The IMCTC’s success depends entirely upon how well it morphs into an effective fighting machine to counter and defeat terrorism in all its forms and manifestations. The application of its military forces will require consensus, critical geopolitical considerations, unambiguous decisions and viable operational strategies.
The IMCTC must be one on the definition of terrorism in line with acceptable international versions. It becomes imperative that its operational objectives are well defined and achievable. Will it be used against renegade groups alone or will it also operate against state terrorism too? Can it be even employed in the latter case? Furthermore, by virtue of its organization and mandate, the IMCTC’s jurisdiction will be restricted to its member states only. Its priorities will need to be in harmony with other international CT efforts too. The application of international law on its operations will need to be factored in and its ramifications catered for.
Most critically, the political and employment control of the IMCTC and its military forces will be decisive. Will it be unity of command (KSA-?), or a small coterie/council of member states (on a rotational basis-?) or a full consensus to decide the why, where, when, and how of force application? Either way there will be problems. If it is the KSA alone then everyone in the IMCTC will have to go with Saudi interpretations of terrorist activities and dictates. Period. If it is a small group of countries then the others may feel left out negatively impacting on their commitment to the cause. If it has to be a full consensus then getting all forty one countries to agree to a single point of view will require sublime diplomacy and negotiation skills. It will be a Herculean task and may even scuttle the whole idea of the IMCTC. Leaving participation in military operations to the capacity and desire of each individual country will seriously limit the efficacy of the organization in CT operations. A well-defined articulation of command and clear strategy for force application will be inevitable to the future and the success of the IMCTC.
Furthermore, where this force can be applied is again very debatable. It clearly cannot be applied in areas with severe geopolitical connotations like Palestine, Kashmir, even Lebanon, Yemen or Iran. That may be beyond its mandate, capacities and abilities anyway. In areas with confirmed terrorist activities like the Levant, Afghanistan and Pakistan too its application in harmony with international forces like the US/NATO/ISAF will again require consensus of the participating countries as well as the country in which these operations are to take place. Furthermore, there will be issues of national interests, geopolitical ramifications, command and control of military forces etc when operating in an international counter terrorism environment. An unambiguous policy and operational strategy needs to be enunciated.
Taking a lead from Article 5 (Collective Defence - an attack against one ally is considered as an attack on ALL allies) of NATO’s Charter the IMCTC could formulate a similar strategy for itself. For example, any terrorist activity in any of the member countries may be considered as if all members of the IMCTC are under that terrorist attack/threat and must thus evoke a collective CT response. For this purpose a QRF/standing military force could be dispatched to that member state to reinforce its immediate CT efforts, pending further supportive measures covering all domains. This might bring more focus, purpose and practicality to the IMCTC and give it a viable modus operandi!
The IMCTC in KSA can have other major advantages for it, as well. First, its presence in the Kingdom will promote internal stability and give the royal family further confidence and a sense of security too. It provides a ready CT force available within the country to fight off /deter “terrorist” activities that may threaten it internally or externally from the South, the North-North East or from across the Persian Gulf. Secondly, it gives the KSA a readily available force for power projection within the region allowing it to effectively counter inimical influences there. Terrorism or activities “deemed to be terrorism” anywhere in the Greater Middle East Region could thus be under a persistent threat by this military force.
The IMCTC ought to adopt two prongs, counter extremism (targeting sleeper cells and facilitator networks) and CT, and in that order or even simultaneously. In the first instance extremism must be tackled by ensuring that the Islamic Madrassahs providing religious education do not preach extremism or sectarianism. A common, sect-neutral albeit uniform “basic” curriculum (prepared by say the Al Azhar University or a group of Ulema from all Islamic sects) could be introduced in all Madrassahs all over the Islamic world. It should include modern sciences, languages, vocational skills and technical subjects to enable the students to become positive and productive citizens of society. A common counter narrative which correctly reflects Islam’s true teachings and negates the false narratives of the terrorists must be prepared and propagated throughout the world. It must of necessity be truer, more attractive and more logical than the one it counters. The terrorists must be denied the uninterrupted use of all facets of the media. Furthermore, financing of Madrassahs by foreign governments must be stopped forthwith. It would be most emphatically applicable to KSA and GCC countries and Iran. All member countries must crackdown on all such funding being received informally or outside banking channels. Collection of donations within the respective countries must also be streamlined. In the CT prong the IMCTC must concentrate on building the capacities of all militaries of member states through joint training and exercises, provision of necessary equipment, weapon and communication systems and devising of common battle drills, battle procedures, intelligence sharing procedures, logistics etc.
The IMCTC is still a work in progress. A lot of clarifications and streamlining need to be done regarding its charter, TORs and principles governing force application. It must have achievable aims and objectives without any political/sectarian undertones. It must become all inclusive and effectively prevent, pre-empt, counter and eliminate terrorism in all its forms and manifestations regionally and globally!
Most critically, the political and employment control of the IMCTC and its military forces will be decisive.