The disintegration of post-Cold War states, and the Cold War legacy of a world awash in advanced conventional weapons and know-how, has assisted the proliferation of terrorism worldwide.
Vacuums of stability created by conflict and absence of governance in areas such as the Balkans, Afghanistan, Colombia, and certain African countries offer ready made areas for terrorist training and recruitment activity, while smuggling and drug trafficking routes are often exploited by terrorists to support operations worldwide. With the increasing ease of transnational transportation and communication, the continued willingness of states such as Iran and Iraq to provide support, and dehumanizing ideologies that enable mass casualty attacks, the lethal potential of terrorist violence has reached new heights.
The region of Afghanistan — it is not a country in the conventional sense — has, particularly since the 1989 Soviet withdrawal, emerged as a terrorist training ground. Pakistan, struggling to balance its needs for political-economic reform with a domestic religious agenda, provides assistance to terrorist groups both in Afghanistan and Kashmir while acting as a further transit area between the Middle East and South Asia.
Since their emergence in 1994, the Pakistani-supported Taliban militia in Afghanistan has assumed several characteristics traditionally associated with state-sponsors of terrorism, providing logistical support, travel documentation, and training facilities. Although radical groups such as the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, Osama bin Laden’s Al Qaeda, and Kashmiri militants were in Afghanistan prior to the Taliban, the spread of Taliban control has seen Afghan-based terrorism evolve into a relatively coordinated, widespread activity focused on sustaining and developing terrorist capabilities.
Since the mid-1990s, Pakistani-backed terrorist groups fighting in Kashmir have increasingly used training camps inside Taliban-controlled areas. At the same time, members of these groups, as well as thousands of youths from Pakistan’s Northwest Frontier Province (NWFP), have fought with the Taliban against opposition forces. This activity has seen the rise of extremism in parts of Pakistan neighboring Afghanistan, further complicating the ability of Islamabad to exert control over militants. Moreover, the intermixing of Pakistani movements with the Taliban and their Arab-Afghan allies has seen ties between these groups strengthen.
Since 1989 the increasing willingness of religious extremists to strike targets outside immediate country or regional areas underscores the global nature of contemporary terrorism. The 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, and the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, are representative of this trend.