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Terrorism

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

Dr. Matthew Crosston

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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.

MD Executive Vice Chairman Dr. Matthew Crosston is Director over all Intelligence Programs at the American Military University and Professor of Global Security and Strategic Intelligence. His work in full can be accessed at: https://profmatthewcrosston.academia.edu/

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Terrorism

Turkey begins the return of ISIS fighters to Europe

Iveta Cherneva

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Today, Turkey started sending ISIS fighters back to Europe, as it promised last week.

Europe needs to take responsibility for its ISIS fighters. US President Trump is right on that.

As Turkey’s minister of internal affairs said last week, Turkey is not a hotel for foreign terrorists. Europe’s jihadists are its own problem to deal with.

What is interesting however is that Turkey has been releasing ISIS fighters from the region that it held in custody. But not when it comes to European jihadists.

With this move, Turkey’s aim is to actually punish Europe. Erdogan is doing this out of spite because he knows that this is what Europeans fear the most. It is not Erdogan’s priority to try ISIS, as he has shown previously. To piss off the Europeans, yes, that’s a different story.

This recent development comes to remind us that Western Europe has a big problem to deal with. The evidence from conflict zones will not hold in European courts which means that authorities might have to let ISIS fighters that still have their citizenship walk free. That is a European nightmare.

This serves to remind French President Macron that France not Bosnia is the biggest jihadist force in Europe. Macron called Bosnia a jihadist ticking bomb in that unfortunate Economist interview but France is the real problem. No other European country has such a high number of jihadist fighters in the Middle East.

Today a Greek ISIS fighter whose citizenship had been stripped was not allowed in Greece upon return from Turkey. We will see that a lot in the coming weeks. The situation of no citizenship will create a legal question of statelessness which will make the return of ISIS fighters also a human rights question.

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Terrorism

The Rise OF ISIS and its Aftermath in Afghanistan

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“I will see you guys in Newyork”.Abu Du’a, the leader of ISIS, whose nom de guerre (war name) was Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, told his American captors as he was released from a brief detention during Iraq war. After American invasion of Iraq in 2003, Al Baghdadi joined the Arms Resistance against the U.S led coalition troops in Iraq but he was captured and detained in a US. – run Iraqi prison in 2006. Following al Baghdadi’s release in the late 2000s, he joined the predecessor to ISIS: the Islamic State of Iraq(ISI). This group initially affiliated themselves with AL- Qaeda, but was later rejected by AL Qaeda due to their brutal acts and it became Islamic State of Iraq (ISI). IN 2010, al Baghdadi became the leader of ISI and changed the name of the organization to Islamic state of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in 2013.

On 29 June 2014, ISIS declared the worldwide caliphate under the leadership of “caliph Ibrahim” with publishing a statement of supporting al Baghdadi’s designation as caliph.  This concept of caliphate is mainly based on the universal religion and its ultimate goal is the establishment of Islamic state. This political idea of Islamic state is embodied in the concept of the ummah (community) which says that all the Muslims wherever they reside are bounded by a common faith which transcends all geographical, political or national boundaries.

Many other groups had pledged allegiance to ISIS like the Boko haram in Nigeria, the bait al Maqdis in Egypt, the Islamic movement in Uzbekistan, andthe previous leader of TTP Hafiz Saeed, also pledged allegiance to al Baghdadi in Oct, 2014 renaming themselves as the Islamic state of Khorasan (ISK) in Afghanistan. IS-K’s early membership included a contingent of Pakistani militants who emerged in Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province around 2010, just across the border from the former Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of Pakistan.  Many of these militants were estranged members of TTP and Lashkar-e Islam, who had fled from Pakistan to escape pressure from security forces.

ISK emerged in different provinces of Afghanistan bordering Pakistan but outnumbered in the eastern province of Ningarhar, Achin district, due to some specific reasons. Achin district is one of the backward, underdeveloped and illiterate regions of Afghanistan which makes its population vulnerable to recruitment as new militants. Moreover, peopled welling in this district joined and supported this new group not only for their Islamic ideology but also for the high salaries of $500 paid by this organization.In the beginning of their journey in the region, ISK dealt people in a soft manner and always refrained from offensive language to encourage and inspire the people to join this militant group.

But with the passage of time, ISK changed its behavior and started the forceful imposition of sharia law. People were prevented from the cultivation of opium which was the main source of revenue for the locals of that region, seized drugs and sentenced drug addicted people, however, majority of their own militants were drug addicts and sold drugs seized from the locals to meet their own financial needs. They introduced numerous fabricated laws that were neither in conformity to national, Islamic nor in conformity with the locals laws. The militants of the group were indoctrinated to such an extent that they were willing to sacrifice everything for the interest of the group. One of their militants, involved in a robbery case, accepted his crime in front of the group’s judicial committee. As per the Islamic rules, anyone involved in the robbery would have their hands cut off. Therefore, When the militants were cutting hands, he was chanting ‘’Allah ho Akbar’’-Allah is the greatest.

Taliban and Afghan forces have attacked the Achin district many times  but no one of them succeeded in retaking the district from ISK. This region was completely monopolized by this group and they ruled the people according to their own so called sharia law. People started displacement from the region towards Jalalabad, the provincial capital because they were unable to abide by these brutal laws and tolerate the atrocities. Following is a short story which a person told in anonymity about the excessive brutalities perpetrated by ISK in Achin.

“We all flocked outside after Friday prayer, according to announcement in sermon. They brought seven detainees belong to Emirates a Taliban group, Afghan national Army member and spies. All were covered with black ski masks. Meanwhile, an ISIS militant rode on a trained horse, having sharp sword in hands and reached to the spot. He decapitated all of them and shouted “Allah ho Akbar”. With the sound of Allah ho Akbar, we all scattered like flies in the air and no one knows what happened. But later on it was realized by people who delivered us to hospital that the place was targeted by a US drone. Many people were injured, and the ISIS militant who was beheading the prisoners was burned by drone attack. I still have the scene in my mind which has really affected me mentally and can’t take out those thuds of the sword from my mind when he was beheading those innocent people”.

Furthermore, they knelt innocent elders of the Shenwari nation belong to the same district on the bombs accused of in affiliation to the Taliban.  A gruesome video also uploaded by them to the YouTube. These kind of brutal acts were the routine of everyday in Daesh or ISK controlled areas.

Afghan Commando assisted by US special forces have been fighting with the ISK in Achin for the last few years and have made significant progress contributing to the liberation of some villages but there are speculations that united states itself is assisting this militant group and supplying food and weapons to them through helicopters which has put the Afghans in doubt.  US dropped the ” mother of all bombs” – the most powerful conventional bomb in the American arsenal formally known as GBU-43/B massive ordnance air blast on 13 April 2017 on ISIS Khorasan cave complex in Achin district, Ningarhar.  According to a statement from the United States military in Afghanistan, the bomb hit a tunnel complex but they didn’t say how many militants were killed or whether the bombing caused any civilian casualties. The fact is that it was only an experience of their conventional bomb which is clear from the following statement of the Ex-president of Afghanistan Hamid Karzai:

“This is not the war on terror but the inhuman and most brutal misuse of our country as testing ground for new and dangerous weapons”. This claim of Ex-president was further forged by the locals of Achin who stated that there was neither weapons depot nor any single ISIS fighter in the targeted region.

Currently Achin district has been cleared by Afghan Forces from this group but there are opportunities of their return to the region. Afghan Forces should show their strong presence, build the region and rehabilitate former militants. We are the veterans of many regions where US and Afghan forces have operated and lost hundreds of their soldiers for clearing the region but have left the region vulnerable to the insurgents return. Moreover, America should equip Afghan forces with sophisticated weapons to counter these threats. Afghan National Directorate can play a vital role in the dissolution of this group by infiltration of their own spies in disguise.

 Moreover, in comparison to ISIS in Iraq and Syria, which have oil resources of about $2 billion and financed by different Arab states, this group is very much dependent on local revenues and neighboring state Pakistan. Pakistan may not be able to support two insurgent groups-Taliban and ISK-simultaneously for a single goal. And the so called jihad vacuum is also filled by Taliban which never want any rival jihadi group in Afghanistan.

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Terrorism

Imprisoned ISIS Wives and Children Have Nowhere to Run To, Nowhere to Hide

Anne Speckhard, Ph.D

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The guards have said if the war comes close, then they will leave here,” a Western ISIS wife texted me today from Camp Roj in far northeastern Syria, a detention center that houses 500 ISIS wives and 1,200 of their children.  “What to do if we are left alone?” she asks. “There’s nowhere to go and too risky to get caught by Bashar [al-Assad].”

As she writes, I’m in Belgium sitting next to an FBI agent. I ask him what she should do, but amid all of this chaos, he doesn’t have an immediate answer.  

The ISIS wife continues: “I like how America thinks it’s too dangerous for them [the U.S. military] to be here but safe for us to remain with Assad.”

Over the past two years I’ve been in and out of the northeastern territory of Syria held by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) six times with staff from the International Center for the Study of Violent Extremism (ICSVE). We have conducted in-depth interviews with 217 ISIS men and women, 100 of them in SDF held territory, for our project countering the ISIS brand, which the SDF has supported fully. 

The woman texting me today gave us an interview last year and has managed to stay in touch via illicit phones other detainees allow her to use.

At the same time she is texting me, our Kurdish translator texts that they are living under the sound of bombs and troops advancing. Assad’s troops are marching eastward, while Turkey is barreling in from the north. Which soldiers will reach Camp Roj first and what the women should do if the Kurdish YPJ-Women’s Protection Units guarding them decide it’s too dangerous to remain in place, is something the guards have told the inmates to think about. 

The female inmates of Camp Ain Issa, farther west, faced a similar dilemma earlier in the week when the Turks began shelling. Until Sunday, Ain Issa Camp housed a total of 12,000 women and children, but according to one Belgian woman, it descended into “complete chaos” as fires broke out, the guards left, and the women escaped in the hundreds. 

Among the women housed there, 265 were wives of foreigner terrorist fighters, alongside 1,000 of their children. On the second day of the Turkish air assault, Belgian ISIS wives Bouchra Abouallal and Tatiana Wielandt decided it was better to go on the run with their small children than remain in place to learn what next disaster might befall them.

We interviewed Bouchra Abouallal in September 2019.  Completely exhausted from her experience with ISIS, she said that life inside the Caliphate was “the best possible deradicalization program ever.” Already prosecuted in absentia and facing a five-year sentence in her home country of Belgium, she told ICSVE researchers she would prefer to return home even to serve a 20-year sentence rather than remain in the camp under the menace of the cruel ISIS-inmate enforcers who threatened all European women who no longer wanted anything to do with the ISIS Caliphate.

Now Bouchra Abouallal is on the run with her three small children. In audio messages punctuated in the background by shelling she told a Belgian journalist that she was headed toward the front lines in hopes she could make it to safety in Turkey, where she wishes to turn herself into the Belgian consulate and make her way home. 

While European officials here in Brussels have stated that Turkey agrees to help any escaped ISIS cadres that end in their hands to be returned to their homelands, up until recently, Belgium was refusing to let her come back. Instead of seeing her as someone victimized by the Islamic State’s propaganda and lies, and fooled by the “Shariah for Belgium” group that had radicalized many in her native city of Antwerp, Belgian politicians see her as a threat.

But it is not difficult for Belgian authorities to turn past posts on her social media accounts against her.

“Your system has failed oh Belgian state,” Bouchra’s Facebook page read after she slipped out of Belgium to go live under the Islamic State. Referring to the way the Belgian police had hassled her upon her first return home from Syria, her posts taunted them, saying “You were watching us 24/7 and you still haven’t managed to stop us. Why? Because Allah is the best planner (…)” Her threats continued with, “We have left because we believe that it is a duty for every Muslim. To the policeman who threatened to take our children away, I can say that my children will turn yours into orphans, with the will of Allah.”

Bouchra claims that it wasn’t she, but one of her ISIS husbands, who authored these hate-filled posts. She says he used to lock her up at home and post on her Facebook page without her permission. Indeed, when we interviewed Bouchra in September she spoke gently as she denounced ISIS, giving us permission to use both her image and her name in a counter narrative video—this, while knowing the ISIS enforcers in the camp would likely punish her for it.

The woman texting me today from Camp Roj does so fearing that if it becomes known it was her texting she will be punished by her YPJ guards. Yet pure terror drives her to try to stay connected with the outside world as she makes wrenching decisions for herself and her young child. 

Americans are also in this camp. We have interviewed two American passport holders—Canadian dual-citizen Kimberly Pullman and disputed American citizen Hoda Muthana. 

When I ask today’s texter about Americans in the camps, she tells me there are five in all, two more in Camp Roj and another in Camp Hol. She states that there are also two American children in Camp Roj. We’ve met one of them, Adam, the two-year-old son of Hoda Muthana. Both times we interviewed his mother, Adam was struggling with chronic bronchitis. Today the woman texting me from Camp Roj tells me that the air is thick with fumes from the bombings, which is causing many of the children to have breathing difficulties.

“Going to jail right now won’t be great,” this woman writes as she imagines her future in the West—if she can ever manage to get home. Then she envisions another future: “I could get lost among all of this trouble.” Then again she realizes that fleeing the camp, if her guards do abandon their posts, might also prove disastrous. 

“Please let the governments know that we are not happy with the escape of the women [who have left the camps]. We are actually scared and want to just be safe in our own embassies,” she texts. “We don’t want to keep running away. We want to be tried. I’ve already had the chance to run away before and I decided to be tried in my own country.”

Now the pressing question, amid all of this chaos unleashed by Trump greenlighting the Turkish invasion of northeastern Syria: Is anyone going to do anything to get these former ISIS wives and their children back home where they can face justice and live in safety or do we just leave them to face whatever fate turns up as hostile armies converge?

Author’s note: first published in the Daily Beast

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