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What has happened to Pakistan and why it matters to the West?

Alexander Athos

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The Islamic Republic of Pakistan is a nation of 173 million people. It has a fine military tradition with the seventh largest standing armed forces in the world (the military accounts for 25% of Pakistan’s national budget) and is a declared nuclear weapons state.

Since Oct 21 2011 it is an elected member of the UN Security Council (for the next 2 years) and its soldiers have played key roles in UN peace keeping missions.

However, something has happened inside its body politick to cause the global community to have strong concerns that Pakistan may be deteriorating into a very unstable country racked by sectarianism and extremist ideology and that this has permeated into the government, military and intelligence services to such an extent that it threatens Western security.

To a Western observer, a very curious group has emerged in the Pakistani body politick called the Difa-e-Pakistan Council (DPC) /Pakistan Defense Council

In January 2012 they held a rally in which approximately 10,000 people attended. The event was pitched as a coalition of ‘right minded’ leaders and supporters supporting the military and security services. It was held ironically in Liaqat Bagh Park in Rawalpindi Northern Punjab. This was the site of the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto (leader of the PPP who represent in large measure the moderate Sunnis (Barelvis) in 2007 and where her father, former Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was hanged in 1979.

Rawalpindi is also the headquarters of the Pakistani Army and where their officers are trained.

The DPC rally was sponsored by Pakistani Intelligence (ISI) and the Deobandi-Wahhabi-Salafist Sipah-e-Sahaba (SSP) and included representatives of the political and religious right in Pakistan. It was meant to be a show of strength of the community’s resolve to support the military’s decision to force the government to stop road NATO road convoys resupplying into Pakistan through the Kyber Pass because of the November 2011 air strikes on a Pakistani military outpost killing 25 Pakistani soldiers.

Another rally of a similar nature happened on 12th of February this year, this time in Karachi.

Again. no one from the moderate Sunnis (Barelvis), Shias, or Christians were invited to participate, (as if they would be any less patriotic Pakistani’s than the Wahhabi-Deobandi in their condemnation of drone attacks killing civilians as well as terrorists). So this rally and the below picture of its leaders conveys not only a political solidarity of the right but moreover conveys the propaganda that it’s only the people at the rally who are true patriots.

The chairman of the Pakistani Defence Council is ironically not a military man but a clergyman, Maulana Sami ul Haq.

Ul Haq also heads his own political movement, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Sami (Assembly of Islamic Clergy, or JUI). More importantly however he is at the apex of the ideology of the elites that control Pakistan and also the insurgents in Afghanistan because he is also chair of Darul Uloom Haqqania, the preeminent Deobandi Islamic seminary for Pakistan and Afghanistan. This institution is the ‘font’ of current religious orthodoxy in Pakistan and Afghanistan of what it means to be a good Muslim. This same institution is the alma mater of several Taliban leaders such as Mullah Omar. As many of the top jobs in government, military and Intelligence are products of or strongly influenced by Darul Uloom Haqqania and the ideologies it promotes, it would be impossible to understand Pakistani domestic or foreign policy or even the machinations of Afghan politics and insurgency without an understanding what Darul Uloom Haqqania or JUI stands for.

Ul Haq said at the DPC Rally: “All religious parties will guide the nation on national issues… US must refrain from attacking our sovereignty and recognize Pakistan as an atomic power just like India… (the current situation) was an Armageddon between good and evil.”

In late January the DPC held a rally in Multan ul Haq lead a mass public oath that the people would rise up to lead their lives for the defence of their country. Former ISI boss Hameed Gul told the enthusiastic crowd that India is a dagger in the back of Pakistan via Afghanistan.

At this year’s February, Karachi DPC rally, ul Haq called on the crowd to defend not only the geographical frontiers of the country but also its ‘ideological frontiers’. JuD spokesman, Hafiz Mohammad Saeed used the occasion to apologize to the Afghans that Pakistan’s soil was being used against them. He saw the DPC and the brave warriors in Afghanistan who once again had defeated a world power as the beginnings of a broader ‘Islamic revolution’ He warned the Government of Pakistan (now ruled by PPP’s Gilani) to disengage itself from the US war against terror and warned that if it did not, “the Pakistani people would come on the streets and oust the present rulers.” And declared a mass sit in outside the national Parliament on 20th of February 2012  ‘DPC vows to resist reopening of Nato supplies, drone attacks’ International The News Feb 13 2012

Another huge PDC rally is planned for Quetta at the end of February. Interestingly Quetta (which is in Pakistan) is the home base of the Afghan Taliban which is called the ‘Quetta Shura”.

The agenda of the religious political right that JUI represents includes not only supporting state and non-state use of force or other assertive action against enemies from without such as India (and now it seems the US and its allies who were once their allies but are now evil) but also safeguarding pure Islam from the infectious influence of moderate Sunnis (Barelvis), Shias, Ahmadis, Jews, Shias, Hindus, Christians and the West (including one presumes the vestiges of old British values and institutions still remaining in Pakistan) by the aggressive Islamization of the State especially the legal system and education where only what is ‘right’ in their eyes must be upheld and everything else that is ‘wrong’ outlawed.

Normative values in Pakistani society as well as foreign policy therefore increasingly reflect this world view which is very similar to extreme forms of Wahhabi-Salafi ideology in Saudi Arabia of the political kind (as opposed to the non-extreme purely religious, unobjectionable, self-purification Salafi teachings which ironically from a paradigm point of view is similar in its spiritual dimension to Christian fundamentalism of going back to the purity of the Book rather than be ‘distracted’ by religious tradition). This is not surprising as Darul Uloom Haqqania, like so many other such institutions in Pakistan and globally, are financed in large measure by Saudi money.

What makes this scenario even more disconcerting is that Pakistan is a nuclear power and that extremist elements may be able to control or influence that ‘agenda’ too, (especially if they have influence over any future PM, given that a PM will now control not only the numbers in Parliament but also the nuclear button). That does not bode well for world peace given the fact that their mortal enemies the Jewish State of Israel and Shia Iran are (or soon will be) also nuclear capable.

Even though one can sympathize with ul Haq (or more moderate voices from the right in Pakistan such as Imran Khan’s party) demands for US drone attacks to stop because amongst other things they inflict tremendous casualties on innocent civilians, one hopes for Pakistan’s sake and for the sake of security in our homelands from global terrorism and the ideologies that fuel them, Pakistan can rejuvenate its democracy and justice system free from the fear of sectarian violence and limit the influence and power of radical leaders in matters of security and foreign affairs at least so as to ensure their territory or those that they or their ‘thought leaders’ control is not used as bases for the inculcation, training or export of terrorism.

The ‘revelations’/allegations about Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI) and or the Pakistani Intelligence Bureau (IB) allegedly hiding of Osama bin Laden (OBL) from their supposed American allies in Abbottabad, (a city in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, North West Pakistan) and the ensuing ‘Memogate Scandal’ are but the most recent examples of the controversies and instability rocking Pakistan, a nuclear state.

The revelations came from Pakistan’s former Army Chief General Ziaud Din Butt (aka) Ziaud Din Khawaja at a conference on Pakistani-U.S. relations in October 2011. Whilst the news was shocking to the West, and some have suggested the source had a grudge against the Pakistani regime and the full extent of the story may not be factual or entirely reliable, it was apparently no surprise within certain sections of the elite in Pakistan.

The ISI/IB, like many intelligence agencies (such as Iran) (have to) resort to shady characters to effect ‘under the radar’ missions against ‘enemies of the state’. The same official implicated in giving sanctuary to OBL in Abbottabad also was the alleged ‘handler’ for other renowned terrorists like the London born, LSE educated, Pakistani trained, Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheik. Saeed Sheik and elements within the officially banned, Islamic militant groups variously labelled Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) or Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HuM), were said to be the ones behind the attack on the Indian Parliament in 2001. Sheik’s group’s most infamous episode however was in the kidnapping and eventual murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl in 2002.

Interestingly one has to ask, if it’s true and they had some knowledge, influence or control over someone like Saeed Shiek, what strategic interest ISI/IB or elements within their ranks may have had to allow this ‘asset’ loose to do this?

At the time of his murder in Karachi, Pearl (an Israeli citizen living as a permanent resident in America) was the the South Asia Bureau Chief of the Wall Street Journal, and was based in Mumbai, India. Was he a spy? If so, for whom was he working? Or was he a nosy journalist that was writing stories that were too ‘close to home’ for some people? Was this all just about militants being lucky to kidnap such a high profile person useful for ransom and when demands were not met and they found out that he was Jewish the militants just executed him? During the 9 days Pearl was held his captors allegedly wrote a strange ransom note on the Internet demanding ‘freeing of all Pakistani terror detainees and releasing a halted U.S. shipment of F-16 fighter jets to the Pakistani government.’ (Time U.S. 21 Feb 2002).

In March 2003, only one year after Pearl was murdered, al-Qaeda’s Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, alleged master mind behind 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington, was captured in Rawalpindi and handed over to the US. Whilst in custody in Guantanamo Bay detention camp he is alleged to have confessed to many things including the murder of Daniel Pearl by personally beheading him.

If that is true and if Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheik who was implicated in the kidnapping was an ISI/IB ‘asset’, what was Khalid Shaikh Mohammed? Khalid Shaikh Mohammed also confessed/boasted that he was involved in many of the most significant terrorist plots over the last twenty years, including the World Trade Center 1993 bombings, the Operation Bojinka plot, an aborted 2002 attack on the U.S. Bank Tower in Los Angeles, the Bali nightclub bombings, the failed bombing of American Airlines Flight 63 and the Millennium Plot. If Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and his fellow jihadi’s like his nephew Ramiz Yousef were involved with the Blind Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman’s plans/conspiracies to blow up the World Trade Centres in 1993 and in 1995 with other associates such as his other nephew and Ammar al-Baluchi were planning on hijacking or blowing up planes over the US, then it is no little wonder that he planned and pulled off 9/11 as it was a plan whose various elements were seven years in the making.

Other matters of concern to the West are that many terrorists who committed or tried to commit terrorist acts against Western cities travelled to Pakistan either to be radicalized or trained as terrorists.

People like UK’s 2001 shoe bombers Richard Reid and his co-accused Saajid Badat or the London 7/7/2005 bombers Mohammed Sidique Khan and Shehzad Tanweer are reported to have been recruited by extremists such as JeM’s Osama Nazir and Amjad Farooqi (aka Amjad Hussain), radicalized by attending radicalization ‘finishing’ schools such as Jihad bi al-Saif  and then put on the conveyor belt onto radical groups such as Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM)/al-Furquan/ Khudam-ul-Islam and Harakat ul-Mujahideen who operate hands-on terrorist boot camps in known extremists strongholds not only in the Western tribal regions (FATA) such as Waziristan but also in Peshawar and other cities in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province or adjacent districts such as Malakand or Baluchistan.

Peshawar was also where OBL and his mentor and ‘professor’ Abdullah Azzam first collaborated to create Maktab al-Khadamat (MAK), the forerunner of Al Qaeda in the 1980’s. Unlike the Muslim Brotherhood’s emphasis on Jihad/struggle via the political system to effect change, MAK was for violent and armed Jihad. Azzam’s trademark slogan was, “Jihad and the rifle alone: no negotiations, no conferences and no dialogues.” Abbottabad is in the same district and so OBL was in a sense ‘back home’ when the US Navy Seals raid happened in May last year.

No state with an active democracy is really a monolith, and so for Pakistan too, it would be wrong to ‘tar’ (everyone in ISI/IB) ‘with the same brush’ and say they are an extremist ‘state within a state’ (as some high ranking diplomats have suggested).

Certainly it would be wrong to suggest that the Pakistani Army is not professional because it is susceptible to the demands and expectations of the religious right or finds it useful to have their support. Just recently for example Pakistan Army has decided to court martial Brigadier Ali Khan for his alleged links with Hizb-ul-Tehrir which political group it is reported, in the aftermath of the raid that killed OBL in Abbottabad, produced pamphlets urging soldiers to turn against their commanders. It also comes on the heels of Pakistani Taliban insurgents storming the Naval Air Station in Karachi, apparently armed with inside information on its layout and security. They destroyed two U.S. supplied surveillance aircraft.

Disturbingly however, the Pakistani Journalist Saleem Shahzad was killed in Karachi two days after writing about links between ‘rogue elements’ in the Pakistani Navy and Al Qaeda.

Further it would be wrong to say that every leader in the religious right in Pakistan supported or inspired terrorists (many would probably suggest they were only supporting freedom fighters against Indian aggression in Kashmir and that they have no control over how impassioned ‘idealists’ then ‘self-propel’ themselves against the West).

Also these parties/groups, whilst influential, do not represent the thinking of the majority of people in Pakistan on all issues.

However, since the days of General Zia’s earlier Nizam-e-Mustafa (Islamisation) programs since the late 1970’s, the radical right parties have been given “a strong legal and political apparatus that enables them  to influence policy far beyond their numerical strength” (International Crisis Group Asia Report No 216 Dec, 12, 2011 p (i) and (1), and particularly footnote 1).

The notorious Blasphemy Laws introduced by General Zia in the 1980’s which carries the death penalty in Pakistan have been criticized as being contrary to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). Article 18 states that everyone has the right to freedom of thought conscience and religion. In Pakistan the Blasphemy Laws have been sometimes abused by villagers as personal vendettas and sometimes by others to silence and intimidate minorities and free speech as un-Islamic. Many attempts over the years have been made to amend or ameliorate the harsh application of this law. However in October 1997, His Honour Justice Arif Iqbal Bhatti a Pakistani High Court judge who acquitted two people on blasphemy charges was shot in his chambers in Lahore by radical militants unhappy about the judge’s findings.

After what appears to be a contrived case was launched against a Christian lady Aasia Noreen Bibi resulting in her being the first woman in Pakistan sentenced to death for defending her Christian faith , Sherry Rehman (PPP) politician introduced a private member bill into Pakistan’s parliament in late 2010 to amend the law so it couldn’t be abused like this. She was supported by governor of Punjab, Salmaan Tasser and special Minister for Minorities Shahabaz Bhatti. Since then both Tasser and Bhatti have been assassinated. Tasser’s killer, his bodyguard, Mumtaz Qadi, was treated like a hero by the radical right. In fact the judge Pervz Ali Shah who sentenced Qadi to execution for his murder of the former governor has had to flee Pakistan because his Rawalpindi offices were ransacked and he received numerous death threats. Also Sherry Rehaman received so many death threats that she has since withdrawn her bill. Aasia Noreen Bibi remains on death row.

This series of recent events is very disturbing for the Rule of Law and the independence of the judiciary in Pakistan which for decades has had a fine tradition inherited from the British of judicial administration. It also is symptomatic of a structural disintegration of the Pakistani’s state seemingly unable to protect its institutions and officials. Unless it is addressed, the road to further radicalization and destabilization of the Pakistani State seems inevitable.

Have the politicians in Pakistan the will to resist this attack on the State? Politics in Pakistan is complex with many players and leaders of the Army and intelligence agencies change with the passing of the political winds. For many years the army was a faithful partner with the West and also of the UN and they have often collaborated with Allied commanders in operations against militants and terrorists in the War on Terror.

Support for certain rallies that the religious right may organize in defence of Pakistani sovereignty such as the Difa-e-Pakistan Council (DPC) (discussed in Part 1) does not mean that the Military and Security Services agree with everything the religious right stand for but it is a worrying development for democracy and stability given the broader agendas of the groups represented on the DPC.

We shall need to see how the relationship between current Army chief General Kiyani and ISI chief Lt. General Pasha and embattled PM Gilani develops in light of the ‘Memogate Scandal’. The fact that President Zardari (widower of the assassinated Benazir Bhutto) has felt the need to flee the country with his staff to operate his office from Dubai is symptomatic of growing dysfunctionality of the Pakistani body politic.

With the Parliament of Pakistan in such a state, the army is really the key to the immediate future of the health of democracy and the Rule of Law in Pakistan.

Address the army’s concerns and much of what happens in politics will no doubt be more stable and vice versa.

The army wields a lot of power and influence in Pakistan. The relationship between it and the ISI/IB or with government and non-government players is not easy to understand. It is not unlikely that the military and ISI/IB are not always ‘on the same page’ with each other let alone the government of the day. Also they may act independently of each other in seeking to do what they think is best for Pakistan and their own sectional interests. Also there may be people in these organizations who quite independent of the organization itself run their own agendas relying from time to time on their connections with all political and financial brokers and ‘assets’ in and outside Pakistan including non-state militia associated with some radical groups. Nevertheless they are command structures and in theory ultimately should be responsible to the government.

If you were ‘in the shoes’ of an impassioned ISI/IB official who was brought up to see good and evil a certain way, with wars raging around and subversives real or imagined from neighbouring countries like Iran or India trying to destabilize your country, would you utilize ‘assets’ available to secure your country’s security interests; especially if a political party was in power who you knew would not act decisively the way that you deem is in the best interests of national security?

Whatever the answers to that question may be in our eyes, when the volatility and violence within Pakistan and Afghanistan spill over to affect our homelands (such as the indoctrination and training in Pakistan of terrorists for suicide missions in the West), the West surely has every right to do what is necessary to protect its own people including asking the power brokers in Pakistan to do more to get their house/region in order.

How does one diplomatically talk to the military and intelligence agencies directly in any case? If the Pakistani democracy is too weak politically and economically to govern independently of fear or favouritism and cannot control its military and intelligence agencies, how can another country commence dialogue with the government about such things and how can they approach military and Intelligence agencies? If the military and security agencies in Pakistan do not want to co-operate with a proper diplomatic approach from the West, however it comes, will other ‘suitors’ such as China then just step in to fill the political, military and economic void?

These are not easy questions to answer whether you are in the Europe or the US. These are probably difficult issues within Pakistan which itself has more than the West had its people suffer the consequence of lawlessness, corruption and extremist violence and threats of violence.

Perhaps part of the answer may be for the West to put more diplomatic effort into resolving Kashmir with India and Pakistan so that the Pakistani Army has an incentive to reinforce democratic principles and institutions in Pakistan and distance themselves from the excess of the extreme right who are otherwise useful ‘assets’ in their border wars and instruments of leverage geo-politically.

The other part of the solution may be to pull out of Afghanistan and stop the drone attacks in Pakistan because the roots of the problem probably cannot be fixed that way in the medium to long term. Indeed these measures at the moment, no matter how seemingly effective they are in the short term are fuelling the narrative of the extreme right in Pakistan from whence new recruits and devotees will surely come to replace their ranks. Whatever negotiations happen in Afghanistan there must be just as much diplomatic effort go into discussions with Pakistan. Any lasting peace in region and in the West from trans-national jihadi terrorism will need their endorsement and active support. To be able to give assistance to Pakistan in these ways and to put away the military option of troops on the ground and drone strikes, what the West needs from Pakistan’s political, military and intelligence leaders is a sustainable and verifiable assurance they will not allow that region or its own territory to be used as a base for terrorism against the West either ideologically, financially or materially.

Alexander Athos is a writer and businessman.He was awarded a Bachelor of Arts (European History) Personal background Alexander was christened Orthodox brought up Catholic and now Evangelical Christian with an acceptance of the best in Christian tradition and a respect for genuine people of faith from other cultures. Political inclinations: Christian intellectual who has an eclectic predisposition to understanding global and national political and social trends and seeking to influence them for good by thoughtful and persuasive discourse.

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Intrusive and Mirrors

Sajad Abedi

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Changes are constantly falling over our heads, and organizations are faced with massive and accelerated changes every day. They must respond quickly to a turbulent world and engage with foreign forces. In order to be able to do this, they must have effective and efficient management capabilities in order to make the appropriate changes to adapt to the environment or change the environment in their favor. Organizational evidences show that a high percentage of failures are the result of inappropriate management. Organizations are proud to be honored to be well-directed.

Strong source information is a major organization, often referred to as the vital blood of the organization. Making a decision in today’s turbulent environments brings a lot of confusion without continuous access to relevant information. The provision of such information depends on the design and deployment of information systems and, in general, on their management. However, as far as a well-designed system is concerned, managing these information systems is an issue that administrators need to take in order to be able to plan and adopt appropriate strategies for information systems to increase efficiency, effectiveness, and Competitive advantage achievement.

Why is Sydney Brest in the television show “Nick name” the worst spy in history? She is always arrested. Why is he arrested? Because of she is entering a good coping action. She fled to the guards. Video cameras record their image. She turns on motion detectors, whenever she tries to penetrate computer networks; the intruder detection and tracking systems get his image. She is wary and reckless in everything she does.

You do not want to be in Sydney. You want to be bad guys who always seem to arrest them. This part of this TV show is near the truth. Well, even super spyware can stop it. Security and protection concerns are now very numerous in our lives. The events of July and June 1999 and the 2009 sedition largely affected the security-information concerns. Although these are important things that the government needs to address, there are also more important issues faced by individuals and organizations. Every day we face threats that can lead to financial or physical harm. Although these are not related to terrorism, they have a direct impact on our lives. When security devices turn out, we have to be ubiquitous in our everyday lives. But we always expect the government to take measures for the safety of the nation. In our personal and business lives, we need to see protection all over the place. Most of what you need is available at almost no cost. You just have to recognize and use it.

The concept of key is to accept responsibility for yourself and your organization. I’ve heard that a lot of people and companies are trying to blame for something like a computer hack by saying that the hacker should be a computer genius. When you look at those kinds of casings, you quickly find that the victims have not even done the slightest precaution. To protect yourself, you must know your strengths and weaknesses. I personally do not like to hear excuse and excuse. Yes, there may be thousands of reasons for problems, but they do not care. I really do not want to hear the excuse of the government that why is breaking a light bulb has caused the electricity to be cut off and thousands of people fall in the dark, or why we cannot properly monitor the ship or aircraft, or why Exaggeration is in most of the stuffed things. I would like to see a government confirming that there is a problem, and therefore proper countermeasures must be applied.

The trick is to keep the protection in the distant place. Use in-depth defense that overlooks small problems and is based on the conscious acceptance of potential damage. In this way, you and your organization can keep the information reasonably well at reasonable cost. There is nothing small, and we only need a common sense based on common awareness.

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Al Nusrah Front returns to the embrace of Al Qaeda

Uran Botobekov

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Identificationof Al Qaeda’s puppet

The US State Department announced on May 31, 2018, that it has amended the terror designation for Sunni Jihadi group Al Nusrah Front (also known as Jabhat al-Nusra) to include the “alias” Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS).It should be noted that Al Nusrah Front is primarily known for being the Syrian unit of Al Qaeda and the militant leader of the Central Asian Islamic terrorist groups Katibat al Tawhid wal Jihad, Katibat al-Imam Bukhari, the Turkestan Islamic Party and Katibat al Ghuraba al Turkistani.

The State’s statement says that «in January 2017, al-Nusrah Front launched the creation of HTS as a vehicle to advance its position in the Syrian uprising and to further its own goals as an al Qaeda affiliate». Since then, the “group has continued to operate through HTS in pursuit of these objectives.”

Ambassador Nathan A. Sales, State’s Coordinator for Counterterrorism, noted that “today’s designation serves notice that the United States is not fooled by this al Qaeda affiliate’s attempt to rebrand itself. Whatever name Nusrah chooses, we will continue to deny it the resources it seeks to further its violent cause.”State’s actions notify the U.S. public and the international community that Hayat Tahrir al-Sham is an alias of al-Nusrah Front.The United States’ decision put a firm end to the speculative “games” between two leaders Ayman al Zawahiri and Abu Muhammad al Julani to hide their criminal ties and to present HTS as a new independent revolutionary movement in Syria, not related to the terrorist organization al Qaeda.

As is known, Salafist Jihadist group Al Nusrah Front after announced its formation in 2011, rapidly grew in influence and played the central role in the dynamics of the conflict in the Syrian Civil War. Al-Nusra was partly the product of Qatari funding and Turkish logistical support that were directed to Syria on the basis that jihadism would be the quickest way to topple the Assad regime.Al Nusrah was and remains an official branch of al Qaeda. Therefore, the counterterrorism officers described Al Nusrah Front as al Qaeda in Syria or al Qaeda in the Levant.

On December 12, 2012, the United States designated Jabhat al-Nusra as a foreign terrorist organization, followed by the United Nations Security Council. In July 2016, to avoid US sanctions the group was rebranded as Jabhat Fath al-Sham, as a new pro-Sunni player in the Syrian Civil War. Julani, the leader of Al Nusrah/JFS, said at the time that his organization has split from al Qaeda. He argued this step that the move was intended to remove the pretext used by powers, including the US and Russia, to bomb Syrians. Because of tactical considerations, alQaeda supported the split. Ayman al-Zawahiri vaguely added: “The brotherhood of Islam is stronger than any organizational links that change and go away.”

The US authorities never believed the speculative game between al Qaeda and Al Nusrah Front. They responded by saying it saw no reason to change its view of the group as a terrorist organization. Furthermore, in May 2017, the State Department announced a reward of up to $10 million for information on Julani’s whereabouts. The notice referred to Julani as the “senior leader” of Al Nusrah Front, the “Syria branch of al Qaeda.”

And finally, as we at the beginning of this article said, following the firm logic to fight against al Qaeda, the US recently has updated the designation of the Al Nusrah Front despite the its decision to split from the al Qaeda and rebrand.

The Hayat Tahrir al-Sham’s objection to the US

June 1, 2018 HTS promptly responded to US authorities.The official statement of the HTS in Arabic, which is called “The New American Designation: The Double Standards Against the Syrian Revolution”, was distributed by the political department of the group.In its statement, the HTS accuses the US of the fact that “the American policy of non-interference allowed Russian occupiers to bomb Syrian cities and played into the hands of Iran and its militias.”

Further, the statement says that “instead of the renewing its policy in the region (the Middle East) and improving it for the better, the American leadership has proceeded to designate the HTS, the Sunni revolutionary entity, as international terrorism, which infringes upon the Syrian revolution again in favor of the Bashar regime and Iran.”HTS once again denied any connection with al Qaeda.At the same time, the group described itself as “a sword that protects the Islamic pro-Sunni Ummah from the criminal regime of Bashar Assad and his Iranian patrons.”HTS directly appealed to the US administration: “At the same time we are sending a message to the new U.S. administration, do not repeat the mistakes of the previous administration in establishing Iran and its militias in the Sunni Arab regions. Giving Iran the political green light increases their brutality and criminality in the region which has a negative effect on the Syrian people and their revolutions’ last bastion in the liberated North.”

In a statement HTS tried to assure the international community that “it aspires to have balanced relations built on cooperation with the neighboring countries which realizes stability and security in the region, it is not an organization that threatens the exterior or represents a danger to it”. This shows the growth of the international ambitions of HTS and his dream of taking power into his own hands.Therefore, the HTS’ statement turned out to be balanced, without unnecessary emotions, without empty promises to build the Caliphate, without calls to wage jihad against “American crusaders”, “unbeliever regimes”, “devil countries”. It is not characteristically to ISIS, al Qaeda and other jihadist groups’ statements.According to the tone and nature of the statement, it can be concluded that HTS strongly desires to become a party to international negotiations on the Syrian problem.In conclusion, the HTS appealed to the residents of the liberated territories (Sham) “to protest against the U.S. decision by standing protest and popular demonstrations”.

The HTS appeal was supported by the so-called Syrian Salvation Government (SSG) in Idlib, which decried the United States’ enlisting of the opposition group Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) as a terrorist organization. The SSG said in a statement that the HTS is a faction of the Syrian Revolution factions, which stand with Syrians against criminals. The SSG claims that Washington is “silent” about other terrorist organizations, such as Hezbollah and Iranian and Iraqi militias, and accused the United States of supporting the “terrorist” Kurdish People’s Protection Units.

HTS is the combat mentor of Central Asia’s jihadist groups

The US State Department’s decision to include HTS in the list of world terrorist organizations will influence the future destiny and reduce the fighting capacity of the Central Asian jihadist groups that are under the al Qaeda’s umbrella. Because HTS from the very beginning of the Syrian war was and remains a combat mentor for Katibat al-Tawhid wal Jihad, Katibat al-Imam Bukhari and the Turkestan Islamic Party.In their unification, not only the ideology of al Qaeda but also Turkey, which conceived the idea of creating a broad pro-Sunni coalition against the Bashar Assad’s regime, played a huge role.Uzbek and Uighur jihadist groups have much in common with the Al Nusrah Front.

Al Qaeda backed Uzbek and Uygur jihadist groups, who fighting in Syria against the government forces of Bashar Assad, closely integrated into the ranks of HTS.At the same time, they managed to maintain their relative freedom.That is, they retained the name of their organizations, separate financial sources, have their own budget and their own material and technical base.

As is known, the affiliation of the Central Asian jihadist groups with the Al Nusrah Front occurred in 2012-14 on the recommendation of al Qaeda.They share the common ideological doctrine of al Qaeda and, on its call, did hijrah (the migration or journey of Muslims for Jihad)from Afghanistan and Central Asia to Syria to wage jihad against the “enemies of Islam.”The Uzbek and Uighur groups were stationed in the territories controlled by the Front-An-Nusra, in particular in Idlib, Aleppo, DeirezZor, Homs and Hama.They have a common enemy of the Bashar al-Assad regime and have a common goal to build in the Middle East a Shariah state.After the conquest of Sham and Afghanistan, they plan to apply their combat experience in Central Asia and establish a Caliphate with the ideology of al Qaeda in the Ferghana Valley and in Chinese Xinjiang.

During the tough struggle for leadership in the jihadist world between ISIS and al Qaeda, they all supported the position of Ayman al Zawahiri and Abu Muhammad al Julani.As a result, for the Central Asian Jihadist groups affiliated with the Front-An-Nusrah, another front of the war with the Muslim brothers of the Islamic state opened. On April 27, 2017, during the evening prayer in the mosque of a Syrian city of Idlib, the leader of Katibat al-Imam Bukhari Sheikh Salahuddin was killed based on orders from Al Baghdadi by an Uzbek militant from South Tajikistan, who was a member of ISIS. The Islamic State distributed the following statement via Telegram messenger in this regard, “The emir of detachment of the Katibat al-Imam Bukhari, Sheikh Salahuddin, was punished according to Sharia law for all the betrayals he committed.”

Unlike ISIS, which used jihadists from Central Asia to commit extreme forms of violence, al Qaeda backed HTS recommended that Uzbek and Uighur armed groups treat the local population more favorably.As a result, they had good relations with the local Arab Sunni people, some of them established family ties with the Syrians.As a result, they had good relations with the local Arab Sunni people, some of them established family ties with the Syrians.According to the Dubai-based Arabic Al Aan TV, around 20 000 Uyghurs from China’s Xinjiang established their village in Zanbaq and Jisr al Shughour, which has been substantially changed the demography of Idlib province. They are linked to the military wing of al Qaeda, HTS.But at the same time, Central Asian militants do not participate in local civilian management institutions that operate on the HTS controlled territory.This gives them the opportunity not to interfere in the everyday and economic problems of Idlib Province, such as tax collection, disputes in the Sharia court, which allowed them to bypass conflict situations with the local population.Therefore, the local Sunni population perceives them as defenders against repression by the Alawite army and Shiite militias of Iran.

The HTS backed Central Asian Jihadists groups adhered to the doctrine of al Qaeda’s leader Aman al-Zawahiri, who said that “We adapt to the practical reality wherever it is. We would take into account the circumstances of each jihadist arena and what achieves its interests.”  As a result, they managed to maintain the fighting efficiency of its factions.The HTS backed Central Asian Jihadists groups adhered to the doctrine of al Qaeda’s leader Aman al-Zawahiri, who said that “We adapt to the practical reality wherever it is. We would take into account the circumstances of each jihadist arena and what achieves its interests.” As a result, they managed to maintain the fighting efficiency of its factions.

Iran’s multi-faceted strategy in Syria

Undoubtedly, the United States’ enlisting of the HTS as a terrorist organization aims to reduce a significant long-term threat to the West from alQaeda. While the West was busy with ISIS, HTS has quietly laid the groundwork for al Qaeda’s resurgence by using the potential of Central Asia’s Salafi-Jihadi groups. As a failed state on the Middle East, Syria remains the ideal staging ground for al Qaeda to rejuvenate its global campaign of terrorism through HTS.

However, along with this, the US decision can strengthen Bashar Assad’s position in the internal civil war and increase the influence of pro-Iranian Shiite military formations in the Middle East.Because the HTS militants are a serious obstacle against the military expansion of Iran’s Shiite mercenaries in Syria.Today HTS is fighting not only against the regime of Bashar Assad and its ideological opponents ISIS but also against the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps.

Iran’s influence in the Middle East is growing not only due to the participation of the Iranian military in the Syrian war but also due to the increase in Shiite settlers.The Guardianand Chatham House wrote that Iran managed to settle hundreds of thousands of Shiite settlers in Syria, where the Sunnis fled from the Civil war or were expelled.Tehran is building an arc of control stretching from its borders to Israel. The Assad regime granted citizenship to about two million Shiites from Iran and Lebanon in order to prevent the return of millions of displaced persons and refugees to their homes.Changing the demographic situation in Syria is the most serious threat to American interests in the region.Therefore, after HTS was designated on the list of global terrorist organizations, the US should develop additional levers to contain Iran’s ambitions in the region and support the Sunni majority from the attacks of Russia and Iran.

Conclusions

It should be expected that in order to avoid American military, economic and diplomatic persecution, the HTS will continue to portray itself as the vanguard of the Syrian revolution, and not as al Qaeda’s puppet.But after the State Department’s decision, it will be difficult to reformat HTS into a serious political player on the Syrian stage.

The U.S. has achieved some strategic successes in the fight against al Qaeda, ISIS and the global jihadist movement as a whole, but the war is far from over.Today, the US is breathing down the enemy’s neck, and the frontline against Islamic radicals is currently being limited to the Middle East, Central Asia and the African continent. Thanks to the professionalism of the US special services, jihadist lone wolves have not recently managed to penetrate inside the country under the guise of refugees and commit acts of terrorism, as it is happening on a monthly basis on the streets of European cities.

To prevent the future threat of al Qaeda, the United States must put an end to the multiple ways that al Qaeda and its puppets attempt to gain a foothold in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.

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The new frontiers of political and strategic technology: The future technological singularity

Giancarlo Elia Valori

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To put it in a generic but understandable way, Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a technologically mediated ability (but always present in a digital computer or in a computer-controlled robot) to carry out activities usually typical of an intelligent being.

In this case, the intelligence is the traditional one of the definitions born in the twentieth century in the framework  of empirical psychology: logical ability, in the sense of abstraction from the characteristics that science considers “secondary” and hence subjective; understanding, that is the thought correctly imitating the future behavior of the human and non-human movements and reactions present in the external world; emotional knowledge; design, in the absence of an image already present in the external world; finally creativity and problem solving.

As the  American pragmatist Charles S. Peirce used to say, understanding or thinking is a form of “talking to oneself” and of symbolically representing – not necessarily reflecting – the inferences that can be found in the external reality.

In Peirce’s mind, all these inferences were probabilistic.

According to the Austrian physicist and philosopher, Ernst Mach, science is instead the process replacing experience with representations and images through which “it becomes easier to handle and manage the experience itself”.

This means that in the transition phase between the nineteenth and the twentieth century, science was no longer interested in the “essence of reality” -interpreted in a reductionist sense  – but it created a new reality on its own, easier and more adapted to the human mind and to societal needs.

It was Ernst Mach who applied the criteria for analyzing the data which developed between the nineteenth and the twentieth century in human sciences to physical and chemical science.

In essence, at the end of its epistemological program, the Artificial Intelligence (AI) can reach a complete simulation of the human brain and, in some respects, even outperforms it in its results. Possibly even in the forms of information processing-understanding and hence transformation of what – in a long-standing Western philosophical tradition – is called  “reality”.

Hence a “Hyperman”, technologically reminding us of the “Beyond Man” or “Overman” (the Übermenschnever to be translated as “Superman”) theorized by Nietzsche, since the homo sapiens sapiens is evolutionarily unstable. Again to use Nietzsche’s words, what we call “man” is a “a rope, tied between beast and overman – a rope over an abyss”.

However, let us revert to military technology.

The IA technology includes not so much the replacement of man with the thinking machine – an idea  probably harboured in some people’s minds – but rather more specific techniques: the Virtual Agents; the processing of Natural Language; the platforms for the “self-learning” machines; robotics; the processing of human and computer perception; neural networks.

Incidentally, the Intelligent Virtual Agents (IVAs) are the programs providing pre-established interactions with human beings, especially on the Web.The Natural Language Processing deals with the computer treatment of natural human and non-human language.

The platforms for the “self-learning” machines use the recognition of external patterns and the computational theory of learning – hence they create algorithms that can learn new rules from a wide set of data and make predictions starting from the already pre-defined patterns and from the data sets that grow indefinitely.

In the current phase of this complex “research project” – just to use the terminology of the epistemologist ImreLakatos – we have reached the following levels: a) we can  build systems and robots that are already faster, more capable and more powerful than us. The AI systems are expected to reach our same analytical (and creative) power within 2045. The level of singularity, as this point of noreturn is currently defined.

Moreover, b) we will have robots permanently taking care of us, interacting with our body and reading our emotions. But this already happens. Google Home, the Jibo control center and the Roomba “social” robot are already among us.

Furthermore, c) also on the basis of a huge and always updatable universe of data, we can predict the great global phenomena at natural, cosmological, medical-epidemiological and human-statistical levels or even at economic level.

Wewill soon be able to predict also the human behavior in larger populations -often with great accuracy.

On top of it, d) we will have such exoskeletons or extracorporeal extensions as to improve – as never before – our physical and even intellectual/perceptive abilities.

We will shortly become super-human – not in Nietzsche’smeaning of the concept – but rather in the sense of the most popular science fiction comics of the 1960s. Before technological singularity we will record a merger between AI apparata and our mind-body whole.

In the near future, there will be a stable connection between the human brain and computer networks, as already planned and designed by Neuralink or by the Californian company Kernel, which even study the implantation of AI interfaces in the human cerebral cortex.

Finally, e) the end of work.

However, what will the exchange value of the items processed by the AI machines be, considering that our society is based on Smith’s labor theory of value?

How can we set prices, including the non-monetary ones, if there are no values – the classic theme of political economy and also of Marx, his main critic?

In all likelihood, at strategic and military levels we will have 4 types of applicative Artificial Intelligence: the Artificial Narrow Intelligence (ANI), sometimes also referred to as “weak AI”, is an intelligence working within a very limited context, onlyfor specific and routine functions, that cannot take on tasks beyond its field. It is a specific type of AI in which a technology outperforms humans quantitatively in some very narrowly defined task. It focuses on a single subset of cognitive abilities and advances in that spectrum..

Then there is the Artificial General Intelligence (AGI), also known as strong AI, that can successfully perform any intellectual task that a human being can. Finally we achieve  the Super Artificial  Intelligence (ASI), when AI becomes much smarter that the best human brain in practically every field, including scientific creativity, general wisdom and social skills.

Hence, in principle, the application of Artificial Intelligence in Defense operations and programming will generally regard a) real military organizations; b) the network of political and intelligence organizations developing around real military structures; c) the whole  governmental organization, which is a defense structure in itself.

Finally it will regard the whole system of Defense and Security within society, i.e. the whole network of sensors and AI networks that can be used for protectinginfrastructure, the territory, as well as economic, strategic and intellectual resources.

Currently the major powers’ research focuses on level 1, namely the Artificial Narrow Intelligence – the level at which AI outperforms the human mind and perceptions only in some sectors and only quantitatively.

Nowadays ANI is used to apply Artificial Intelligence mainly to the battlefield and the integration of forces, intelligence and tactical decision-making within “industrial age” technologies.

An evolution which is still included in and confined to the US Revolution in Military Affairs(RMA) that had its true baptism of fire during the two Iraqi wars.

It was at the core of the doctrinal and technological transformations of the Chinese, Arab, NATO and, later, Russian Armed Forces.

It is worth recalling that the RMA was based on the central idea of the Network-Centric Warfare, which sought to translate an information advantage, enabled in part by information technology, into a competitive advantage through the robust networking of well-informed geographically dispersed forces.  Therefore the network and the integration between weapons and sectoral and regional commands – hence the de factomerging between the political-military decision-making and the activities on the ground.

This means that there will be a two-fold approach in  modern and future warfare: high-technology strikes, which determines the strategic superiority on the field, as well as the whole new low or medium-intensity panoply of political warfare – which operates with the apparent opposite of the Special Forces, on the one hand, and of parallel, civil and rank-and file organizations on the other, including armed citizens, mass operations and operations of influence, the use of local criminal and non-criminal organizations, and the stable “black”, “white” and “grey” propaganda.

Future wars will be more widespread and characterized by swarming, because many regional and local actors, including non-State ones, can afford  attack and defense panoplies on the basis of Artificial Intelligence – systems  more connected to the link between propaganda and politics and less Clausewitz-style: the separation between warfare and non-warfare will disappear in the future and the armed clash will not be “the continuation of politics by other means” – as maintained by the Prussian general and military theorist – but, if anything, there will be a continuum between armed action and political and economic-social operations.

With new and extraordinarily relevant legal issues: who is responsible for an AI or cyberattack? Can we rely on probabilistic analysis of enemy operations or will there be a “cyber or robotic declaration of war”?

Moreover, AI is a way of rethinking, reformulating and reducing military spending, with smarter and more flexible technologies and better cost effectiveness. Hence we will witness the gradual end of the oligopolistic market of technological and military acquisitions – typical of a traditional industrial world – and the emergence of some sort of market economy, open to even the smallest states, in the old political-military establishment that, as early as the 1950s, Eisenhower accused of directing the Western countries’ foreign policies.

In the market of strategic acquisitions there will be specific room for commercial algorithms which, however, can be applied also to the military universe. Nevertheless,  in what we have called the “third level” of AI, that is the integration between government and strategic operations, we will have to deal with algorithms that will rationalize bureaucracy and the decision-making process, both at governmental and  operational levels.

This will happen also for what we have defined as the Fourth Level, i.e. the dimension of the ecosystem between politics, technology and the rest of society, which is not normally interested in military operations.

As already noted with reference to China and to the Russian Federation, here AI will deal with social prevention (which is the new way of avoiding the post-Clausewitz mix of  clash and political representation) and with social resilience, namely the stability of “civil societies”and their critical infrastructure. Not to mention counter-propaganda.

It was Napoleon-style Blitzkrieg.

However, in the future, it will no longer be sustainable, economically and politically, given the military forces’ economic and social limits we are already experiencing today. Hence the link between the AI-Defense Fourth Level and the previous ones will be between Deep Learning, new wide databases, as well as high-speed and highly performing computers.

Within the framework of the NATO countries’ current defense doctrines, the main AI military actors have paid the utmost attention to information and computer technologies that bring together – quickly and easily – the “effectors”, i.e. those or the things that perform the operations with human or artificial “sensors” – the so-called Network Enabled Capabilities, in the NATO jargon.

Nevertheless, how do the old and new superpowers respond to the challenge of military Artificial Intelligence?

China – the country that best stands up to the USA in this field –  established the National Laboratory for Deep Learning, which has been operational since February 2017.

Moreover the Chinese company Baidu and the other Chinese web giants have been entrusted with the task of working with the State in sectors such as automatic visual recognition; recognition based on a vast evolutionary database; voice recognition; the new automated models of Man/Machine interaction; intellectual property in the sphere of deep learning.

In this field everything is based on supercomputers, which China can currently manufacture on its own, after the USA  blocked the sale of the Intel Xeon processors, up to even producing their autonomous superprocessor, present in the advanced computer Sunway Taihu Light, which is so far  the fastest computer in the world, at least in the field of complex computer networks.

Furthermore China’s 13th Five-Year Plan envisages an expansion of the national AI market to the tune of 100 billion renmimbi, with two specific plans: the China BrainPlan, that is AI military-civilian planning for unmanned networks, as well as cybersecurity and complex society’s governance.

The other level, the second one planned by China, is the use of Artificial Intelligence only for military and strategic superiority.

This is President Xi Jinping’s policy line of the progressive “military-civilian integration”.

The Chinese Armed Forces have also established anUnmanned Systems and Systems of Systems Science and Technology Domain Expert Group, in addition to working hard in the sector of visual recognition for the Navy –  above all for operations in “disputed waters” – as well as dealing specifically with the command and control of large-range Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs).

Missiles are another important sector in China’s AI military policy – above all to respond to the recently-deployed US Long Range Anti-Ship Missile program, which has replacedHarpoon.

In China all this is included in the broader theory of Remote Warfare, which is based on drones and advanced  missile networks.

This is currently at the basis of many Chinese strategic choices. Hence – at any distance – hitting targets which are a greater danger for China, as well as for the Forces on the ground and for the politics-warfare link – a danger that cannot be replaced or postponed in response.

The Chinese Armed Forces are and will always be used  “to defend the Party”.

Moreover, Israel was the first country- even before the USA – to use fully automated robots and unmanned military vehicles in warfare, besides buildingHarpy, the anti-radiation UAV searching, targeting and destroying enemy radar centers without human control and supervision.

In the near future, the Israeli decision-makers plan to deploy “mixed” battalions, with robots and human soldiers operating together.

Moreover the Israeli Armed Forces have already put in place the system called Automatic Decision Making, employing robotics, AI and deep learning and operating with almost instantaneous speed, which is strategically unavoidable for Israel.

Aeronautics Ltd, an IDF contractor, has already built a series of UAVs having complex Artificial Intelligence algorithms.

IA systems to support political decision-making, as well as techniques for the immediate transfer of data from one computer platform to another, and finally AI technologies for the camouflage of networks and human and non-human operatorsare already operating in Israel.

In the Russian Federation, military Artificial Intelligence has a limit, that is the availability of ultra-fast processors for supercomputers – a problem which, however, is being solved.

Currently Russia is mainly interested in developing the  Unmanned Ground Vehicles (UGVs), in addition to the robotic platforms for the integration of the various aspects of the battlefield.

In January 2017, President Vladimir Putin ordered the creation of “autonomous robotic complexes” – just to use the Russian government’s terminology – but for military use only.

With the creation of the National Center for the Development of Robotic Technologies and Basic Robotic Components, Russia is implementing a careful policy of acquisition and independent research in the field of military Artificial Intelligence. A network that already operates for acquisitions throughout the worldmarket.

This is an organization which has been operating since 2015-2016.

Russia has already developed unmanned helicopters and the use of remotely-controlled robot-terminators which target alone – again without human supervision – the targets they have autonomously selected by severity of threat and response to actions on the field.

Finally, after the good results reached with its unmanned operating platforms in Syria, Russia is interested in developing AI systems for border protection, with a series of neural networks automatically referring and reporting to cameras, seismic and human sensors, as well as UAV networks, for an immediate response to threats.

For the USA, the first country to be permanently committed to military AI, the next developments will be in the following areas: a) autonomous machines for deep learning, capable of collecting and processing data and  making choices, especially in the framework of the current “hybrid warfare”; b) the development of AI strategic doctrines in the field of man-machine collaboration, with the final implementation of the Centaur network; c) the creation of joint man-machine combat units; d) web-connected semi-automatic weapons to survive  cyberattacks.

All these systems will be obviously online and interconnected.

Certainly, nowadays, all the major operators of strategic Artificial Intelligence need to use these networks for the crypto-preservation of real intelligence data, as well as for their classification and also for conflict prevention which, as China maintains, must be “predictive, preventive, participatory and shared between political and military decision makers”.

Moreover, the goals of the new AI military networks include “social resilience”, i.e. the stability of the non-military, namely of the members of the “civil society”, faced with any unexpected shocks and actions of “covertor hybrid warfare”.

What about Italy? It has no real document on National Security to be updated every year or for major crises.

This is already a severe limitation. The “White Papers” already drafted in Italy, however, are always political and government documents. They are often drafted by “external” people not involved in the Defense mechanism, or possibly, by the General Staff and they are more focused on the rather vague spending plans and policy lines, as well as on the Grand Strategy, if any, than on the strictly geopolitical and military doctrine.

Little focus on National Interest and much unrequested loyalty to goals set by others.

Furthermore, at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, there is a group of experts working on the Italian foreign policy challenges until 2020.

Hence, apart from the specific activities of the intelligence services, in Italy there is no doctrine or project for internal use of the AI technologies, also in view of stimulating our currently very scarce industries in the IT-AI sector.

Another great deficiency – among the many shortcomings of our defense criteria – and also scarce integration with the other NATO and Allied Armed Forces.

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