The objectives of Da’wah are to come back to the religion by keeping all the Sharī’ah’s commandments; to be a good and devoted Muslim; to establish unity among all the Muslims; and to exalt the word of Allah on earth with the purpose to establish the good and legitimate society, the Ummah.
As about the infidels, the objectives is to promote the Islamic Sharī’ah among them and to encourage them to join the ranks of Islam as Allah’s chosen religion. This means, to guide all the peoples of the world to Islam, being the only legitimate religion deserves of worshiping. This requires the use of wisdom in persuading the infidels of the supremacy righteousness of Islam as compare to other religions. This is the Da’wah of the word, and assist it then comes the financial Da’wah, to support the converts so that Islam can prevail.
This is Jihād al-Da’wah, the spreading of Islam among the infidels by peaceful propagating means, such as argumentations and reasonable examples:
Call them in the way of Allah, with wisdom and words of good advice; and reason with them in the best way possible. Allah surely knows who strays from his path and He knows those who are guided in the right way (Sûrat al-Nahl, 16:125).
He who finds the right path does so for himself; and he who goes astray does so to his own loss…we never punish till we send a messenger [to preach] (Sûrat Banī Isrā’īl, 17:15).
The question is, were the Islamic territorial expansion historically, and the conversion to Islam religiously, an intended strategic plan, or a result of historical circumstances? The Muslim exegetes do believe that Allah commanded Muhammad to start making the Da’wah, to preach to Islam, and to use Jihad war to subdue the entire world under Islamic rule, from the first day he was entrusted with the mission of Islam. From this point of view, Islam is a missionary religion from its very inception, yet, we suggest that this was a gradual process, which developed hand by hand with the Islamic political success. In the battleground, all Islamic exegetes agree that when the Muslims meet infidels, they should not fight them until they have been asked to convert to Islam or to come under Islamic rule. Jihad war to eliminate the infidels comes only later on. This means that Jihad can be conducted only after the missionary activity of Da’wah has failed. Indeed, in Islam, al-Da’wah Qablal-Qitāl (invitation to Islam before death in war). It is based on the commandment: “We never punish till we have sent a messenger” (Sûrat Banī Isrā’īl, 17:15) and by the Ahādīth:
Muhammad said: When you meet your enemies among the infidels, offer them three choices, whichever of these they agree to, accept it from them: call them to Islam. If they accept, make peace with them; if they refuse, demand they pay the Jizyah. If they agree, accept it from them; if they still refuse… fight and slay them for the sake of Allah.
Umar sent the Muslims to the great countries to fight the pagans. Every place they came, the Muslim declared: “our Prophet has ordered us to fight you till you worship Allah Alone or give Jizyah; and our Prophet has informed us that whoever amongst us is killed, he is a Shahīd and shall go to Paradise to lead a luxurious life as he has never seen, and whoever amongst us remain alive, becomes your master.
Muslim theologians and the four Islamic schools of jurisprudence have pointed out that Islam was spread by proof and evidence, in the case of those who responded positively to the message, and by strength and sword, in the case of those who stubbornly resisted it, until they had no choice. It is best elaborated by Tirmidhi:
And there is no group of people on earth in which you cannot bring to me from them Muslims. And the best I like that you bring their wives and sons and kill their men.
Da’wah can work as an active, dynamic and missionary force, and the Muslims have to invite, to call, to reason with, and to exhort all those who are not Muslims with the objective of submitting to Allah’s will. At the same time Muslims must let the infidels know about their perfect religion and its mission to mankind. They have to deliver the message of Islam in its totality to other peoples who are not acquainted with it, and to aid them to embrace Islam. This is facilitated by contacting individuals and families with information; lecturing about the values of Islam as the perfect way of life.
From the Free World vantage point, the most important aspect of Da’wah is concerned with education. He, who wishes to stop fanaticism and radicalism in contemporary Islamic activity, must spend his energies to totally eradicate the deep-rooted connection between religion and education, the extreme incitement and hatred to the other. Muslim propagators work mainly in schools, colleges and universities, and it includes publishing material about Islam; using of the communication media to deliver the message of Islam; and de-legitimizing all other religions, cultures, political systems and way of life.
Domestically, the means to achieve these purposes within the Islamic community is by the establishment of Muslim religious and educational institutions, mainly the mosque (Masjid) and the school (Madrasah). It is carried out by eloquent scholars and Imāms, through sophisticated propaganda, and it presented as the cure to all modern ills: the destruction of family values, the high crime rates, alcoholism and the drug problem.
The Da’wah activity includes gentle preaching with reasonable argumentations and ideas to attract the infidels. The Islamic facts should be taught in such an elegant and beautiful language, as to bring in those with the capacity to accept Islam. The preachers must understand that the call to Islam should be clear, eloquent, self-evident and effective. They should present arguments in many ways and be replete with emotions and zeal, uniformity and unity of purpose. They should develop friendship and win the trust and confidence of those inclined towards Islam, be patient with them.
Da`wah should be pursued at all various societal and educational levels, and the communications media are considered imperative for the preaching. Special attention is given to campuses of colleges and universities where the Islamic propaganda is valued as effective and profitable. The second level of attention, after the campuses, is the Afro-Americans. The Muslim should carry the message of Islam to these groups in the ghettoes and in prisons, which are more susceptible to religious transformation. The emergence, in fact the flourishing, of mosques all-around of Western countries, together with the educational activity, the visiting of trained, sophisticated Imāms and scholars, alongside the distribution of informative literature and the proliferation of Islamic presses and publishers, all are intended to assist the spreading of the Da’wah in the West.
These twofold objectives of the Da’wah, to convert infidels to Islam and to strengthen the faith of the Muslims according to the Sharī’ah, not necessarily in this order, are illuminated by the above-mentioned activities. The interesting fact is that to the Muslim communities, the demand is for a more conservative and strict interpretation of Islam, urging them to reject all the elements of Western culture as Bid’ah (sin, unlawful). The projection is of the moral chaos and decadence of Western societies. Praying and visiting the mosques regularly, being educated in Islamic Madāris (schools), and dealing with any cultural and marital assimilation, become part of an ideological commitment to Islam as a way of life. This also means that the Muslims should organize themselves in communities, as close and segregated as possible.
Since they are considered missionaries and not immigrants, Muslim propagators are taught to master the modern languages and disciplines, and to have an absolute command of what they have to offer. By this, they can eliminate, amend, reinterpret and adapt the teaching of Islam according to the situation and the surroundings, producing and disseminating Islamic knowledge and providing daily requirements. They have a mission to the new generations of Muslims and the converted, how to follow in their footsteps and become a devoted Muslim. The Da’wah is connected to Jihad through the abandonment of personal wishes and sensual desires; promoting the unity of the Islamic community, and facilitating the absorption of Islamic values among the infidels.
From the early days of Islam, Da’wah was used extensively to denote the mission of Muhammad to the believers: to follow him and to believe in Allah’s Tawhīd. By that, the words Da’wah, Sunnah, Sharī’ah, Dīn are exchangeable and replaceable by one another. That is, Da’wah represents the real Islam in its full context, and a clear message to the world concerning Islamic intentions. One can find on many internet Islamic sites with huge passages and detailed instructions how to approach the infidels in deceit, concerning the character of Islam; proofs that Islam is the only true religion; the advantages of Islam to all mankind; how to convert to Islam; civil rights and human freedoms; Islam and terror.
From Islamic perspective, it is not only in order to convert people to Islam, but to liberate them from the dark slavery in which they live in by showing them the beauty of life in Islam. This is clearly echoed in the Muslim Brotherhood periodical, al-Da’wah, which indicates: the Da’wah is the genuine representative of the Islamic cultural and historical personality and identity, to recreate the Islamic true society, the Ummah. Da`wah is used as the chief diplomatic operation of the Muslims to deceive, disorient, and confuse the infidels about the real objectives of Islam. Moreover, it helps to redirect and twist reality. The aims of the Da’wah are very clear: to summon all the peoples of the world to accept Islam as the only true religion and to help its world spread.
Da’wah is the political use to divert public opinion from the horrors of Jihad, to whitewash Islamic terrorism: one hand butchers and demolishes, and the other condemns and misleads. So it turns that after a terrorist Jihad act is executed, Muslim organizations and NGOs rush immediately up to deny any connection to Islam and to reassure that Islam is a peaceful religion. Condemning and denying is only one aspect of Da’wah. There is the strategy aimed at subduing public opinion and by capitulating it to Islamic will. It is elaborated by Islamic practice in the US, with the aim to propagate in all fields and sources to exhibit Islam as a religion of peace and compassion.
While the operations of Jihad and Da’wah are carried out by different perpetrators and different means, they are all part and parcel of the objective to resurrect the Islamic caliphate as Allah’s kingdom on earth. This objective is compulsory on Muslims, and verifies the dictum of the Qur’an that the opponents of Islam will convert or become its supporters. Ibn Khaldun clearly articulates this division:
Because of the universalism of the Muslim mission, it becomes a religious duty to convert everybody to Islam or to bring them under Islamic rule, either by persuasion (Da’wah) or by force.
S. K. Malik elaborates this interaction between Jihad and Da’wah:
“…our main objective is the opponent’s heart or soul, and our main weapon of offence against this objective is the strength of our own souls… (These) are not only a means, but the end itself… It can be instilled only if the opponent’s faith and belief systems are destroyed.”
Muhammad as a model
For the Muslims, Muhammad is not merely a prophet, and not only a political and military leader, but an admired symbol; the representative of Allah on earth, the person with immunity to sin and error. He is the perfect embodiment of a human being on earth, and a model of the reality to come true by his deeds and sayings. It is the utmost goal of every believer to obey and to imitate him. Muhammad encouraged these trends by demanding that all the believers love him supremely and cherish him by his name. This is the reason why almost every Muslim also has “Muhammad” or “Ahmad,” or “Mahmud” or “Hamdan” as one of his names.
Narrated Anas: “The Prophet said: ‘none of you will have faith till he loves me more than his faith, his children and all mankind.’”
Narrated Abu Hurairah: “The Prophet said: ‘name yourself after me…and whoever sees me in a dream, he surely sees me, for Satan cannot impersonate me. Who intentionally ascribes something to me falsely he will surely take his place in hell fire.’”
If we understand the deep and total admiration to Muhammad, we can understand the reasons for today’s violent Muslim riots against even mere cartoons of Muhammad. It is demonstrated with the horrific slogans used by the Muslims marching all around the world: “Slay those who insult Islam”, “Butcher those who mock Islam”, “Behead those who insult Islam”, “Exterminate those who slander Islam”, “Massacre those who insult Islam”, “Europe is the cancer, Islam is the answer”, “Europe take lessons from 9/11”, “Europe you will pay. Your 9/11 is on its way”, “Freedom go to hell”, “Be prepared for the real holocaust,” and the most: “Islam will dominate the world.”
Contrary to the exegesis of most classical Islamic exegetes and the four schools of Islamic jurisprudence, the second part of the twentieth century brought a resurgence propagation and reinterpretation of the attitude to Jihad. Moulavi Ali, a Pakistani scholar and exegete, puts it very blatantly:
Almost all Muslim and European writers think that the religious war of aggression is one of the tenets of Islam, and prescribed by the Qur’an for the purpose of proselytizing. I do not find any such doctrine enjoined in the Qur’an or preached by Muhammad. His sole mission was to enlighten the Arabs to the true worship of one Allah. These have nothing to do with popular jihad and exterminating the idolaters. All the verses of the Qur’an are related only to defensive war without exception, and none of them has any reference to make warfare offensively. All fighting injunctions within the Qur’an are only in self-defense, none of them has any reference by which to make warfare offensively. There are several passages in the Qur’an which forbid taking offensive measures and enjoin only defensive war.
In a booklet “The Basics of Islam at a Glance” prepared by The Islamic Cultural Center in Tempe, Arizona, we read:
There is no historical proof that Islam was “spread by the sword”. Even non-Muslim scholars now admit that this is nothing more than a vicious myth which cannot be substantiated by historical fact. Others have claimed that Islam is a religion of love and peace and forgiveness.
An Egyptian exegete of Islam, Mahmoud Shaltut:
Muhammad revealed a book containing the principles of happiness. It commands to judge by reason, it propagates science and knowledge, it gives clear rules, it proclaims mercy, it urges to do good, it preaches peace, it gives firm principles concerning politics and society, it fights injustice and corruption. The Islamic community is commanded to do only what is good and is forbidden to do what is reprehensible and evil. The Islamic mission is clear and evident, easy and uncomplicated. This is the mission of Muhammad to humanity.
Here is the verse that Muslim Propagators falsely deceive the infidels, and most
Western leaders quote without any trace of understanding, as if Islam is tolerant, compassionate, and peace-loving: Sûrat al-Mā’idah, 5:32
“If anyone slew a person – unless it be for murder or for spreading mischief in the land -it would be as if he slew the whole people: and if any one saved a life it would be as if he saved the life of the whole.”
However, the full verse is:
“[Because of Cain killing Abel], That is why we decreed for the Children of Israel that whosoever kills a human being except for murder or for spreading corruption in the land it shall be killing all humanity. And whosoever saves a life saves the entire human. Our apostle brought clear proofs to them, but even after that most of them committed excesses in the land.”
One of the last misuse of this verse as a diplomacy of deceit was the White House Summit on Countering Violent Extremists, on February 18, 2015. Imam Abdisalam Adam of the Islamic Civil Society of America said that “Mosques serve as beacon of hope,” and they “provide moral compass for the Muslim community in navigating life… The peace, safety, and security of the US are of fundamental importance to the Muslim American community, and we oppose any form or shape of violent extremism that threatens peaceful coexistence… We believe in the right of all people to live in peace and security… Muslim imams have condemned and continue to denounce anyone who tries to use the religion of Islam to support terrorism.”
He has quoted verse 5:32, as to prove Islam is a religion of peace. President Obama used this passage in his Cairo Speech as do many apologists for Islam. What is actually presented by apologists is a distorted, out-of-context and misleading paraphrasing of the verse. The phrase “if any one saved a life it would be as if he saved the life of the whole” is taken from the Jewish Mishnah, Sanhedrin, 4:5. Hence, this commandment is not incumbent upon Muslims, but on Jews. And the reference to “our messengers” is the Jewish prophets coming to the Jews with “clear proofs” which the Jews ignored, and filled the land with excess. This verse is written in past tense and does not apply to Muslims but to “the Children of Israel,” who, according to Islam itself, received the scriptures earlier.
In fact, this passage mentioned in the Qur’an is not a prohibition on Muslims to kill anyone, but explicitly not to kill fellow Muslims. Ibn Kathir explains this verse: he who kills a believing soul intentionally, Allah makes the Fire of Hell his abode. He will become angry with him, and curse him, and has prepared a tremendous punishment for him, equal to if he had killed all people. He explains the meaning of “mischief:” Do not commit acts of disobedience on the earth. Their mischief is disobeying Allah, because whoever disobeys Allah on the earth, or commands that Allah be disobeyed, he has committed mischief on the earth. This commentary also appears in Tafsīr al-Jalālayn. Moreover, Muhammad himself said the life of a non-Muslim is not sacred:
“Narrated Anas bin Malik: Allah’s Apostle said, ‘I have been ordered to fight the people till they say: None has the right to be worshipped but Allah. And if they say so, pray our prayers, face our Qiblah and slaughter as we slaughter, then their blood and property will be sacred.'”
“Narrated Maimun ibn Siyah that he asked Anas bin Malik, ‘What makes the life and property of a person sacred?’ He replied, ‘Whoever says, none has the right to be worshipped but Allah… then he is a Muslim.'”
Furthermore, Muhammad also gave the Fatwah that a Muslim cannot be killed for killing a non-Muslim. However, most important, the problem emerges in its fullest expression in the following verse (5:33), which is tightly connected, reveals the issue clearly: The price to pay for the “mischief” (Fasād) done is death:
“The punishment for those who wage war against Allah and his prophet and perpetrate disorder in the land is to kill and hang them or have a hand on one side and a foot on the other cut off. Or banish them of the land. Such is their disgrace in the world, and in the hereafter their doom shall be dreadful, except for those who repent before you apprehend them. Allah is forgiving and merciful.”
How Taliban Victory Inspired Central Asian Jihadists
Following the fall of the US-backed Afghan government of Ashraf Ghani on August 15, al-Qaeda-linked Uighur, Uzbek and Tajik jihadi groups widely celebrated the Taliban’s “historic victory” over the “enemies of the Muslim Ummah”. In honor of the Taliban’s rebuilding of the Islamic Emirate, leading Jihadi groups from Central Asia and China’s Xinjiang Autonomous Region issued special congratulatory statements, echoed jihadi nasheeds (chants of jihadi glory), arranged a festive feast for their Muhajeers (who immigrated to spread Islam and wage jihad) and gloatingly booed the US military forces leaving Afghanistan on jihadi media.
Turkestan Islamic Party called on all Muslims to unite around the Taliban as one body
Uighur jihadists of the Turkestan Islamic Party (TIP), formerly known as the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) from Western China, were one of the first to congratulate the Taliban victory. On August 16, in a statement of the TIP’s Syrian branch, released by its propaganda arm, ‘Muhsinlar’, Uighur militants congratulated the Taliban’s emir Haibatullah Akhunzada and all Afghan fellow believers on the restoration of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.
Notably, in its statement, TIP ‘discovered’ the root causes of the Taliban’s victory in the Muslim holy book of the Quran, which refers to Surah al-Fatiha “Indeed, we have given you, o Prophet, a clear conquest” (48:1). The TIP further emphasized that “one generation of Muslims have sacrificed themselves for the religion of Allah, for today’s boundless joy and rejoicing.” The Taliban’s victory is “a fruit of long and arduous struggle and God’s big gift to Muslims worldwide”, the statement reads.
The TIP’s Syrian branch has called on all Muslims to make dua’s (invocation of God) for the Afghan Mujahedeen, to cooperate and support their fellows of Taliban. Uighur jihadists emphasized the need for the integrity of the Islamic Ummah, which should be governed only by the rule of the Almighty as one nation and one country. At the end of the statement, TIP noted that “East Turkestan Mujahedeens, as an integral part of the Great Ummah, celebrated the historic victory of the Taliban with boundless joy, and will stand alongside them shoulder to shoulder.”
It is recalled that ETIM was designated as a terrorist organization by the UN Security Council resolutions 1267 and 1390 on September 11, 2002, for its alleged association with al-Qaeda, its leader Osama bin Laden, and the Afghan Taliban. As part of the “global war on terror,” the US Federal Government designated ETIM as a terrorist organization on August 19, 2002. At that time, China skillfully took advantage of the situation emerging after the 9/11 attacks, achieving the recognition of ETIM as a terrorist group by many members of the U.S.-led “war on terror” coalition.
However, on November 5, 2020, the US Department of State removed ETIM from the blacklist, which provoked a fuming reaction from official Beijing. China on the other hand is pursuing a harsh repressive policy against the Muslim minority in its Xinjiang region detaining more than one million ethnic Uighurs, Kazakhs and Kyrgyz in so-called “re-education camps.” Despite the US decision, the post-Soviet Central Asian countries, Russia and China did not exclude TIP from their banned list of terrorist organizations.
According to the latest 2021 UN Security Council’s report, “several hundred Uighur jihadists of TIP located primarily in Afghan Badakhshan and neighboring provinces, whose strategic goal is to establish an Islamic Uighur state in Xinjiang, China.” The report stated that TIP affiliated with both the Taliban and al-Qaeda, and their ties remain “strong and deep as a consequence of personal bonds of marriage and shared partnership in struggle, now cemented through second generational ties.” Moreover, the notorious leader of TIP, Abdul Haq al-Turkestani, has remained a member of al-Qaeda’s elite Shura Council since 2005. For more two decades, the most wanted key Uighur jihadist has been openly loyal to the Taliban’s top leader Haibatullah Akhunzada and the al-Qaeda’s emir Ayman al-Zawahiri. Today, all three top emirs are successfully continuing their faithful jihadi fellowship, skillfully hiding their close relations, and throwing dust in the eyes of the US and its Western partners, tired of the “longest war”.
Thus, it can be assumed that despite the Taliban’s warm relations with the Chinese government after their return to power in Afghanistan, it is unlikely that they will break ties with the Uighur jihadists of TIP. On the contrary, both are expected to remain loyal to the oath of allegiance (bayat). The long relationship between the Taliban, al-Qaeda and TIP has shown that the bayat has a sacred religious value for them.
Taliban is a source of inspiration for Katibat al Tawhid wal Jihad
The Uzbek jihadist group Katibat al Tawhid wal Jihad (KTJ) on its Telegram channel posted a video congratulating the Taliban on the victory over the most powerful evil empire in the world, which it considers the US. The congratulations were unusual, as the three KTJ leaders via video addressed the Taliban comrades in joint jihad in three official languages of Afghanistan – Pashto, Dari and Uzbek. In particular, the KTJ’s top emir Abdul Aziz al Uzbeki, whom the UN identified as ‘Khikmatov,’ spoke in Pashto, the military commander Sayfiddin in Dari, and the main ideologist of Central Asian Salafi Jihadism, the group’s imam Ahluddin Navqotiy in Uzbek.
Abdul Aziz glorified the Taliban’s victory over the foreign invaders and occupiers as a gift from Allah Almighty to the Ummah. He eulogized the vision of Mullah Muhammad Omar, the Taliban’s first emir, who once said, “Allah has promised us victory and America has promised us defeat, so we shall see which of the two promises will be fulfilled.” Top Uzbek jihadist further noted that “today, after a long-suffering patience, tireless struggle and great jihadi perseverance, finally came Nusrat (victory) in Khorasan, promised by Allah.” “Because the Mujahedeen are stronger in spirit and faith in God than the invaders, who, despite their military might and immeasurable wealth, fled the country in shame”, concluded Abdul Aziz.
Then, in an emotional speech, the group’s hard Salafi ideologist, Ahluddin Navqotiy, congratulated the Taliban Mujahedeen on behalf of KTJ Muhajeers waging a jihad in Syria’s Idlib province against Bashar al-Assad regime and pro-Iranian radical militias. He expressed confidence that today’s Nusrat of Allah in Afghanistan will become the driving force behind the establishment of Sharia rule in Central Asia.
Noteworthy, the KTJ leader, Abdul Aziz, had close ties with al-Qaeda and the Afghan Taliban, in particular with the Haqqani network. As a native of the Fergana Valley of Uzbekistan, Abdul Aziz made a hijrah (migration) to Afghanistan fleeing the repressive policies of Uzbek President Islam Karimov in the early 2000s. He waged a jihad in Afghanistan as part of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU). Then, in 2015, along with dozens of comrade-in-jihad, he split the group and joined the Islamic Jihad Union (IJU), a splinter faction of the IMU. At the time, Central Asian jihadists split over the internal conflict between al-Qaeda and ISIS struggling for the leadership of global jihad.
On August 20, 2015, when the IMU officially swore allegiance to the ISIS leader, Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, the IJU followed in al Qaeda’s footsteps and renewed bayat to the Taliban’s emir Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour. In May 2005, a decade before these events, the US government listed the IJU as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist organization in May 2005.
He belongs to the first generation of foreign fighters from Central Asia, who went through Taliban’s jihadi school in Afghanistan. He gained prestige among the fellow militants as a military strategist, and not as a deep scholar of the Quran or a public orator-ideologist of Salafi jihadism. In 2008-15, Abdul Aziz, along with the IJU’s leadership, was based in the al-Qaeda’s military hub of Mir Ali in North Waziristan. In one of his Jummah Khutbah preaching he admitted that allowing the Pakistani ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence) to take refuge in North Waziristan saved the lives of many Uzbek jihadists from the US drone strikes. In 2019, Abdul Aziz made a hijrah to Syrian Idlib province and became the leader of the KTJ group.
Motivations and Strategies of the Central Asian Jihadism
The congratulations from the Central Asian Sunni militant groups to the Taliban were a vivid manifestation of their long-term and tested joint jihadi cooperation, which began in the late 1990s. Thus, Uighur’s TIP and Uzbek’s KTJ complemented a long list of global jihadist groups such as al-Qaeda’s Central Command and its franchises in Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS), Hurras al-Deen (HD), Jamaat Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin (JNIM), Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and Hamas, congratulating the Taliban on their ‘victory’ over the US and NATO forces.
To celebrate the Taliban’s ‘victory’, Uighur, Uzbek and Russia’s Caucasian Jihadists in Syria also hosted grand feasts for foreign and local Sunni Arab militants and heroized the Afghan Mujahedeen during Jummah Khutbah Sermons. The Central Asian jihadi media widely published photos and videos from these parties and against this background tried to recruit new supporters to make hijrah to Afghanistan and Syria to protect the values of Islam and wage the sacred jihad against the infidels. The dramatic picture of Afghan government soldiers fleeing to Uzbekistan and Tajikistan has made the Taliban and al-Qaeda more attractive for recruiting a new generation of Islamists from Central Asia. Calls to make hijrah, or migrate, to the Taliban’s so-called Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan are also surfacing on jihadist forums. If the Syrian province of Idlib falls, al-Qaeda-aligned and HTS-backed Uzbek and Tajik jihadists’ migration to Afghanistan will be inevitable. The Taliban can easily melt them into Uzbek, Tajik and Kyrgyz societies in northern Afghanistan and use them as leverage over rebellious ethnic minorities.
So, analysis of the jihadist media indicated that al-Qaeda-linked and Taliban-backed Central Asian extremist groups, operating in both Afghanistan and Syria, were deeply inspired by the Taliban’s victory over the pro-Western government of Ashraf Ghani. As a result, small and fragmented Salafi-Jihadi groups from post-Soviet countries have received the biggest boost to unite around the Taliban and al-Qaeda. Consequently, conducive conditions after the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan are expected to lead to a resurgence of al Qaeda in the Central Asian region. Latent al-Qaeda sympathizers and other radical Islamists in the “Five Stans” view the restoration of the Islamic Emirate on the other side of the border as the beginning of the great jihad’s revival and the approach of Nusrat. With the decline of ISIS and the rise of the Taliban and al-Qaeda, internal divisions, and inter-group feuds between the jihadist jamaats (group) of Central Asia, sometimes accompanied by bloodshed, are expected to diminish, and the volume of clandestine donations to jihad in the region are also expected to increase markedly.
But the main fear for local authoritarian and corrupt pro-Russian governments is that a Taliban victory could provide a historic boost for Uzbek, Tajik and Uighur violent extremist groups encouraging them in their campaigns to overthrow and replace local regimes. And although the Taliban is viewed by the world community as a Pashtun nationalist jihadi movement, and the Afghan jihad has always been more inward and parochial, nevertheless its ideological influence has always been strong among the Central Asian jihadists.
Despite the fact that the Taliban leadership publicly denies the presence of transnational terrorist groups in the country, a recent UN report revealed that there are about 10,000 foreign fighters in Afghanistan, who are members of al-Qaeda, Uighur’s TIP, Uzbek militant groups Katibat Imam al-Bukhari (KIB), KTJ, IJU and Tajik’s Jamaat Ansarullah (JA). Moreover, some of them took an active part in the recent military attacks against the Afghan army on the side of the Taliban, which led to the rapid fall of Mazar-i-Sharif, the strategically important capital of the Northern Alliance. As we predicted earlier, the Taliban exploited the Central Asian jihadists during the fighting in the north of the country as their “hard power” and political leverage on the former Soviet republics of Central Asia. When the Taliban captured a strategically important security checkpoint near Afghan border with Tajikistan in July, they assigned a Tajik jihadi group Jamaat Ansarullah (JA) to raise the Taliban flag on the site. They also put JA in charge of security in five districts of Afghanistan’s Badakhshan Province – Kuf Ab, Khwahan, Maimay, Nusay, and Shekay – near the Tajik border.
Although the Taliban has repeatedly promised not to allow Afghanistan to be used as a staging ground for any attacks, they will not sever their ties with Central Asian jihadi groups and will not violate the bayat. Uzbek, Uighur and Tajik jihadist groups are expected to maintain a safe haven in Afghanistan under the tacit and tight control of the Taliban. In the jihadist world, bayat or pledging allegiance is a heavy Islamic commitment reaching under the holy gaze of Allah Almighty, and reneging it is considered a serious offence. Therefore, the Taliban has never disavowed the group’s pledge.
In conclusion, the high fighting spirit and ideological strength of al-Qaeda-affiliated Central Asian jihadist groups in Afghanistan is associated not only with the Taliban’s lightning victory, but also with the humiliating and chaotic US withdrawal from the country. One of the Kyrgyz jihadists in Syria wrote on the KTJ Telegram channel that “the honor and dignity of America today is under the Taliban’s feet in front of the great Ummah.” This indicates that a new generation of Central Asian extremists has emerged on the scene of global jihadism, absorbing in itself the al-Qaeda’s Salafi-Takfiri military ideology, and synthesizing it with the Islamist nationalism of the Taliban, based on the common kindred Hanafi’s al-Maturidi Aqeedah (Sunni Islamic theology school). As the US counterterrorism capacity in Afghanistan weakened in the foreseeable future, the terrorism threat from Central Asian region will grow symmetrically for the US and the West as a whole.
Russia, Turkey and UAE: The intelligence services organize and investigate
The FSB (Federal’naja Služba Bezopasnosti Rossijskoj Federácii, the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation) – created in 1995 from the ashes of the Komitet Gosudarstvennoj Bezopasnosti (KGB), the State Security Committee – is ready for additional responsibilities under the new national security strategy. President Putin’s recent redefinition of the FSB’s role provides some indications on the national security strategy that will soon be announced – a strategy that will affect seas, borders and the security of strategically important intelligence.
On June 1, 2021 President Putin issued a decree outlining the new priorities that will be given to the FSB in Russia’s revised national security strategy, which replaces the one that officially ended last year.
The changes to the Intelligence Service’s regulatory framework, including the peripheral one, provides some indications on the Russian security priorities. Some of the main changes include additional responsibilities for intelligence security, counterterrorism, border control and stronger protection of maritime interests.
Border control and the various references to counterterrorism in its broadest sense – as recently defined by Russia – means entrusting the security service with a number of new areas and tasks, including the redefinition of procedures to detect political radicalisation.
Border control is also strengthened in the revised rules, with FSB border guards acquiring records, filing and storing biometric data and obtaining and processing DNA information obtained during border checks.
The details on access to Russian soil shed light on the Kremlin’s problems with its own fellow countrymen. In the article on the FSB’s involvement in controlling entry into Russia, the decree mentions the “territories requiring special authorisation” such as Transnistria, some parts of Georgia and Eastern Ukraine, and states that the FSB will be involved in a national programme to facilitate the voluntary repatriation of Russians living abroad.
Intelligence is a valuable asset and its security has always been one of the Kremlin’s main concerns. Therefore, the new strategy makes the FSB the leading agency, not just the end user regarding computers, security and telecommunication encryption.
It will oversee and supervise the implementation of the new technological security throughout the community. All this was outlined in December in a law that redefined the role of the FSB’s Centre for State Licensing, Certification and Protection. It will grant licences for the use of “special technical means and equipment intended to receive information secretly”.
The FSB will also examine patents for classified inventions. In addition to its official role in intelligence warfare, the FSB has been tasked with producing more security measures to protect the identity of Russian intelligence agents, and keep the confidentiality of its own officials, officers and soldiers.
The Internal Security Service will also set up a new procedure to inspect agents and individuals entering the army, the intelligence services and the Federal Administration. Using the protection of marine life as an additional task, the FSB will also have increased responsibilities for the seas, including competence and powers over the protection of fishing grounds outside Russia’s exclusive economic zone, the establishment of checkpoints for fishing vessels entering or leaving the zone, and the power to suspend the right of passage for foreign vessels in certain Russian maritime zones.
The Service will also define the structure of operational offices in maritime zones. These measures follow a law adopted last October outlining the FSB’s role in “establishing control and checks in fisheries and the conservation of sea biological resources”.
An important concept in Russian history and life is the silovik. He is a representative of law enforcement agencies, intelligence agencies, armed forces and other structures to which the State delegates the right to use force. This concept is often extended to representatives of political groups, but also to businessmen, associated with power structures in Russia or formerly in the Soviet Union.
As a jargon term, this word is used in other languages as a broad political term in everyday conversation and in journalism to describe political processes typical of Russia or the former Soviet Union. The etymology of the word is the Russian word sila, meaning strength, force and power.
Trying to renew the aforementioned concept, President Putin provides momentum and injects new impetus into the meaning of this word. After putting the issue on the agenda of the National Security Council of May 28 last, the President is now pushing for the publication of the national security strategy. It has been delayed despite the fact that the Deputy Secretary of the Security Council of the Russian Federation (Sovet bezopasnosti Rossijskoj Federacii), Sergej Vachrukov, had announced it was to be published in February.
As we might commonly believe, the steps to strengthen the Russian secret services are not so much focused on the aforementioned and movie-style “derby” between secret agents, but are mainly targeted to Russia’s traditional “Ottoman” adversary, namely neighbouring Turkey.
President Erdogan’s official meeting with the UAE’s National Security Advisor, Tahnun bin Zayed al-Nahyan, and the renewed ties with Abu Dhabi are the result of behind-the-scenes regional intelligence operations in which the Kremlin wants to see straight and clearly.
While there is still a deep political divide both between Russia and Turkey, and between Turkey and the United Arab Emirates, the Turkish President hopes to encourage future Emirates’ investment. Turkish President Erdogan’s unprecedented meeting with the UAE’s national security representative, the aforementioned al-Nahyan, in Ankara on August 18 can be largely attributed to the work of the two countries’ intelligence services over the last few months.
There is a desire to turn a new page after eight years of icy relations, crystallised by the 2013 overthrow of Egypt’s leader Mohamed Morsi, a Muslim Brotherhood’s member close to Turkey and firmly opposed by the United Arab Emirates.
Steps towards reconciliation began on January 5, 2021 at the Gulf Cooperation Council Summit in al-Ula. The Summit marked the end of Qatar’s isolation, thus paving the way for a resumption of relations between the UAE and Turkey. After the Summit, al-Nahyan flew to Cairo where he met President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who strongly encouraged him to begin a new chapter with Turkey.
At the same time, Egypt’s intelligence service, Mukhabarat al-Amma, engaged in secret talks with its Turkish counterpart, the Milli İstihbarat Teşkilatıı. However, it was al-Nahya’s meeting with the Turkish intelligence Chief, Hakan Fidan, in Cairo a few weeks later that achieved the first results.
That meeting was organized by the Chief of the Mukhabarat al-Amma and by Abbas Kamel, al-Sisi’s regional Director, along with Ahmed Hosni, the strongman of Jordanian Dayirat al-Mukhabarat al-Amma, that King Abdallah II had sent from Amman. Since then, there were eight additional meetings between Turkey and Abu Dhabi, which then led to the aforementioned meeting of President Erdogan with al-Nahyan, with the possibility of holding a future Summit between them.
This rapprochement still has difficulty hiding the deep divide between the two countries on key regional issues such as their respective positions on Syria and Libya, in particular. While they have managed to find some common ground for understanding – ending smear campaigns and trade blockades; resuming visa issuance; direct air links and the return of Ambassadors – President Erdogan and al-Nahyan are simply keeping quiet about their current irreconcilable differences.
Political considerations are put aside to facilitate future UAE’s investment in Turkey.
On August 25, the Emirates’ Group International Holding CO announced it would invest massively in Turkey’s health and agrifood industries, while it seems that the sovereign fund Abu Dhabi Investment Authority is willing to lend Turkey 875 million US dollars.
Is it just business? Russia is investigating.
Power Vacuum in Afghanistan: A By-product of An Incompetent Geopolitical Contract
I still recall the evening of December 18, 2011, when I read the news of the last U.S. troops being pulled out of Iraq, that ended an eight-year-long military involvement in the region. Somehow the news instantly gave me an uneasy feeling knowing that a catastrophic storm was awaiting and will mark the beginning of a cataclysmic civil war. Within hours of U.S. military troops leaving the land, Iraqi’s rival Sunni and Shi’ite factions resumed a kind of political infighting that threatened a lurch back into turmoil. Shi’ite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki ordered an immediate dissolution of his Sunni deputy and issued an arrest warrant for the Sunni Vice President. Not only Sunnis gradually lost the authority of power in the government and security discourse, but the Sunni elites, who challenged Maliki were subsequently either tortured or killed. Out on the streets, after the ISF raided the home of Iraq’s minister of finance, who was also a member of Iraqiya coalition, Sunni protest broke out in Fallujah; and the fire spread across the country. Iraqi Security forces killed between 50-65 civilians on Maliki’s order. This led to the most notorious consortium in the history of global terrorism – an alliance between the Sunnis and ISIS. On July 21, 2013, ISIS initiated a 12-month campaign called the ‘Soldier’s Harvest’ on Iraqi security forces, teamed up with Sunni tribal leaders and former Baathists, and ultimately forcing ISF to evacuate Fallujah and remnants of its government. Soon after, ISIS attacked Abu Ghraib prison freeing up to 1000 minacious inmates, including senior al-Qaida leaders and militants. Empowered and endued with Sunni support, ISIS officially seized Fallujah, parts of Ramadi and Mosul, by June 2014. By gripping Mosul alone, ISIS gained $480 million in stolen cash and armed itself with two divisions’ worth of military weapons and ammunition that were left behind by the U.S. military troops. And, within six months, ISIS became the world’s most well-funded and equipped terrorist group in the world – controlling approximately 100,00 square kilometers of territory across Iraq and Syria at its zenith. Not just the Middle East, ISIS spread its terror tyranny globally as well with strategic attacks on Paris and Brussels.
So, what led to the birth of ISIS? Two words – Power vacuum; and the U.S. policy in Iraq between 2010 and 2011 actively created this geopolitical conditions in which ISIS thrived.
Stages of Power Vacuum – From The Birth of ISIS in Iraq to Rise of The Taliban in Afghanistan
If one thing that we have learned from the U.S led invasion in Iraq is that an incompetent geopolitical contract abhors a political vacuum. In political science, the term power vacuum is an analogy that deconstructs and artificially manufactures power relations and political conditions in a country that has no identifiable central power or authority. In a critical situation like this, the inflow of armed militia, insurgents, warlords, dictators, and military coups to fill this vacuum becomes an organic response, and it comes with a cost – the cost being a noxious civil war and national unrest. On the other hand, a power vacuum can also thrive in conditions following a constitutional crisis where the majority of the ruling government entities resign or are removed, giving birth to an unclear anecdote regarding succession to the position of power.
What happened in Iraq starting December 2011, and what is happening in Afghanistan today in 2021, is a result of a power vacuum – a by-product of an incompetent geopolitical contract. Twenty years after being forced into power annihilation by the U.S led military bases in Afghanistan, the Taliban is now actively resuming its power as the U.S continues to execute its full exit. Within hours of Joe Biden announcing the official termination of U.S military involvement in the country, Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani worded a farewell post on social media, vocalizing that he must leave the country to prevent bloodshed. Today, the only remnant left of his political presence is his departing statement, “Long Live Afghanistan.” With the President fleeing the country, and creating a constitutional crisis of succession to the position of power, what we are witnessing is the manifestation of the initial stage of power vacuum. Soon after the President abandoned the country, the Taliban released a statement declaring that the group has taken over Kabul, a capital city of 6 million civilians, and is working to restore law and order. Considering the reputation of the Taliban – infamous for brutality, repression of women, and execution of religious minorities in the past, the idea of restoration of law and order appears antagonistic.
However, I am not interested in deconstructing the inimical and deleterious ideologies of the Taliban, but unfolding the mechanisms of the power vacuum in Afghanistan. With the Taliban now actively trying to fill this power vacuum created after Ghani’s disappearance, the second stage is at play. The primary question here is not about who will form the national government, but what type of alliance will be established among entities to procure this power. The typology of this alliance – its fundamental values, utility, durability, and workability, will regulate Afghanistan’s democracy and sovereignty in the coming years. If one turns back to 2011 in Iraq, you will recall how the alliance between Sunni tribal leaders and ISIS gave birth to a global terror reign. This was a direct result of abysmal policy deliberation and the abrupt exit of the U.S military troops from Iraq. So, the question is – now that the U.S military troop has ended its twenty-year-long involvement in Afghanistan, what type of alliance will be formed to fill this power vacuum? Will it be as catastrophic as Iraq? As the Taliban continues to coercively occupy the cities, Matthew Levitt, Director of Counterterrorism and Intelligence at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy adds, “The possibility is very strong that Afghanistan will have both – a weak government and a government that has a close alliance with the elements of al-Qaeda. To add, there is an element of ISIS, ISIS Khorasan, as well. Although the Taliban doesn’t like them, but as we are witnessing the effort to evacuate people through Kabul airport and the threats of ISIS suicide bombers coming into Kabul, the fact is that the Taliban probably won’t for a very long time have control over all of the city, let alone all of the country. So, there will be an element of a safe haven even for groups that the Taliban doesn’t like – groups and alliances that will use Afghanistan as a base from which to operate and carry out terrorist attacks nationally and globally.”
It is worth noting that the alliance between the Taliban and al-Qaeda started with its leaders Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri, who pledged their allegiance to Taliban leader Mullah Omar in kid 1990s, and accepted Omar as Amir al-Mu’minin (Commander of the Faithful) of all Sunni Muslims. Al-Zawahiri later re-affirmed this pledge to Omar’s successors. Soon after, al-Qaeda gained substantial freedom to operate in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan. In return, al-Qaeda doled out money to the Taliban. Since then, to up till now, the alliance between Taliban and al-Qaeda has flourished mutually. Soon after the Taliban’s victory in Afghanistan, al-Qaeda congratulated the group and spoke about their alliance for Kashmir liberation in India. A letter was addressed to the Taliban by al-Qaeda and was shared on Twitter by a journalist. It read, “Allah! liberate the Levant, Somalia, Yemen, Kashmir, and the rest of the Islamic lands from the clutches of the enemies of Islam.”
If this alliance continues to grow stronger to seize power, the probable birthing of one of the deadliest terror organizations is certain – a terror entity that would not only have passive support of the Taliban but would surpass the atrocities committed by ISIS in Iraq. This is a direct result of Biden’s ham-fisted deliberation to exit Afghanistan abruptly, leaving a space to harbor national unrest, the collapse of a democratically elected government, procurement of this political vacuum by insurgents, and brutal violence by the Taliban against its civilians. In short – the fall down of Afghanistan democracy.
The third stage of the power vacuum is yet to mature in Afghanistan. This stage expediates the process of procurement of power, if any of the entities trying to seize power acquires economic funding and gets equipped with advanced military weapons. Jan Pieterzoon Coen, a leading officer of the Dutch East India Company in the 17th century, said, “There’s no trade without war; there’s no war without trade”. He was right. The establishing of power requires a trade that allows an alliance of immaterial ideology between groups and hoarding of material resources (weapons and money) to execute the ideology. In 2011, the Islamic State armed itself with two divisions’ worth of military weapons and ammunition that were left behind by the U.S military troops. They used these weapons to terrorize the civilians, execute opposition, and expand their captured territory. Another material resource may include stolen or funded cash apart from military machinery. For example, by gripping Mosul alone, ISIS gained $480 million in stolen cash. And, within six months, ISIS became the world’s most well-funded and equipped terrorist group in the world – controlling approximately 100,00 square kilometers of territory across Iraq and Syria at its zenith. So, what we observe here is that the acquisition of economic funding or military weapons gives birth to an effectively exercised political control through coercive means, and internalization of this coercive mechanisms by the civilians. In both cases, the mission is accomplished – an attempt to seize power vacuum by occupying the land and psyche of its civilians. Today, a similar narrative is at play in Afghanistan. The speed with which the Taliban swept across Afghanistan is reminiscent of Islamic State militants taking weapons from the U.S.- supplied Iraqi forces, who like the Afghan Air Force offered little resistance. Grey Myer and Scott Neuman writes, “The Taliban wasted no time in gloating over their new war booty. Photos and video posted to social media show the Taliban posing with captured aircraft, trucks, Humvees, artillery guns and night-vision goggles captured. Such equipment could be used to suppress internal dissent or fight off their rivals. Before the Taliban captured it, the Afghan air force had more than 40 operational U.S.-made MD-530 helicopters. The Taliban has already shown itself ready and willing to use U.S.-made small arms and other technology. Non-weaponry technology like the Handheld Interagency Identity Detection Equipment, U.S. devices containing biometric data, could be used to find potential threats in hiding. I have fallen into the hands of Taliban.” This stage is climacteric
in materializing the procurement of power into a reality. Even if they would be protest in Afghanistan against the rise of the Taliban as the central power, Taliban will use the overwhelming amount of potential weaponry to stifle the dissent and expand their captured territory to places like Panjshir valley.
Who will procure the power in Afghanistan?
The Taliban will eventually seize power, but it would form a weak government, with under-the-table alliance with al-Qaeda; and would potentially foster the inflow and breeding of other groups like ISIS and ISIS Khorasan in Afghanistan. With opium and rich copper deposits, the international intervention is likely to be seen – motivated by self-interest as opposed to the interest of advocating for civil rest and peace in Afghanistan. Beijing has already held a talk with Taliban officials over the implementation for strategic engagement. It is highly possible that the $25 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project is extended to Afghanistan now that the U.S has vacated the country. Financial support would most likely be delivered hand-in-hand with Beijing’s strongest ally in the region – Pakistan, allowing the Chinese government to persuade the Taliban to sever links with East Turkestan Islamic Movement group, who have executed terrorist attacks in Xinjiang province. On the other side of the border, India – a Hindu extremist governed country, is also in injudicious talks with the Taliban. Taliban’s close association with al-Qaeda can potentially create a political defilement and unrest in Kashmir, India. This may manifest into border security threat and infiltration of terrorists – manufactured by al-Qaeda, but with the Taliban’s blessings as the central power. To conclude, to think of Afghanistan as a ‘graveyard of empires’ is a zombie narrative. It is being revived to deflect, distract and distort the failure of Biden and the U.S military policies in Afghanistan. The truth is far simpler than we complicate – The creation of a power vacuum in Afghanistan is a direct result of abysmal foreign policy deliberation and the abrupt exit of the U.S military troops. It is indeed a by-product of an incompetent geopolitical contract. Biden’s administration must be held accountable for harbouring a space for demolition of a democratically elected government and rise of the Taliban terror in Afghanistan.
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