Terrorist Sanctuaries and Bosnia-Herzegovina: Challenging Conventional Assumptions

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  • This article was downloaded by: [Wayne State University]On: 26 November 2014, At: 11:27Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954 Registered office: Mortimer House,37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK

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    Terrorist Sanctuaries and Bosnia-Herzegovina:Challenging Conventional AssumptionsMichael A. Innes aa Associate Fellow Center for Developing Area Studies , McGill University Montreal , Quebec,CanadaPublished online: 19 Aug 2006.

    To cite this article: Michael A. Innes (2005) Terrorist Sanctuaries and Bosnia-Herzegovina: Challenging ConventionalAssumptions, Studies in Conflict & Terrorism, 28:4, 295-305, DOI: 10.1080/10576100590950147

    To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10576100590950147

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    Studies in Conflict & Terrorism, 28:295305, 2005Copyright Taylor & Francis Inc.ISSN: 1057-610X print / 1521-0731 onlineDOI: 10.1080/10576100590950147

    Terrorist Sanctuaries and Bosnia-Herzegovina:Challenging Conventional Assumptions

    MICHAEL A. INNES

    Associate FellowCenter for Developing Area StudiesMcGill UniversityMontreal, Quebec, Canada

    This article argues that a model of terrorism and terrorist sanctuaries rooted inpost-9/11 strategic thought and the Global War on Terror is inadequate to the studyof terrorism in Bosnia and the Balkans. It addresses a series of conventional as-sumptions regarding Bosnia-Herzegovinas status as a putative terrorist sanctuary,based on a reading of post-war ethnic politics and political architecture. This as-sessment turns on the basic notion that terrorism in Bosnia is a complex phenom-enon linked to multiple domestic and foreign communities, defined along competingnational trajectories and intersecting foreign interests, and subject to evolving po-litical circumstances and priorities.

    At a House Armed Services Committee forum held in July 2004, Major General JamesDarden, Deputy Director for Plans and Policy, United States European Command, ad-dressed terrorism issues in Bosnia-Herzegovina1 under the Dayton Accords. In general,he noted, the threat of terrorist influence in Bosnia is low as the operations of SFORand International Community continue to suppress extremist enclaves and terrorist sup-port activities. Dardens address, part of an initiative to define and justify Americascontinued military presence in the Balkans, highlighted the potential for slippage. Bosniaspostwar reconstruction, he emphasized, was not yet sufficiently mature to pose a sus-tained and cohesive obstacle to terrorist activities. Bosnia still lingers as a potential safehaven for transit, training, arms sales and financial support of terrorist activities, Dardenstated, due to porous borders, lax immigration control, and underdeveloped govern-mental and civil police and security organizations.2

    The subject of terrorist safe havens or sanctuaries in general has received wideattention since global counterterrorism efforts began focusing, among other things, ondenying terrorists their bases of operations. Afghanistan was not the first case of a dys-

    Received 17 October 2004; accepted 8 November 2004.The findings and statements in this article are the authors alone, and do not represent the

    official interests, activities, or policies or NATO, SFOR, EUFOR, or any other agency of theinternational community in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

    Address correspondence to Michael A. Innes, 3715 Peel Street, Montreal, Quebec, Canada,H3A 1X1. E-mail: PolMilAnalyst@yahoo.com

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  • 296 M. A. Innes

    functional state being targeted for its permissiveness toward foreign terrorists. Since 11September 2001, the subsequent U.S.-led war against its Taliban regime, and the morerecent war in Iraq, however, it has served as an intuitive model and polemic referent formilitary planners and policymakers interested in confronting terrorist actors abroad. Therehas been little scholarly attention to defining terrorist sanctuaries as such,3 or to theircontemporary implications for nation-building, regional security, and global counterterrorism.4

    The potential for conceptual stretch and consequent policy misdirection is significant,particularly in a political environment as rife with propaganda and metaphor as the Balkans.5

    For NATO and EU member states concerned with preserving the safe and secure envi-ronment, force protection, and rule of law in Bosnia, terrorists and the harbors in whichthey hide represent complex threats in need of analytical rigor and close attention tolocal detail.

    This article expands on Dardens assessment by exploring the answers to a simplequestion: Is Bosnia-Herzegovina a terrorist sanctuary? Drawing on official statements,independent studies, declassified reports, and local and international press coverage, itbegins with a brief survey of relevant arguments and defining criteria. Specifically, thisarticle argues that a model of terrorism and terrorist sanctuaries rooted in post-9/11strategic thought and the Global War on Terror (GWOT) is inadequate to the study ofterrorism in Bosnia and the Balkans. It identifies and addresses a series of conventionalassumptions regarding Bosnia-Herzegovinas status as a putative terrorist sanctuary, basedon a reading of postwar ethnic politics and internationally mandated political architec-ture. This assessment turns on the basic notion that terrorism in Bosnia is a complexphenomenon linked to multiple domestic and foreign communities, defined along com-peting national trajectories and intersecting foreign interests, and subject to evolvingpolitical circumstances and priorities.6

    Humanitarian Intervention and the 911 Paradigm

    In the wars of the postCold War period, Adam Roberts noted in 1998, there havebeen innovative attempts to create areas of special protection for victims and humanitar-ian bodies assisting them. Such areas have been variously called corridors of tranquility,humanitarian corridors, neutral zones, protected areas, safe areas, safe havens,secure humanitarian areas, security corridors, and security zones. 7 The interna-tional community has been vigorous, if not always successful, in its attempts to promoteand protect such areas. For Roberts, [t]he variety of the terminology reflects the widerange of forms that such areas can assume and the absence of a standard legal con-cept.8

    Humanitarian and terrorist sanctuaries are qualitatively distinct phenomena, but theadaptable nomenclature used to designate such sites of refuge is remarkably similarsuggesting their ultimate meaning lies in the mind of the beholder. Indeed, politicalscientist Rex Brynen, who has looked closely at the issue of terrorist sanctuaries and thevarious forms they take, notes the care that needs to be taken in defining related securitythreats as such.9 Since 9/11, the semantics of safety have had much broader and infi-nitely more sinister implications for the security-conscious, potentially undermining theviability of troubled states such as Afghanistan, Bosnia, and Iraq, and raising the likeli-hood for collateral damage to misidentified host communities. As John J. Hamre andGordon R. Sullivan noted in a 2002 issue of Washington Quarterly, One of the princi-pal lessons of the events of September 11 is that failed states matternot just for hu-manitarian reasons but for national security as well. Indeed, If left untended, such

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  • Terrorist Sanctuaries and Bosnia-Herzegovina 297

    states can become sanctuaries for terrorist networks with a global reach, not to mentioninternational organized crime and drug traffickers who also exploit the dysfunctionalenvironment.10

    Relatively little scholarly work has been done to identify the conceptual elements ofsanctuary in terms that satisfy counterterrorist needs.11 The recently released report ofthe 9/11 Commission is thus a practical measure of current theoretical understandingand policy orientation. The report identifies broad-based criteria in the evolution of ter-rorist havens, and names specific states of concernPakistan, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia,and Yemen, as well as a number of other regions and states. Bosnia-Herzegovina and itsWestern Balkan neighbors are not discussed,12 but the report serves as a useful reminderof a historical benchmark in this regard. Foreign military intervention in the formerYugoslav states was bisected and attenuated by 9/11 and its policy reverberations, pro-ducing a radical shift in mission priorities. What began in the early 1990s as humanitar-ian action against state-sponsored repression and as protection for non-combatants hassince evolved, as Dardens July 2004 comments imply, into a mission heavily informedand shaped by global counterterrorist concerns.

    For those involved in pre- and post-9/11 security operations in Bosnia and the Balkansthe distinction is at once striking and anodyne. For many, the new wars of the 19921995 period were lawless, savage conflagrations with little to distinguish themat leastin a maximalist sensefrom terrorism.13 How to distinguish, then, the illegal wartimeviolence that terrorized non-combatants from postwar acts of terror, and how to charac-terize the perpetrators responsible for both? The critical point here is that extremistand terrorist are fluid, politically loaded labels in Bosnia that are far too easily de-ployed in support of particularistic goals. They evolve along historical and territorialtrajectories, accruing conceptual baggage along the way, and ultimately make it ex-tremely difficult for the putative analyst to extract meaningful benchmarks of terroristbehavior and related phenomena. As the Organization for Security and Cooperation inEurope quite rightly noted in a 2002 report, terrorism in Bosnia includes both the morepublicized international terrorist groups or supporters, as well as domestic terrorismaimed at preventing returnees, for example.14

    The 9/11 Commissions approach was to define mass-casualty terrorism, on a parwith the destruction of the World Trade Center Towers, as the primary terrorist threat toU.S. national interests and security. The Commission then identified the necessary pre-conditions for planning and implementing such operations. These included:

    Time and space to develop the ability to perform competent planning and toassemble the people, money, and resources needed for the terrorist act;

    a relatively undisturbed area to recruit and train those who will carry out theoperation;

    a logistics network; access to materials needed to conduct a chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear

    attack; reliable communications; and conditions in which the plan can be rehearsed and tested.15

    It is easiest, the Commission noted, for terrorists to carry out these activities in stateswith rugged terrain, weak governments, and low population density. In such places,terrorists can hide themselves, as well as their supplies and infrastructure. Thus, thesecharacteristics provide a recipe for a terrorist sanctuary or haven. The Commissionsconsideration of distinct case studies and examples of potential refuges included tracts

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  • 298 M. A. Innes

    of unpoliced terrain in physically isolated regions of the world. It also acknowledged theinherent vulnerability of modernized, accessible liberal democratic societies to terroristexploitation. The consensus view of Commission members, however, was quite lim-ited: in the twenty-first century the United States should focus on remote regions andfailed states in its efforts to suppress terrorist sanctuaries.16

    The major limitation of this formula is that it looks to the current global securitycrisis for its model of terrorist types, and establishes its basic analytical criteria of terror-ist sanctuaries from there. This is understandable and justifiable, but its roots in strategicU.S. thinking restrict its relevance to those actors and phenomena perceived to be threatsto U.S. national security. The implications for the Balkans are significant.17 In the wakeof 11 September 2001, heightened sensitivities to terrorist issues were conflated withwartime legacies to produce a shift in perceptions of local security. Accounts from theInstitute for War and Peace Reporting, for example, tell of a wave of hysteriaprimarilyamong internationalssweeping Sarajevo and other Bosnian cities over the presence offoreign Muslims.18 Hard-line nationalists manipulated and exploited public sentimentparadoxicallyto block internationally sponsored reforms and score points with the West.19

    Intervention policy was reoriented to focus on residual Islamic fightersalways asubject of Western concern, but now more sowho had settled more or less perma-nently in BiH after the war. A public opinion survey conducted by an internationallysponsored Sarajevo think tank suggests that local anxiety was at most an elite fabricationor a fleeting response to events in New York and the subsequent war in Afghanistan. Itsresults demonstrate that subjects from the FBiH and the RS are not differentiated byany statistical significance in the perceptions and evaluations that there is no seriousthreat from foreign terrorism in BiH, and that it is only possible t...

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