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The March of Huntington’s Martyrs: What the REAL Clash of Civilizations Is

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As people the world over shout out in unison their unwavering support and sympathy for the victims across Paris, we are remiss to not connect and unify the similar atrocities that occurred just before and just after France in Lebanon and Kenya.

This is not an insipid American liberal diatribe, trying to shame people for caring about the ‘white Western’ victims while barely paying attention to the ‘less white Middle East’ victims and even ‘lesser white African’ victims. That type of limited and mind-numbingly ignorant categorizing needs to stop in what is truly a civilizational battle for the soul of the globe. Make no mistake: all of these victims that crossed the spectrum geographically, religiously, racially, ethnically are forming an ever-lengthening line. And it is a line that should only be considered the march of Huntington’s martyrs.

Samuel Huntington, with his seminal and polarizing musings on ‘the Clash of Civilizations,’ was both prophetically right and disturbingly wrong. Indeed, his thesis basically engineered an entire generation of academics dedicated solely to either making him a deity or decrying him a demon. The ironic thing is he was neither: his work simply pointed in a direction for future conflict that would often prove true while also making major errors in just how the shape and scope of that actual conflict would emerge. What we have today is not ‘civilizational’ conflict as Huntington described where Islamic civilization is trying to destroy Western civilization. That is an unsubtle and inaccurate characterization. The people and their worldviews behind the disgusting and pathetic acts in France, Lebanon, and Kenya are not fighting ‘Western civilization’ or ‘Western citizens.’ What these attacks represent is a brazen attempt to undo the civilization we should all be calling ENLIGHTENED MODERNITY.

It is this civilization that has swept across the world, across almost all countries, been infused within almost all people, and represents the simple desire to live openly and peacefully and successfully, where people offer no interference to others pursuing the same while expecting no interference in their own similar pursuits. It does not matter from where this civilization’s ethos first emerged: every country and culture has largely adopted and adapted it to its own colorings and style. It is truly a global endeavor now. Enlightened Modernity is the civilization that was in the music theatre in Paris, the hospital in Beirut, and the university in Garissa. It is now a civilizational ethic that unifies all people regardless of location, upbringing, color, or creed: it is the desire to make oneself better while living without fear of unjust atrocity and expecting protection from baseless violence.

Standing against this civilization, engaged in a nihilistic battle of annihilation with it, is what I simply call the ZEALOT ETHIC. It is this civilization that offers no room for negotiation, no space for peaceful coexistence, and breeds an orgiastic passion to destroy anything that does not conform. It is the world of the zealot that ran through the streets of Paris, Beirut, Garissa, and many other places we have either forgotten about or never even bothered to make note of, with guns and home-made explosive devices aimed to do one very elementary thing: destroy enlightenment and modernity and wash the world in the fear of zealous outrage, blind ignorance, and violent judgment. It is this battle that must be waged holistically. The old battle lines of traditional warfare must be erased: the ones that make states and cultures and religions and peoples try to fight the battle individually, on their own, left to their own devices and methods, when only a truly unified and global bombardment can succeed.

Indeed, the members of the ZEALOT ETHIC have capitalized on our own prideful ignorance now for decades. Historically, it has always been the ‘high culture,’ the colonizers and imperialists, who deftly employed a divide-and-conquer strategy to maintain leverage and sow discord wherever they wanted advantage. What we have failed to realize is how the Enlightened Modern World has fed directly into this mistake against the Zealots. The Christians do not fight this war together with the Muslims, Buddhists, and Hindus. The Americans do not fight these battles together with the Russians or the Chinese. Everyone earnestly pledges sympathy and unity in the face of atrocity after atrocity while simultaneously refusing to put aside old grudges (even temporarily) to tackle the greater enemy and threat. This stubborn arrogance to go it alone benefits only the zealots, who have far softer targets for killing, far lower thresholds for success, and far easier standards for declaring victory. Back in the 1990s, when Russia was neck-deep in repulsing a religious jihad waged by Chechen mujahideen, one Russian general was famously attributed as saying, ‘how do you deter an enemy when he can stare straight down the barrel of your gun and see only Paradise?’ This is the single basic reality of zealots that enlightened moderns often confuse or are simply too uncomfortable to admit: this battle cannot be for conversion or epiphany or deterrence. It is to the death simply because one side wants it that way.

This should be reminiscent to all of the painstaking effort George W. Bush made time and time again after 9/11, telling everyone that the Global War on Terror was NOT a war against Muslims or a war against Islam. Many people in America took that to be simply a necessary nod to diplomatic political correctness, while others found the remark accurate and inspiring. Bush was adamant, in a non-deferential rejection of Huntington, that America was NOT fighting a war against Islamic civilization. The problem, of course, was that Osama bin Laden was on the other side of the world preaching the exact opposite. For him and his followers, that is exactly what they were engaged in and exactly what they were trying to craft: a millenarian struggle to bring the apocalypse about which they rapturously fantasize. Unfortunately, just like love, war does not need consensus: if one side is saying it is a battle for civilization, then it is, plain and simple. You need two people to be in love, but only one to fall out of it. You need two people to sustain meaningful and lasting peace, but only one person to utterly destroy it. The mistake we have made for nearly two decades now is that we have ignorantly drawn up civilizational lines based on geography, political ideology, state/religious boundaries, even economic strategies. These lines have allowed us to divide ourselves into ever smaller camps, making the undersides of our societies ever easier and more susceptible to bloodshed and horror. In this battle it has never been the West against the Rest. It has never been white against color. It has never been the Global North against the Global South. It has ALWAYS been the Moderns against the Zealots. Until the world embraces this reality and begins to smash its own self-imposed boundaries of nationalism, statehood, religion, ethnicity, and geography, it will constantly be putting itself in a limited and exposed position against this enemy. And scenes like the ones played out in France, Lebanon, and Kenya will continue.

This is a hard thing to come to terms with, a deeply sorrowful conclusion to make for a Modern. Enlightened Modernity has always prided itself on being a belief system and a worldview that can literally embrace all people and all regions. It was with the sincerest of good-intentions that it believed the only thing necessary was honest and transparent exposure to its ideals and the intense shining light of rational freedom would carry the day. For the most part, and this is important, it is true: the civilization of Enlightened Modernity can be found in almost every country and most certainly within the majority of every people. But it is in the desire to see TOTAL acceptance, to see the absence of any exceptions to that acceptance, which has pushed Moderns from the path of reality. The Zealots of this world were never going to be converted. They will never achieve the epiphany for which Enlightened Moderns hope. And because of the very nature of zealotry, deterrence of such a group is not possible. This simple lesson in logic is what the world needs to remember now more than ever. While this fight is civilizational we must finally recognize what the civilization actually is that we are fighting and what options are, and are not, available for the fight. In the end, one bitter but eternal fact must be accepted: you cannot grant life to an enemy that only wants death.

Dr. Matthew Crosston is Executive Vice Chairman of ModernDiplomacy.eu and chief analytical strategist of I3, a strategic intelligence consulting company. All inquiries regarding speaking engagements and consulting needs can be referred to his website: https://profmatthewcrosston.academia.edu/

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Terrorism

Countering Terrorism: 2023 and Beyond

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(file photo) UNAMA/Fraidoon Poya

Pakistan has carried three significant issues from 2022 into 2023. These include political instability, a dwindling economy and resurging terrorism. With respect to terrorism, Afghanistan has assumed centre stage. Following the withdrawal of US forces on 15 Aug 2021, there was initial jubilation in Pakistan over Taliban’s triumph. It stemmed from the perception that US military presence in the region and drone strikes were the leading sources of regional instability.

2022 ended for Pakistan with an upsurge in terrorist activities and accordingly the New Year started with a meeting of the National Security Committee (NSC). The press release following the meeting reiterated NSC’s resolve to ‘have zero tolerance for terrorism in Pakistan and reaffirmed its determination to take ‘on any and all entities that resort to violence.’ This is a welcome decision by the government and state organs.

Pakistan’s counterterrorism (CT) efforts gained momentum following the unprecedented Army Public School (APS) massacre of 2014. Some have compared it to Pakistan’s 9/11. The tragedy was relatable to all of Pakistan regardless of the so-called ethnic, regional or sectarian divides. The inhumane attacks brought the civil and military leadership together in assigning this scourge of terrorism the priority that it deserved. The most prominent outcome was a National Action Plan on countering terrorism that enjoyed broadest possible political support.

Subsequently, the united stance against terrorism enabled unprecedented successes in rooting out terrorism. However, it appears that the reduction in terrorist activities led to a sense of complacency which was further aided by growing political polarisation that had more to do with differences on domestic, economic and foreign policy issues. Unfortunately, the US withdrawal from Afghanistan occurred at a time when Pakistan was struggling with internal politics. Apparently, the eventual prevalence of Afghan Taliban against a super power that they had been resisting for two decades, emboldened the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) to think that it could similarly attrite the Pakistani nation and its state organs.

TTP’s motivation seems to be misplaced for primarily three reasons. First and foremost, the Armed Forces and Law Enforcement Agencies (LEAs) of Pakistan are fighting this war to provide a safe and secure environment to the future generations of the country – including their own children; unlike the US and coalition forces that neither had a clear objective nor a consistent policy to follow. Second, much of Afghan Taliban’s acceptance at the domestic level was based on the fact that they were fighting a foreign occupant – which is not the case for TTP. Thirdly, the Afghan Taliban assumed power by virtue of force rather than the will of the public and that is why they struggle to gain legitimacy at home and abroad.

Pakistani political leadership might differ on the possible approaches to dealing with this issue, but there certainly is no appetite for letting the TTP and associated factions consolidate power to a degree that they are able to challenge state’s writ at a level comparable to yesteryears. However, display of a united front by the various ruling parties at the Centre and provinces will help demonstrate that there will be no tolerance for terrorist activities no matter which political party assumes power.

TTP’s threat against the leadership of two ruling parties is an attempt to exploit the current domestic political divide. Political mudslinging on this issue only helps the enemy’s cause. The ongoing struggle for power between the political parties should not enable TTP to consolidate power in the interim period. Otherwise, it will become a greater threat for the next government to deal with. During the previous election years, terrorist outfits were successful in targeting the leadership of various political parties during their election campaigns and arguably changing the election outcomes by terrorising the electorate. It is in shared interest of all the political parties to avoid a repeat of such a scenario.

While the politico-military leadership establishes a united front at home, it will be important to deny external actors the ability to exploit Pakistan’s internal situation. Pakistan has been at the receiving end of accusations even as it presents irrefutable evidence of external involvement in terrorist activities inside the country. As Pakistan continues to expose foreign involvement, it ought to simultaneously deny foreign actors fertile ground to exploit at home. Previously, the foreign threat was limited to the Eastern front but now it has expanded at an unprecedented level to the Western front where the Taliban government is either complicit or unable to check use of its territory to launch terrorist attacks against Pakistan.

2023 is likely going to be the year of General Elections in Pakistan. Whichever party assumes power, it is important that it looks at counterterrorism as a long-term operation that will require broader political support, less in-fighting and an ability to stay the course impervious of temporary gains and setbacks which will inevitably be a part of the process.

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Terrorism

A Rift Getting Deeper: TTP and IEA parting their ways?

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Image source: hindustantimes.com

A few days ago, an alleged audio of Tahreek Taliban Pakistan (TTP) chief, Noor Wali Mehsud has caught the attention of those who keep a close eye on terrorist groups operating in Pakistan, especially Tahreek e Taliban Pakistan (TTP). Through this audio, Noor Wali has sent a message, to TTP fighters to pick up arms against the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) after its search operation in provinces along the Pak-Afghan border. Since the takeover of Kabul, some security analysts had predicted the possible collaboration of IEA with TTP. Still, the evolution of TTP strategies and its ideological shift from being a branch of IEA to being an opponent of IEA was observed. Only those who have kept a sharp eye on TTP activities know that TTP is now a threat to the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.

The reason behind the shift in TTP’s strategies:

 What compelled TTP to give such a big statement? This question comes to everyone’s mind, the below discussion is made in context to this question. The ideological standing of both TTP and IEA is far different. Afghan Taliban are ethnic nationals. They have only fought a war against foreign forces for Afghan territory and have never claimed any region beyond the borders of Afghanistan. However, TTP has long taken inspiration from Al-Qaeda, which has expansionist objectives and deadly takfiri ideology to create a falsified identity of believers and non-believers, only to legitimize its terror activities in the name of Islam. Hence, following the footprints of such a radical organization, there is a significant possibility that TTP will join hands with ISKP against IEA.

Question of natural and forced alliance:

Since the Kabul takeover, TTP has tried to align with IEA, thus, giving it the camouflage of a natural alliance. TTP’s leadership also manifested this narrative in its statements and activities. But the ideological drift and conflicting objectives show that TTP’s so-called alignment with IEA was one-sided and enforced. After the Kabul takeover, TTP tried its well to be a part of IEA but by rigid stance, IEA always cleared in their statement that TTP and IEA are two different groups, having different inspirations and goals.

Pakistan’s role that TTP in using Afghan soil:

Pakistan has been fighting TTP since 2003. In April 2022, Pakistan Air Force (PAF) struck the hideouts of Tehreek e Taliban Pakistan along the Durand Line. This strike highlighted that a group within IEA was keen on providing safe havens to TTP. Hence, diplomatic pressure was mounted on IEA to eradicate TTP from the strategic provinces of Kunar and Khost.

 Chance of Mutual tussle between TTP and IEA:

Is there another conflict going to happen in the region? Now, the battle is the same, but the opponents are different. The so-called narrative that claims IEA and TTP were on the same table is wrecking after TTP chief Noor Wali Mehsud and IEA spoke’s person Zabiullah Mujahid’s statements.” They are not, as an organization, part of IEA, and we don’t share the same objectives,” Zabiullah Mujahid said in reaction to TTP chief Noor Wali Mehsud’s claims of being a part of the IEA. Now, the TTP chief has alerted his fighters for war. It would create complexities in the region. IEA acted as a mediator between the government of Pakistan and TTP to make peace in the region.  Additionally, Zabiullah mujahid also mentioned that We advise TTP to focus on peace and stability in their country. This is very important so, they can prevent any chance for enemies to interfere in the region, and we request Pakistan to investigate their demands for the better of the region and Pakistan.

Mujahid added that the TTP was Pakistan’s internal matter “The IEA stance is that we do not interfere in other countries affairs. We do not interfere in Pakistan’s affairs.”  

After this emerging rift, would it be possible for IEA to counter TTP? IEA is struggling to stabilize the state after Kabul take over. Nowadays, Afghanistan’s security and economy are on the verge of chaos. It would not be able to engage in other conflicts nor do they have the power to do so. And if they engaged in battle with TTP, an alliance of ISKP and TTP can hurt Afghanistan. But if they counter them, there is a chance to get international sympathy and maybe recognition because it will endorse the Doha agreement, as Recognition has become a dire need in Afghanistan.

Conclusion:

In a nutshell, it won’t be inappropriate to assume that another war will break out, and it is likely more drastic than the last ones. Despite all the hurdles, it is an opportunity for IEA to gain global sympathy for its recognition and to legitimize its regime. If the IEA becomes successful in convincing the world by taking action against terrorist outfits and extremism in its ranks, it will not only pave the way for its recognition but also meet with the minutes of the DOHA Accord to not allow any violent non-state actor to operate within Afghan territory.

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Terrorism

Pakistan in a quagmire: Resurgence of terrorism along with its relations with Afghanistan

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When Taliban took over Kabul in August 2021, a large faction of the Pakistani society including mainstream politicians amused the fact that reins of Kabul had become in control of Taliban. One obvious reason for this felicitation was the much awaited perceived stability in neighboring Afghanistan which had direct impact on Pakistan. The other reason for jubilation in some factions was about the solidarity with regards to the identity of Afghan people. As brotherly nation, perseverance of Afghan people against the scourge of prolonged war, that too against the strongest military alliance, was a matter of inspiration for many in Pakistan. However, the formal response of the government was very much aligned with the global response. Islamabad did not officially recognize the interim government of Taliban. The eventful month of August, 2021 was followed by some key developments.

Considering the geo-political change in the neighboring Afghanistan, Pakistan started to rethink its strategy at the western border. Through a backdoor channel, Islamabad approached the Taliban government to ensure the security of its western border from the hideouts of TTP living in Afghanistan. In short, Pakistan wanted the Taliban government to take strong action against TTP. However, in response to that, Kabul with TTP onboard, came up with a “quid pro quo plus” approach. It urged the Pakistan’s government to have a formal agreement with TTP which later on proceeded through a back door channels. In the agreement, TTP agreed for so called cease-fire along and inside Pakistan’s territory in exchange for cessation of Pakistan’s military operation against TTP. Moreover, the strangest of demands that Pakistan agreed to, was providing, the previously expelled TTP associates, with permission to come back and reside in districts of the tribal area. On the other hand, second critical development following the fall of Kabul, was Pakistan’s stance in the international community with respect to humanitarian concerns in Afghanistan. Pakistan’s foreign minister repeatedly urged the International community to establish a meaningful dialogue and engagement with the fragile state of Afghanistan to help the people of Afghanistan. He frequently argued that alienation of a rouge actor prompts even harsher human rights violation by that actor. Hence the world should not neglect Afghanistan and the people of Afghanistan Rather, it should accept the reality and engage with Afghanistan.

However, it is extremely unfortunate to write that, both the aforementioned developments, gave rise to a Pro-Taliban sentiment vis-à-vis Pakistan. Nevertheless, the same sentiment has often been misrepresented in the western literature, and the same narrative has also been used to demonize Pakistan at the international forums. However, in reality Pakistan had been the most affected country by terrorism and it had been fighting against the scourge of terrorism since over a decade now. What is even more unfortunate is that in the recent past, TTP announced to resume its nefarious terrorist activities in Pakistan. As a result, a spike in terrorist events specifically in KPK province has been witnessed. The December 21st,2022 military operation is a testament to aggravating law and order situation in the country, in which a group of 25 TTP associated terrorists had been killed, while holding a CTD compound, hostage in Bannu.

Because there is a resurgence of terrorism coupled with the international criticism due to perceived relations with Afghanistan under Taliban. “Pakistan is appeared to be in a quagmire.”

Now, what Pakistan can pursue to undo this, is to redevise a comprehensive plan of action against terrorism in KPK and former FATA. It should also formulate a clear strategy at the western border not to tolerate any presence as well as influx of militants from Afghanistan. Moreover, for future, the state of Pakistan should also learn from the abysmal agreement that it went in with a Non-State Actor (NSA). For NSA’s an agreement is nothing more than a concealing tool for a limited survival. It is because of the three reasons. First, an agreement is always done between two responsible actors; terrorist group like TTP has no burden of responsibility neither in a domestic setting nor at the international level. Whereas, a sovereign state has immense responsibility at the domestic and international level. Second, an agreement between two states holds significance because of the perceived repute in the international system, Whereas, for a non-state actor like TTP, International reputation never comes into the equation as such groups are already infamous for their terrorist agenda. Third, States are mostly bound to stick fast to their bilateral or multilateral agreements, because of the fear of diplomatic and economic sanctions once they pull back from the agreement. Whereas in case of Non-state actors, there exist no such incentive to remain in the agreement.

Considering all the three reasons, it is quite evident that engaging with TTP for so called ceasefire agreement was neither viable nor will it ever be, particularly because, as a state, Pakistan would have to offer a lot in exchange to absolutely nothing. Moreover, because of such an agreement, Pakistan would itself invite criticism from the already skeptical international community. Hence for Pakistan, no tolerance policy against terrorism is the only option possible in order to lower domestic and international cost simultaneously.

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