Pakistan, once called as breeding ground of terrorism, recorded its lowest number of terror-related deaths in 2019. Since 2007, there is a 90% decline in deaths related to terrorist incidents, states Global Terrorism Index (GTI) Report 2020. Most of the deaths form terrorism in Pakistan were from small-scale attacks that were not attributed to any particular group. The report highlights that out of 37 terror groups active in Pakistan in 2015, only ten were (partially) active in 2019. GTI report also points out that since 2014, the economic impact of terrorism declined by 95%.
Furthermore, the report assessed that the most impacted regions of Pakistan in 2019 were Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (erstwhile FATA); the two regions recorded 77% of attacks and 85% of deaths in 2019. The most frequent forms of terrorism in these regions were bombings and armed assaults targeting civilians, police and military personnel.
GTI report 2020 is a comprehensive analysis of terrorism impact in 163 countries covering period till end 2019. The latest edition of the report summarizes key global terrorism trends/patterns over the last 50 years. It covers over 17000 terrorist incidents from 1970 to 2019.
It is pertinent to note that the number of terrorist incidents reported by GTI in Pakistan (279) is half as compared to India (558). Here it must be flagged that it is a serious analytical concern that Indian statistics in GTI does not reveal India’s nefarious designs in Balochistan and other parts of Pakistan, as the report does not include state sponsored terrorism.
Although, the report does not reflect the accurate position due to certain research-based limitations, still the statistics of the report clearly indicate that Pakistan’s situation has improved. As per GTI report Pakistan ranking got better from 5th (2019) to 7th (2020).
Now this is a big turn-around. A country once known as a hub of terrorism, presenting itself today as a the most experienced in combating terrorism, all by itself, without any outside assistance. The question is how did the country managed to do so? What has happened in last few years that a country with an image of ‘most dangerous place’ is gushing with tourists in 2020. It has been declared as ‘favorite tourist destination’ by many.
The reduced terrorism trend in Pakistan can be rightly attributed the firm resolve of political leadership across the board and counter-terrorism operations undertaken by Pakistan military and other law enforcement agencies (LEAs). Since 2001, Pakistan’s Military launched series of operations to clamp down terrorist and establish the writ of the government. These operations include Operation Al-Mizan (2002-06), Operation Rah-e-Haq (November 2007), Operation Sher-e-Dil (September 2008), Operation Zalzala (2008-09), Operation Sirat-e-Mustaqeem (2008), Operation Rah-e-Raast (May 2009), Operation Rah-e-Nijaat (October 2009), Operation Koh-e-Sufaid (July 2011), Operation Zarb-e-Azb (2013) and then Operation Radd-ul-Fasaad, was launched on February 22, 2017.
After few years of initial chaos and uncertainty, finally in 2012, the Pakistan Army was able to take control of key towns of the Malakand Division and many areas of the tribal region. North Waziristan was the only quagmire left. When General Raheel Sharif succeeded General Kayani in November 2013, he gave the order to initiate Operation Zarb-e-Azb. By June 2014 the operation was underway. Operation Zarb-e-Azb was conducted against the following militant groups: Tehrik-i-Pakistan (TTP), Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, East Turkestan Islamic Movement, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Al-Qaeda, Jundallah and the Haqqani Network.
SEEK-DESTROY-CLEAR-HOLD was the military strategy used for this grand and comprehensive operation. Seek and Destroy element is extracted the Vietnam War, while Clear and Hold constituent is from the Iraq War. Pakistan’s military fused the two doctrines together as one for the operation to be efficacious. The modus operandi for this was that the military would seek the target; once sought, it will be destroyed, then the infrastructure, bodies and weapons would be cleared and the area will be held both during and after its completion to ensure no resurgence of militants or militancy happen again.
After just one and a half years of launch of Zarb-e-Azb, remarkable success was realized. The terrorists’ spine was broken and their network dismantled. Nexus sleeper cells mostly disrupted and with the Intelligence Based Operations (IBOs), the residual of the sleeper cells was busted. Consequently, the overall security situation improved extraordinarily and the terrorist attacks nose-dived to a six-year low since 2008.
Pakistan’s military under-went a massive experience during the past decade in the backdrop of terrorism and militancy in the country. The experience speaks for itself, as each of the operation proved to be more successful than the previous one. Being trained as a force for conventional warfare, currently the military forces have become well equipped and trained to fight unconventional warfare effectively. The ground forced are now well acquainted with the terrain, surrounding areas and local tribal population.
Though, these operations witnessed a huge loss of civilians and military personnel, but it appears to be the hardest and most effective training the Pakistan Army would or could undergo. More sophisticated and precise weapons have been used by the Pakistan Army in the recent combat missions. Among all major military operations in Pakistan, Operation Rah-e-Raast and Zarb-e-Azb have been the most successful in eliminating terrorists.
As per Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) – the media and public relations wing of Pakistan Armed Forces, Operation Zarbe-Azb was the biggest and most well-coordinated operation ever conducted against terrorists. It is a war of survival; hence, this operation held greater significance among all the operations conducted so far.
Later, combined military operation Radd-ul-Fasaad (elimination of strife) was initiated on February 22, 2017, to disarm and eliminate the terrorist sleeper cells across the country. It also aimed to eliminate the threat of terrorism, consolidating the gains of Operation Zarb-e-Azb and ensuring the security of Pakistan’s borders. Countrywide disarmament and explosive control were also given as additional objectives of the operation. This Operation has been mostly acknowledged one after Operation Zarb-e-Azb.
It helped preserve stability and consolidate peace across the country with an additional lens of prevention of militancy and terrorism’s resurgence. Now, as the country is breathing peacefully, it is time to plug in economic approach robustly, in parallel, as not to let roll back the gains made so far.
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.
From our partner RIAC
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...
Israel-Bhutan peace agreement and its affect on China’s influence
First: The relationship between (political normalization agreements between Israel and the Emirates and the State of Bhutan or the Kingdom...
The Khalistan nightmare
After several postponements, the “Punjab Referendum Commission has announced to hold the “Punjab Independence Referendum on October 31, 2021. The...
Saudi Arabia and Iran want to be friends again
Eventually the ice-cold relationship between Iran and Saudi Arabia began to melt. The two countries sat at the negotiating table...
UN chief condemns ‘ongoing military coup’ in Sudan
UN Secretary-General, António Guterres on Monday condemned the “ongoing military coup” in Sudan, saying Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and all other officials, “must be released immediately.” Long-time ruler...
‘No time to lose’ curbing greenhouse gases
Last year, heat-trapping greenhouse gases reached a new record, surging above the planet’s 2011-2020 average, and has continued in 2021,...
Resource Curse and Underdevelopment Give Way to Mass Unrest and Political Instability in Sudan
As reported October 25 by the reputable state media, Al Arabiya, Sudanese army and a cross-section of its population have...
Defense3 days ago
Will India be sanctioned over the S-400 Air Defense System?
Intelligence3 days ago
Sino-Russian regional activities after Afghanistan
Economy3 days ago
Sustainable Agriculture in Modern Society
East Asia3 days ago
Importance of peace in Afghanistan is vital for China
Americas4 days ago
America’s Two-Tiered Justice System
International Law2 days ago
The End of the West in Self-annihilation (Intentionality, Directionality and Outcome)
Africa3 days ago
Muscle Alone Will Not Be Enough to Release Nigeria from a Perpetual Stage of Instability
Africa Today4 days ago
‘Overzealous’ security services undermining South Sudan peace