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Another Western Stupidity: “Why Do They Hate Us?”

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The Western world is ignorant, unacquainted, and in fact stupid concerning Islam. For so many years and so many Islamic attacks, its leaders still reiterate the Pavlovian question: “why do they hate us?” On March 22, 2016 Matthew Karnitsching ran an op-ed in Politico, titled “Why Do They Hate Us So Much? How the Brussels attacks strike at the heart of Europe and shake its political foundations.”

It’s time to stop asking this question. It is confusing and embarrassing, let alone being stupid and shows ignorance. Like battered spouses, victims of Islamic violence continue trying to alter their own behavior, to appease and to blaming themselves in futile attempts to make the Muslims to love “us.” It’s time to stop asking this question and to start understanding Islam. It is Islam, which is culturally so different, being tribal and ascriptive (suspicion and mistrust). It is the Islamic Sharī’ah, which includes the entire Scriptures (Qur’ān Hadīth and Sīrah). It is Islamic doctrine, the centrality of al-Walā’ wal-Barā’, the total loyalty to Islam and the total animosity and hatred to the other. It is the main part of Islamic education, socialization and indoctrination (at home, in schools, in the mosques, through the media, and by Muslim clerics).

This hatred to the other is cultural, religious, and ideological. It is out of the educational realm and part of the public surroundings and lifestyle. It is not and never has been economic. It is not and never has been out of poverty and lack of education. It has nothing to do with inferior feelings or psychological frustrations. Above all, it is not out of Western blames, of colonialism and imperialism and guilt remorse.

So when Fareed Zakaria asked in October 15, 2001, in Newsweek, “The Politics of Rage: Why Do They Hate Us?” he blames the victim: the US support of “Israel’s iron-fisted rule over the occupied territories;” having “neglected to press any regime there to open up its society,” and by supporting “oppressive police states” in the Arab world. This view was reiterated by John Powers, in LA Weekly, on September 19, 2001, that American support for “brutal, undemocratic Middle Eastern regimes” is the root of the problem. Bill Maher returned to this on November 13, 2015, concluding that “we still don’t know the answer,” and Hisham Melhem has debated the same question on December 7, 2015, in Politico, blaming the poor assimilation and rampant Islamophobia.

The Western world has learned nothing, and still ask this stupid question when the answer is crystal clear? It is only when it faces up to its delusions and actions and stop torturing itself and silencing Islam critics, it will be able to take itself out of darkness. Islam is totally different culturally. Muslims don’t want to assimilate and to integrate. It is not Islamophobia but Islamophilia, even Islamification. Islam is defined as the total submission and devotion to Allah.

Islam is a political religion, more political than religion that acts in a continuous expansion without political borders, until the entire humanity proclaims “there is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is his messenger.” The focus of Islam is the occupation of the world employed in dynamic means. This is the natural reality of Islam to control and not being controlled; to impose its religious doctrine on all the nations of the world; and to be superior on all the infidels (4:141; 7:158; 9:33, 123; 21:107; 63:8). At the same time, it is the interest of humanity to come under Islamic rule (7:158; 21:107). Islam has the eternal divine wisdom from the beginning of history to the end of the world, and the Muslims are the best of nations who believe in Allah, doing but the good and denying evil (3:110; 3:114; 5:3; 9:71; 9:112). The objective is the establishment of world Islamic Ummah under the Caliphate. It is so inclusive that all human history, from Adam to the end of the world is Islamic (12:109). Heaven and Earth and all in-between would have been collapsed unless they are controlled by Allah (5:17; 10:68; 21:22; 40:62; 46:33; 48:14).

This ideological call and action of Islam is imperative, and those who oppose this natural world order become immediately the enemy, including other Muslims, and deserve death. It is so simple. When one learn the Islamic doctrine and its objectives, there are no doubts about the question. One has to clearly understand the al-Wala’ wal-Bara’ doctrine, which is second in importance, after the Tawhīd, the oneness of Allah. Loyalty to Islam and animosity to the Kuffār are an integral part of the strict adherence to the Sharī’ah, and are demanded by all the Muslims.

The Qur’ān says that all other religions as such are cursed by Allah. All those who join idols, or false gods to Allah, or invent lies about him, or deny Allah, or change even one word of Allah’s Book, or does not believe in Muhammad — are to be “seized wherever found and slain with a slaughter.” The second aspect of al-Walā’ wal-Barā’ is when the Muslims solemnly declare the Tawhīd: La Illāh ila-llâh (there is no god but Allah), it means they clearly state that all other religions are denied, sinful and unlawful. According to Ibn Taymiyah: it is not possible to achieve complete happiness by loving Allah, except by the full rejecting all other things. This is what the words, “There is no god but Allah” mean; this is the spirit of Dīn.

On many verses, the Qur’ān reiterates the commandment that it is forbidden to associate other gods with Allah, and Islam should be adhered to become the only legitimate religion on earth. It is followed by the swear-belief that Muhammad is his messenger, that his conduct embodied Islam and Qur’ān. Muhammad’s words are absolutely the best to follow, being religiously unassailable. Moreover, the mission of Muhammad is to all humanity, so actually humanity must obey Muhammad as much as Allah. Those who disobey Allah and his messenger will be led into the torment of Hell-fire to live forever. Tawhīd will never be achieved on earth until the believers apply the doctrine of al-Walā’ wal-Barā’, by total following of Muhammad’s way of life, al-Sirāt al-Mustaqīm.

The al-Walā’ wal-Barā’ doctrine also relates to the prayer. In each of the five daily prayers, Muslims declare the total allegiance and submission to Islam and objection to the other, between 17 to 100 times a day, as appears in al-Fātihah, 1:5-7: “Guide us to the straight path, the path of those whom you have favored, not of those against whom there is wrath, nor of those have gone astray.” Those who have incurred Allah’s wrath are the Jews, and those who go astray are the Christians.

The last aspect of al-Walā’ wal-Barā’ is related the issue of war and peace (Siyār). Since the world is divided into two distinct realms: Dār al-Islām and Dār al-Harb, the normal and only justified relationship is a state of infinite war. There is no peace in Islam toward the other but temporary, elaborated by Majid Khadduri. Islam has no concept of “Just War,” since any war directed against the Kuffār, whatever are its grounds and circumstances is morally justified and religiously legitimized. A lasting peace between Dār al–Islām and Dār al–Harb is impossible, until Dār al–Harb no more exists. When the entire world becomes Dār al–Islām, submission to Allah will be the law of the whole universe, and Jihad al-Akbar reigns. Until then, war is the normal and lasting state of affair (Jihād al-Saghīr).

The issue of Walā’ wa-Barā’ has also a domestic framework. Salafi-Jihadi groups and the Wahhabi Muslims believe they are the Saved Sect (al-Tā’ifah al-Mansūrah), the only group that has the correct Islamic beliefs. They are the real Ahl al-Sunna wal-Jamā‘ah, while all other manifestations of Islam have deviated from the ‘straight path’ (Sirāt al-Mustaqīm), and by that destined for hell as ‘apostates’. This principle is the basis of Takfīr doctrine the Jihadists use to identify their domestic Muslim enemies and to justify their elimination, as we see in Dawlat al-Khilāfah al-Islāmīyah.

Ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhāb’s concept of Takfīr, includes the command that anyone who does not show sufficient levels of Walā’, allegiance to ‘true Muslims’, and adequate Barā’, rejection of ‘sinners’, is at risk of committing apostasy. Abū Qatāda, the Jordanian-Palestinian preacher, has written on the subject. al-Tā’ifah al-Mansūrah reinforces Jihadists’ self-belief being righteous; strengthen their mutual solidarity; and allows them to fight opposition to their views.

The Fitrah doctrine is the Islamic concept of human nature, as the right action of submission to Allah, and it is associated with the Dīn, as how Allah has created mankind and universe. Islam is called Dīn al-Fitrah, the religion of human nature, because its laws and its teachings are relevant to all universe and human beings. Therefore, actually all mankind from eternity are Muslims. Allah, having created humankind, took a covenant with them that they all will believe only in Islam and obey only him and his messenger.

The implementation of al-Walā’ wal-Barā’ is operated through Jihad. To clarify the term and to oppose the Islamic Da’wah, propagation, in the West: Jihad comes from the third Arabic Conjugation, meaning to fight, to make war (Mujāhadah and Jihād are the nouns). It has nothing to do with the first Arabic Conjugation, meaning to make an effort, to exhort struggle. Jihad is the tool of the Islamic imperative to subjugate the world and to make Islam the only legitimate religion in the world, mainly by force (if the infidels resist accepting it willfully). Muslims totally believe engaging in Jihad is the only way to remain faithful to Muhammad’s example. Jihad is always offensive and aggressive, but at the same time it is always portrayed by Muslims as defensive and waged against the political and ideological encroachments emanating from the Kuffār to continue their control and subjugation.

The religious sources of Jihad prove very clearly: Jihad is the Islamic war against the Kuffār. Polytheism (Kufr, Ishrāk); hypocrecy (Nifāq, Munafiqûn), and apostasy (Irtidād) on the one hand, and Islam on the other, cannot co-exist under any terms. Jihad appears 41 times in 18 chapters in the Qur’an, mostly coupled with Fī-Sabīlillāh, for the sake of Allah, which gives it a religious sanctity. All four Schools of Jurisprudence (Madhāhib: Hanbali; Shāfī`i; Māliki; Hanafi) and Islamic important authoritative exegetes agree: Jihad means eliminating the barriers to the spread of Allah’s truth and establishing Islamic justice on universe in its entirety.

All four Islamic Schools of thought (Madhāhib) and most of Islamic exegetes agree that the aims of Jihad are meant to removing the infidel’s oppression and injustice; eliminating the barriers to the spread of Allah’s truth; and establishing Islamic justice, well-being, and prosperity all over the world. The elevation of Allah’s word cannot be achieved without Jihad, which is actually the protector of all Muslim deeds (2:251; 4:75; 8:39; 57:25). They divide the world into two spheres variously called the Dār al-Islām against Dār al-Hārb. There can be no peace between the two until Dār al-Islām conquers the enemy. Accommodation and compromise are permissible only temporarily, and fighting them is obligatory.

They all have agreed that Jihad means “to fight in the Path of Allah: Māliki Fiqh: “The Muslims are to fight with the Kuffār to advance Allah’s religion.” Shāfī’i Fiqh: “The meaning of Jihad is to make utmost effort in fighting the Kuffār in the Path of Allah.” Hanafi Fiqh: “Jihad means to be involved in fighting for the sake of Allah by one’s life, wealth, and speech.” The aim is “to call the Kuffār toward the true religion of Islam and to fight against them, if they are unwilling to accept this true religion.” Hanbali Fiqh: “Jihad means to fight against the Kuffār by all means” (Fadā’il al-Jihād).

The main manual Sharī’ah codex are as follows: Ibn Rushd rests his analysis of the laws justifying Jihad on the following Qur’an Sûwar: 2:190, 2:216, 4:95, 8.1, 8:39, 8:41, 8:61, 8:67, 9:5, 9:29, 9:122, 17:17, 40:25, 47:4, 48:17, 59:6, and 59:10. Misri rests his analysis on the following Qur’an Sûwar: 2:216, 4:89, 4:95, 9:29, 9:36, 9:41, 9:111, and 61:10–13. Yahya, rests its analysis of the laws justifying Jihad on the following Qur’an Sûwar: 2:216, 4:95-96, 9:36, 9:41, 9:111, and 61:10–13.

Ibn Rushd, Misri, and Yahya clearly identify Jihad with military combat, including support and service roles in the battlefield for the sake of Muslim community. In the Sharī’ah there is unambiguous legal guidance upon whom Jihad and support to Jihad is obligatory; identification of the persons to be fought; conditions for the declaration of war. The reasons for waging Jihad war against the infidels are two: to force the conversion to Islam and to secure the payment of the Jizyah. This is also the view of al-Hidāyah of Shaikh Burhanuddin (1135–96) that represents the Hanafi school of thought.

On page 599 of Reliance of the Traveler, one can find the following passage: o9.0 JIHAD. Jihad means to war against non-Muslims, and is etymologically derived from the word Mujāhadah, signifying warfare to establish the religion. (1) “Fighting is prescribed for you” (Koran 2:216); (2) “Slay them wherever you find them” (4:89); (3) “Fight the idolaters utterly” (9:36); and such Ahādīth: “I have been commanded to fight people until they testify that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, and perform the prayer, and pay zakat. If they do so, they have saved their blood and possessions from me, except for the rights of Islam over them. And their final reckoning is with Allah.”

Ibn Rushd, the Maliki master of philosophy and Islamic law, offers the following rulings on Jihad: Scholars agree that the Jihad is a collective not a personal obligation. The compulsory nature of it is founded on 2:216: “Fighting is prescribed for you, though it is distasteful to you.” It is not personal according to 9:112: “It is not for the believers to march out altogether.” The obligation to participate in the Jihad applies to adult free men who have the means at their disposal to go to war and who are healthy. There is no controversy about the latter restriction, because of 48:17: “There is no blame upon the blind, or upon the lame, or upon the sick,” and because of 9:91: “No blame rests upon the frail or upon the sick or upon those who find nothing to contribute.” All sorts of infidels should be fought. This is founded in 8:39: “Fight them until there is no persecution and the religion is entirely Allah’s.”

The Shahīd is one who is killed and achieved martyrdom in the battle of Jihad against the enemies of Islam. In its primary source Shahīd is an eye witness, even one of Allah’s names. He is called Shahīd because Allah and the angels are witnesses that he deserves Paradise, and that his means and motives were pure. This is very different from the Jewish and Christian notion of martyrs, as those who voluntarily endure torture and death rather than renounce their belief. According to the Islamic tradition, there is a typology of three kinds of Shuhadā’ in the battleground. The one is the warrior that goes to the battle, but not to kill and not to be killed; the second is the warrior who wishes to kill and risk his life in the way of Allah but wishes to stay alive; and the third is the warrior that wishes to kill and be killed, to sacrifice his life in the way of Allah (Talab al-Shahādah), which is the best rewarded ideal Islamic action. This is according to the tradition that on the Day of Judgment Allah will smile to those warriors who had not looked behind and went to their death willingly, with open heart.

There are many Qur’anic “sword verses:” fighting all infidels (9:5); fighting the People of the Book, Ahl al-Kitāb (9:29); fighting the hypocrites (Munāfiqûn) (9:64-73, 3:86:91); fighting the enemies of Islam whenever they are found (47:4). The Muslims are not allowed to befriend idolaters even they are nearest relatives (9:23, 58:22). Muslims are commanded to terrorize their enemies wherever and whenever they are found (3:151, 8:12, 8:60, 33:26, 59:2). Beheadings (8:12, 47:4) are of the most important and practiced acts in Islamic history. It is so pervasive that it becomes a model for the best Islamic deed.

These acts are not without rewards: first, the Shuhadā’ immediately gain the glorious gardens of Eden with “… rivers of wine and streams of purifies honey, and fruits of every kind of them…” Second, they enjoy the black-eyed virgins in paradise (44:51-4, 52:17-20, 56:22-4), and young boys, beautiful like a pearl in a shell are there to serve all the Shuhadā’ needs. However, the most important reward of Jihad is the fact they are not dead. This is so important so that it must be quoted from the source: 2:154: “Do not think that those who are killed in the way of Allah are dead, for indeed they are alive, even though you are not aware (wa-La Takûlû Liman Yuktalu Fī-Sabīlillāh Mawtan, bal Ahyā’ wa-Lakin la Tash’arûn). 3:169-71: Never think of those who are killed in the way of Allah are dead. They are alive with Allah…rejoicing at what Allah has given them of his grace, and happy for those who are trying to overtake them… They rejoice the kindness and mercy of Allah…” (La Tahsabāna al-Lathina Kutilû Fī-Sabīlillāh Amwāan, bal Ahyā’, ‘Inds Rabuhum Yurzakûn).

The concept of Shahīd in the Hadīth. He is granted seven gifts: he is forgiven at the first drop of his blood; he is dressed in clothes of Imām and sees his status in paradise; he is protected from the punishment of the grave; he will be safe from the great fear of the Day of Judgment; a crown of glory will be placed on his head; he will intercede on behalf of 70 members of his family; he will be married to 72 virgins.

From the Hadīth, here are few examples of the importance of Jihad.

“Know that Paradise is under the shades of swords… whoever amongst us is killed, will go to Paradise… and their enemies will go to the Hellfire.”

“…I have been made victorious with terror, and while I was sleeping, the keys of the treasures of the world were brought to me and put in my hand.”  

“Nobody who dies and finds good from Allah would wish to come back to this world even if he were given the whole world and whatever is in it, except the shahid who, on seeing the superiority of Jihad, would like to come back to the world and get killed again because of the dignity he receives.”

“I have been ordered to fight against the people until they testify that none has the right to be worshipped but Allah and that Mohammad is Allah’s apostle, and offer the prayers perfectly and give obligatory Zakāh.”

“Allah’s Apostle said: No doubt I wish I could fight in the way of Allah and be a Shahīd and come to life again to be Shahīd and come to life once more.”  

“There is no group of people on earth in which you cannot bring me from them Muslims. And the best I like that you bring their wives and sons and kill their men.”

One of the ingredients of Jihad is the doctrine of homicide bombing (Istishhād). It is mistaken to allude Islamic Istishhād to Christian Martyrdom. While the Martyr testifies his faith through his personal sacrifice; the Shahīd testifies his faith through his homicide terrorism against the infidels, as the most exalted expression of faith. The Martyr tortures and kills himself out of religious devotion to God. The Shahīd, kills other for not converting to Islam, or worse, just for being infidels.

People misunderstand homicide terrorism by thinking that only hatred could cause Muslims to act in deep inhumane activity. This in fact is basically wrong, because it is part of Islamic belief that Islam wins because the Muslims love death while peoples of the West love life. This distinction is not “out of depression and despair” as Islamic propagation claims in its politics of deception, and Western ignorant apologists adhere to. It is cheerfully carried out to the service of Islam, for the sake of Allah. That is why Palestinian homicide bombers detonate themselves, while their families celebrating their wedding to dark-eyed virgins in heaven. It is as if accompanying the groom to his wedding; it is joyful event, the Shahīd is alive, together with Allah.

Instead of asking the stupid question “why do they hate us?”, the Free World must realize that it is facing the greatest national security existential threat ever in history, far beyond and above the 20th century two World Wars and the horrors of the cold war era. The Free World has already been in the midst of a third world war, formally conducted by Islam as a religious war, a war that is so different from the previous wars in the 20th century; a war that is conducted not in the battleground and not by planes and tanks. This is a war of totalities is perpetuated by three Islamic arms: a total war of inhumane Jihad terrorism that is sweeping the entire states in the world to chaos; a total war of Hijrah, a huge unprecedented immigration to the Free World’s lands that threatens to change the demography, the culture, and the way of life of its indigenous peoples; and a total war of Da’wah, a strategy of propagation and sophisticated diplomacy to deceive and mislead the Free World, called the Kuffar, the infidels, by controlling their minds and changing their awareness about the situation.

On this war of totalities, the Free World has no coherent plan, in fact it has no plan at all to battle the enemy. This complicated reality starts with misunderstanding and misreading the situation. Moreover, there is no concrete definition of the lethal threat and no comprehension of its essence. As a result, the Free World is unable to act, in fact, is led by its own free will and full awareness to civilizational distinction. By its large scale and by its huge repercussions, this lethal existential threat and of conscious suicide has become unprecedented in history.

Therefore, the Free World’s leaders have to ask the right correct question: how do we define and understand the situation? And the answer is meant to mobilize all the political powers possible internationally and the abilities to fight for their existence.

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Terrorism

A shift in militants’ strategy could shine a more positive light on failed US policy

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A paradigm shift in jihadist thinking suggests that the US invasion of Afghanistan may prove to have achieved more than many counterterrorism experts would want policymakers and military strategists to believe.

Similarly, the paradigm shift also hints at the possibility that the presence in a Taliban-governed Afghanistan of various militant Islamist and jihadist groups could turn out to be an advantage in efforts to prevent and contain political violence.

The evolution of tensions and unfolding of differences in the world of Afghan militancy will constitute a litmus test of the shift and how history will ultimately judge the United States’ 20-year forever war in Afghanistan in terms of counterterrorism.

The shift involves a move away from cross-border and transnational acts of violence towards local militancy and the garnering of popular support through good governance based on an ultra-conservative interpretation of Islam. It is a difference in strategy that constitutes one of the ideological and strategic differences between Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State.

“This is not because (the jihadists’) ideology has softened: It is because they have learned that inviting overwhelming reprisals from modern militaries is the fastest way to forfeit their conquests, squander their influence and be forced to start all over again,” said scholar and journalist, Hassan Hassan, in a lengthy piece of rare up-close reporting on jihadist militancy.

“Contrary to how some understand the US withdrawal in Afghanistan, the lesson extremists are taking from the Taliban’s success is not simply that jihad works but that diplomacy and engagement are a necessary part of the process, which includes reassuring the West about external threats emerging from their areas. What can be gained from parlays in Doha is more significant and lasting than any terror attack,” Mr. Hassan went on to say.

The shift amounts to a return to the pattern of Islamic militancy that historically is rooted in local grievances and conflicts. Mr. Hassan also describes the Islamic State’s transnational jihadism that targets the West,  long embraced by Al-Qaeda, as an aberration of that history.

Mr. Hassan’s analysis is supported by research published by The Soufan Group, a research organization established by Ali Soufan, a former FBI agent who played an important role in the interrogation of captured Al-Qaeda officials and was involved in related cases in the United States and elsewhere.

Analyst Abdul Sayed noted that Al Qaeda, in an effort to prevent the United States from driving it out of Afghanistan and Pakistan, has “shifted focus from global terrorist attacks and external operations to supporting local jihadist groups throughout South Asia, and fuelling the narratives that underpin their objectives. This shift helped build resilience, allowing Al-Qaeda to survive despite the massive blows inflicted by the United States and its allies.”

The Islamic State’s loss of its proto-state in Syria and Iraq, and the Taliban victory in Afghanistan appear to vindicate this paradigm shift.

CNN correspondent Clarissa Ward said she walked away from an interview in August with Abdu Munir, the name used by a commander of the Islamic State-Khorasan, two days before it attacked Kabul airport, with the impression that “ISIS-Khorasan is very different from ISIS… in Syria and Iraq. Ms. Ward was referring to the Afghan affiliate as well as the Islamic State itself using common Western abbreviations for them.

Ms. Ward said that “the conversation that I had with this commander did not lead me to believe that they had the same level of transnational ambitions… They’re much more focussed on the Taliban, honestly, than they are on trying to blow up a plane…and they’re much more simple, less sophisticated.”

The jihadist strategy shift would be further vindicated if the Taliban victory also reinforces ultraconservative religious trends in neighbouring Pakistan.

Ultraconservatives and jihadists may take heart from recent opposition by Muslim clerics, including Tahir Mehmood Ashrafi, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan’s special representative for religious harmony, to draft legislation that would ban forced conversions.

As a result, the shift could become one more argument to justify a possible future decision by President Joe Biden to pull US troops out of Iraq and Syria originally dispatched to fight the Islamic State, as part of the emerging contours of a Biden doctrine.

“There is no question that the GWOT has not gone as planned… Yet it would still be wrong – and rash – simply to discard the GWOT as a strategic failure. The fact that consecutive presidents have found it so difficult to extricate the United States from ongoing operations in the greater Middle East reflects the reality of a persistent threat from extremist organisations and their allies… GWOT has been considerably more fruitful than it might first appear,” said analysts Hal  Brand and Michael O’Hanlon, referring to President George W. Bush’s global war on terror launched in 2001 in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.

Messrs. Brand and O’Hanlon may be painting an overly optimistic picture. In the best of cases, Taliban-ruled Afghanistan will only partially live up to their criteria of success laid out in a recent journal article. The Taliban’s policing of jihadists may prevent them from targeting the United States and others but will continue to offer them a safe haven, allowing them to recruit.

“Being a safe haven for global jihadists and acting as a launchpad for attacks against the West are not the same thing. Under the Doha Agreement, the Taliban have committed to preventing attacks being launched from Afghanistan, but they have not pledged to cut off relations with foreign jihadist groups altogether, nor to expel them from Afghanistan,” said Afghanistan scholar Antonio Giustozzi.

Even so, on balance that could turn out to be less of a problem provided the Taliban can keep in check the Islamic State, the one jihadist group that refuses to accept its takeover of Afghanistan or make Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), the Pakistani Taliban, adopt the shift in strategy. The fata morgana of a Taliban 2.0 could be shattered if large numbers of Taliban fighters defect to the Islamic State in protest against the group’s policing of militants on Afghan soil and/or embracing degrees of social liberalization, particularly regarding women’s rights.

That could prove to be a big if. Question marks about the Taliban’s ability to police those groups that have welcomed its victory and/or pledged allegiance to it have already begun to emerge. Mr. Giustozzi reports that in contrast to Pakistani militants Lashkar-e Taiba and Lashkar-e Jhangvi, and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan; the TTP and Al-Qaeda have refused to negotiate agreements that would tighten Taliban control by moving them to different parts of the country. Lashkar-e Taiba and Lashkar-e Janghvi are groups seen as having close ties to Pakistani intelligence.

The proposed agreements reportedly stroked with demands put forward by China that the Taliban ensure that militants on Afghan soil are prevented from training, raising funds and recruiting.

Suhail Shaheen, a Taliban spokesperson in Qatar, appeared to acknowledge the demands in an interview with the Global Times, a Chinese Communist Party newspaper. “First, we will not allow any training on our territory. Second, we will not allow any fundraising for those who intend to carry out a foreign agenda. Third, we will not allow the establishment of any recruitment centre in Afghanistan. These are the main things,” Mr. Shaheen said.

Zabihullah Mujahid, the Taliban’s chief spokesperson in Kabul, however, last month left the door open on the Taliban’s relationship with the TTP.

“The issue of the TTP is one that Pakistan will have to deal with, not Afghanistan. It is up to Pakistan, and Pakistani Islamic scholars and religious figures, not the Taliban, to decide on the legitimacy or illegitimacy of their war and to formulate a strategy in response,” Mr. Mujahid told a Pakistani television program. The spokesman stopped short of saying whether the Taliban would abide by a decision of the scholars.

The TTP is believed to be responsible for a recent spike in attacks on Pakistani security forces, including a suicide attack in Pakistan that killed three paramilitary soldiers and wounded 20 other people. The stepped-up attacks prompted the New Zealand cricket team to last week abandon its first tour of Pakistan in 18 years and abruptly leave the country while England cancelled its visit that had been scheduled for next month.

Similarly, behind the facades, cracks had already emerged between the Taliban and Al-Qaeda before the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, prompting the group, like the TTP, according to Mr. Giustozzi, to refuse to negotiate a deal with the Afghans and build support among factions of the Taliban that are more sympathetic to the jihadists.

Al-Qaeda was wary of what the Taliban’s agreement with the United States would mean for the group and suspected the Afghans of having a hand in the killing of several of its senior members in recent years. Al-Qaeda worries, moreover, that Taliban understandings with China and Russia could put its freedom of movement and/or existence into further jeopardy.

Apparently anticipating a Taliban failure to control all jihadists on Afghan soil and/or adoption of the paradigm strategy shift by some major jihadist groups, US intelligence officials predicted that Al-Qaeda would be able to reconstitute itself in Afghanistan and be capable of orchestrating attacks inside the U.S. in one to two years.

Their predictions were bolstered by the return to Afghanistan of Anwar ul Haq Mujahid, a leader of Osama bin Laden’s former “Black Guard,” who allegedly helped plan and orchestrate the jihadist leader’s escape in 2001 as the United States bombed his Tora Bora hideout. Mr. Mujahid, no family of the Taliban spokesman, reportedly returned to Jalalabad to command Taliban forces and foreign fighters in eastern Afghanistan. Several of his associates are said to also be back.

However, Mr. Mujahid’s return does not by definition deny the potential shift in Al-Qaeda strategy that is supported by the Taliban. It could be the Taliban’s way of placating the group as well as the more militant within its own ranks.

“Despite the persistence of the relationship…the Taliban have a strong interest in holding Al-Qaeda in check… It is not hard to imagine a scenario in which the Taliban provide space and financial support for Al-Qaeda to operate while also restricting the activities of the group to plot and stage attacks,” said scholar Cole Bunzel.

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Islamic State threat moves online, expands across Africa

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Two decades after the 11 September terrorist attacks in New York, terror networks Al-Qaida and Islamic State – also known as Da’esh – continue to pose a grave threat to peace and security, adapting to new technologies and moving into some of the world’s most fragile regions, the top UN counter-terrorism official told the Security Council on Thursday. 

UN counter-terrorism chief Vladimir Voronkov presented the Secretary-General’s latest report on the threats posed by terrorist groups, saying that Da’esh continues to exploit the disruption, grievances and development setbacks caused by the pandemic to regroup, recruit new followers and intensify its activities – both online and on the ground.    

Ever-evolving threat 

“Today, we face transnational terrorist threats like Da’esh and Al-Qaida that are enduring and able to adapt to new technologies, but also expanding to include individuals and groups that commit terrorist attacks connected to xenophobia, racism and other forms of intolerance”, said Mr. Voronkov. 

The UN counter-terrorism architecture, largely set up in the wake of the 9/11 attack, helps Member States implement effective frameworks to prevent, address, investigate and prosecute acts of terrorism.  

It is also ramping up efforts to help countries adapt to the rapidly changing nature of the threat, which has become more digital and de-centralized in recent years.  

Noting that the world is currently witnessing a rapidly evolving situation in Afghanistan “which could have far-reaching implications” around the globe, he cited Da’esh’s expanded presence in that country and pointed out that several members of the Taliban have been designated as terrorists by the Security Council.   

We will need to ensure that Afghanistan is never again used as launching pad for global terrorism“, stressed the UN official. 

He briefed the Council on the eve of the fourth commemoration of the International Day of Remembrance of and Tribute to the Victims of Terrorism, observed annually on 21 August. 

Islamic State in Africa 

While Da’esh remains focused on reconstituting its capabilities in Iraq and Syria, Mr. Vornkov said the most alarming development in recent months is the group’s relentless spread across the African continent.

The so-called “Islamic State in the Greater Sahara” has killed several hundred civilians since the start of 2021 in Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger, while the group’s “West Africa Province” will likely gain from the weakening of Boko Haram, with additional spillover of terrorists and foreign fighters from Libya. 

Meanwhile, the expansion of Da’esh in Central Africa – and especially in northern Mozambique – could have far-reaching implications for peace and security in the region. 

A global response is urgently needed to support the efforts of African countries and regional organizations to counter terrorism and address its interplay with conflict, organized crime, governance and development gaps”, said Mr. Voronkov.  

Repatriating women and children 

Alongside Da’esh’s expansion in Africa and its rapid shift online, Mr. Voronkov also cited the continued detention of thousands of individuals with alleged links to terrorist groups as another factor exacerbating the threat. 

Deteriorating conditions in detention facilities and displacement camps in northeast Syria, in particular, are serving as a rallying cry for terrorist activities.  They have already fuelled instances of terrorist radicalization, fund-raising, arms smuggling, training and incitement to terror. 

Against that backdrop, he echoed calls from officials across the UN for Member States to voluntarily repatriate all concerned individuals, with a particular focus on children.  

In September, the Office of Counter-Terrorism (UNOCT) and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) will jointly launch a global framework to support countries requesting assistance with protection, voluntary repatriation, prosecution, rehabilitation and reintegration of individuals with suspected links to designated terrorist groups returning from Iraq and Syria. 

The framework has already been deployed in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. 

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Terrorism

Taliban and Al Qaeda: Putting a fox in charge of the chicken coop?

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Abu Omar Khorasani was taken from Kabul’s Pul-i-Charkhi prison and unceremoniously shot.

The first and only person to have been executed since the Taliban gained full control of Afghanistan, Mr. Khorasani was the head of the Islamic State in South Asia until he was arrested by government forces last year.

The precise circumstances of his execution are not known. His killing was, however, at least in part designed to send a message to the international community, and particularly Afghanistan’s neighbours, including China and Iran, as well as Russia, Central Asia’s security overlord.

The message was that the Taliban were cracking down on foreign jihadists and militants in Afghanistan.

Mr. Khorasani was an easy symbol. The Taliban and the Islamic State, whose ranks of foreigners are primarily populated by Pakistanis and a sprinkling of Central Asians, Uighurs, Russians, Turks, Iranians, Indonesians, Indians, and Frenchmen, have long been adversarial. The Islamic State recently accused the Taliban of being more nationalist than pious in their negotiations with the United States.

The Taliban message is a partial truth at best. What is true for the Islamic State is not true for Al–Qaeda and others such as the Uighur Turkestan Islamic Party (TIP) and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan.

The Taliban appear to believe that they can get away with the differentiation because they perceived the United States as more focused in the withdrawal negotiations on ensuring that the Islamic State, Al-Qaeda, and other militants will not be allowed to use Afghanistan as a base for international operations rather than on getting them expelled from the country.

The perceived US focus may have been rooted in a concern that if Taliban’s hands were forced, they would let militants slip out of the country and not hand them over to authorities. That would make it difficult to control their movements or ensure that they are either entered into deradicalization programs or, if warranted, brought to justice.

“It’s a Catch-22. The Taliban ensuring that Al Qaeda sticks to rule risks putting a fox in charge of the chicken coop. How much better that is than having foxes run wild remains to be seen,” said a retired counter-terrorism official.

Officials of the Trump administration that negotiated the agreement suggest that the continued presence of Al-Qaeda and other militants in Afghanistan would violate the accord with the Taliban.

Former Vice President Mike Pence as well as Trump era State Department counterterrorism coordinator Nathan Sales argued that the deal “required the Taliban…to refuse terrorists safe harbour.

Russia and China, while publicly more measured in their statements, are likely to share western concerns. Russia held military drills earlier this month with Tajik and Uzbek troops in Tajikistan, 20 kilometres from the border with Afghanistan.

Al-Qaeda may have been boosted in recent weeks by multiple prison breaks in which the Taliban freed operatives of Al-Qaeda and other militant groups. It remains unclear however to what degree the breaks will help the group strengthen its presence in Afghanistan.

General Mark Milley, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, warned this week that al Qaeda and the Islamic State could quickly rebuild their networks in Afghanistan.

The United Nations recently reported that Al-Qaeda “is present in at least 15 Afghan provinces”, and that its affiliate in the Indian subcontinent, “operates under Taliban protection from Kandahar, Helmand and Nimruz provinces.” 

“Without information on who exactly escaped, it is difficult to determine whether historically significant figures remain within AQ’s AfPak network, or if it is mainly composed of newer figures these days, whether local or regional foreign fighters,” cautioned political violence scholar Aaron Y. Zelin. Mr. Zelin was referring to Al-Qaeda’s Afghanistan-Pakistan network.

Also unclear is whether Al-Qaeda operatives in Iran will be allowed to relocate to Afghanistan.

The prison breaks further go to concerns about relying on the Taliban to police jihadists and other militants with aspirations beyond Afghanistan’s borders. Of particular concern is the fact that the balance of power has yet to be determined between Taliban leaders who in recent days have been eager to put a more moderate, accommodating foot forward with security guarantees for their opponents, minorities and women and the group’s far-flung less polished rank and file.

The concern about the Taliban’s ability and willingness to control militant activity on Afghan soil is magnified by worry regarding the continued existence of warlords with the power to organise violence, provide jobs and public services, and forge or strengthen ties with militants.

Warlords will play an active role in the future of Afghanistan. They will remain businessmen and political leaders, connected to global economic processes and networks. They will develop the military power that they need to control territory and wage war. They will, finally, continue to fight for more autonomy and, in some cases, might even manage to partially form their old regional polities once again,” said Romain Malejacq, author of a book on Afghan warlords.

“Afghanistan’s availability as a sanctuary for terrorists is, to say the least, related to its status as a warlord-ridden wasteland,” said journalist and author Graeme Wood.

The Taliban’s refusal to expel militants not only complicates the group’s efforts to garner legitimacy in the international community and particularly its neighbours, even if Al-Qaeda has been significantly weakened since 9/11 and is less focussed on attacking the United States and more on the Muslim world.

It also strengthens those who fear that Afghanistan will again emerge as a launching pad for trans-national political violence. “We are going to go back to a pre-9/11 state—a breeding ground for terrorism,” warned Michael McCaul, the ranking Republican member of the US House Foreign Affairs Committee. “They (the Taliban) will not restrict terrorist groups, just ask them to operate low-key,” added Douglas London, a former head of CIA counterterrorism operations for South and Southwest Asia.

The Taliban proved already 20 years ago that they valued loyalty when they rejected US and Saudi pressure to hand over Osama bin Laden no matter the cost. The Taliban have since come to appreciate Al Qaeda’s fighting skills and contributions to the Afghan militants’ cause.

Taliban fighters this week, in a violation of their pledge to inclusiveness, demonstrated their ideological anti-Shiite affinity with Al-Qaeda by blowing up a statue of Abdul Ali Mazari, a Shiite Hazara militia leader killed by the Taliban when they first took power in 1996.

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