground, there was little cause for concern for the presence of weapons of mass destruction in Somalia.

    The Trans-Sahara. The primary terrorist threat in the Trans-Sahara region in 2013 was posed by al-Qa’ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and associated splinter groups, such as the al-Mulathamun Battalion (AMB) and the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO).Although its leadership remained primarily based in northeastern Algeria, AQIM factions also operated in northern Mali and the neighboring region. In 2013, these violent extremist groups used footholds in northern Mali to conduct operations, although safe haven areas in northern Mali were significantly diminished by the French and African intervention in 2013.

    Mali. Although the Government of Mali lacks the capacity to control much of its vast, sparsely populated northern region, international and Malian forces were able to erode terrorist safe haven in the region in 2013. French Serval and UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) operations enabled Mali to redeploy government administrators and security forces to urban population centers in the northern regions through the end of 2013. These operations reduced the ability of AQIM and other terrorist groups such as Ansar al-Dine and MUJAO to organize, plan, raise funds, communicate, recruit, train, and operate in the northern region.

    The new Malian government demonstrated its political will to deny safe haven to terrorists by supporting and collaborating with international efforts to stabilize northern Mali. The Malian government also demonstrated its political will to increase governance capacity in the North by holding a National Decentralization Conference in October 2013. During the conference, the Government of Mali identified measures to reinforce decentralized authority over northern Mali and to increase the capacity of local authority to govern over the vast territories. The government decided at the conference to create new administrative regions with the intention to increase the presence of the state in the northern region.

    Despite having made some progress in disrupting terrorist safe havens in northern Mali, challenges remain, including dealing with long-existing, unregulated smuggling activities integral to the local economy. Controlling long and porous international borders also remains a challenge for the Malian government. The tacit engagement of local populations in illicit commercial activities and licit smuggling in northern Mali provides implicit support to criminal enterprises which undermines efforts to destabilize terrorist networks. Some segments of local populations have been willing to tolerate and enable AQIM's presence to avoid conflict and for financial gain, rather than ideological affinity.

    In September 2013, the foreign assistance restriction to the Government of Mali was lifted. The State Department plans to reengage with the Government of Mali to strengthen biological security and reduce the risk of biological weapons acquisition by terrorists.

    SOUTHEAST ASIA

    The Sulu/Sulawesi Seas Littoral. The numerous islands in the Sulawesi Sea and the Sulu Archipelago makes it a difficult region for authorities to monitor. The range of licit and illicit activities that occur there – including worker migration, tourism, and trade – pose additional challenges to identifying and countering the terrorist threat. Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines have improved efforts to control their shared maritime boundaries, including through the U.S.-funded Coast Watch South radar network, which is intended to enhance domain awareness in the waters south and southwest of Mindanao. Nevertheless, the expanse remained difficult to control. Surveillance improved but remained partial at best, and traditional smuggling and piracy groups have provided an effective cover for terrorist activities, including the movement of personnel, equipment, and funds. The United States has sponsored the Trilateral Interagency Maritime Law Enforcement Working Group since 2008, which has resulted in better coordination among Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines on issues of interdiction and maritime security.

    Southeast Asia is vulnerable to exploitation by illicit traffickers and proliferators given the high volume of global trade that ships through the region as well as the existence of smuggling and proliferation networks. Weak strategic trade controls, legal and regulatory frameworks, inadequate maritime law enforcement and security capabilities, as well as emerging and re-emerging infectious disease and burgeoning bioscience capacity, make Southeast Asia an area of concern for weapons of mass destruction proliferation.

    The Southern Philippines. The geographical composition of the Philippines, spread out over 7,107 islands, made it difficult for the central government to maintain a presence in all areas. Counterterrorism operations over the past 12 years, however, have been successful at isolating the location and constraining the activities of transnational terrorists. U.S.-Philippines counterterrorism cooperation remained strong. Abu Sayyaf Group members, numbering a few hundred, were known to be present in remote areas in Mindanao, especially on the islands of Basilan and Sulu. JI members, of whom there are only a small number remaining, are in a few isolated pockets of Mindanao. Peace agreements between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) are suspected to have limited safe haven areas within MILF territories. Continued pressure from Philippine security forces made it difficult for terrorists to organize, plan, raise funds, communicate, recruit, train, and operate.

    THE MIDDLE EAST

    Iraq. In the vast desert areas of western Iraq, especially in Anbar and Ninewa Provinces, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) established semi-permanent encampments. These areas reportedly included camps, training centers, command headquarters, and stocks of weapons. ISIL fighters allegedly controlled villages, oases, grazing areas, and valleys in these areas and were able to move with little impediment across international borders in the area.

    Also, the lack of sustained coordination between Government of Iraq and the Kurdistan Regional government security forces in the Disputed Internal Boundaries areas made it easier for insurgents and terrorists to operate or move through these areas unchecked.


    The Government of Iraq lacked the capabilities to fully deny safe havens to terrorists, but not the will to do so. Iraqi Security Forces have conducted air and ground operations to destroy encampments but faced well-trained and heavily equipped ISIL fighters. The scale of the terrorist presence in Iraq is compounded by the cross-border flow of weapons and personnel between Iraq and Syria. The United States has encouraged the Government of Iraq to seek broader cross-border counterterrorism cooperation with like-minded neighboring countries.

    During the first half of 2013, Iraq, Turkey, and the United States continued a trilateral security dialogue as part of ongoing efforts to combat the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in the region. As part of peace process negotiations between the Government of Turkey and jailed PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan, hundreds of PKK fighters left Turkey and entered the Iraqi Kurdistan Region in northern Iraq starting in May.

    Lebanon. The Lebanese government does not exercise complete control over all regions in the country or its borders with Syria and Israel. Hizballah militias controlled access to parts of the country, limiting access by Lebanon’s security services, including the police and army, which allowed terrorists to operate in these areas with relative impunity. Palestinian refugee camps were also used as safe havens by Palestinian and other armed groups and were used to house weapons and shelter wanted criminals.

    The Lebanese security services conducted frequent operations to capture terrorists. They did not target or arrest Hizballah members.

    The primary concern regarding weapons of mass destruction is that Lebanon’s porous borders will make the country vulnerable for use as a transit and transshipment hub for proliferation-sensitive transfers. The conflict in Syria increases the risk of illicit transfers of items of proliferation concern across the Lebanese border. On border security, the United States conducted numerous trainings with and donated equipment to Lebanese Customs to enhance its capabilities to detect illicit cross-border trade in strategic goods and other contraband. Hizballah’s continued ability to receive sophisticated munitions via Iran and Syria requires aggressive regular monitoring.

    Libya. With a weak government possessing very few tools to exert control throughout its territory, Libya has become a terrorist safe haven and its transit routes are used by various terrorist groups, notably in the southwest and northeast. The General National Congress has tried to tackle the lawlessness of the southern region by temporarily closing – at least officially – the country’s southern border, and declaring large swaths of area (west from Ghadames, Ghat, Ubari, Sebha, Murzuq, and across a 620 miles off-road east to Kufra) as closed military zones to be administered under emergency law. In reality, however, Libya’s weak and under-resourced institutions have had little influence in that region, and have failed to implement this vague decree, as is evident from frequent ethnic clashes in the area. Instead, tribes and militias continue to control the area, and traders, smugglers, and terrorists continue to utilize ancient trade routes across these borders. All of Libya’s borders are porous and vulnerable to this activity, and the United States is working closely with the EU Border Assistance Mission to help the government mitigate these threats.

    The Libyan government recognizes the gravity of the threats emanating from its borders, and is willing to work with the international community to overcome its inability to tackle these problems itself. In 2013, the United States signed an agreement with the Libyan government to cooperate on destroying Libya’s stockpile of legacy chemical weapons in accordance with its obligations as an Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) member state. Libya successfully completed operations for the disposal of its remaining mustard gas filled in artillery projectile and aerial bombs in January 2014. Libya also previously completed the disposal of its remaining bulk mustard in 2013. There also have been reports of thousands of barrels of yellowcake uranium, a foundational material for nuclear enrichment, precariously secured in a former military facility near Sebha in Libya’s south. Although representing limited risk of trafficking due to the bulk and weight of the storage containers, Libya agreed to host an assessment team of inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency to survey the stockpile in early 2014.

    Yemen. The Government of Yemen, under President Abdo Rabbo Mansour Hadi, remained a strong partner of the United States on counterterrorism issues. Military campaigns against AQAP strongholds in the southern governorates in 2012, along with tribal resistance in the form of pro-government Popular Committees, eliminated much of the territory considered a “safe haven” for AQAP terrorists. In 2013, however, Yemeni security forces have been losing the ground gained in 2012. The impunity with which AQAP conducted ambush-style attacks and assassinations, particularly in the Abyan, Shebwah, and Hadramawt Governorates, suggests that AQAP has been successful in expanding its theatre of operations.

    Yemen’s instability makes the country vulnerable for use as a transit point for weapons of mass destruction (WMD)-related materials. In the past year the United States resumed training focusing on the development of strategic trade controls and continued to conduct border security training for Yemeni Customs and other enforcement agencies. Yemen has identified an inter-ministry group to work on nonproliferation-related issues.

    The United States continued to build Yemeni government capacity to secure potentially dangerous biological and chemical materials and infrastructure housed at Yemeni facilities, while also productively engaging Yemeni scientists and engineers that have WMD or WMD-applicable expertise.

    SOUTH ASIA

    Afghanistan. Several terrorist networks active in Afghanistan, such as al-Qa’ida (AQ), the Haqqani Network, and others, operate largely out of Pakistan. AQ has some freedom of movement in Kunar and Nuristan provinces largely due to a lack of Afghan National Security Forces’ capacity to control certain border territories in north and east Afghanistan. During 2013, the Afghan government continued to counter the Afghan Taliban and Taliban-affiliated insurgent networks with AQ connections. The increased capability of the Afghan Local Police units helped to secure some rural areas that had previously lacked a Government of Afghanistan presence.

    The potential for weapons of mass destruction (WMD) trafficking and proliferation was a concern in Afghanistan because of its porous borders and the presence of terrorist groups. The U.S. government worked with the Government of Afghanistan to implement comprehensive strategic trade controls. The U.S. Border Management Task Force also worked closely with Afghan officials to prevent the proliferation of and trafficking of WMD in and through Afghanistan. The Export Control and Related Border Security Assistance (EXBS) contributed to strengthening Afghanistan’s enforcement capacity through participation in a regional cross-border training program, and training through the Department of Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection agency.

    The United States continued to assist the Afghan government to build capacity needed to secure potentially dangerous biological materials and infrastructure housed at Afghan facilities, promote surveillance capabilities to detect and identify possibly catastrophic biological events, and productively engage Afghan scientists and engineers that have WMD or WMD-applicable expertise.

    Pakistan. Portions of Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, and Balochistan province remained a safe haven for terrorist groups seeking to conduct domestic, regional, and global attacks. Al-Qa’ida, the Haqqani Network, Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan, Lashkar i Jhangvi, Lashkar e-Tayyiba, and other terrorist groups, as well as the Afghan Taliban, took advantage of this safe haven to plan operations in Pakistan and throughout the region. Though they did act against TTP, Pakistani authorities did not take significant military or law enforcement action against other groups operating from Pakistan-based safe havens, such as HQN and the Afghan Taliban.

    The potential for weapons of mass destruction (WMD) trafficking, proliferation, and terrorism remained a concern in Pakistan. Pakistan is a constructive and active participant in the Nuclear Security Summit process and has worked to strengthen its strategic trade controls. A number of State Department programs are being implemented to mitigate the risk of WMD, such as the Export Control and Related Border Security Assistance (EXBS) Program, which enabled Pakistani officials to gain expertise in properly classifying items of proliferation concern and export licensing best practices.



    WESTERN HEMISPHERE

    Colombia. Colombia’s borders with Venezuela, Ecuador, Peru, Panama, and Brazil include rough terrain and dense forest cover, which coupled with low population densities and historically weak government presence, have often allowed for potential safe havens for insurgent and terrorist groups, particularly the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the National Liberation Army (ELN). Colombia continued its efforts to combat terrorism within its borders, targeting both the FARC and ELN. Additionally, even as the Government of Colombia engaged with the FARC in peace talks throughout the year, President Santos maintained pressure by continuing operational exercises to combat the FARC’s ability to conduct terrorist attacks. Nevertheless, illegal armed groups, primarily known as “Bandas Criminales,” use the porous borders, remote mountain areas, and jungles to maneuver, train, cultivate and transport narcotics, operate illegal mines, “tax” the local populace, and engage in other illegal activities. Colombia continued cooperation and information sharing with the Panamanian National Border Service, establishing a joint base of operation and strengthening control of their shared border in the Darien region. Improved relations with neighboring Ecuador and Venezuela have led to some increased cooperation from those countries on law enforcement issues. Stronger government actions in Brazil and Peru and continued cooperation with the Government of Colombia have also addressed potential safe haven areas along their shared borders.

    Venezuela. There were credible reports that Venezuela maintained an environment that allowed for fundraising activities that benefited known terrorist groups. Individuals linked to Hizballah as well as FARC and ELN members were present in Venezuela.

    Source:Country Reports on Terrorism 2013 Chapter 5: Terrorist Safe Havens (Update to 7120 Report)
     
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  3. sorcerer

    sorcerer Senior Member Senior Member

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    : Country Reports: South and Central Asia Overview

    Bureau of Counterterrorism
    Country Reports on Terrorism 2013


    South Asia remained a front line in the battle against terrorism. Although al-Qa’ida’s (AQ) core in Afghanistan and Pakistan has been seriously degraded, AQ’s global leadership continued to operate from its safe haven in the region and struggled to communicate effectively with affiliate groups outside of South Asia. AQ maintained ties with other terrorist organizations in the region, such as Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and the Haqqani Network (HQN). These alliances continued to provide the group with additional resources and capabilities. In 2013, terrorists in South Asia carried out operations in heavily populated areas and continued to target regional governmental representatives and U.S. persons. On numerous occasions, civilians throughout South Asia were wounded or killed in terrorist events.

    Afghanistan, in particular, continued to experience aggressive and coordinated attacks by the Afghan Taliban, HQN, and other insurgent and terrorist groups. A number of these attacks were planned and launched from safe havens in Pakistan. Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) are now providing security across all of Afghanistan as the transition to full Afghan leadership on security continues in anticipation of the 2014 drawdown of U.S. and Coalition Forces (CF). The ANSF and CF, in partnership, took aggressive action against terrorist elements in Afghanistan, especially in Kabul, and many of the eastern and northern provinces.

    Pakistan continued to experience significant terrorist violence, including sectarian attacks. The Pakistani military undertook operations against groups that conducted attacks within Pakistan such as TTP, but did not take action against other groups such as Lashkar-e-Tayyiba (LeT), which continued to operate, train, rally, and fundraise in Pakistan during the past year. Afghan Taliban and HQN leadership and facilitation networks continued to find safe haven in Pakistan, and Pakistani authorities did not take significant military or law enforcement action against these groups.

    Levels of terrorist violence were similar to previous years. India remained severely affected by and vulnerable to terrorism, including from Pakistan-based groups and their affiliates as well as left-wing violent extremists. The Government of India, in response, continued to undertake efforts to coordinate its counterterrorism capabilities more effectively and expanded its cooperation and coordination with the international community and regional partners.

    Bangladesh, an influential counterterrorism partner in the region, continued to make strides against international terrorism. The government’s ongoing counterterrorism efforts have made it more difficult for transnational terrorists to operate in or use Bangladeshi territory, and there were no major terrorist incidents in Bangladesh in 2013. The United States and Bangladesh signed a Counterterrorism Cooperation Initiative on October 22, 2013, to enhance bilateral cooperation.

    The potential challenges to stability that could accompany the changes of the international force presence in Afghanistan in 2014 remained a significant concern for the Central Asian leaders. Additionally, terrorist groups with ties to Central Asia – notably the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and the Islamic Jihad Union – continued to be an issue even as they operated outside of the Central Asian states. The effectiveness of some Central Asian countries’ efforts to reduce their vulnerability to perceived terrorist threats was difficult to discern in some cases, however, due to failure to distinguish clearly between terrorism and violent extremism on one hand and political opposition, or non-traditional religious practices, on the other.
    Source:http://www.state.gov/j/ct/rls/crt/2013/224824.htm
     
  4. sorcerer

    sorcerer Senior Member Senior Member

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    BANGLADESH

    Overview: The Government of Bangladesh has demonstrated political will and firm commitment to combat domestic and transnational terrorist groups, and its counterterrorism efforts made it harder for transnational terrorists to operate or establish safe havens in Bangladesh. Bangladesh and the United States signed a Counterterrorism Cooperation Initiative to enhance counterterrorism cooperation as an important element of its bilateral partnership and engagement. In 2013, U.S. assistance supported programs for Bangladeshi civilian, law enforcement, and military counterparts to build their capacity to monitor, detect, and prevent terrorism.

    Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: Bangladesh’s criminal justice system was in the process of fully implementing the Antiterrorism Act of 2009. In 2013, Parliament passed into law extensive amendments to the ATA. The amendments, which were drafted with technical assistance from the Department of Justice and experts from the U.S. Department of Treasury, bring Bangladesh into greater compliance with international standards. Significant improvements have been made to the law, including more extensive criminalization of terrorist financing, prohibitions on supporting individuals (rather than simply organizations) who engage in terrorist activity, and an ability to promptly freeze funds and assets of those engaged in or supporting terrorism. Parliament also enacted the Children Act in 2013, which provides for capital punishment of those convicted of exploiting children to commit terrorist acts and provided for the appointment of a Children’s Affairs Officer in every police station.

    In January, Bangladesh police arrested three suspected Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) terrorists. Bangladesh cooperated with the United States to further strengthen control of its borders and land, sea, and air ports of entry. Bangladesh continued to participate in the Department of State's Antiterrorism Assistance (ATA) program, and Bangladesh National Police (BNP) officers received training in crisis response, border security, and investigations. An ATA program team met with Bangladeshi law enforcement and U.S. embassy officials in September, and the outcomes of these meetings will contribute to the development of ATA program objectives to build Bangladeshi incident management and expand Bangladesh Border Guard’s (BBG) security capacity. In November, a senior level delegation representing a cross section of Bangladeshi security and public safety entities traveled to the U.S. to participate in a five-day crisis management seminar. The course included table top exercises designed to help participants effectively prepare for, manage, control, and support a coordinated response to a critical incident of national importance. Bangladesh also cooperated with the Department of Justice’s efforts to provide prosecutorial skills training to its assistant public prosecutors, encourage greater cooperation between police and prosecutors, and institute community policing in targeted areas of the country.

    Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Bangladesh is a member of the Asia/Pacific Group on Money Laundering, a Financial Action Task Force (FATF)-style regional body. The Bangladesh Bank (the central bank) and its financial intelligence unit/anti-money laundering section lead the government's effort to comply with the international sanctions regime. Significant improvements to its Antiterrorism Act have allowed Bangladesh to start the path of successfully exiting the FATF International Cooperation Review Group process. The presence and large-scale use of informal value transfer systems such as hawalas and the hundi system of remittances provide channels for exploitation by terrorists. In the formal financial sector, law enforcement rarely uses its powers to freeze and confiscate assets. For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, see the 2014 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), Volume 2, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes: Narcotics Control Reports.

    Regional and International Cooperation: Bangladesh is active in the full range of international fora. Bangladesh is party to various counterterrorism protocols under the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation and is bringing the country’s counterterrorism efforts in line with the four pillars of the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy. Bangladesh’s foreign and domestic policies are heavily influenced by the region’s major powers, particularly India. In past years, the India-Bangladesh relationship has provided openings for transnational threats, but the current government has demonstrated its interest in regional cooperation on counterterrorism. It has signed memoranda of understanding with a number of countries to share evidence regarding criminal investigations, including investigations related to financial crimes and terrorist financing.

    Countering Radicalization to Violence and Violent Extremism:

    Bangladesh uses strategic communication to counter violent extremism, especially among youth. The Ministry of Education oversees madrassas and is developing a standard national curriculum that includes language, math, and science modules, as well as minimum standards of secular subjects to be taught in all primary schools, up to the eighth grade. The Ministry of Religious Affairs and the National Committee on Militancy Resistance and Prevention work with imams and religious scholars to build public awareness against terrorism. The Government of Bangladesh is also actively expanding economic opportunities for women as a stabilizing force against violent religious extremism.
     
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