The US State Department’s decision to close its mission in Dhaka, along with another 22 of its missions in other countries due to an al-Qaeda terror attack plan came as a surprise to many Bangladeshi citizens.
Yes, America may have a reason to worry and take precautions on the information the CIA had about the attacks, but branding Bangladesh a potential-terrorist haven was unwelcome.
Although the US embassy in Dhaka was kept closed for just a day, Bangladesh’s image was tarnished globally by Washington’s decision.
This has led Bangladeshis to think that the US was equating this country with Iraq, Libya, Algeria, Afghanistan, Sudan, Yemen, and Egypt, and the thought was quite embarrassing for all Bangladeshis in the backdrop where the US envoy, Dan W Mozena, roams around the country freely.
Given that he is the most visible foreign envoy, whose movement is completely unhindered in the country, Bangladeshis didn’t expect to be compared to the other countries on the list that are more prone to terror attacks.
What happens in those areas has never happened here. Bangladesh doesn’t have a visible presence of al-Qaeda. In other countries on the “at risk” list, cars explode, hotels are bombed, people die in cinema halls and shopping malls. Can anyone think of any such incident of terrorism in this country?
Having said that we must also confess that there was a time when Bangladesh fell prey to Islamist militancy. Terrorist organisations such as Jamiat-ul-Mujahedin, Lashkar-e-Toiyba did try to turn Bangladesh into a terror haven.
There was a time when Islamist militants serially exploded bombs in 63 districts of the country on the same day. All this happened in this country as, reportedly, a foreign spy agency wanted to make Bangladesh unstable.
Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami is also believed to have links with international terror organisations.
But the terrorising didn’t last very long. Bangladesh fought them back and successfully rooted out the terror elements. The militant kingpins have also been executed.
However, to America’s mind, that may not mean that terror threats or the presence of transnational terror elements have been successfully eliminated.
After all, this is one of the countries from which some people did go to Afghanistan, Iraq as well as Palestine in order to fight against, what they said, are anti-Islamic forces in those countries.
These people had become radicals when they returned and tried to organise radical forces across the country. However, they weren’t very successful, and were easily contained.
Presently, Bangladesh doesn’t have the threat of the kind of terrorism that USA and its allies are fighting against. What Bangladesh has now is an extreme form of violence due to its internal political environment.
The conflicts that emanate from local power-mongering politics can be extremely dangerous; and yes, that may be reason enough to issue an international travel alert.
Risks of the physical insecurity of all Bangladeshis are exceptionally high as extortion, arson and incidents of abduction are commonplace.
However, these have no connection with transnational terror groups. The local political groups are responsible for these types of acts of terror.
Coming back to the issue of embassy closures, the Obama administration was criticised as “overreacting” on terror attacks, but the US President seemed quite determined to make sure that they don’t have another Benghazi. Americans should proceed with vacations in a “prudent way,” Obama said.
A country has all the rights to ensure national security if there’s any possibility of a terror attack. This is precisely what the US did by closing the embassies in 22 places. However, according to news reports in Bangladeshi media, they hadn’t informed the government here.
This was surprising. Dhaka is one of Washington’s partners in its war on terror. These two countries have done quite a lot of work to prevent terrorism in Bangladesh and in South Asia.
The US has even helped Bangladesh to formulate its counter-terrorism act. Therefore, keeping Dhaka uninformed about the embassy closure can raise questions.
Having said that, we must reiterate that the kind of terrorism the US fears isn’t the reality in Bangladesh. The Bangladeshi people deserve to know whether their country is a terror threat for America.