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Islamic State after ISIS: Colonies without Metropole or Cyber Activism?

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With the world constantly following the events in the Middle East, much now depends on the shape, form and ‘policy’ Islamic State is going to take. What form will the IS take? What role will cryptocurrencies play in funding terrorists? How can Russia and the US cooperate in fighting mutual security threats? RIAC expert Tatyana Kanunnikova discusses these issues with Dr. Joseph Fitsanakis, Associate Professor of Political Science in the Intelligence and National Security Studies program at Coastal Carolina University.

Islamic State is perceived as an international threat. In which regions is it losing ground and in which ones is it on the rise? Could you please describe IS geography today?

Groups like the Islamic State are mobile. They tend to move and redeploy across international borders with relative ease, and are truly global in both outlook and reach. It is worth noting that, from a very early stage in its existence, the Islamic State incorporated into its administrative structure the so-called vilayets, namely semi-autonomous overseas provinces or possessions. These included parts of Libya, Afghanistan, Somalia, the Philippines, Nigeria, and of course Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula. By the first week of 2018, the Islamic State had all but eclipsed from its traditional base of the Levant. How has the loss of its administrative centers affected the organization’s strategy?

Dr. Joseph Fitsanakis

There are two competing answers to this question. The first possible answer is that ISIS’ plan is similar to that of the Great Britain in 1940, when the government of Winston Churchill was facing the prospect of invasion by the forces of the German Reich. London’s plan at the time was to use its overseas colonies as bases from which to continue to fight following a possible German takeover of the Britain. It is possible that ISIS’ strategy revolves around a similar plan —in which case we may see concerted flare-ups of insurgent activity in Egypt, Southeast Asia, Afghanistan, Somalia, Kenya, and elsewhere. The second possible answer to the question of ISIS’ strategy is that the group may be entering a period of relative dormancy, during which it will concentrate on cyber activism and online outreach aimed at young and disaffected youth in Western Europe, the Caucasus, and North America. According to this scenario, ISIS will use its formidable online dexterity to establish new communities of Millennial and Generation Z members, and renegotiate its strategy in light of the loss of physical lands in the Levant. This scenario envisages an online geography for the Islamic State, which may eventually lead to the emergence of a new model of activity. The latter will probably resemble al-Qaeda’s decentralized, cell-based model that focuses on sharp, decisive strikes at foreign targets.

Commenting for an article in Asia Times, you said that ISIS returnees are extremely valuables sources of intelligence. How can they be effectively identified in the flow of migrants? How exactly can security services exploit the experience of these militants?

In its essence, the Sunni insurgency is a demassified movement. By this I mean that its leaders have never intended for it to become a mass undertaking. The Islamic State, like al-Qaeda before it, does not depend on large numbers of followers. Rather it depends on individual mobilization. Senior Islamic State leaders like Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, Mohamed Mahmoud, Tarad Muhammad al-Jarba, and others, have no interest in deploying 10,000 fighters who may be reluctant and weak-willed. They are content with 100 fighters who are unswerving in their commitment and prepared to devote everything to the struggle, including their lives. Consider some of the most formidable strikes of the Sunni insurgency against its enemies: the attacks of 9/11 in the United States, the 7/7 bombings in the United Kingdom, the November 2015 strikes in Paris, and the fall of Mosul in 2014. There have been more large-scale strikes on Russian, Lebanese, Afghan, Egyptian, and other targets. What connects all of those is the relatively small number of totally dedicated fighters that carried them out. The fall of Mosul, for example, which brought the Islamic State to the height of its power, was carried out by no more than 1,500 fighters, who took on two divisions of the Iraqi Army, numbering more than 30,000 troops.

The reliance on a small number of dedicated fighters mirrors the recruitment tactics of the Islamic State (and al-Qaeda before it). The latter rested on individual attention paid to selected young men, who are seen as reliable and steadfast. This is precisely the type of emphasis that should be placed by European, American and Russian security agencies on suspected members of terrorist groups that are captured, or are detected within largest groups of migrants. What is required here is individual attention given by security operatives who have an eye for detail and are knowledgeable of the culture, customs and ways of thinking of predominantly Muslim societies. However, most governments have neither the patience nor expertise to implement a truly demassified exploitation campaign that targets individuals with an eye to de-radicalization and — ultimately — exploitation. The experience of the Syrian migrants in countries like Italy and Greece is illustrative of this phenomenon. The two countries — already overwhelmed by domestic political problems and financial uncertainty — were left primarily to their own means by a disinterested and fragmented European Union. Several members of the EU, including Poland, Hungary, and the United Kingdom have for all practical purposes positioned themselves outside of the EU mainstream. At the same time, the United States, which is the main instigator of the current instability in the Middle East, shows no serious interest in de-radicalization and exploitation programs. This has been a consistent trend in Washington under the administrations of Barack Obama and Donald Trump.

In your opinion, will cryptocurrencies become a significant source of terrorism funding? Some experts believe that pressure on traditional methods of financing may facilitate this process.

In the old days of the 1970s and 1980s, most terrorist groups raised funds primarily through extortion, kidnappings, bank robberies and — to a lesser extent — drugs. Things have changed considerably in our century. Today, cryptocurrencies are not in themselves sources of funding — though it can be argued that the frequent rise in the value of many cryptocurrencies generates income for terrorist organizations — but more a method of circulating currency and providing services that generate funds. With the use of cryptocurrencies and the so-called Darknet, terrorist organizations are now able to engage in creative means of generating cash. They include the sale of pirated music, movies and, most of all, videogames. They also engage in the sale of counterfeit products, including clothing, electronics and other hi-tech accessories. Additionally, they sell counterfeit pharmaceutical products and even counterfeit tickets to high-profile sports events and music concerts. Those who buy those products often pay for them using cryptocurrencies, primarily through the Darknet. Looking at the broad picture, it is clear that the use of cryptocurrencies constitutes a form of asymmetric finance that circumvents established financial structures and operates using irregular means that for now remain largely undetected. Few terrorist groups will resist the temptation to employ this new method of unregulated financial transaction.

How can Russian and US intelligence and security services cooperate in combating terrorism? In December 2017, media reported that CIA had helped its Russian counterpart foil a terror attack in St. Petersburg. What should be done to deepen and broaden such kind of cooperation?

Despite friction on the political level, cooperation between Russian and American intelligence agencies in the field of counter-terrorism is far more routine than is generally presumed. Last December’s report of the CIA sharing intelligence with its Russian counterpart was notable in that it was publicly disclosed. Most instances of intelligence cooperation between Washington and Moscow are not publicized. In February 2016, the then CIA director John Brennan stated publicly that the CIA works closely with the Russian intelligence community in counter-terrorism operations directed against Islamist militants. He described the CIA’s relationship with Russian intelligence officials as a “very factual, informative exchange.” He added that “if the CIA gets information about threats to Russian citizens or diplomats, we will share it with the Russians”. And he added: “they do the same with us”. Brennan gave the example of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. He said: “We worked very closely with [Russian intelligence agencies]” during the Sochi games to “try to prevent terrorist attacks. And we did so very successfully”. There is no reason to doubt the sincerity of Brennan’s statement.

Professionals are always more likely to find common areas of interest. So, in what areas, apart from combating terrorism, can Russian and US intelligence services cooperate?

There is a virtually endless list of common concerns that ought to and often do bring together American and Russian intelligence agencies. To begin with, there are two major existential threats to the security of both countries and the whole world that demand close cooperation between Washington and Moscow and their respective intelligence agencies. The first threat is the black market in weapons of mass destruction, notably chemical weapons, biological agents, and even radioactive material. In the past 20 years, there have been several cases of individuals or groups trying to sell or trade radioactive substances. The fear of such weapons possibly falling into the hands of non-state insurgents should be sufficient to entice close cooperation between American and Russian intelligence agencies. The second existential threat is that of global warming and its effects on international security. It is no secret that the rise in global temperatures is already having a measurable negative impact on food production, desertification, sea-level rise, and other factors that contribute to the destabilization of the economies of entire regions. Such trends fuel militancy, political extremism, wars, and mass migrations of populations, all of which are serious threats to the stability of the international system. Solving this global problem will require increased and prolonged cooperation on the political, economic, and security/intelligence level between the United States and Russia. The two countries must also work closely on a series of other topics, including standardizing the global regulation of cryptocurrencies, diffusing tensions between the two rival nuclear powers of India and Pakistan, tackling the tensions in the Korean Peninsula, preventing the destabilization of Egypt (the world’s largest Arab country), combating the growth of Sunni militancy in West Africa, and numerous other issues.

Among other things, you are an expert in the Cold War. At present, Russia and the USA are experiencing a period of tensions in their relationship. In your opinion, what should be done in order to overcome these challenges and mend fences?

For those of us who remember the Cold War, and have studied the development of Russia–US relations in the postwar era, the current state of affairs between Washington and Moscow seems comparatively manageable. Despite tensions between Washington and Moscow, we are, thankfully, very far from an emergency of the type of the Berlin Crisis of 1961, the Cuban Missile Crisis, or even the 1984 collision between the US plane carrier Kitty Hawk and the K-314 Soviet submarine in the Sea of Japan. How do we avoid such dangerous escalations? The answer is simple: regularize communications between the two countries on various levels, including executive, political, economic and security-related. Such communications should continue even or, arguably, especially at times of rising tensions between the two nations. The overall context of this approach rests on the indisputable truth that Russia and the United States are the two central pillars on which the idea of world peace can be built for future generations.

First published in our partner RIAC

*Dr. Joseph Fitsanakis is Associate Professor of Political Science in the Intelligence and National Security Studies program at Coastal Carolina University. Prior to joining Coastal, he built the Security and Intelligence Studies program at King University, where he also directed the King Institute for Security and Intelligence Studies. An award-winning professor, Dr. Fitsanakis has lectured, taught and written extensively on subjects such as international security, intelligence, cyberespionage, and transnational crime. He is a syndicated columnist and frequent contributor to news media such as BBC television and radio, ABC Radio, Newsweek, and Sputnik, and his work has been referenced in outlets including The Washington Post, Foreign Policy, Politico, and The Huffington Post. Fitsanakis is also deputy director of the European Intelligence Academy and senior editor at intelNews.org, a scholarly blog that is cataloged through the United States Library of Congress, and a syndicated columnist.

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What will happen to the Central Asian jihadists in Idlib after the Sochi Memorandum?

Uran Botobekov

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Putin and Erdogan at the time of signing the Turkish-Russian agreement to establish a demilitarized zone in Syria's northwestern Idlib province

It became obvious that, the persistent calls and strict warnings from the UN, the United States, the EU and Turkey about the inevitability of a catastrophe and mass casualties in the event of a military operation on the Idlib Province, the last major rebel holdout in western Syria and home to about four million people, has begun to bear fruit. A military operation in Idlib was cancelled and the world sighed with relief.

The Price of Peace in Idlib

On September 17, 2018, in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, Ankara and Moscow signed a memorandum to create a demilitarized buffer zone in Syria’s Idlib region to separate government and rebel forces, in which acts of aggression are prohibited. The memorandum provides for a “withdrawal of all radical fighters” from Idlib including Hayat Tahrir al-Sham. Moscow and Ankara also agreed on the withdrawal of “heavy weaponry from this zone,” including tanks, multiple-launch rocket systems, and rocket launchers belonging to all armed opposition groups by October 10. The demilitarized buffer zone will extend between 15 to 20 kilometers (9-12 miles) deep into Idlib.Russia and Turkey will conduct joint patrols along the zone’s perimeter.

Ankara’s diplomatic victory is that the National Liberation Front (NLF) — a rebel coalition in Syria formed in May 2018 under Turkey’s auspices — will remain in Idlib as a “new owner”. The NLF includes Sunni groups Ahrar al-Sham, Nur al-Din al-Zenki as well as several factions battling under the banner of the Free Syrian Army, which Western countries consider “moderate armed opposition. According to The Sochi Memorandum, Moscow, Damascus and Tehran have practically recognized NLF as the only moderate armed opposition in Syria.

The Sochi Memorandum, which at the last minute stopped the bombing of Idlib, completely suits Ankara. De facto, Turkey is expanding its presence deep into Syria, and takes the political and economic management of Idlib into its own hands, as was done in Afrin.In the past Turkey conducted a military operation, code-named Olive Branch, against the Kurdish-led Democratic Union Party (PYD) in Syria for more than two months,in order to achieve the conquest of Afrin. However,in contrast, Ankara has now seized Idlib as a result of its diplomatic initiatives. It should be expected that in the near future Ankara will immediately begin to establish pro-Turkish self-government by Idlib province.

Residents of Idlib welcome the Sochi Memorandum

Today more than 60 percent of the Idlib province is controlled by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, former al Qaeda linked Al Nusrah Front. According to The Washington Institute, HTS has 30,000 combatants. It should be noted that in order to turn Al Nusrah Front into a serious political player in the intra-Syrian conflict and in order to avoid international sanctions, the group’s leader of Abu Muhammad al Julani in July 2016 announced that he would break off their ties from al Qaeda. HTS has managed to expand its political and governance efforts, coordinating them through a civilian-run “Salvation Government” in Idlib. The group has expanded and energized initiatives to provide core services, from education and healthcare to electricity and water.

Now Turkey will seek the transfer of the reins of political, military and economic government by the province from HTS to NLF. But a clear mechanism for the transfer of power has not yet been developed. It is not excluded that a new redistribution of spheres of influence in the province may be accompanied by armed conflicts between “new” and “old” owners. A significant share of the HTS budget came from customs and tax collections in the territory of “Salvation Government”, arms smuggling and human trafficking along the border with Turkey.

But the most difficult challenge for Turkey is cleaning radical jihadists out of Idlib, first of all, from HTS. Ankara has taken on an excessive responsibility for separating the moderate opposition from the Islamist extremists in Idlib which is not easy to implement. If Turkey manages to withdraw weapons from armed members of al Qaeda, HTS, Uyghur, Uzbek and Chechen Salafi-jihadi militants, and drive them all out of Idlib, then a new impulse will be given to the world struggle against Islamist radicalism. Then Erdogan, who positions himself as a defender of Sunni Islam in the world, would strike a tangible blow to the ideology of ISIS and al Qaeda.

On the other hand, if Ankara is able to include all foreign terrorists and jihadists from Central Asia and China in Idlib into the National Liberation Front and the NLF becomes for them a new “amir”, then the Sochi memorandum would become the next survival tool for these al Qaeda linked radical groups.

Foreign fighters from the former Soviet Union and China in Idlib

Syria’s northwest, long a hotbed of armed resistance and the heartland of al-Qaeda-linked operations, has become a real-life shelter for Uyghur, Uzbek, Tajik and Kyrgyz militants and their families from Central Asia. The militants from the former Soviet Union and Chinese Xinjiang are the largest foreign jihadists in Idlib Province.

Which Russian-Speaking Foreign Salafi- jihadi groups operating in Idlib were ready to defend the “Sham’s Liberated Lands” (Hayat Tahrir al-Sham calls these lands his possession) from attacks by the Assad army and pro-Iranian Shia militant formations?

The Turkestan Islamic Party is one such group, mainly consisting of Uyghur Islamic fighters from the Chinese province of Xinjiang. The Islamic Movement of Eastern Turkestan established in the 80s of last century in Chinese Xingjian was later renamed into the Turkestan Islamic Party and since 1997 it has been known to be based in Afghanistan. Since then, TIP is actively cooperating with the terrorist groups al Qaeda and Taliban. The amir of TIP is Abd al-Haqq al Turkistani. In February 2012 Uyghur militants moved to Idlib province and together with Al Nusrah Front are fighting against government forces of Bashar al-Assad. The al Qaeda’s jihadi doctrine is the basis of the TIP’s ideological platform. From 8 to 10 thousand Uyghur militants with their families are concentrated in Jisr al-Shughur.

Katibat al Tawhid wal Jihad is affiliated with the Al Nusrah Front and its ancestor al Qaeda. The Salafi-jihadi group includes citizens of Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. Abu Saloh (Sirojiddin Mukhtarov) is the amir of the group whowas born in the Osh region of Kyrgyzstan. He speaks emotionally, confidently and often quotes the Quran. Abu Saloh is a faithful and aggressive propagandist of the al Qaeda’s ideology. He organized jointly with the Uyghur terrorists from the Turkestan Islamic Party the explosion in the Bishkek-based Chinese embassy in August 2016 in Kyrgyzstan. Also, the Federal Security Service of Russia has accused him of organizing an explosion in the metro of St. Petersburg on April 3, 2017. The approximate number of the KTJ militants is about 400 people, mostly Uzbek jihadists.

The Katibat Imam al-Bukhari detachment was created in Afghanistan on the basis of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and pledged loyalty to the Taliban. After the outbreak of the civil war in Syria in 2012 KIB moved to Syrian Idlib Province and distinguished itself as one of the major rebel groups fighting against the regime of Bashar Assad. Today one group of the KIB’s jihadists is based in Afghanistan and fighting together with the Taliban. Abu Yusuf Muhojir, the Uzbek militant from Tajikistan, is the amir of the group. About 300-350 militants are known to fight in the KIB. The US State Department designated KIB as global terrorist organizations on March 22, 2018. KIB takes a close position by its military and ideological views to the al Qaeda linked Al Nusrah Front and Ahrar al-Sham. Later both groups formally announced the break in their relations with al Qaeda, although their ideological jihadi platforms did not change. Despite the fact that KIB claims to be an “independent” faction, al Qaeda’s radical Salafism and militant Takfirism are the fundamental basis of the jihadi ideology of the KIB. During the bloody conflict between Hayat Tahrir al-Sham led by Al Nusrah Front and the Syrian Liberation Front headed by Ahrar al-Sham in February 2018, KIB took a neutral stance and tried to play an intermediary role in their reconciliation.

4.The so-calledChechen groups“, which have been formed from the inhabitants of the North Caucasus of Russia and Georgiaare also involved in this conflict.Today in Idlib there are groups from the North Caucasus calling themselves “independent” factions Ajnad al Kavkaz (lider – RustamAzhiev), Junud al-Sham (lider – Murad Margoshvili), Jaish al-Usrah (lider – Peizulla Margoshvili), Jamaat Katibat Ibadar-Rahman (lider – Tarkhan Gaziyev) and Liwa al Muhajireen wal Ansar, which are part of the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham. The number of militants in these Russian-speaking groups from the North Caucasus are much less than the Turkic-speaking Salafi-jihadi groups from Central Asia. Unlike the Uzbek and Uygur jihadist groups, there is no singular identical ideological doctrine among the “Chechen groups”. As a result, they did not always enter into a coalition with Syrian opposition groups of local Arabs and did not accept the ideology of the global players of the world jihad.

After analyzing ideological platforms, it can be concluded that all these foreign Salafi-jihadi groups from Central Asia, Western China and the North Caucasus, which are stationed today in Idlib, have two factors in common.

First, they all have close cooperation with Al Qaeda and consider his leader Ayman al-Zawahiri their ideological leader.

Secondly, they coordinate all their military operations in Syria and conduct them under the leadership of the HTS. Practically Uzbek and Uighur militants became an integral part of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham. The jihadists of Central Asia became the link between Al Qaeda and HTS after their quarrels.

So far, neither the HTS, nor the Central Asian jihadists, nor the militants from the North Caucasus have expressed their opinion on the Sochi Memorandum

Where will the Central Asian jihadists go, if they leave Idlib?

After the signing of the Sochi Memorandum, the fate of the foreign jihadist groups in Idlib became dependent on Turkey. Now, the Turkish armed forces will apply pressure on foreign radical groups to leave the territory of Idlib for the creation of a 15-20 kilometer demilitarized belt by October 15, 2018, in order to fulfill the provisions of the memorandum.North Caucasus and Central Asian jihadist groups will react to Turkish pressure based on the positions of HTS. That is, they will follow the example of the HTS, the largest and well-armed group in Idlib.

First option. HTS surrenders its heavy weapons, dissolves itself and integrates into the Turkish backed National Liberation Front. In this case, Chechen, Uzbek, Tajik and Kyrgyz jihadists will look for ways to stay in Idlib and join the NLF. But Russia and China will be opposed to this path and will likely present an ultimatum to Ankara for their detention and transfer.

The second option. If the HTS does not agree to disarm, then the intervention of the Turkish Armed Forces in Idlib will become inevitable. If conflict flares up between the HTS and the Turkish military, the North Caucasus and Central Asian jihadists will likely not interfere in it and will try, as far as possible, to leave Syria and move to Afghanistan to join the Taliban.It is unlikely that the kinship of Uzbeks and Uyghurs to the Turks will prevail over their religious-political jihadi ideology and cause them to disarm.

The third option. After the establishment of the pro-Turkish government in Idlib, led by the moderate opposition of the NLF, Russia and Turkey would jointly conduct military operations to eliminate Chechen and Central Asian Islamists.

In conclusion, it is likely that a decision about the future of the foreign Salafi-jihadi groups in Syria is drawing closer to a resolution each passing day.

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Afghanistan: A Global Game of Musical Chairs

Hareem Aqdas

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Afghanistan’s history is replete with wars and other violent conflicts. Throughout its long and turbulent history, Afghanistan has looked more like a tribal confederacy than a cohesive nation-state. Afghanistan’s emerging outlook remains uncertain due to competing interests of the stakeholders and internal political dynamics. The land locked country is facing complex internal situation with serious ramifications for the region in general and its neighbors in particular. Ongoing peace process and efforts to create reconciliation amongst various factions are critical challenges meriting well thought out response by the key players through intelligent scenario forecasting and response initiation.

It is rather an unfortunate fact that the war torn Afghanistan has been an area of gaining self interests for multiple global players, used by each player involved in accordance to the player’s benefits.

Already dysfunctional governments, interest of multiple internal and external groups, dwelling of various terrorist organizations and the inclusion of multiple countries in the state affairs have resulted in painting a bleak outlook of the country. From the use as a factor towards Soviet defeat to the War on Terror and the indulging of U.S. in war for almost two decades has resulted into what today Afghanistan is.

Certain global players have exploited the country for their own interests while others seeking for opportunity to derive their stated and unstated interests from the war torn country.  Afghanistan has always been a game of musical chairs globally with the players contesting for influence, leaving and coming into the affairs of the country turn by turn, whenever possible.

In the current scenario, the US finally after 17 years has decided to quit Afghanistan while initiating a peace process within the country.  US wish to hold peace talks with the Afghan Taliban and conclude the war on terror. One round of talks has already occurred, whereas the other is being expected soon. Kabul has long been a factor to showcase the US hegemony in the region. With the US exiting, change in Kabul’s fate is being observed. Emerging stated and unstated interests following the US exit of some regional players are as follows:

China

China has drastically increased its influence in Afghanistan. China will reportedly train Afghan troops for deployment in the Wakhan Corridor, which links the Afghan province of Badakshan with western China. It is also considering Afghanistan’s request for combat aircraft. These are the latest developments in a growing military relationship: Beijing has granted $70 million in military aid to Kabul over the past three years. China has also held meetings with Afghan Taliban representatives over the past year, and was rumored (alongside Pakistan) to have brokered and guaranteed the Eidul Fitr ceasefire. China is seeking the opportunity of entering Afghanistan by its diplomatic efforts after observing the US exit. China’s role in Afghanistan is focused on exploiting so said economic opportunities rather than getting entangled in a deteriorating social or security environment. Why China is doing so can be summed up under a few points

Stated Interests 

China has stated that it believes that only an inclusive reconciliation process that is “Afghan-led and Afghan-owned” can provide the ultimate solution to the Afghanistan issue. China wishes to forge strategic and cooperative partnership with Afghanistan, curtailing the spread of extremism into Chinese territory and counterterrorism issues, engaging Afghanistan in Road and Belt Initiative and revival of Silk Road, stable and peaceful Afghanistan for regional stability and economic integration, large scale investments to explore untapped mineral resources of Afghanistan and check extremism posing threat to western provinces.

Unstated Interests

The main is protecting Chinese interests vis-a-vis US. China has already acquired a 30 years’ lease for the Aynak Copper mines, and is interested to secure further rights to mine precious metals and earth. Assist Pakistan in an effort to contain Indian growing influence in Afghanistan. China also wishes to end the long lasting US hegemony in Kabul and the South Asian region by indulging in diplomacy with the region.

Russia

Russia is a resurging power and is averse to any potential trouble / challenge emanating from its immediate neighborhood. At present, Russia’s interests in Afghanistan including:-

Stated Interests

The interest are: curtailing the growing influence of non-state actors in Afghanistan, such as ISIS and its spread into Russian territories, reducing the inflow of narcotics into Russia emanating from Afghanistan and establishing a stable Afghanistan as a buffer between the Greater Middle East and Central Asia.

Unstated Interests 

Pursuance of President Vladimir Putin‘s expansionist ideas to restore Russia’s position as a geopolitical player, Accomplish her desire to reach warm waters as part of grand strategic design and Counter or limit US presence in the region.

India

Indian regional strategy is mainly driven by Chanakya Kautilya’s philosophy of “your neighbor is your natural enemy and the neighbor’s neighbor is your friend”. With the Taliban ousted and pro Indian government installed in Kabul, India is pursuing a forward looking policy and perceives its interests not only in terms of the rivalry with Pakistan but also in regional context. Indian interests in Afghanistan are:-

Stated Interests

To exercise a greater role in Afghanistan as a key regional player influencing political, social, economic and military developments in Afghanistan, to prevent the flow of battle hardened Taliban to IHK and oppose any power sharing by the Afghan Government with Taliban[1] and to capture potential Afghan market for export of cheaper Indian goods.

Unstated Interests

Isolation and destabilization of Pakistan, to create political disharmony between Pakistan and Afghanistan by giving fillip to controversial issues, to create a two front war sit for Pakistan and destabilize its western frontiers, to secure transit corridors that connects the oil and gas rich Central and West Asian region through Iran, to play a key role in CARs as well as in world affairs by exploiting international anti-terrorism sentiments to its advantage, to limit China in gaining access to the entire mineral and energy resources in Central Asia and Afghanistan[2] and to exploit Afghan untapped energy and mineral resources and utilize those for own economic gains.

Pakistan 

Primary interest of Pakistan is to have peaceful and stable Afghanistan with inclusive government in Kabul giving due share and power to all factions of society. Edge-out dominant Indian influence in Afghanistan, which could evolve into an alliance between the two countries and trap Pakistan in a two-front war sit. Counter / deter TTP / BLA and anti-government militants seeking refuge in Afghanistan. Greater trade opportunities with CARs as well as with Afghanistan and optimizing benefits of CPEC, Repatriation of over 1.7 million registered and equal number of un-registered Afghan refugees which have negatively impacted the Pakistan economy and deterioration in law and order sit and elaborate border security mechanism to control terrorism, drug trafficking and trans-national smuggling through Afghanistan.

After analysing the strategic culture, conflict history, complexity of prevailing environment and even far more complex interests of external as well as internal players in Afghanistan. Moreover, there are more uncountable irritants than enablers which restrict clearer scenario building and correspondingly arriving at set of policy for stable and peaceful Afghanistan in shorter to longer time frame.

Afghanistan is perceived as an area of competing global players for their interests.  Whereas a peace process in Afghanistan and the rebuilding efforts seem void. Afghanistan may not even have a functional government keeping in mind the scenario in short term time frame. The contesting players make the state affairs of Afghanistan look more like a game of musical chairs rather a sovereign, functional, self decisive and independent state.

  • [1] Ganguly, Sumit, and Nicholas Howenstein, “India-Pakistan Rivalry in Afghanistan”, Journal of International Affairs 63.1 (2009), page 127.
  • [2] Lt Col Zia Riaz, “Pak Army Green Book 2014”, Afghanistan Beyond 2014, 11.
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Staged Gas Attack “Eyes on Idlib” Ready to Start on 8 of September

Dr. Andrea Galli

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Washington and its allies pursue their geopolitical interests under the pretext of humanitarian concerns, while apparently trying to prevent the destruction of the last terrorist enclave in Syria, said the Russian envoy to the UN.

The U.S. and its allies have done virtually nothing to contribute to the real peace process in Idlib, said Vassily Nebenzia, adding that the U.S., in particular, has not kept its promise to separate “moderate opposition” groups from terrorist organizations.

Created in Washington in January 2018, under the presidency of David Satterfield, the « little group » was tasked with relaunching the Rumsfeld-Cebrowski project for the destruction of State structures in the Middle East in general and Syria in particular. It initially included Saudi Arabia, the United States, France, Jordan and the United Kingdom (on the understanding that the Arab member states would not be destroyed in the short term).

The entity was secret at its inception but progressively became more public as Germany and Egypt joined. It seems to have become more reasonable and is now seeking an honorable exit from the crisis. It has made contact with the Astana group (Iran, Russia, and Turkey).

And yet the United Kingdom relaunched the project against Syria by preparing a false flag operation in the Idlib province. For this purpose, specialists were sent to the area, and chemical weapons were moved to the governorate of Idlib. The White Helmets abducted 44 children, whom MI6 planned to sacrifice and blame their murder on a chemical attack by the Syrian Arab Army against the « rebels ».

MI6 organized the dissemination of this fake news in advance via the false witness testimony of a small child, Hala. They created a Twitter account in her name on 29 July, and about thirty media immediately joined up, waiting for the signal (operation « Eyes on Idlib »). Among them are the BBC, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, BuzzFeed, and The Huffington Post  – these are media which knowingly participate in British war propaganda. The preliminary propaganda operation preparing the false flag of a gas attack appears in parallel with an info operation relaunching the Skripal case, according to a script well known from the past, suggesting Russia were involved in chemical attacks.

While the responsibility of British Prime Minister Theresa May is clearly established concerning the actions of MI6, we do not know who ordered the US military deployment.

Always paddling in the wake of London, French President Emmanuel Macron has already put forward the idea of relaunching the war, speaking before a meeting of his ambassadors in Paris. Thus, with contempt for the Syrian People, who had democratically elected their President, he proposed to choose in their place – « Let us respect the sovereignty of Syria, but let us truly respect it, by allowing the people to express themselves and to incarnate this sovereignty », he declared.

The authors of this plan know perfectly well that they have already lost the war if we look at it only from the Syrian point of view. Their new objective seems to go even further. It is their intention to provoke a conflict with Russia – in other words, a war which would quickly become global.

Syria and Russia reacted by revealing the facts. Then Russia sent a quantity of military material to Tartus via the container-carrier Sparta-3. Moscow also reinforced its presence off the coast of Syria (currently ten ships and two submarines) by planning vast military maneuvers, which engage twenty-five ships and about thirty aircraft.

Frightened, the US State Department has just sent Ambassador James Jeffrey to calm the countries in the region. He is expected in Israel, Jordan, and Turkey. He is accompanied by David Satterfield’s assistant, Colonel Joel Rayburn from Military Intelligence. The US delegation will assure all its interlocutors that Washington is not planning to bomb Syria under false pretenses.

The Russian army has obtained “irrefutable” data that terrorist groups, including Jabhat an-Nusra, and the notorious white helmets met on Sunday in Idlib province, according to ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov. Militants have outlined the final scenarios for the chemical attacks that the Syrian army should carry out in the cities of Jisr ash-Shugur, Serakab, Taftanaz, and Sarmin, revealed the Russian army.

“Full availability of all participants involved in the staging of provocations is guaranteed from the evening of September 8,” said Konashenkov. He added that terrorists must receive a “special” signal from some “foreign friends of the Syrian Revolution” to launch the operation.

The statement comes after previous warnings in Moscow that militants are preparing to stage a chemical attack in the Syrian province to give the Western coalition a pretext to hit Syria. In August, the Ministry of Defense declared that eight chlorine canisters had been delivered to a village near the city of Jisr al-Shughur and that a group of foreign-trained militants had arrived in the area to simulate a rescue operation after the attack on stage.

The United States and its allies have repeatedly underlined their readiness to strike Syria in the event of an attack, ignoring all warnings from Russia. Washington’s UN envoy Nikki Haley recently said he already knew who was responsible in the event of a chemical incident in Syria.

At the end of August, American forces deployed the USS missile destroyer ‘Ross’ in the Mediterranean and USS ‘The Sullivans’ in the Persian Gulf. The preparation of U.S. military forces has been condemned by Russia, with its Ministry of Defense describing the move as “the last proof of U.S. intention” to take advantage of a false-flag attack.

Last Friday, the leaders of the three countries involved in the so-called “Astana process”, Turkish Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Russian Vladimir Putin, and Iranian Hassan Rouhani, met in Tehran to discuss the situation in Idlib and the rest of Syria. All three agreed that radical Islamists pose a threat to Syria, but there was no unanimous support for a major offensive in the last terrorist stronghold. The final document of the summit called on all armed groups in Idlib to lay down their arms and seek a political transition in the country.

Seven years after the beginning of the war against Syria, fought by proxy jihadist forces, the partisans of its destruction want to start again. And yet they have suffered a definite defeat on the ground, where the population, after a momentary hesitation, massively chose to support the Republic.

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