Now is clear that colonialist and imperialist powers cause, promote and support terrorism. There are new “strategic partnerships” across the globe to deny equality, basic rights, and freedoms to people. That is the reason why Palestinians, Kashmiris, Tamils, Chechens, Muslims in Xinjiang continue to struggle for freedom.
The European Union has been mulling removing Hamas and the LTTE (Tamil Tigers) from its “terror list” as its top court took a step toward confirming the removal of Hamas, as well as the Tamil Tigers, from an EU terrorism blacklist despite protestations from Israel and the Sri Lankan government – the real cause for terrorism by accelerating state terror and repressive operations against the respective minorities.
An advocate general at the European Court of Justice, whose advice is usually followed by judges, recommended that they reject an appeal by the Council of EU member states against the lower EU court’s decisions in late 2014 to remove both movements for freedom and human rights from the sanctions list due to flaw procedures.
The EU Council’s appeal also cited the lower court’s failure to accept its argument that the groups’ presence on the US terrorism list justified sanctions. Advocate General Eleanor Sharpston concluded, however, that the EU could not assume that other countries gave those it listed sufficient right of appeal. Her advice, which also said some elements of the appeal were justified, is not binding. But judges’ rulings typically follow closely the recommendations of the advocates general. The ECJ said its justices were beginning their deliberations on the case and there was no set date for a ruling. The General Court did not address whether the groups’ actions merited inclusion on the list of terrorist organisations but ruled the procedures putting them on the list were flawed.
In both cases, judges of the EU’s General Court ruled that EU leaders relied too heavily on media reports rather than their own investigations when they imposed asset freezes and travel bans dating back 15 years on members of Hamas and the LTTE. Both organisations argued that they were engaged in legal wars against Israel and the Sri Lankan government respectively.
Israel offered no immediate comment on the court officer’s advice on Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist movement which controls the Gaza Strip and has fought Israeli occupational attacks for three decades.
The Sri Lankan government had said in 2014 that it would provide the evidence which the court found lacking to support sanctions against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).
Israel gets all benefits from European nations and USA by calling the Hamas as terrorists. At the time, Israel, which apparently sells terror goods manufactured in USA and EU, has had fraught relations with the EU in recent years, “rekindled” the old trick of Europeans’ treatment of Jews in the Holocaust and denounced the bloc’s “staggering hypocrisy”.
However, the United States, opposing freedom movement in Palestine and supporting the Israeli fascism and fanaticism with its UN veto, has urged the maintenance of sanctions on Hamas. The assets have since remained frozen pending the appeal.
Hamas was founded in 1987, soon after the First Intifada broke out, as an offshoot of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood which in its Gaza branch had been non-confrontational towards Israel, refrained from resistance, and was hostile to the PLO. Co-founder Sheik Ahmed Yassin stated in 1987 and the Hamas Charter affirmed in 1988, that Hamas was founded to liberate Palestine, including modern-day Israel, from “Israeli occupation” and to establish an Islamic state in the area that is now Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The group has stated that it may accept a 10-year truce if Israel withdraws to the 1967 borders and allows Palestinian refugees from 1948, as well as their descendants, to return to what is now Israel although clarifying that this does not mean recognition of Israel or the end of the conflict Hamas’s military wing has objected to the truce offer Analysts have said that it seems clear that Hamas knows that many of its conditions for the truce could never be met.
The military wing of Hamas has launched attacks against Israeli soldiers and civilians, often justifying them as retaliatory, in particular for assassinations of the upper echelon of their leadership. Tactics have included suicide bombings, a tactic which was largely, but not totally abandoned after 2005, —and since 2001, rocket attacks. Hamas’s rocket arsenal, though mainly consisting of short-range homemade Qassam rockets, also includes long-range weapons that have reached major Israeli cities including Tel Aviv and Haifa. The attacks on civilians have been condemned as war crimes and crimes against humanity by human rights groups such as Human Rights Watch.
In the January 2006 Palestinian parliamentary elections, Hamas won a plurality in the Palestinian Parliament, defeating the PLO-affiliated Fatah party. Following the elections, the Quartet (the United States, Russia, United Nations, and European Union) made future foreign assistance to the PA conditional upon the future government’s commitment to non-violence, recognition of the state of Israel, and acceptance of previous agreements. Hamas rejected those changes, which led to the Quartet suspending its foreign assistance program and Israel imposing economic sanctions on the Hamas-led administration In March 2007, a national unity government headed by Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas was briefly formed, but this failed to restart international financial assistance.Tensions over control of Palestinian security forces soon erupted in the 2007 Battle of Gaza after which Hamas took control of Gaza, while its officials were ousted from government positions in the West Bank. Israel and Egypt then imposed an economic blockade of the Gaza Strip, on the grounds that Fatah forces were no longer providing security there. In 2011, Hamas and Fatah announced a reconciliation agreement that provides for creation of a joint caretaker Palestinian government. Progress stalled, until an April 2014 agreement to form a compromise unity government, with elections to be held in late 2014
In 2006, Hamas used an underground cross-border tunnel to capture the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, holding him captive until 2011, when he was released in exchange for 1,027 Palestinian prisoners. Since then, Hamas has continued building a network of internal and cross-border tunnels, which are used to store and deploy weapons, shield militants, and facilitate cross-border attacks. Destroying the tunnels was a primary objective of Israeli forces in the 2014 Israel–Gaza conflict.
Hamas, its military wing, together with several charities it runs, has been designated by several governments as a terrorist organization. Others regard this designation as problematic. Israel outlawed Hamas in 1989, in 1996 the United States followed suit, as did Canada in 2002. The European Union defined the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades as terrorist in 2001, and put Hamas in its list of terrorist organizations in 2003 but such designation was successfully challenged by Hamas in the courts in 2014 on technical grounds. The judgment was appealed, but in 2016 a EU legal advisor recommended that Hamas be removed from the list due to procedural errors. The final decision is not thought likely to effect individual government lists
LTTE – a terrorist organization or defender of Tamils?
Any reaction to state crimes, violence or attacks is called terrorism while all terror operations by the states are glorified as heroism. LTTE as an umbrella organization was formed as a shield to protect from “enemy” attacks the lives and interests of Tamils living in Sri Lanka. Sri Lankan regime used the Tamils in tea plantations and elsewhere to increase economic inputs but denied even basic requirements of the Tamil populations. Disparities between Tamils and Singhalese grew wider and conflict became strong. Lately, Tamils were attacked by Singhalese mobs with state backing, leaving conflict in Lankan society. State suppression methods were harsh which led to the demand by Tamils for separate Tamil state in the island. The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) is the only terrorist group which once possessed its own ‘Military’ – Tigers (infantry), Sea Tigers (sea wing) and Air Tigers (Air Wing), in the world, began its armed campaign in Sri Lanka for a separate Tamil homeland in 1983. Founded in May 1976 by Velupillai Prabhakaran, it waged a secessionist nationalist insurgency to create an independent state of Tamil Eelam in the north and east of Sri Lanka for Tamil people. This campaign led to the Sri Lankan Civil War, which ran from 1983 until 2009, when the LTTE was defeated by the Sri Lankan military during the presidency of Mahinda Rajapaksa.
The LTTE was a self-styled national liberation organization with the primary goal of establishing an independent Tamil state. Although it had dabbled with Marxism, Tamil nationalism was the primary focus of its ideology. LTTE was influenced by Indian freedom fighters such as Subhas Chandra Bose.LTTE denied being a separatist movement and saw itself as fighting for self-determination and restoration of sovereignty in what they called their homeland. Despite most Tigers being Hindus, the LTTE was an avowedly secular organization hence religion did not play any significant part in their ideology. The Tiger leader criticized what he saw as the oppressive features of traditional Hindu Tamil society such as the caste system and gender inequality. The LTTE presented itself as a revolutionary movement seeking widespread change within Tamil society rather than only independence from the Sri Lankan state; therefore its ideology included removal of caste discrimination and support for women’s liberation. The Tiger leader also expressed his political philosophy as being “revolutionary socialism” which constituted the creation of an “egalitarian society”
Since people of Tamil Nadu, government and politicians cutting across their political brands supported the cause of LTTE, Indian government also supported and promoted growth and operations.
Due to its military victories, policies, call for national self-determination and constructive Tamil nationalist platform the LTTE was supported by major sections of the Tamil community. Narrow nationalist ideology the LTTE succeeded in atomizing the community. It took away not only the right to oppose but even the right to evaluate, as a community, the course they were taking. This gives a semblance of illusion that the whole society is behind the LTTE. At the height of its power, the LTTE possessed a well-developed militia and carried out many high-profile attacks, including the assassinations of several high-ranking Sri Lankan and Indian politicians. The LTTE was supposedly behind the assassination of former Indian Prime Minister Gandhi in 1991 and Sri Lankan President Ranasinghe Premadasa in 1993. One is not sure if the organization was used y some world powers to remove these leaders
Historical inter-ethnic imbalances between majority Sinhalese and minority Tamil populations are alleged to have created the background for the origin of the LTTE. Post independent Sri Lankan governments attempted to rectify the disproportionate favoring and empowerment of Tamil minority by the colonial rulers, which led to exclusivist ethnic policies including the ″Sinhala Only Act″ and gave rise to separatist ideologies among many Tamil leaders. By the 1970s, initial non violent political struggle for an independent mono-ethnic Tamil state was used as justification for a violent secessionist insurgency led by the LTTE. Over the course of the conflict, the Tamil Tigers frequently exchanged control of territory in north-east Sri Lanka with the Sri Lankan military, with the two sides engaging in intense military confrontations. It was involved in four unsuccessful rounds of peace talks with the Sri Lankan government over the course of the conflict. At its peak in 2000, the LTTE was in control of 76% of the landmass in the Northern and Eastern provinces of Sri Lanka.
At the start of the final round of peace talks in 2002, the Tamil Tigers controlled a 15,000 km2 area. After the breakdown of the peace process in 2006, the Sri Lankan military launched a major offensive against the Tigers, defeating the LTTE militarily and bringing the entire country under its control. Victory over the Tigers was declared by Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa on 16 May 2009, and the LTTE admitted defeat on 17 May 2009.Prabhakaran was killed by government forces on 19 May 2009. Selvarasa Pathmanathan succeeded Prabhakaran as leader of the LTTE, but he was later arrested in Malaysia and handed over to the Sri Lankan government in August 2009.
Meanwhile, former members of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) are increasingly taking to writing to articulate their reflections on the civil war, which came to an end in May 2009. In recent months, books of three ex-combatants of the LTTE have been brought out and by a coincidence, all are women. A few days ago, the 24-year-old Rathika Pathmanathan launched her book, which contains a set of poems and a narrative account, at an event here in the presence of former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga and leader of the Democratic Front Vasudeva Nanayakkara. Besides the original Tamil work, the Sinhala and English versions were also released. Six months ago, an autobiographical sketch of Subramaniam Sivagami alias ‘Colonel’ Thamilini, (who died of cancer 10 months ago) was released. It has been rendered into Sinhala and its English version is expected soon. Last month, the work of another ex-combatant was launched in Colombo.
The present political climate has been cited by many as the main reason for this “ literary” trend. ‘Perhaps, critics of the LTTE are encouraging people to come out with their accounts,” says a Tamil writer, who wishes to remain anonymous. V. Thanabalasingham, veteran journalist, says the trend has to be viewed as a reflection of self-criticism. The works also demonstrate that there were members of the LTTE who held views contrary to the position of the LTTE leadership on various issues at different points of time but these persons, bound by discipline of their organisation, had adhered to what the leadership had decided.
S. Sivagurunathan, who did the translation of Rathika’s work, says the regime change, which took place in January 2015, has paved the way for an atmosphere of freedom for people to express contrary views. Pointing out that the Sinhala version of Thamilini’s work has seen seven prints, he says this shows that many sections of the Sinhalese society are keen on knowing what had happened during the civil war. However, he feels that still, there is a substantial number of Sri Lankan Tamils who do not relish criticism of the LTTE or its chief V. Prabhakaran.
Rathika, who was in the LTTE barely for nine months during 2008-2009 after having been forcibly recruited, says she chose to write her experiences while she was undergoing treatment at a Colombo hospital during 2009-2010 for injury in the leg. “I did it as a way of overcoming my pain.” Conceding that her stint with the LTTE was short, she points out that there are many young former combatants who require proper guidance from society and the government. “Otherwise, there is every chance that these youngsters choose the wrong track,” she cautions.
It is indeed a historic decision by the EU to write off both Hamas and LTTE from its terrorist list.
UN has a positive role in this regard. It must ensure that the conditions that led the Hamas and LTTE to choose a path of war with the state terror techniques do not resurface in order to showcase it military prowess against the weak minorities and races.
While Hamas faction of the Palestinians are being terrorized by occupying Israel, the Tamil population in Sri Lanka is being ill treated by majority Singhalese community for which the regime and military-police systems provide full support and Lankan government now led by President Sirisena does not seem to take firm decision to support the needs of Tamils against the will and wish of his own Singhalese community.
It is global shame that colonialist trends still play their devastating role as regional big brother India continues to terrorize Kashmiris after enslaving them on a fake agreement with the former Hindu ruler of a soverign Jammu Kashmir . Indian media deliberately hides the truth about the Jammu Kashmir saying it was a part of India where as the truth is Jammu Kashmir was an independent nation and not an Indian princely state at all and India annexed Jammu Kashmir by fooling the National Conference leader Sheikh Abdullah with an offer of Premiership of new Kashmir under Indian Constitution. Once the deal is safely through, India- Nehru- withdrew the Premiership from Abdullah saying India cannot have tow Premiers.
That was a betrayal of Kashmiris by all concerned and unconcerned. Now whenever India loses cricket match, it quickly attack Pakistan in order to terrorize Kashmiris. Yesterday, India , by chance, lost the fourth ODI to visiting New Zealand though they are playing as per a game plan and package deal, India ahs arrested a few Pakistani officials in New Delhi on “espionage” charges. Indians –Hindus, who are terribly disillusioned by the unexpected defeat of Indian only “Bharatratna” team, are expected to forget the cricket loss and enjoy as Indian TVs show the Pakistani officals are paraded into North Block. India cannot tolerate if foreign teams defeat India in India and there takes all precautionary steps to see a package deal is struck before the tournament by the Boards and foreign teams do not bring best bowlers to “OUT” Indian batboys.
Can the Taliban tame ETIM?
The Turkestan Islamic Party (TIP) is also known as the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) is a Uyghur Islamic extremist organization founded in the Xinjiang province of China. TIP is the new name, although China still calls it by the name ETIM and refuses to acknowledge it as TIP. The ETIM was founded in 1997 by Hasan Mahsum before being killed by a Pakistani army in 2003. Its stated aim is to establish an independent state called ‘East Turkestan’ replacing Xinjiang. The United States removed it from its list of terrorist Organizations in 2020. The group and its ties to Muslim fundamentalism have compounded Chinese concerns about the rising threat of terrorism within the country.
In Tianjin, the Taliban’s political chief Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar again pledged to “never allow any force” to engage in acts detrimental to China. Suhail Shaheen, the Afghan Taliban’s spokesperson, said in an exclusive interview with the Global Times that many ETIM members had left Afghanistan because Taliban had categorically told them that Afghanistan can’t be used to launch attacks against other countries. The Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi had also asked the Taliban to crack down on the ETIM, which is based out of the Xinjiang province. In view of the Taliban’s pro-China stance on the ETIM, the article will assess the feasibility of the Taliban’s promises of not providing sanctuaries to the groups which are direct threat to the national security of China.
First, this statement surprises the experts in view of the Taliban’s historic relationship with the ETIM. According to a recent United Nations Security Council report, ETIM has approximately 500 fighters in northern Afghanistan, mostly located in Badakhshan province, which adjoins Xinjiang in China via the narrow Wakhan Corridor. Most of Badakhshan is now under Taliban control, but according to some reports, Tajik, Uzbek, Uighur and Chechen fighters comprise the bulk of the local Taliban rank and file, rather than Pashtun fighters. This scenario appears very challenging for the top leadership of the Taliban to deny sanctuaries to such loyalists.
Second, ETIM is operating in Afghanistan since 1990. It has strong links with the local Taliban commanders. The local Taliban commanders may put pressure on the top leadership or hinder the extradition of ETIM members from Afghanistan. Zhu Yongbiao, director of the Center for Afghanistan Studies at Lanzhou University, thinks that ETIM members in Afghanistan still have some influence. It may not be easy for the Taliban to fully cut ties with all ETIM members in Afghanistan as it may hurt other military militants that used to support it.
Third, the Taliban’s capacity to tame the ETIM is limited because its all members and leadership have scattered across Afghanistan, Syria and Turkey. Zhang Jiadong, a professor with the Center for American Studies at Fudan University in Shanghai, told the Global Times, “In recent years, the ETIM also changed its living areas overseas. The exact number of ETIM members is hard to know but “its core members are living in countries including Pakistan, Syria, and Turkey. More of them stay in Syria than in Afghanistan and have been keeping a low profile in recent years”.
Fourth, the ETIM has developed close ties with international militant organizations, including Al Qaeda. Moreover, Al Qaeda has significant influence over the Taliban. Al Qaeda has ability and resources to sabotage the extradition of ETIM members from Afghanistan. Some militant organizations including IS-K have developed the ideological differences with the Afghan Taliban. IS-K recently used a Uyghur fighter for suicide campaign in Afghanistan just to show fissure between the Taliban and ETIM. So, this trend can be a challenge for the Afghan Taliban.
The Taliban’s new stance of not providing sanctuaries to the ETIM contradicts with some of its founding principles. The Taliban’s new version on ETIM is not easy to follow. Time will be the true judge of the feasibility of Taliban’s new stance.
The heartwarming story of Uighur jihadists
In the wake of 9/11, the US government scooped up all the terrorist networks and made an assessment of which ones were a threat to America. The prisoners held in Guantanamo were of the jihadist Islamic militant type. It’s not like the US government, in order to help other governments, filled Guantanamo with random, latent secessionist movements from around the world – Quebec, Catalonia, the IRA in Ireland, or the Tigray in Ethiopia. You wouldn’t find any of them in Guantanamo. The Guantanamo profile was clearly that of the Islamic militant jihadist that poses a threat to America.
Guantanamo was not a charity project where governments from around the world could dump and keep their separatists. There was a shared counter-terrorism interest between the United States and China, specifically in the area of combating Uighur jihadists, and that’s not a story that can be erased.
There were 22 Uighur jihadists held in Guantanamo, in total. Uighur jihadists were and still are the China-oriented spinoff of Al-Qaeda. Their organization, the East Turkestan Independence Movement (ETIM) was formally listed as a terrorist organization by the US Treasury Department and the US State Department during the war on terror. ETIM is still on the UN Security Council’s list of sanctioned for terrorism entities. The Uighur jihadists stayed on the Security Council’s list after a recent review of their status was completed in November, 2020. ETIM is also a part of the UN report on the status of Al-Qaeda and ISIS. Very recently, in July 2021, the UN said that the Uighur jihadists group ETIM has several hundred fighters in Afghanistan on the border with China, and that they are affiliated with Al-Qaeda, even though the US government de-listed them from its terrorist organizations list in 2020 and has argued that they no longer exist. This was a purely political move by the US government that does not reflect the reality on the ground, and signifies a shift that the American public is expected to follow.
Just after 9/11, in 2002, Uighur jihadists plotted a terrorist attack on the US Embassy in Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan. At the time, the Washington Post said: “The U.S. Embassy in Beijing said today there is evidence that an obscure Muslim organization fighting Chinese rule in the western province of Xinjiang has been planning a terrorist strike against the U.S. Embassy in Kyrgyzstan”. That marked the first time China and the US shared a common terrorist enemy. That same year, the same terrorist group (ETIM) shot dead a Chinese diplomat in the same city.
The Uighur jihadists threatened the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing; they are responsible for political assassinations, bombings and wide-spread, clear-cut terrorism of substantial scale. Uighur jihadists perpetrated a terrorist attack in Thailand in 2015, killing 20 people in a tourist resort. The same group of Uighur jihadists successfully carried out a suicide car-bomb attack on the Chinese Embassy in Kyrgyzstan in 2016, 14 years after the US Embassy there shared the same risk. You didn’t hear about more plots against America by the Uighur jihadists because the US government went after them right away: some went to Guantanamo; others were scattered.
The US State Department reported in 2002 that ETIM was a terrorist organization with over 200 acts of terrorism committed in the 1990s. China did not start making things up only after 9/11, just to fit in the US counter-terrorism narratives and priorities in order to get rid of uncomfortable critics of the regime. China was already experiencing a big, very real terrorism threat of the same kind the US faced in the 2000s. It was the same enemy.
Something as big as a terrorism plot against a US Embassy would have definitely counted in a time when even borrowing the Quran from a library was followed. If put through the ordinary legal system, a foiled plot on a US embassy could give you 15-20 years in jail or less, and then you’d be out, or maybe you would just walk if the judge didn’t like the source of the evidence. If you were “only” training with Al Qaeda and Bin Laden without an actual plot, that would also give you only several years in jail, or no jail time at all, if the judge didn’t like the source of the evidence. That’s the kind of things Guantanamo was created to prevent: a place to keep “the worst of the worst” where the US government didn’t have to think about the regular legal system. Current Attorney General, Merrick Garland, in fact, was one of those judges back in the days of the Guantanamo court wars, who ruled to release Uighur jihadists on the basis of over-reliance on evidence from the Chinese government. If the Chinese are saying it, they can’t be terrorists, was the argument there, so they had to be released. With the parents-as-terrorists DOJ memo by Garland and the recent confirmation that the FBI’s counter-terrorism unit indeed puts red flags on parents as potential terrorists in 2021, one has to be reminded that Garland rarely gets it right in the area of terrorism. More often than not, it’s exactly the other way around. Jihadists can leave, parents can come in.
There is an attempt right now to reverse the narrative of the Uighur jihadists, and the audience is the American public. That push is relatively new and emerged in the US mainstream media only over the past 1-2 years, in parallel with the narrative of the Uighur genocide committed by China. The reason is simple: you can’t have it both ways. Americans can’t feel compassion for the Uighurs and hate China, if they are constantly reminded the uncomfortable facts that the Uighur jihadists were actually together with Bin Laden in Tora Bora, they lived in a village provided by Al Qaeda and trained in weapons and terrorism tactics for Bin Laden. It’s just that their direction was different: mostly against China. They ran away together from the American bombardments of Al Qaeda in Tora Bora. They were sought after by the Americans, the same way the Americans searched for Bin Laden for 10 years. There was bounty on their heads. 22 Uighurs were held in Guantanamo for many years and were released only after a decade. In Guantanamo, Uighurs confessed right away to their activities and their links to Al Qaeda. The ETIM was listed as a terrorist organization by the US government in 2002, after the US government reviewed several organizations proposed for terrorism listing by the Chinese government, and concluded there was evidence only for them, dismissing the other organizations proposed by the Chinese. The US government wasn’t indiscriminately accepting requests by countries to help them with their problematic groups. Just after 9/11, in 2002 the group organized the plot against the US Embassy. The plot was foiled.
When the facts are so damning, the US mainstream media certainly has a problem. These facts show that China was not just making it up, looking for ways to exploit the US counter-terrorism mania of the 2000s when everything was about the war on terror and, in the haste, the US government could have been easily misled. The Uighurs as jihadists presents a very clear challenge to the spin factory of the liberal media right now. The attempt to reverse the narrative of the Uighurs as jihadists over the past 1-2 years takes the nuanced analysis angle to the level of parody. I’ll walk you through some of it.
A recent CNN investigation claims that the Uighurs jihadists held in Guantanamo were mostly economic migrants who left China in a search of a better life and they had nowhere else to go but Bin Laden’s Tora Bora. They have no idea how they found themselves in the Al Qaeda village, they were in the wrong place, at the wrong time. They were not aware of what Bin Laden was doing. Now, years after leaving Guantanamo, they are just men looking for love and family. The CNN story is that the Uighur jihadists were never really terrorists, just “dreamers” with guns. They used weapons only because that was the cultural tradition in the mountains – not as terrorists or something. The terrorist training camps in Tora Bora under the umbrella of Al Qaeda and bin Laden was not actually terrorism training, they were using weapons only casually, not in a determined way. The Uighur jihadists didn’t join Bin Laden as terrorists; it’s just that there was nowhere else to go. When the American bombardments of Tora Bora started, it was very scary for them. They ran around the caves looking for food like refugees. When they were captured by the Americans in Pakistan, they felt “cheated” and tricked. How could they do this to them? That wasn’t nice of the Pakistanis at all. Their dreams were shattered after all the suffering experienced in running away from the Americans bombardments. Actually, going to America and Guantanamo was better than going back to China for them. They were impressed with the level of cultural awareness demonstrated by the Americans in Guantanamo that surprised the Chinese that visited Guantanamo. To you and me, from the point of view of our standards, it could look like the American government was torturing in Guantanamo, but the Uighur jihadists really preferred the American prisons to ordinary life in China, despite “some mistakes” on the part of the Guantanamo management. The narrative is mind-boggling and you wonder how the American public can stomach that at all.
It gets better. At Atlantic story of the same kind claims that the fact that the Uighur jihadists told the US government right away what they were doing, stated their affiliation with Al Qaeda and Bin Laden, and explained their terrorism training activities, meant that they can’t really be terrorists, if they weren’t trying to hide it. If what they themselves confessed was so damning, then they couldn’t have been terrorists, and that had to be excluded from the evidence. It was sad that they were “incriminating” themselves by being so forthcoming. If they confessed to it, that was just a sign that they were honest people and they can’t be terrorists. The Guardian, recently in 2020, also joined The Atlantic line and claimed that if the men incriminated themselves, the interrogations had to be discredited. And anyways, right now it all has to be about the Chinese detainment camps in Xinjiang anyways, so you can’t have actual Uighur jihadists uncomfortably messing up the narrative. The Guardian presses that ETIM is an organization designated as a terrorist organization only by China, skipping that the designation was virtually uniform – the US government, the UN Security Council, the UN report on the status of Al Qaeda and ISIS, the Canadian government, and more. You can really tell that these facts are quite annoying to the liberal media, and it is really messing up their stories.
The CNN rather gullible narrative ends with a criticism of Canada, which is also repeated by The Guardian: Canada won’t let in three Uighur jihadists, former Guantanamo detainees. The liberal media narrative wants you to see them simply as men looking to be reunited with their families, but the Canadian government hypocritically stands in the way of love. Hypocritically – because, as CNN states, Canada is against the Chinese crackdown and detainment of people in Xinjiang but won’t let in Uighur jihadists, former Guantanamo detainees. That, in fact, is the most rational approach to the issue a government can have.
The Guardian pushed the same story with the title “It breaks my heart”, also blaming Canada for not letting them in, after their families moved to Canada.
The Atlantic article pushed the same narrative, claiming that the Chinese government somehow tricked and deceived the American government that these Al-Qaeda affiliated, Tora Bora residing, Guantanamo-held terrorists were terrorists. This was only Chinese propaganda by an authoritarian regime. The article admits that the Chinese experienced over 200 terrorist attacks by that group, but here the nuanced analysis kicks in. These events were separate and isolated, instead of arising from one place of coordination, so this wide-spread terrorism wave can’t be terrorism. That pattern is exactly what terrorism of this kind looks like, in fact: loose, ideologically-driven networks without a direct chain of command. You don’t need one place of coordination to prove that terrorists are terrorists. The article also submits that a lot of terrorist attacks that China experienced were actually falsely branded as terrorism, citing small-scale incidents and attacks that would right away fall under the mainstream terrorism narrative, if the same happened in Western Europe. The Atlantic narrative also pushes the argument that terrorism is used only as an excuse by the Chinese, that’s not the real reason why they are after these networks, as if it could get more serious than that. And most importantly for the American audience, the Atlantic analysis claims that the Uighur jihadists were never anti-American “enemy combatants”, even though the author cites an article by the Council on Foreign Relations that mentions the foiled terrorist plot on the American Embassy in 2002, which was a central event for the US government. But that doesn’t count because it didn’t happen, the plot was foiled. The group was rather local, The Atlantic argues now, and was not a part of the international jihad. They were, however. ETIM’s objective was the creation of a fundamentalist Muslim state called “East Turkistan”, which was supposed to cover many countries in the region – something like ISIS’s idea for a caliphate, but for the Turk ethnicity across the region. In terms of operations, Uighur operations definitely had an international reach – whether across countries in the region, by threatening the international Olympic Games, and even as a terrorist attack on a tourist resort going as far as Thailand.
So, these are the narratives that various liberal corners are trying to push: the version of the warm, fuzzy, innocent terrorists who were just misunderstood. If there is one area where US mainstream media can’t sell their narratives about “demonizing”, “scapegoating” and “dog whistling” to the American public, that’s with Al-Qaeda-affiliated terrorists. But they will still try. Reading these articles, you have to wonder: what’s the agenda there.
After their release from Guantanamo, Uighur jihadists were dispatched to Albania, Switzerland and Slovakia and some Latin American countries. The question is whether the American government has leverage over these former Guantanamo detainees, and whether they will join the terrorist networks operating against China. We don’t know what the terms of release of these jihadists were and whether they are not sleeping cells that could be unleashed upon China at some point. The radicalization of Xinjiang by the US government with the aim to create trouble for the Chinese government is one of the reasons the US government invaded Afghanistan, as I argued previously.
You have to love the way the US government interprets US support for terrorism around the world: we are not funding and supporting terrorism, we are just creating strategic groups to fight authoritarian regimes. In the 1980s, the US government created and funded the mujahidin, right there, in the same region. Then they pushed ISIS on the world as the good terrorists in Syria, only to have to fight them later, and God knows how many more terrorist groups that we have no idea about.
The fact that over the last 1-2 years the big US mainstream media spends resources on stories to basically white-wash clear-cut terrorists should signal something. These stories appear only now, almost 10 years after most of the Uighur jihadists were released from Guantanamo. These stories about the innocence of Guantanamo detainees scapegoated by the bad Chinese government didn’t appear right away. You’d think that the time for these stories would have been around the time when the Uighur jihadists got released from Guantanamo, not now.
The white-washing efforts by the US mainstream media who have to somehow explain the inconvenient past, show a sad fact about American public discourse right now: you can be vilified as a monster for saying things to women, while US mainstream media will break their backs to explain why actual terrorists are not that bad after all, and are really the victims here. They were not really terrorists, they just became victims of their terrorist activities. Watch this white-washing space. It will become even more pronounced, as we move forward into more hardened narratives of the Cold War against China.
Islamic State Khorasan’s Threat and the Taliban
As the Islamic State loses territory, it has increasingly turned to Afghanistan as a base for its global caliphate. Islamic State Khorasan (IS-K) is the Islamic State’s Central Asian province and remains active in the region since 2015. Khorasan region historically encompasses parts of modern-day Iran, Central Asia, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. IS-K mainly consists of some members of TTP, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jamaat-ud- Dawa, Lashkar-e-Islam, Haqqani Network, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and Afghan Taliban.
IS-K has received support from the Islamic State’s core leadership in Iraq and Syria. Like the Islamic State’s core leadership in Iraq and Syria, IS-K seeks to establish a caliphate beginning in South and Central Asia, governed by sharia law. IS-K disregards international borders and envisions its territory transcending nation-states like Pakistan and Afghanistan. IS-K aims at delegitimizing existing states, degrading trust in democracy, exploiting sectarianism.
IS-K’s relations with the Afghan Taliban are tense due to sectarian and some policy differences. The Taliban follows the Hanfi school of Sunni Islam. While IS-K has derived its teachings from Wahabi or Salfi school of Islam. IS-K propounds the agenda of borderless jihad to establish one political power. IS-K directs the fighters to “have no mercy or compassion” against the Taliban for refusing to “join the caliphate”. The Taliban agenda has been limited to Afghanistan. In 2015, a video by IS-K had denounced the Taliban for having an amir. Both emerged from the same madrassas. Five of the six IS-K leaders were Pakistani. Mullah Abdul Rauf Khadem, a Taliban defector, also pledged allegiance to the ISIL in 2015. Shahab al Muhajir as IS-K new emir following the capture of his predecessor Aslam Farooqi. He was once a mid-level commander in the Haqqani Network.
IS-K condemned the Taliban’s peace negotiations with the United States in its March 2020 newsletter Al Naba, stating that the Taliban and the crusaders are allies. In 2021, IS-K vowed to retaliate against the Taliban for their peace deal with the United States. IS-K blames Taliban as nationalists with parochial interests in Afghanistan.
In an open letter to IS leader Abu Bakar al Baghdadi the Taliban warned they would be compelled to “defend our achievements”. IS-K has been exploiting the internal power struggle within the Taliban. In 2015, then Taliban leader Akhtar Mansour urged IS-K fighters to coalesce “under one banner”, alongside the Taliban. Leaders in the Taliban’s Quetta Shura authorized additional offensives and deployed elite Red Unit to fight IS-K. In Jowzjan province, IS-K surrendered to the Taliban.
The IS-K has launched multiple attacks since the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan particularly at Kabul airport. According to the report, the group has strengthened its position in and around Kabul, where it conducts most of its attacks, targeting minorities, activists, government employees and personnel of Afghan security forces. Taliban has taken districts from IS-K in the past and reportedly killed Omar Khorasani, Farooq Bengalzai and Abu Obaidullah Mutawakil—the former leaders of ISKP. The Taliban had also closed more than three dozen Salafist mosques across 16 different provinces.
Zabiullah Mujahid said, “IS-K has no physical presence here, but it is possible some people who may be our own Afghan have adopted Daesh ideology, which is a phenomenon that is neither popular nor is supported by Afghan”.
Taliban has also international support in dealing with IS-K. The Iranian military has also collaborated with the Taliban to secure Iran’s land border with Afghanistan and deny IS-K fighters’ freedom of movement. The Taliban leaders have already opened dialogue with several regional countries, assuming that they would not allow IS-K to gain a foothold in Afghanistan and threaten their stability. States such as Iran, China, and Russia are reviewing their engagement with the Taliban. The chief of US Central Command Gen. Frank Mckenzie also admitted that the US is also providing very limited support to the Taliban to counter the IS-K.
IS-K is an external and weak terrorist outfit, which cannot manage massive inclusion. The IS-K is a potential terrorist threat, but not beyond being controlled. In the present day, however, there is little incentives for groups like the TTP to align with severely weakened IS-K at the expense of the Taliban. The TTP in fact put out a detailed statement saying that they are against ISKP in July 2020. The TTP and the Afghan Taliban both have deep connections with Al Qaeda, which has a deep rivalry with IS. There are few chances that the TTP will join hands with IS-K as it is an ally of Al Qaeda with allegiance to Mullah Haibatulllah, the Taliban supreme leader. There are more chances that East Turkistan Movement ETIM, a long-standing battlefield ally of the Taliban, will manage the Uyghur jihadist network in Afghanistan.
International pressure is also mounting on Taliban to take action against IS-K. According to the Morgan, if Taliban is not able to gain the international recognition it needs to be able to run the country. It will also hinder Taliban access to the global financial institutions, rendering the Taliban incapable of paying for the imports that feed the country. In peace deal, it was with the assurance that the Taliban would severe ties with other armed groups. However, Taliban political spokesman Suhail Shaheen refused to become the part of US-led efforts to counter IS-k.
UN report estimates that there are 1500 to 2200 personnel of IS-K in Afghanistan. Moreover, IS-K has less influence in the militant ecosystem of Afghanistan. So, it is likely less chances that IS-K becomes the threat to the regional stability. Taliban has muscle to effectively eliminate the IS-K threat from Afghanistan.
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