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Progressive Positivity: SCO Security Agendas and Transnational Policing

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Dr. Matthew Crosston & Anonymous (*)

Cooperation between the nations of the SCO on terrorism, separatism, and extremism can be viewed as progressively positive. Russia and China taking the lead across general Central Asian cooperation has been critical in keeping terrorism and extremism from creating safe havens throughout the region.

China and Russia establishing consensus and agreeing to tackle drug trafficking, financing, and online recruitment in the expansive fight against terrorism and extremism is a big step towards containing the problem regionally. In addition, the SCO’s broader cooperation with Afghanistan, Mongolia, Iran, India, Belarus, Sri Lanka, and Turkey, creates a stronger regional commitment framework against terrorism and extremism. The SCO’s RATS (Regional Anti-terrorism Structure) teams work with the aforementioned states to train military and intelligence services to monitor terrorism. This will create a more uniformed approach to stop transnational financing and recruiting. To the member states, the SCO is “a political commitment of Russia and China to the international fight against terrorism where the West has totally abdicated this task.” This includes the fight in Syria and Iraq where RATS’ objectives are to stop DAESH expansion.

Beyond Afghanistan and DAESH expansion, China is anxious to prevent the infiltration of foreign terrorist, extremist, and separatist groups in the restive Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region in its Northwestern territory. The area has long had its own homegrown violent separatists who jeopardize the security of the Chinese state, according to the ruling regime. Xinjiang, which was first incorporated into China in 1949, shares borders with other SCO members – Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, and Tajikistan. The population of Xinjiang is predominantly Turkic-speaking Muslim Uighurs that share strong historical, ethnic, cultural, linguistic, and religious ties with the Uighurs residing in these other Central Asian countries. Separatist militants such as the Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement and the Turkistan Islamic Party are known to be operating partly from these neighboring countries and have committed terrorist acts in their fight for an independent state or at least autonomous territory. These terrorist activities peaked at the end of the 1990s / beginning of the 2000s, coinciding, as Hansen points out, with the rise of the Taliban and Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. Thus, for China, security in this region is extremely important and the partnerships with the Central Asian states through the SCO allow cooperative security initiatives to target extremism and terrorism that directly impact Chinese national interests and agendas without necessarily taking excessive criticism from the international community for unilateral initiatives.

Security is also Russia’s primary focus for the SCO. Any breakdown of security in Central Asia would directly threaten Russian national security perception in general terms because of the approximately five million ethnic Russians who live in the region. Russian is still the common second language of most of the region’s populations and the countries in the SCO have generally maintained a cooperative and non-provocative attitude toward Russia. Most obviously, they have all provided use of military facilities and troops to Russia when necessary. Central Asia is also one of the only areas that Russia does not yet have to compete with so-called “infiltration” by the EU and NATO. For Russia, the SCO plays a supplementary and consolidating role in the region in which its national security interests largely go unchallenged. Pairing with China also reduces what could have been a potentially adversarial dynamic, as China seeks to gain economic growth by tapping into the vast energy resources across Central Asia.   As noted by Reeves and many other academics, the SCO RATS also allows Russia to less bombastically counter US and NATO influence in the region. In 2005, the SCO was able to collectively lean on Western powers to set a final timeline for cessation of their temporary use of military bases in Central Asia as a launching pad for operations in Afghanistan. They also called for the withdrawal of troops from SCO members’ territories. Ultimately, Uzbekistan terminated the US military’s rights while Kyrgyzstan only allowed the US military to stay after drastically renegotiating the rent for its base.

For other member states the SCO’s anti-radicalism policy provides additional support and strength to their own local security measures, with the final delineation of their borders with China and Russia stabilizing some disagreements at home. The Central Asian states have always been acutely aware of their precarious position between two major powers, with yet another distant American power commonly initiating contact because of its own security agendas within the region. The SCO, therefore, provides Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan some ability to balance Russia and China off of each other and carve out some maneuverability and space with the United States.   Ostensibly, the training and enforcement of counterintelligence operations against terrorism, local insurgency, and drug trafficking has helped keep internal instability at bay. Many of the members have always been concerned that the unrest in Afghanistan could spill over their borders, especially into places such as the Fergana Valley. These areas have often shown increases in extremist Islamic movements, such as the Islamist Hizb ut-Tahrir (HT). The Fergana Valley is artificially split between Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan and Central Asian militaries and intelligence agencies have routinely performed poorly in combatting such movements as individual states. RATS provides better communication channels and more efficient strategic coordination to combat groups like the HT, in addition to much needed security services training, that was simply not available before the SCO.

Many of the SCO observer states face similar issues at home with drug trafficking, terrorists, extremists, and separatists, and want to be included more formally in the SCO to benefit from these exercises, training, and transnational policing efforts. India, Iran, Mongolia, and Pakistan all have their own fights domestically and on shared borders. All of them have interest in the economic and security advantages of being linked to the SCO. Iran could gain further critical economic and military trade that has long been blocked by economic sanctions by the West. India and Pakistan have good relations with the West but seek to have better political relationships with Central Asian powers and need help combatting border infringement, terrorism, and insurgency in order to find the regional territorial stability their countries need. Ultimately, what can be seen over the past decade is an international organization that was often criticized for its lack of seriousness and gravity is slowly but surely evolving across several measures and within multiple layers of connective interactivity to be an IO of note.

(*) Anonymous is currently a graduate student in International Security and Intelligence Studies at Bellevue University and works within the US governmental system. The opinions expressed are strictly personal and do not reflect a formal endorsement of or by the United States’ government and/or Intelligence Community.

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

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Intelligence

Ethnic War a Newfangled Pakistani Forward-policy for Afghanistan

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According to the intelligence information, Pakistan’s ISI is trying to start ethnic and maneuvering war again in Afghanistan, of which distinct objective is to refurbish the age-old enmity between the Achakzai and Noorzai tribes in the southwest zone. Besides, they want to start an ethnic war among Pashtuns and non-Pashtuns across Afghanistan, and between the northern and southern directions, thus, the prominent leaders of the Taliban, who are led by the ISI, have been entrusted with the task. As in the east and north of Afghanistan, Pashtun Taliban militants are oppressing other Non-Pashtuns, raiding their homes; however, no high-ranking Pashtun Taliban officials are preventing them because the ISI network leads this strategy. In order to revamp a civil war in Afghanistan, score of influential figures have been summoned by the Pakistani military establishment. 

The latest examples are as follows: Two days ago, the Pashtun Taliban killed the former police chief and an influential tribal leader in Mandol district of Nuristan province, which caused many emotions against Pashtuns especially about southwest zone of Afghanistan. Meanwhile, in order to afresh the years of hostility between the Noorzai and Achakzi tribes in the southwestern region of Afghanistan, the ISI network raised the issue of a mass grave by several leading Taliban militants, especially by the current governor of Kandahar province and Noorzai tribe leading leader, Haji Mohammad Yousef Wafa.

Qari Aslam Noorzai call for by Pak security forces

At a time when the former leader of the Noorzai tribe, the leading smuggler of drugs and heavy weapons in Central and South Asia, and the financial supporter of the first Taliban regime, Haji Bashar Noorzai was released from the US prison in Guantánamo. The Noorzai tribe once again became twice as strong and dominant in Afghanistan, especially in the southwest zone.  Resulting threats towards the Achakzai people, on the other hand, ISI has started rapid efforts to recommence the years of enmity between these two tribes.

Hajee Feyzullah Khan Noorzai meets Pak military Intelligence

Recently, Pakistan’s intelligence network ISI, with the help of some leading social media and high-ranking Taliban officials, has kept the issue of finding a mass grave in Kandahar province in the southwestern zone of Afghanistan broiling, namely by inducing  the blame-game. Meanwhile, local tribal leaders and residents of Spin Boldak district claim that such a grave is the grave of those who were taken out of their homes by the Taliban after August 15.  Since, they were connected to Achakzai tribe and on the other hand, they served in the security departments of the overthrown Islamic Republic of Afghanistan that is why the Taliban night raided their houses, and massively killed them.

Moreover, mass murdering Hazaras at their educational institutions via suicide bombing and meantime blowing up the worship places of Sufi-Muslims, who preach the non-violent form of Islam, while calling for De-weaponization and De-politicization of Islam.

Consequently, by applying such a forward-policy, Pakistan will achieve its fancied strategic-depth in Afghanistan, while subjugating the Afghan Nation.

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Pakistani Intelligence Agencies ignite Tribal Conflicts in Pak-Afghan Region

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According to the intelligence information, Pakistani intelligence community supported by some international rings want to once again spread dispute and disharmony among the tribes in Afghanistan and Pakistan; subsequently the centuries-old evils and wars between the tribes will once more take a new color and become fresh. Recently, rumors of the discovery of a mass grave in Kandahar province in the southwestern zone of Afghanistan are spreading; the blame for this mass murder falls on the former police chief of Kandahar province and the former leader of the Achagzai tribe, General Abdul Razaq Achagzai.  In order to afresh raising the reaction of the Norzi tribe against the Ackzai and anew the evil and war between these two tribes. Even though the current governing body of Afghanistan is completely under the control of the Noorzi tribe, because most of the high-ranking leaders of the Taliban, including the leader of the Taliban, Sheikh Haibatullah, are related to the Noorzi tribe, so there is a greater threat posed to the Achakzi tribe.

Even now, in spite of such menaces, more than 6000 Achakzi families live in Kandahar province, whose members served in the security departments under the command of General Abdul Razaq Achakzi, a staunch opponent of the Taliban.  Currently, in such a tense situation that the Taliban administration has control over Afghanistan and the head of this administration is connected to the Nurzi tribe, the harsh criticism of General Abdul Razaq Achakzai’s mass killings is logical, which can cause international and internal outcries.  As a result, the major victims will be the youths and leading tribal leaders of the Achakzai tribe.

By the advent of Taliban on August 15, 2021, in the first four months, more than 600 youths and tribal leaders from the Achakzi tribe were killed in the southwest zone of Afghanistan, while applying night operations or raids by the Taliban. The most famous case happened to the family of Haji Fida Mohammad Achakzai in Spin Boldak district. Haji Fida Muhammad Achakzai, known as Haji Fida Aka, is a leading leader of the Achakza tribe of Spin Boldak district and had close relations with the family of General Abdul Razaq Achakzai.

 When Kandahar province fell to the Taliban before August 15, the two young sons of him were killed by the Taliban on the first night, unfortunately none of the Taliban officials took any action to prevent the tragedy. Nevertheless, this time, there is a plan going on at the international level to renew the age-old differences between the Achakzai and Norzai tribes, which the international media warmly supports.  If this time the internal differences and conflicts between the Achakzai and Norzai tribes in Afghanistan get sturdier, then it will have damaging effects not only in Afghanistan, but also, serious negative measures will be taken against the Norzai under the leadership of Mahmoud Khan Achakzai, the head of the Achakzai tribe, in the Pakhtunkhwa provinces of Pakistan.

In the meantime, the decision of the Pakistani government to hand over the Pashtun areas in Pakhtunkhwa provinces to the Taliban was approved and supported by the Nurzi tribe, conversely, this action of the Pakistani government was strongly condemned by Mahmoud Khan Achakzai and PTM leader Manzoor Pashtun.

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Afghan Zarqawi is shot dead in Panjsher valley of Afghanistan

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According to intelligence information, the leading Taliban commander Maulvi Habibullah Sheeran, who was known as Zarqawi, a resident of Zhrhai District, Kandahar Province, in the southwestern zone of the Taliban was killed in Panjsher battle.

Meantime, the intelligence report indicates, Mullah Abdul Qayyum Zakir, the general military officer of Panjshir and Andrab and the deputy of the Ministry of National Defense, was injured in Panjshir on Friday, September 16 at 3:25 p.m.

Mullah Abdul Qayyum Zakir, who is considered one of the leading and influential war commanders in the southwest zone of the Taliban, has the support of about 4,000 low-ranking and high-ranking Taliban fighters. He is one of the Taliban military commanders who, during the first mobilization of the Taliban, formed the Taliban group with the support of Mullah Muhammad Omar Mujahid, the founder of the Taliban, and attracted hundreds of young men from Helmand province to the Taliban group.

When the Taliban came to power for the second time in Afghanistan, due to internal differences among the Taliban, Mullah Abdul Qayyum Zakir left the Taliban for a short time and went to his native Kajki district of Helmand province. However, due to the many efforts of the Taliban, especially Mullah Abdul Qayyum Zakir’s assistant and the current head of security of presidential palace  Mullah Mutaullah Mubarak, He joined the Taliban again and was appointed as the Deputy Minister of Defense.

Taliban leaders made more efforts to reunite Mullah Abdul Qayyum Zakir with the Taliban, because he was an influential military leader, and on the other hand, Taliban leaders were receiving reports that Mullah Qayyum Zakir wants to join ISIS against Taliban. Nevertheless, when he joined with the Taliban leaders for the second time, he was assigned the position of Deputy Minister of Defense, So, for a period, he cooperated with the Minister of Defense Maulvi Yaqoub as a military advisor in the Ministry of Defense.

 When the rumors of the fall of the northern part of Afghanistan were spread and the fighting between the NRF or the National Resistance Front and the Taliban in Panjshir and Andrab intensified, Mullah Abdul Qayyum Zakir, based on the special permission of Sheikh Haibatullah, Appointed General Military Officer of Northern Afghanistan. In addition, from September 9, under his leadership, a special military operation named Al-Fath began in Panjshir and Andarabs to clear and liberate northern Afghanistan from the fighters of the National Resistance Front.

As a result of the operation, from September 9th to September 16th, dozens of NRF fighters were also killed but the casualties of Taliban fighters are methodically shown below, although scores of Taliban fighters were destroyed.

  • The bodies of 60 to 70 Taliban fighters who were killed in the battle of Panjshir have been transferred to Uruzgan province.
  •  The dead bodies of 50 Taliban fighters have been transferred to Kandahar Province.
  • The dead bodies of 33 Taliban fighters have been transferred to Helmand Province.
  •  The dead bodies of 22 Taliban fighters have been transferred to Ghor Province.
  • The dead bodies of 11 Taliban fighters have been transferred to Takhar province.
  • The dead bodies of 6 Taliban fighters have been transferred to Kunduz Chahar Dara.
  •  The dead bodies of 12 Taliban fighters have been transferred to Zabul province.
  • The dead bodies of nine Taliban fighters have been transferred to Wardag Province.
  • The dead bodies of 10 Taliban fighters have been transferred to Dandi Ghori in Baghlan province.  

Last Friday, September 16, in the bloody battle, Mullah Qayyum Zakir, the military officer in charge of Panjshir and Andrab, was seriously injured and eight of his bodyguards, who were residents of Helmand and Uruzgan provinces, were killed. Mullah Qayyum Zakir was transferred to the 400-bed hospital in Kabul at 10 o’clock in the evening on September 16, and former Taliban doctor Atiqullah was invited to Kabul from Al-Khair Hospital of Balochistan province of Pakistan for treatment.

There is a bloody war going on in the north of Afghanistan and around 300 al-Fatih forces are going to Panjshir from Kabul tonight and may reach tomorrow. Meanwhile, in Vienna, the plan for the formation of a new military and political movement was announced in a three-day meeting of the anti-Taliban political officials of the former government of Afghanistan. Moreover, based on that military plan, after dividing Afghanistan into five major parts, the political and military leaders of each zone will start preparing their organizations against the Taliban, and they will use such political and military tactics as the Taliban used against the government of the Republic of Afghanistan during the last 20 years of resistance.

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