If present trends continue, 1988 could end up as the worst year for international terrorism, with more than 1,000 such attacks.
That's the word this week from the U.S. State Department, which has recorded 562 cases of international terrorism during the first six months of this year - a 32 percent increase over a year ago. The 832 attacks during 1987 have amounted to the worst level so far.If it had not been for a bombing campaign in Pakistan conducted by government-sponsored terrorists from neighboring Afghanistan, international terrorism would be declining.
But there's no reason for complacency just because the war in Afghanistan is winding down with the withdrawal of Soviet troops or just because terrorist attacks within U.S. borders remain few and far between.
Though the Soviets are well on their way out of Afghanistan, many experts still blame the puppet government in Kabul for the sabotage that killed Pakistan President Mohammed Zia ul-Haq in an airplane explosion recently. Even after the last Russian soldier has left Afghanistan, the Kabul government will still have plenty of Soviet military equipment. Most of the explosive devices recovered in Pakistan during the terrorist campaign there have been of Soviet manufacture.
As for the U.S. as an object of terrorism, keep in mind that eight Americans are still being held hostage in Lebanon, that American tourists are highly visible, and that consequently Americans are targeted in one-quarter of all terrorist attacks worldwide.
Keep in mind the mounting evidence that Libya is preparing to resume a more active role in international terrorism, ending a period of relative quiescence following the 1986 U.S. bombing of Tripoli.
Keep in mind, too, that terrorist groups are becoming better financed, better equipped, and more sophisticated. The challenge now is for law enforcement - which has curbed terrorism in some parts of the West - to keep pace in terms of finances, equipment, and sophistication, too.