Elena Pokalova. CHECHNYA’S TERRORIST NETWORK: The Evolution of Terrorism in Russia’s North Caucasus. 2015
With the rise of terrorism in the Russian Federation, many scholars try to study the development of jihadi movements in the North Caucasus. Elena Pokalova provides an authoritative and deep analysis on the counterterrorist policy of the Russian government and the evolution of the Russia-Chechnya conflict, which became the only hot spot within the Russian Federation where the authority employed military forces in order to restore the state’s sovereignty. Not only the study presents a valuable overview, but it also considers the conflict in terms of the global scale, showing readers the much bigger perspective for this local conflict.
The conflict between Russia and Chechnya has deep historical roots, descending all the way back to the Russian Empire. To navigate readers through this complex topic, Pokalova begins the examination of Russian-Chechen relations in the 16th century, providing a very clear and insightful summary in the first chapter. The chapter covers such prominent historical figures as Sheikh Mansur, Ghazi Muhammad, and Imam Shamil. Analyzing the anti-Russian struggle in the 19th century in the North Caucasus, the author underlines that the Caucasus imamate was serious regional competition to the royal rule of Russia. Referring to religious unity and incorporating sharia law, it did not only embrace neighboring territories and nationals but effectively managed them. Pokalova argues that for decades, many generations of North Caucasus Muslims have perceived this statehood project as the only suitable order.
Chapter two discusses the Russian counterterrorist approach since 1991. The reliance of the Russian government on military forces in the first Chechen war led to a tactical shift on the separatists’ side: separatists acquired new forms of fighting from hostage taking to acts of radiological terrorism. The Chechen rebels not only tried to conduct their operations on the Russian territories, but they began to adapt methods of unconventional war. The command center of the separatists invited experienced foreign militants to join them in order to learn these new methods. According to the author, by May 1995, rebels had several suicide units which were fully equipped and ready to launch covert operations. The Budennovsk attack in June 1995 opened a new stage in this conflict, brought personal success for Shamil Basaev and added publicity for this conflict. At this stage of the conflict, Basaev’s militants recognized the difference between terrorism and subversive actions, trying to avoid killing women and children. In addition to this, this attack revealed the inability and unpreparedness of the Russian government to provide adequate response to neither terrorism nor subversive acts. To stress the unprofessionalism of the Russian secret service, Pokalova refers to Basayev’s radiological plot. As many other scholars warn, the author believes that terrorists’ attempts to acquire WMD will repeat over and over again.
The next chapter examines the interwar period. Along with the description of the emergence of jammats in the North Caucasus, the author explains the meaning of such important terms as Wahhabism in the Russian Federation, presenting profound knowledge about Russian society. In the public mind, Wahhabism is understood as “fundamentalism, extremism, jihadism, and terrorism”. Scrutinizing the arrival of Wahhabi ideas to Dagestan and Chechnya, the study emphasizes that the Chechen separatist movement observed this as a convenient tool for gathering political influence in the region. Research indicates that despite the close connections with foreign mujahedeen, the ideological influence on the separatist movement was not significant: Chechen militants left the North Caucasus for global jihad in very limited numbers. At that time, the local fight for independence was more important than a creation of a world caliphate.
The second Russian campaign against Chechnya had a different character in comparison to the first war. The leading role in this operation was played by Putin, who tried to heed all previous mistakes and pursued the goal of keeping Russia’s borders the same at all costs. First of all, the government undertook rigorous control informational flows, restricting the access of media to battlefields. Second, Putin rejected the idea of negotiations with terrorists. In addition to this, in terms of political perspective, the authorities worked out the strategy of Chechenization, which had to increase loyalty to the Kremlin. The separatist movement was not the same any more: the inner tendency toward Islamisation became obvious. Operationally, Chechen militants began to deploy suicide attacks, especially outside Chechnya. The author connects the decline of suicide attacks in 2006 with the death of Basayev and their upsurge – with the appearance of new spiritual leader – Said Buryatsky. Buryatsky did not only try to reestablish suicide units, but he actively recruited ethnic Russians to be bomb carriers. In the 2000s, the terrorist groups focused on recruiting ethnic Slavic people in order to avoid state profiling. As a result, by the mid-2000s many Slavic people had engaged in terror attacks against Russian society. This development again revealed the unpreparedness of the Russian secret service, which was not ready to effectively prevent the involvement of ethnic Slavs in terrorist organizations. The tragedy of the Dubrovka and Beslan hostage situations did not have a significant impact on the hard-line counterterrorist approach; the newly issued legislation just expanded the role of the military forces. Pokalova argues that Chechen separatists have adopted the global jihadi rhetoric that changed the nature of the entire movement geographically as well as ideologically.
To sum up, the author covers many crucial and complicated issues in a very understandable way. In general, it is very easy to follow the author’s narratives and logic. Everybody, from scholars to history lovers, will find this research very interesting and useful.
Where is Our Sovereignty?
In the name of anti-terrorism, the Justice Department of U.S.A has urged its acquisition of all modes of powers since the birth of our country. Following are some fundamental considerations.
Why, at all, do our civil rights have to be sacrificed in order to protect (so called) us from terrorists by this outside force, called as hegemony? Why even has U.S. taken the responsibility on interfering in Pakistan’s (and the worlds) internal matters as that of security? The argument is whether security is more crucial than our liberty. We are told that the Justice Department requires these powers in order to make us secure. But the central question goes deeper – will the sacrifice of our liberty actually make us safer, for we accept their dominance and let them interfere in our matters, why?
Can we be made absolutely safe by U.S.’s interference in our security matters? No. Anyone with two brain cells to rub together realizes this. The War on Terrorism, occurring in Pakistan, will not be won, as this war is a political act, done by politicians for political reasons. We had a war on poverty, and lost. We had a war on drugs, and lost. These kinds of wars are not about resolving issues, they are about appearing to resolve issues.
The biggest blind liberty we openly give to The U.S. is the power to name anyone amongst us as a terrorist or a supporter of terrorism, without any proof or any judicial review of the claim; we trust American leaders to name someone a terrorist or a devotee of terrorism only for the reason of protecting from terrorists. They do this in secret, on the basis of whatever information or sources they characterize, and with no one ever able to review their decision.
Once they have determined that someone is a terrorist or a supporter of terrorism (remember no testimony required), they assert (or want) the right to detain indefinitely, and in clandestine. That is, should they decide you are a terrorist or a supporter of terrorism; they get to secretly arrest you and hold you as long as they want without anyone knowing why or where. No court is able to review this situation. Where is our sovereignty at this point?
The above, of course, has to do with the eavesdropping they want to do, or their ability to come into our homes without a warrant and copy our hard drive, and make it possible to copy all the keystrokes we make and harass us for whatever petty grievance they hold.
Now ask yourself, how does their interference in our matters of security make us safe from terrorists? How does their power to name someone a terrorist or a supporter of terrorists, without judicial review, make us safer? Such a power only makes the judgments, of those who hold this power, safe from any abuse of that power. How the power to search and arrest without warrant make us safer? For it threatens not the terrorists, but our sovereignty.
Nuclear Terrorism and Pakistan
Nuclear terrorism is a potential threat to the world security. According to the EU representative terrorists can get access to nuclear and radioactive materials and they can use it to terrorize the world. Nuclear security expert Mathew Bunn argues that “An act of nuclear terrorism would likely put an end to the growth and spread of nuclear energy.”After 9/11 the world has observed that al-Qaida wanted to get nuclear weapons. In case terrorists acquire nuclear materials, they would use it for the production of a dirty bomb. A dirty bomb is not like a nuclear bomb. A nuclear bomb spreads radiation over hundreds of square while; nuclear bomb could destroy only over a few square miles. A dirty bomb would not kill more people than an ordinary bomb. It will not create massive destruction, but it will cause the psychological terror which will lead to a panic situation which is more devastating. The world has not experienced of any act of nuclear terrorism, but terrorists expressed their desires to gain nuclear weapons. The IAEA has observed thousands of incidents of lost, left and unauthorized control of nuclear materials and such materials can go into the wrong hands.
After 9/11 terrorism generated negative perceptions about the nuclear security of Pakistan. Often western community pressurizes Pakistan that its nuclear weapons can go into the wrong hands due to the terrorism in it. The fact is that Pakistan has faced many terrorist attacks, but not any attack towards its nuclear installation facility and radiation has been occurred. Mostly, nations obtain nuclear weapons for the international prestige, but Pakistan is one of those states which obtained nuclear capability to defend itself from India which has supremacy in conventional weapons. It played a leading role in the efforts of nuclear security since inception of its nuclear weapons. The result is that no single incident of theft and sabotage has been recorded in Pakistan.
Pakistan is a very responsible state and it has taken foolproof measures to defend the its nuclear installations and nuclear materials against any terrorist threats. Pakistan is not the member of the nonproliferation(NPT), Comprehensive Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) and Fissile material cut off treaty (FMCT) because India has not signed them. If Pakistan signs these treaties and India does not, it would raise asymmetry between both rival states of South Asia. Pakistan’s nuclear non-proliferation policy is based on principles as per the NPT norms, although ithas not signed it. Pakistan had also proposed to make South Asia a nuclear free zone in 1970 and 80s, but India did not accept that.
However, Pakistan is a strong supporter of non-proliferation, nuclear safety and security. In this context, it is the signatory of a number of regimes. Pakistan has established the its Nuclear Regulatory authority (PNRA) since22 January, 2001 under the obligations of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The PNRA works under the IAEA advisory group on nuclear security and it is constantly improving and re-evaluating nuclear security architecture. Pakistan has ratified the 2005 amendment to the physical protection convention for the physical security of nuclear materials. When Obama announced nuclear security summit in 2009,Pakistan welcomed it. It has not only attended all nuclear security summits, but proved with its multiple nuclear security measures that it is a responsible nuclear state. Pakistan’s nuclear devices are kept unassembled with the Permissive Action Links (PALs) to prevent the unauthorized control and detonation of nuclear weapons. Different US policy makers and Obama have stated that “we have confidence that the Pakistani military is equipped to prevent extremists from getting an access to the nuclear materials.”
The dilemma, however is that some major powers favour India due to their geopolitical interests, despite India’s low score in nuclear security than Pakistan, as is evident from the reports prepared by the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI).The US has always favoured India for the membership of the NSG ignoring Pakistan request to become a member of the NSG, despite that it has taken more steps than India to ensure nuclear safety and security. It is following United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1540(which is about the prevention of proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDS) and it is the first state which has submitted its report to the UN.
The report explains the measures taken by Pakistan to ensure radiological security and control of sensitive materials and WMDs transfer. Although Pakistan has suffered a lot due to terrorism, but its nuclear security measures are strong and appreciable. Recently, IAEA director visited Pakistan and appreciated its efforts in nuclear safety and security. In view of Pakistan’s successful war against terrorism, its success in eliminating terrorism in the country, and strong measures that it has taken to secure its nuclear installations and materials, their should be no doubt left about the safety Pakistan’s nuclear materials.
U.S. lead the War on Terror and the Afghan Peace
The region known today as Afghanistan has been subjugated to a series of warfare since the soviet occupation, till date, including the United States led NATO’s is on in full swing. Afghanistan shares its borders with multiple countries, including Pakistan. The unrest in Afghanistan has been a major cause of instability of the region, including the spread of terrorism in the neighbouring countries, particularly along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. The people of these areas known by the ethnicity of “Pashtuns” have been the major effected population of the unrest. From training those to become the U.S. backed “mujahideen” against the former USSR to unleashing the war on terror against them when they started to retaliate, Pashtuns are the sufferers.
The purpose of the mention of this scenario basically highlights the fact that the people of Pakistan and Afghanistan- the Pashtuns- have witnessed avery prolong war. This is a war that is neither the creation of their own, nor concerns them directly. It is a war with no clear end, with no particular benefit and it is only hurting the people. In fact, this long war has brought miseries to the people of Afghanistan and the region, that now must end.
The insurgencies in Afghanistan have resulted in the worsening of security situations in Pakistan, as is evident through the course of history. Finally, these insurgencies took the shape of suicide bombings to widespread terror attacks that resulted in large scale life and property losses. In Pakistan the the spill over of terrorism from Afghanistan has been rooted out successfully with the success of the “Zarb-e-Azb” and the ongoing operation “Rad-UL-Fassad. Although Pakistan has achieved this grand success after giving immense human sacrifices and suffering heavy economic losses.
The recently announced US Strategy / Policy on Afghanistan is also going to have a significant effect on the future regional developments. The salient points of president Trump’s Afghan Policy announced in 2017 can be summarized under six main headings:
1.Troop Levels: Pentagon authorized to ramp up troop numbers, who will be engaged in counterterrorism and training activities.
2.Military Autonomy: Military commander were delegated authority to act in real time and expand the US operations to target terrorists and criminal networks in Afghanistan.
3.Open-ended: No fixed timelines given for completion of the mission in Afghanistan.
4.Fighting Enemies: But Not Nation-building. Victory in Afghanistan will mean “attacking our enemies” and “obliterating” the Islamic State group. Vowed to crush al-Qaeda, prevent the Taliban from taking over the country, and stop terror attacks against Americans. US will continue to work with the Afghan government, “however, US commitment is not unlimited, and support is not a blank cheque” and the US would not engage in “nation-building”.
5.Pakistan Bashing: The US “can no longer be silent” about alleged terrorist safe havens in Pakistan. Trump alleged that Pakistan often gives sanctuary to “agents of chaos, violence and terror”, the Taliban and other groups who pose a threat to the region and beyond.
6.Enhanced Indian Role: India to help more in Afghanistan, especially in the areas of economic assistance and development.
These stated interests call for a continued, ongoing unrest in the region. While the U.S. does not realize its own failings in Afghanistan, to cover up its own failures it asks Pakistan to “DO MORE”. In this context, it should be realized by the US and its other allies that Pakistan has already played a major part in the war on terror by defeating terrorism in its border regions with Afghanistan and elsewhere in the country by giving sacrifices much more than what the US and NATO forces have suffered from. Therefore it is the US who has to review its policies in Afghanistan and find a solution of the conflict there to bring peace to the region.
The United States Government should now realize that the people of Afghanistan and Pakistan have suffered too much from the war on terror and its backlash in the form of terrorist incidents. Especially Afghanistan people who have suffered since last 40 years want relief and peaceful conditions to resettle in their houses. The region also wants peace to focus on its economic development and welfare of its people.It is therefore better that the US initiates peace talks with the Taliban along with other Afghan groups to agree on a formula of US withdrawal from Afghanistan and holding free and fair elections in Afghan to form a government that is acceptable to all Afghans. This is the only way to end the war and bring peace in the region, so that the people of this region could also lead a normal life, like the people of other regions.
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