Intelligence communities are often examined through their organizational structure. However, another approach is to examine cooperation agreements, conflicts, and the successes and failures of these relationships. This research examines cooperation agreements among different nations to combat the global security threat of terrorism. Specifically, this paper seeks to explore the successes and failures of Russia and Turkey in their attempts to combat terrorism. Terrorism fails to discriminate against any one nation, person, idea, or thought. In the words of Vladimir Putin, “terrorism has no nationality or religion.” Below is a matrix outlining concepts explored in this analysis.
Turkey and Russia have been fighting the rise of the Islamic State but through different approaches. Zenon as explains the Islamic state is a fusion of a state, an insurgency, and a terrorist organization, a violent non-state actor that could be best described as a quasi-state” (96). The threats imposed by the Islamic State include both conventional and asymmetrical threats. Thus, by examining history we can understand how to combat the different angles and methods used by the Islamic State.
Historically, Russia has primarily faced terrorism issues from the North Caucasus region. “The struggle was begun by Chechen rebels and was apparently supported economically, morally, and militarily by radical Islamic elements in the Middle East” (Magan, 2010).Additionally, Russia continued to face challenges defending its security interests domestically and regionally. As Crosston notes, Russia contends with several aspects of domestic security to include home-grown radical Islamist movements, political and economic corruption while facing an international struggle against terrorism” (123).
In direct comparison, Turkey also experienced security concerns as it related to extremist organizations and terrorism. Throughout history, Turkey has tackled some of the most challenging movements for Islamic independence. “Turkey had established blood borders drawn up by a popular struggle for self-determination” (Akturk, 5). Turkey confronted a different kind of challenge than most western and non-western regions, which included ethic and religious separatist movements. For decades, Turkey viewed the Kurdish militancy as a threat to their security and sovereignty (Starr, 1). Turkey attempted to solve the dilemma with the Kurds through largely political means but also employed some heavy-handed military operations as well. Turkey had another problem besides the conflict with the Kurdish people: it wanted accession into the European Union.
Turkey pursued accession into the European Union to advance their strategic agenda and strengthen commercial and economic ties. However, the European Union was not confident Turkey could comply with the Copenhagen criteria “without substantial change in the role of the military” (Larrabee and Lesser, 12). Turkey understood to gain accession into the European Union it would need to undergo significant reform and change the paradigm of their geopolitical environment. Turkey began to accept change and underwent reform to continually enhance its relationship with the European Union. First, in 2001, Ankara laid out an Accession Partnership Document and parliament passed a series of reforms that eased restrictions on human rights. (Larrabee and Lesser, 53). Turkey started to make steps toward developing a successful Western-like democratic establishment, even if there was skepticism inside the European Union. Additionally, in 2002, Turkey passed a mini-reform package that “relaxed constraints on freedom of expression that had been used to jail journalists and intellectuals who published views considered to undermine the State” (Larrabee and Lesser, 53). The reforms within Turkey were well-received within the international community. However, Turkey still had a long way to go on meeting the full criteria established by the European Union.
Russia, however, has taken a different approach to terrorism by implementing ambivalent policies. As a communist country, Russia’s main authoritarian security concern was to protect its internal security (Gentry, 468). Although Russia seeks to maintain practical strategic partnerships, its Military Doctrine today is conflicting. For example, “a document from 1993 stated Russia did not recognize any country as its foe, whereas the text from 2000 suggests many actions will pose challenges and actual threats to Moscow’s security” (Bugajski, 62). Russia has a significant Muslim population and must maintain a peaceful approach toward Muslims. Therefore, Russia “chooses to present those involved as rebels against the state as criminals handled by internal security procedures” (Magen, 2010). Although Russia has experienced several contradictions within its policies, it has also found ways to cooperate with many rivals.
Similar to Turkey, Russia sought out regional cooperation for a common good. In 1992 and 2002, Russia and Kazakhstan signed an agreement to exchange information as it related to Islamic religious groups and suspected criminals/terrorists (Lefebvre and McDermott, 269). In certain cases, rivals can come to an agreement based on common interests and threats. After the attacks on the U.S. in 2001, the NATO-Russia Founding Act called upon the international community to unite against “such an inhuman act” (NATO, 2001). Beasly, Kaarbo, Hermann and Hermann explain leaders tend to set aside disagreements based on foreign threats to protect the survival of the regime (220). Strategically, Putin may have been simply reassuring Bush or Putin may have truly empathized. Either way, it reduced the alienation endured by Russia and the United States, often self-imposed.
The respect for identity has been a greater challenge for Turkey. Turkey continued to fight for accession into the European Union but a decade later the enhanced relationships and possibility of democratic reform took a fatal blow. BBC News reported, in 2016, the Turkish military established a coup d’état in which Erdogan encouraged the public to take to the streets in an all-out war against the Turkish military (Turkey’s coup attempt, 2016). The European Union was significantly unsettled by President’s Erdogan’s actions, which crumbled the possibility of Turkey’s accession into the European Union. Turkey was now at a complete disadvantage with the European Union and trying to combat terrorism in and outside the region.
The European Union-Turkey tensions remain tense due to Turkey’s domestic politics. Pierini (former EU ambassador) explains President Erdoğan’s political affiliations are now connected to anti-European parties which uphold the “one-man-rule system and will not steer the country toward European democratic standards” (2018). Although it seemed throughout the early 2000s Turkey was gaining accession support from the European Union, the crucial decisions of President Erdogan marked a monumental turning point in EU-Turkey relations that further exacerbated the growing threat of terrorism within Turkey. Turkey continues to struggle with sectarian and religious hostilities throughout the region. On May 11th 2013, “Turkey suffered the deadliest terrorist attack in modern history when 52 people were killed in twin car bombings close to the Syrian border” (Starr, 1). This marked the beginning of a long road of terrorist growth and activity within Turkey. By 2017, the “Reina nightclub massacre in Istanbul marked the involvement of the Islamic State” terrorist group publicly taking ownership of an attack within the Turkish state (Soliev, 24).
Comparable to Turkey, immediate security threats inside Russia are still a growing concern. Russia continues to develop cooperation with international and non-governmental partners to enhance and protect rights in and outside the region. Russian foreign policies focus on maintaining strong economic and foreign policy ties to the European Union (Foreign Policy, #63/64). However, Russia is also going to have to look toward non-friendly partners to stabilize situations that have a direct impact on Russian domestic and regional security. Russia realized it needed to focus on terrorism not just from a domestic standpoint, but from regional and international ones. For example, by 2009, Russia was forced to return to the security threat of an unstable Afghanistan. Russia utilized regional actors, throughout the 2000s, such as Pakistan, Central Asia, and India, to understand the position of Afghanistan (Safranchuck, 2019). This not only enhanced relationships with Pakistan (a foe to Russia) but gave Russia regional expertise to help develop new policies on regional and transnational terrorism.
Turkey also continues to advance towards developing policies that deter those organizations threatening to ‘cleanse’ Turkey’s southern regions. Similar to Russia, the Republic of Turkey explains its main security concerns include protecting territorial integrity and preserving national identity (2011). The increased tensions across Syria cause continued concern for Turkey. In an interview with BBC, Mihrae Ural (a Commander of Syrian resistance), claimed individuals in regions of southern Turkey were allied with Syria to fight on behalf of the Syrian government (Starr, 3). The integrity and security of Turkey continues to be compromised by its own artificial borders and loss of ties to Russia. As the Syrian conflict continued, Turkey understood the importance of establishing joint partnerships to prevent the disruption of the territorial sovereignty of Turkey.
Russia is continuing to seek political advancements and influence through alternative policies and relationships around the globe. One of the major successes was Russia’s ability to establish a relationship with the United States in regards to combating terrorism. It not only established relationships with the United States but also the European region. Russia is able to focus on its internal threats but also build influence in Central and Eastern European regions by establishing relatively amicable relationships with America. This has given Russia the perception that it is a major source of European power. Russia has not only assessed the need to find common ground with the United States, but understands the influence this could provide Russia in the European region.
However, this success would quickly turned into a failure to maintain cooperation with the European region. Russia began to see the European region as a threat to the ‘Russian regime’ and turned from cooperative to conflicting. After Russia had a conflict with Georgia, the European Union suspended its Partnership and Cooperation Agreement with Russia (Foxall, 2018). Russia saw the continued expansion of NATO and increased western influence as a means to infringe upon Russian borders, thereby threatening Russian sovereignty.
Recently, in 2016, the Russian Federation released their Foreign Policy Concept. Russia focused on the “spread of extremist ideology and the activity of terrorist groups, primarily, in the Middle East and North Africa” (Foreign Policy, 2016). Russia is searching for policies that respect its territorial sovereignty while countering attempts that interfere with its domestic state of affairs. Russia has provided this in its foreign policy by understanding the need to “prevent military interventions or other outside interference” while still allowing Russia to exercise its sovereign rights (Foreign Policy, 2016). These policies not only secure the national security of Russia, but seek to strengthen cooperation with neighboring states.
Turkey and Russia must continually examine regional and international networks available to develop a comprehensive approach to mitigating terrorism domestically and regionally. Ehrhart explains the successes of Russia in the Ukraine and the U.S. in Afghanistan was the utilization of civil and military means and methods (265). Employing these different combinations of means and methods also required a vast amount of cooperation and communication. However, prior to establishing any relationship, the nation must consider any risks involved and how that partner conceptualizes different security threats (Ehrhart, 271). Any country facing the threat of terrorism, Western or non-Western, must establish cooperating partners while communicating effectively with domestic, regional, and global actors.
In conclusion, Russia and Turkey were able to establish policies intended to safeguard their internal systems. As strategic opportunities arose, both nations took advantage of developing cooperation with the European Union and the United States, respectively. However, the authoritarian tendencies of both nations ultimately led to failure in maintaining these relationships. Although Russia failed to maintain a strong relationship with NATO and the US, it was able to successfully and strategically place itself around the Afghan region to gain influence and expertise there. Whereas Turkey was not able to gain accession into the European Union, it also failed to resolve ethnic and culture dilemmas internally and regionally. Therefore, Russia has established better strategic and tactical means to deter the internal and regional influence of terrorism across its general sphere of geographical impact.
Taliban Takeover and Resurgence of Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan
As a Security and International Relations student and someone who lived in Afghanistan, I believe that the withdrawal of the U.S and NATO troops will help Al-Qaeda reorganise its activities in Afghanistan and in a very short period. The group will be able to relaunch its activities.
After several years, the resurgence of Al-Qaeda is becoming evident in the post-US and NATO withdrawal from Afghanistan. Like many other non-state actors, the year 2021 is a year of hope for Al-Qaeda because it provides an opportunity for them to launch their halted global terrorist mission.
The U.S withdrawal will limit its ability to strike the al-Qaida core in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and it will be a turning point for the resurgence of Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and from where they can expand their activities. Familiarity with the rugged terrain of Afghanistan and northern Africa will help Al-Qaeda to re-merge and assemble their forces quickly if there is no strong censorship on Al-Qaeda activities.
The relationship between Al-Qaeda and the Taliban is inseparable, and the victory of one group will pave the way for the resurgence of another group. Al-Qaeda and its adversary, Daesh داعش (IS) دولت اسلامی عراق وشام, will seek to extend their operations in Afghanistan in post-US and NATO withdrawal.
It is always very likely that terrorist groups are willing to help other terrorist organisations and provide them safe-havens. Terrorist groups such as Al-Qaeda and Islamic State are very interested in conquering Afghanistan. They are not having other interests in Afghanistan; however, they believe that the Islamic Army will come from Khurasan, which is current day Afghanistan, and the last battle will take place in Syria, therefore, for that reason, without any doubt the resurgence of the Al-Qaeda is taking place in the world, and the starting point for that resurgence will be Afghanistan.
Looking to the future, it is very likely that the increasing connections between the Taliban and Al-Qaeda will lead the groups to work on long-term strategic partnerships. These terrorist groups will play their disrupting roles in terrorising civilians and government officials. The U.S and NATO intervention in Afghanistan had crippled Al-Qaeda. Still, the current withdrawal will give the group momentum to maximise the power vacuum created by the foreign troops in Afghanistan.
To conclude, I believe that the current grim situation in Afghanistan is paving the way for the resurgence of Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, which can pose a serious threat to the international community. However, the scale and scope of terrorist activities of Al-Qaeda would be different from the 9/11 attacks due to strategic shifts in the strategic culture of the group. The group will always use its influence and strengthen ties with other terrorist groups stretching from Asia to Europe and Africa to America’s.
Trends of Online Radicalization in Bangladesh: Security Implications
Online radicalization poses a formidable threat to the stability of the country. With the imposition of lockdown in the last year, the nefarious fundamentalist factions have ramped up their activities. As the country’s law and enforcement agencies are playing a vigilant and commendable role in combating heinous fundamental radicalism in Bangladesh, these radicals have instead resorted to the online mediums to recruit, sensitize and radicalize the youths of the country.
Bangladesh has historically been a bastion of pluralism as the country’s constitution provides primacy to the secular character of the republic. However, in keeping with the global trend of militancy Bangladesh had also witnessed spate of militant activities in the preceding decades culminating in the seige of Holi Artisan Bakery.
Since the catastrophic militant activities in 2016,Bangladesh government has taken a slew of stern measures to combat the budding radicalism in the Bangladesh and to safeguard the country’s pluralist character.Hence, terrorist and radical factions didn’t gain ground in the succeeding years and last few years Bangladesh has enjoyed enviable stability from the untoward disturbances of these militants.
However, with the technological revolution in the country, it turns out that militants have adapted their tactics to the needs of the new epoch. While previously militants had a hard time in radicalizing people owing to the vigilance of the law enforcement agencies, in the realm of the online media militant find their fortress and esconsced themselves in various social media and web platforms.
In contrast to the traditional process of radicalization, militants found online radicalization much advantageous as it provided them with the opportunity to disseminate their diabolical propaganda to more people and help them conceal their identity.
Parallel with the acceleration of the online radicalization efforts, the character of the militants victims has also changed significantly.Previously, militants sprung mainly from the disadvantaged and destitute section of the country who were ridden by poverty and devoid of traditional schooling. Radical outfits found these militants easy prey in their efforts to mobilize gullible youths to destabilize the country.
However, with the changing mediums of radicalization, the socioeconomic background has also witnessed c. In contrast to the impoverished background of militants, the militants radicalized through online mediums represented instead deviated youths from very affluent backgrounds and these youths possessing modern university education.
The radicalization of these urban university-educated students has baffled the policymakers and law-enforcement agencies of the country as the motivation of these youths don’t have any compelling rationale to join these militant organizations peddling medieval agendas.
The online radicalization is attributed as the reason for the proliferation of more urban educated militants. These urban credulous youths are allured by the rhetoric and propaganda of the militant leaders.
The online radicalizers remain within the shroud of online platforms and try to radicalize the youths with inflammatory speeches which seek to vilify the western liberal ideals and the democratic government.
They rail against the intention of the democratic government and attribute all the blame of muslim plights to the western machination. They selectively portray the violence in conflict ridden nations like Syria, Yemen and Afghanistan and cherry-pick the graphical images and videos to sensitize the deviant youths that their religion is in peril and only the youth can safeguard the religion from the clutches of western imperialism through radical activities. This evokes a kind of jihadi zeal in the youths which persuade them to engage in millitant mission to safeguard the honor of their religion .
These factors prod the youths to join the radical forces which takes huge toll on the stability of the country.Besides, online radicalization also exacerbated the comunal rifts in the country which is manifested in frequent assault on country’s minority groups based on fictitious allegation of desecration. These attacks on minority is orchestrated by shrewd fundamentist to vitiate the prevailing communa
Regulating online platforms is much more difficult than traditional platforms which make combating these propaganda very arduous.
One of the scapegoats of their propaganda is the democratic government in the country. These propagandists portray the democratically elected government in bad light through advancing their conspiracy theories and propaganda. These propaganda distort the conception of the general people about the government even when the people don’t engage in radical activities.
Waging wars through propaganda have also become an attractive option for these radicals as these radical outfits launch smear-campaigns against the government and vitiate the government image to the general people through heinous propaganda machinery. Besides, these online radical outfits peddle conspiracy theories and a simplified understanding of the history and economics of the world. Unfortunately, even the majority of the educated young youths believe in these conspiracy theories and possess a skewed vision about liberalism and modernity.
During the Covid-19 era with the imposition of the repeated lockdowns, numerous such online platforms sprung up. Under the facade of providing Islamic knowledge they are pedding nonsensical and harebrained propaganda and conspiracy theories to mobilize the youth in their efforts to destabilize the country and vitiate development.
During the languorous lockdowns the youths provided prolific idle times which have come as a windfall to these radical outfits as they have accelerated their heinous propaganda amidst Covid-19 lockdown. There are several reasons for the sudden rise in online radicalization in Bangladesh. Firstly, as mentioned above the young people are compelled to spend more time online as the day to day activities including the education of the university has shifted to online platforms. Therefore, this extra time significantly amplifies the vulnerability of the country’s youth to these terrorist activities.
Secondly, Covid-19 induced pandemic has unmasked the cleavages of our societies as the middle class youth find their family income shrinking and face difficulties. Besides, the pandemic has worsened the depression and grievances of the youths with the prevailing system which further increase their vulnerability to the radical impulses.
Thirdly, unemployment remains one of the persistent blights in youth vitality. While the country has been significantly developed in the previous decades, the economic prosperity didn’t translate to adequate job creation which has failed the country to channel youthful energies to the further development of the country. Instead, unemployment has reached epidemic proportions. The Covid-19 pandemic has further thrown into uncertainty the future of the country’s youth, exacerbating the employment scenario of the country and disrupting education for a prolonged period. These unemployed youths find the radical ideologies attractive as these ideologies are capitalized on the grievances of these disenchanted youths. Therefore, unemployment greatly heightens the risk of youth falling prey to radical preachers.
Against this backdrop, the government needs to take adequate measures to counter the surging trends of online radicalization. To that end, the government should enact proper legal measures to incorporate the online area into the laws. Besides, the government should avert the heinous propaganda campaigns by meting out proper justice to nefarious propagandists. Moreover, the government should ensure a counter sensitization of the country’s youth with the ethos of liberation war and the pluralism of the country.
Russia’s War on Terror(ism)
The chaotic US exit strategy from Afghanistan, the quick Taliban takeover, the resurgence of Isis-K attacks and the rise of militant factions have emphasized the need for other international actors to fill the void left by the United States and map out a strategy for Central Asian stability. In the words of President Vladimir Putin of Russia, the US withdrawal has opened “a Pandora’s box full of problems related to terrorism, drug trafficking, organized crime and, unfortunately, religious extremism”. What if Afghanistan turns out to be a hotbed for international terrorism?
Terrorism in Russia has always been a pain in the neck since the collapse of the Soviet Union. It is not by chance that the very word “terrorism” is mentioned at least fifteen times within the new 2021 Russian National Security Strategy. In late August, Putin took a hard line against the West’s proposal of housing refugees in Central Asia before they apply for visas to move to the United States and Europe. The message was pretty clear: “we don’t want to experience again what happened in the 1990s and the beginning of 2000s”. The traumatic years of the two Chechen Wars, the 1999 apartment bombings or the Dubrovka theater hostage crisis are still considered to be haunting phantoms. The question came up again especially in mid-2015, when the Kremlin began to fear North Caucasian returnees who had joined the Islamic State’s insurgents in the Syrian conflict.
If it is true that Russia may not have recovered from the Afghan syndrome yet; still, the risk of a fresh terrorist wave truly seems to be around the corner. In the last weeks, three special operations were conducted by the Federal Security Service (FSB) which ended up in the detention of a group of fifteen terrorists coming from Central Asia in the Sverdlovsk Oblast. Another similar operation was carried out in Ingushetia, where some supporters of the Islamic State planning attacks.
The formation of a new Taliban government ad interim itself poses serious threats to the stability of the entire region. The new Prime Minister Mohammad Hasan Akhund and the Minister of Internal Affairs Sirajuddin Haqqani are considered “terrorists” by the United Nations. The latter is the leader of the renowned Haqqani network which is said to have ties with Al-Qaeda. Last but not least, the Taliban themselves as an organization are still officially believed to be a terrorist group in Russia under a 2003 Russian Supreme Court’s ruling. According to the Russian political scientist Andrey Serenko, the Taliban victory may be a factor pushing for radicalization in other countries such as Russia.
In the last days, the Russian presidential envoy to Afghanistan Zamir Kabulov took part in a discussion hosted by the new government in Kabul with the representatives of China and Pakistan. Terrorism was among the covered topics. Immediately after the fall of Kabul, the Taliban sought to reassure the neighboring countries that the Afghan soil would not turn out to be a mushrooming ground for militant groups. However, as both Lavrov and Peskov stated, Russia is so far watching how their security promises will be kept before attempting any risky move. While keeping an eye on Kabul, Moscow is not sitting back.
Between September 20 and 24 the annual drills under the Shanghai Cooperation Organization were hosted by the Russian Federation at the Donguz training ground in the Orenburg Oblast. According to the commander of the troops of the Central Military District, Colonel General Aleksander Lapin declared that about 5,000 troops took part in the exercise.
Nine countries were involved, among which Russia, China, Kyrgyzstan, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, India and Pakistan. The exercise simulated the scenario of a sudden escalation of tension in Central Asia due to terrorist threats. In Colonel General Lapin’s words, the exercise was as a complete success as it showed joint combat readiness and proved to be the largest drills in the history of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.
Peace Mission-2021 shows the need for Russia to engage with relevant actors in Eurasia such as China. As the Chinese fear about their Wakhan corridor and the risk of extremism increases in the Xinjiang province, both Moscow and Beijing highlight the strength of the Russo-Chinese entente also in the field of anti-terrorism.
Building a thick security belt
Just as the SCO drills were unfolding, some Russian troops were involved in another exercise at the Doytym An practice range in Mongolia. No need to say that the annual drill Selenga 2021 between Moscow and Ulaanbaatar focused right on fighting international terrorism. At the beginning of September, a major counterterrorism exercise, Rubezh-2021 (Frontier-2021), together with Kyrgyz and Tajik units. Such an extensive commitment from the Mongolian steppe to the Edelweisse training range is indicative of Moscow’s will to build a thick security belt around its borders.
However, the five Stans are now not acting as a unified bloc against the Taliban threat. Kyrgyzstan has decided to send a delegation to Kabul and Mirziyoyev’s Uzbekistan has shown its readiness to do business with the Taliban. Tajikistan, instead, is now holding the lead of the anti-Taliban front.
As there is no “Central Asian way” to deal with the newly formed government in Kabul, Moscow is trying to tighten its grip on the region especially by betting on Dushanbe. As the risk of extremist spillover appears to be increasingly tangible, Moscow has equipped its 201st military base in Tajikistan with a batch of 12.7-mm large-caliber machine guns Utes to strengthen its combat capabilities. Moreover, after a CSTO high-level meeting in Dushanbe and the assessment of an exacerbating security situation in Central Asia, the member states decided to deploy troops along the 1300-kilometer border between Tajikistan and Afghanistan.
Despite this, looking at the Afghan developments only as a threat is misleading. This is a unique opportunity for Moscow to reaffirm the importance of the Collective Security Treaty Organization and to secure its role as top security provider in Central Asia. Despite talks between Rahmon and the Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi to safeguard regional peace and stability, Moscow’s towering military presence and influence in the region is hard to overcome.
Resuming international cooperation?
Russia’s commitment within its backyard, however, seems not to be enough in order to fight international actors such as terrorist groups. On the anniversary of the 9/11 twin towers attacks, Russian Ambassador to the United States Anatoly Antonov released a statement in which he called for the revival of anti-terrorist cooperation between Moscow and Washington. Back in 2018 and 2019, the Foreign Ministries of the two countries had in fact contributed to build bilateral dialogue on counterterrorism despite a conceptual gap about the nature of this threat.
In July, Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister, Sergei Ryabkov, warned that Moscow would not approve any US troops deployment in Central Asian countries. Despite this, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley and the Chief of Russian General Staff General Valery Gerasimov met in Helsinki to discuss joint ways to fight terrorism and extremism.
Still, resuming dialogue on anti-terrorism does not reveal a total opening toward the United States. During the UN General Assembly, in fact, Lavrov did not miss the opportunity to criticize the US for its withdrawal. The Finnish meeting must be rather understood as a sign of the Kremlin’s pragmatism in foreign policy. A few weeks after the seventeenth anniversary of the Beslan school siege, Russia is firmly committed to fight any direct or indirect threat by all means. The War on Terror(ism) continues.
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