America’s Sanctions and Bangladesh’s Counterterrorism Initiatives

In the intricate mosaic of global counterterrorism endeavors, Bangladesh emerges as a nation adeptly navigating the multifaceted challenges posed by terrorist activities. The recently published Country Reports on Terrorism for the year 2022 by the US State Department, furnished a comprehensive and perceptive elucidation of Bangladesh’s counterterrorism milieu.

Throughout the annals of 2022, Bangladesh encountered a relatively scant number of instances of terrorist violence, chiefly attributable to the relentless pursuit of militant groups by the authorities. The report accentuates the fact that Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, an unwavering luminary at the nation’s helm, along with other governmental functionaries, consistently underscored the country’s unequivocal stance against terrorism. Sheikh Hasina’s steadfast commitment to expelling terrorism from the nation has propelled the vigorous counterterrorism initiatives undertaken by Bangladesh.

The leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is distinguished by a proactive and resolute approach aimed at ensuring the safety and security of the nation. Despite confronting myriad challenges, including the repudiation of the presence of globally organized militant factions, Sheikh Hasina has exhibited unwavering determination in her ‘Zero Tolerance’ policy against terrorism, safeguarding the tranquility and stability of Bangladesh.

The Institute for Economics and Peace, a Sydney-based organization specializing in terrorism studies, unveiled a report on April 10, 2023. Remarkably, Bangladesh outperforms Pakistan, India, and Sri Lanka, as well as the United States and the United Kingdom in the Global Terrorism Index, as per the report. This index meticulously analyzes a country’s annual incidence of terrorist activities, hostage situations, and casualties. Afghanistan claims the undesirable top spot for terrorism, with Pakistan at 6, India at 13, the United States at 30, the United Kingdom at 42, and Bangladesh securing the 43rd position.

The data reveals a noteworthy trend for Bangladesh, ranking 40th in 2022, 43rd in 2023, and notably surging to 22nd in 2016. In essence, since 2016, Bangladesh has consistently elevated its standing in the global fight against terrorism. Notably, when compared to other South Asian countries, as well as the United States, Bangladesh has maintained a commendable lead. Consequently, the report stands as a distinctly positive affirmation of Bangladesh’s concerted efforts in combating terrorism on the international stage.

These militant factions, driven by the objective of destabilizing the law and order situation in Bangladesh with a clandestine agenda of ousting Sheikh Hasina from power, had converged into a formidable force. Systematically orchestrated assaults, targeting individuals of a secularist disposition, journalists, bloggers, and even foreigners, became an unsettlingly recurrent phenomenon. At this critical juncture, the Sheikh Hasina-led-Awami League government initiated resolute measures against these elements, with the international community, notably the United States, playing a remarkably effective role. Their contribution involved the adept training of members within law enforcement agencies, including the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), thereby endowing these agencies with the capacity to effectively counteract terrorism and militancy within the nation.

A salient development spotlighted in the report is the October proclamation of operations against Jama’atul Ansar Fil Hindal Sharqiya (JAHS), purportedly an AL-Qaeda-inspired group. Authorities disclosed that JAHS were undergoing training in the Chittagong Hill Tracts(CHT) with intentions of executing attacks elsewhere. In 1996, Sheikh Hasina’s first government freed the Chittagong Hill Tracts from the insurgency problem. The Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), a counterterrorism expert unit, launched operations to thwart this potential menace, underscoring a proactive and preemptive stance in the realm of counterterrorism.

The delineation between terrorists and insurgents is rapidly diminishing. In nations where these elements stem from the mainstream population, the efficacy of counterterrorism and counterinsurgency (CT-COIN) operations becomes uncertain. The success of such endeavors hinges on grappling with the intricate socio-political and economic issues at play in these regions. Recognizing that terrorism transcends the bounds of a mere law-and-order predicament, it becomes evident that facile remedies or reliance on police and military interventions are inadequate. But, in reality, the government and its agencies are still successful in curbing the extremist threat in Bangladesh.

The recent sanction imposed on the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) in Bangladesh by the US State Department, while ostensibly symbolic, has impeded the commendable work and noble purpose that RAB strives to achieve. The repercussions of this sanction are poised to inflict hardship primarily upon the ordinary, peace-loving citizens of Bangladesh. In effect, America appears to be stemming an ostensibly noble initiative against terrorism, assuming a dubious role by obstructing those actively involved in the ongoing battle against terrorism. This situation underscores the complexities and unintended consequences that can arise in the realm of international relations and counterterrorism efforts.

Terrorism, a ubiquitous global phenomenon, is not the exclusive responsibility of any single nation, nor is any nation obligated to combat it in isolation. Rather, it constitutes a collective responsibility, necessitating the engagement of every country. In Bangladesh, the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) is diligently striving to make a meaningful contribution to global peace by adopting a robust stance against local, regional, and international terrorism. Through its concerted efforts, RAB aims to be a proactive participant in the broader collaborative endeavor to mitigate the pervasive threat of terrorism on local, regional, and global scales.

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