FATF: A Sword of Damocles or a tool of financial discipline?
Pakistan has been groaning under the Financial Action Task Force restrictions. There is marked contrast between Pakistan’s and India’s view of Pakistan’s current status, compliant or tardy with regard to most of the conditions. Pakistan oozes optimism that it has complied with most of the conditions. India however is pessimistic about Pakistan’s ability to get over the bar anytime soon.
One hurdle to meet the FATF conditionalities was to have a permanent mechanism to nab and prosecute the offenders. Pakistan’s federal cabinet has already approved a new set of rules to amend Anti-Money-Laundering (Forfeited Properties Management) Rules 2021 and the AML (Referral) Rules 2021. Thus, Pak government is now all set to set to introduce new rules on forfeiture, management and auction of properties and assets relating to Anti-Money Laundering (AML) cases and transfer of investigations and prosecution of AML cases from police, provincial anti-corruption establishments (ACEs) and other similar agencies to specialised agencies to achieve remaining benchmarks of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF).
These rules and related notifications for certain changes in existing schedule of Anti-Money Laundering Act 2010 (AMLA) would come into force immediately to be followed by appointment of administrators and special public prosecutors for implementation.
These legislative steps would help the FATF determine whether Pakistan has complied with three outstanding benchmarks, out of 27, that blocked its exit from the so-called grey list in February this year. The FATF has planned several meetings in the second week of June, ending in the FATF plenary on June 21-25.
The three outstanding action points (out of total 27) include (i) demonstrating that terrorist financing (TF) investigations and prosecutions target persons and entities acting on behalf or at the directive of the designated persons or entities; (ii) demonstrating that TF prosecutions result in effective, proportionate and dissuasive sanctions; and (iii) demonstrating effective implementation of targeted financial sanctions against all designated terrorists, particularly those acting for them or on their behalf.
Within framework of the amended rules, the Pak government would appoint dozens of administrators with the powers to confiscate, receive, manage, rent out, auction, transfer or dispose of or take all other measures to preserve the value of the properties and perishable or non-perishable assets (including those at go downs, maalkhanas or any other place) to be confiscated under the AML 2010 rules or court orders pursuant to proceedings under AMLA 2010.
The regional directors of the Anti-Narcotics Force would be designated as administrators for the ANF, customs collectors for the Federal Board of Revenue, directors of directorates of intelligence and investigation of the Inland Revenue Service for the IRS, zonal directors for FIA and additional directors of recovery, disposal and assets management cells for National Accountability Bureau.
Valuation of inventories
The AML (Forfeited Properties Management) Rules 2021 specify how the inventories would be measured, described or defined, protected and evaluated for auction and how to complete all processes thereto, including constitution of auction committees and how properties would be quantified or classified like if a property is of residential, commercial or industrial nature and what should be its market value or sale price etc.
For example, the movable case property worth more than Rs100,000 would be kept in the locker or vault in the State Bank of Pakistan, district or tehsil treasury or any nationalised bank. For withdrawal of such movable properties, the agency concerned would designate two officers of grade-17 or above and prior written permission of next supervisory officer of the agency would be required.
Each agency would establish a central asset recovery office to ensure assets recovery and management of the forfeited property and keep a designated central account with the SBP maintained by the ministry of finance where proceeds of property would be remitted by all agencies after attainment of the finality of forfeiture order by a court. All investigating and prosecuting agencies would exchange financial intelligence and information about the properties with other stakeholders for expeditious confiscation and forfeiture under the AMLA 2010.
Transfer of cases to competent authorities
The Anti-Money Laundering (Referral) Rules, 2021 are being introduced to enable transfer of the cases from one set of investigation agencies to another. If police, the ACEs or any other governmental organisations, other than investigating and prosecution agency under the AMLA, finds that an offence under the AMLA 2010 has been committed and such agency lacks jurisdiction to take cognizance of it, the head of such would refer the matter to the head of the agency concerned having jurisdiction to investigate.
Police, the ACEs or other governmental organisations would continue an inquiry or an investigation of the offence and would take necessary measures to preserve and retrieve the relevant information and evidence and case properties till formal acceptance by the investigating and prosecuting agency concerned as set out in the relevant clause of the AMLA and formal handing over and taking over of complete record.
After acceptance of the case by the competent investigating and prosecuting agency, police or ACEs etc would hand over complete record, including case files, record of proceedings and seizure memos along with relevant evidence, property and other material seized and the accused in custody, if any. Such investigating and prosecuting agencies would resume all the proceedings under the said act including to examine, re-examine persons concerned and other oral and documentary evidence and would expeditiously take steps as necessary for just finalisation of the proceedings.
Adequate number of special public prosecutors would be appointed for the Anti-Narcotics Force and Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) besides a separate panel of lawyers for customs and the Internal Revenue Service of the Federal board of Revenue. Also, law officers not below the rank of assistant director legal would be appointed for the Federal Investigating Agency and special public prosecutors for the National Accountability Bureau.
Pakistan also has to issue “National Policy Statement on Follow the Money (NPSFM)”. Through this statement and rules listed above, Pakistan’s compliance with FATF recommendations in Post Observation Period Report (POPR) would further improve with corresponding enhancement in the ratings or effectiveness of the FATF’s relevant Immediate Outcomes. Pakistan’s POPR would be reviewed by the FATF’s Asia-Pacific Joint Group (A-PJG), and based on the report of this group, the FATF would decide further course of action on Pakistan’s progress on the POPR in its plenary scheduled in June 21-25, 2021.
The NPSFM commits Pakistan to tackling money laundering and terrorist financing as a matter of priority during investigations, prosecutions, and subsequent confiscation in all money laundering, terrorism financing and high risk predicate crimes by adopting universal approach to combating money-laundering and terror-financing through generating sound and effective financial intelligence reports for the consumption of law enforcement agencies and maintaining risk-sensitive anti-money-laundering regime to enhance cooperation and coordination amongst the such stakeholders both domestically and internationally.
The government is also committed to protecting the financial system and the broader economy in Pakistan from criminality through a robust financial system to ensure that dirty money does not find its ways into the financial system. The government would ensure a robust beneficiary identification system, deterring financial crime as it deprives criminals of the proceeds of their crimes and removes financial support for terrorism and further ensures that targeted financial sanctions are implemented in letter and spirit.
Further, it would ensure a transparent, robust and efficient approach to investigating money laundering and terrorist financing and to the seizure, confiscation and management of criminal assets by supporting relevant agencies in cooperatively achieving this goal.
The Asia Pacific Group (APG) on Money Laundering has improved Pakistan’s rating on 21 of the 40 technical recommendations of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) against money laundering and terror financing, but retained it on ‘Enhanced Follow-up’ for sufficient outstanding requirements.
The second Follow-Up Report (FUR) on Mutual Evaluation of Pakistan released by the APG — a regional affiliate of the Paris-based FATF — also downgraded the country on one criterion. The report said Pakistan was re-rated to ‘compliant’ status on five counts and on 15 others to ‘largely compliant’ and on yet another count to ‘partially compliant’.
Overall, Pakistan is now fully ‘compliant’ with seven recommendations and ‘largely compliant’ with 24 others. The country is ‘partially compliant’ with seven recommendations and ‘non-compliant’ with two out of total 40 recommendations. All in all, Pakistan is now compliant or largely compliant with 31 out of 40 FATF recommendations.
The Asia Pacific Group announced,
“Overall, Pakistan has made notable progress in addressing the technical compliance deficiencies identified in its Mutual Evaluation Report (MER) and has been re-rated on 22 recommendations,”.
It said recommendations 14, 19, 20, 21 and 27 had been re-rated to comply. These pertain to money or value transfer services, higher risk countries, reporting of suspicious transactions, tipping-off and confidentiality and powers of supervisors.
The APG said Pakistan was re-rated to largely compliant with 15 recommendations — 1, 6, 7, 8, 12, 17, 22, 23, 24, 25, 30, 31, 32, 35 and 40. These include assessing risk and adopting a risk-based approach, targeted financial sanctions relating to terror and terror financing, targeted financial sanctions related to proliferation, non-profit organisation, politically exposed persons and reliance on third parties.
Also, re-rating was done on designated non-financial business & professions (DNFBP) in terms of due diligence and other measures, transparency in beneficial ownership of legal persons and related legal arrangements, responsibilities of law enforcement and investigation authorities, cash couriers, sanctions and other forms of international cooperation.
Another re-rating to partially compliant status was done on recommendation 28 that pertained to regulation and supervision of DNFBPs. The two recommendations on which Pakistan was downgraded to ‘non-complaint’ were 37 and 38 due to insufficient progress and pertained to mutual legal assistance (MLA) with other countries and freezing and confiscation of assets and accounts.
Negative impact of rigorous compliance
The managers of financial institutions in Pakistan are implementing the FATF conditions without understanding their purpose. They are harassing honest investors. For instance, the manager of the national Saving Centre Poonch house Rawalpindi refuses to issue an investment certificate unless the applicant submits a host of documents. These documents include a current bank statement, source-of-income certificate besides biodata along with a passport-size photograph. They call for the documents even if the applicant submits a cheque on his 40-year-old bank account.
Deviation from objectives
The financial Action Task Force has ostensibly noble objectives. It provides a `legal’, regulatory, framework for muzzling the hydra-headed monster of money-laundering. It aims at identifying loopholes in the prevailing financial system and plugging them. But, it has deviated from its declared objectives. It has became a tool to coerce countries, accused of financing terrorism or facilitating money-laundering. The FATF is more interested in disciplining a state like Pakistan, not toeing US policies, than in checking money-laundering. The tacit message is that if Pakistan does not toe USA’s Afghan policy, and lease out air bases for drone attacks, then it will remain on FATF grey list.
The consequences of being in the grey list may entail economic sanctions and difficulties in obtaining loans from international donors like the International Monetary Fund, World Bank and Asian Development Bank. The trade-and-aid difficulties may retard economic progress of a country.
Favoritism towards India: India has a much larger Gross Domestic Product (US$2875 billion , 2019), than Pakistan’s paltry US$ 264 billion (2020).Similarly India has a much larger and wealthier Diaspora than Pakistan particularly in the Middle East and the USA.
The hawala (hand to hand transactions) and other money transfer practices among Indians and Pakistanis are similar. Yet the FATF keeps Pakistan always in focus and looks the other way when it comes to India.
Pakistan is a bête noire and India a protégé at the FATF only because of stark geo-political interests. Otherwise the money laundering situation in India is no less gruesome in India than in Pakistan. India has even been a conduit of ammunition to the Islamic State study conducted by Conflict Armament Research had confirmed that seven Indian companies were involved in the supply chain of over 700 components, including fuses or detonating cords used by the so-called Islamic State to construct improvised explosive devices.
Political considerations, not primary objectives, override voting behavior at the FATF.
Jihadists target Africa and Afghanistan, but also eye China and Russia
All Mr. Mohamed wanted was a job and a marriage.
A 22-year-old Somali farmhand, Mr. Mohamed, skeptically retorted, “is that right?” when Al Shabab recruiters sought to convince him that the defence of Islam needed him.
“What I really need is a job and a wife,’ Mr. Mohamed added.
The farmworker was persuaded when the recruiters for one of Africa’s oldest jihadist movements promised to find him a wife.
The jihadists never did. Instead, when Mr. Mohamed’s battle injuries disabled him, Al Shabab, an Al Qaeda affiliate, pressured him to sacrifice himself as a suicide bomber.
Mr. Mohamed fits the profile of an average African rank-and-file militant recruit who sees jihadism as an opportunity to escape poverty rather than the fulfillment of a religious command.
The recruits’ lack of religious education works in the militants’ favour. Recruits are in no position to challenge their militant interpretation of Islam.
A 128-page United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) survey of 500 former militants showed that 57 per cent knew little or nothing about Islamic religious texts.
Challenging notions that Muslim religious education creates a breeding ground for militancy, the study showed that it reduced the likelihood of radicalisation by 32 per cent.
Islamic State recruitment in Afghanistan has proven to be a different beast.
It benefitted from outflanking Al Qaeda as the primary transnational jihadist group in the region, independent of and opposed to Afghanistan’s Taliban rulers.
In contrast to Africa, the Islamic State had a more ready-made pipeline of battle-hardened militants and auxiliaries with its cooptation of groups like Pakistan’s Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan.
The cooptation brought in militants with superior knowledge of the local and regional landscape. Some were scions of influential political and warlord families who provided logistical support by helping the Islamic State gain access to official documentation and plan attacks.
In addition, Afghanistan’s Salafi communities’ relations with the Taliban are strained and former Afghan security force personnel at risk of persecution by the Taliban after their takeover in the wake of the US withdrawal in August 2021 turned out to be equally rich hunting grounds.
Finally, the Islamic State benefitted from its questioning of the Taliban’s Islamic credentials in contrast to Al Qaeda which supports the Afghan movement.
In defending the Taliban, Al Qaeda has projected the group’s declaration of an Islamic Emirate, which the Afghans have not characterized as a caliphate, as an alternative to the Islamic State’s notion of a caliphate as declared in 2014 when it controlled swathes of Syrian and Iraq.
“Skepticism of the Taliban has long characterized a certain segment of the jihadi movement that is more puritanical or doctrinaire in orientation… The Islamic State provided a home for the more radical strain of jihadi thought… The group’s rise to prominence has meant that more and more jihadis have come to view the Taliban as an apostate movement,” said scholar Cole Bunzel in a recent study of jihadist attitudes towards the Afghan group.
The distinct profiles of militants in Africa and Afghanistan suggest different trajectories with divergent geopolitical impacts, at least for now.
As a result, in Africa, counterterrorism efforts emphasizing political, social, and economic reform on par with security and law enforcement in a bid to reduce militants’ recruitment pool and deprive them of a conducive environment, is in the short-and middle-term a more feasible approach than in Afghanistan, where they rely on ideology and religious fervour to a greater degree.
That is not to say that reform is unimportant in Central Asian nations like Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, targeted by the Islamic State.
Even so, cross-border jihadist operations in Afghanistan and Africa pose different challenges and create diverging opportunities for external powers like China, Russia, the United States, and Europe.
For Russia, Africa generates a significant opportunity to expand its global reach and influence. Russia capitalised on the tightrope that the United States and Europe walk as they balance the need for reform with inevitable support for autocratic partners in the fight against militancy.
The management of that balance by France, long the major external power in the fight alongside the United States, has ultimately disadvantaged it and opened doors for Russia.
Countries like Mali and Burkina Faso are cases in point.
Mali highlighted the importance of strengthening good governance. In 2020, a weak government produced a military coup that ruptured relations with France and paved the way for the replacement of French troops by the Wagner Group, Russia’s shadowy mercenary force.
France’s departure from Mali signalled an end to its decade-long fight against Islamic insurgents in the Sahel.
Instead, French President Emmanuel Macron increasingly focused on reversing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and declared as much by halving the number of French forces in Niger, Chad, Burkina Faso, and Mauritania to 2,200 and limiting their mission.
Mali withdrew six months earlier from the G5 Sahel multi-national military force, composed of troops from Niger, Chad, Burkina Faso, and Mauritania, in a further blow to Western counterterrorism efforts.
The drawdown of French troops spotlighted the inability of the US-sponsored Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership (TSCTP), founded in 2005, to effectively assist West and North Africa in the fight against militancy.
The partnership was designed to adopt a holistic approach to address the region’s political, development, socio-economic, and governance challenges.
In practice, it was a mismanaged policy tool focused almost exclusively on security assistance and strengthening local military and security institutions. As a result, it spent US$1 billion for over a decade and a half with little to show for itself.
In a bid to bolster US support for the Sahel, Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced during a visit to Niger in March, the first ever by a Secretary of State, $150 million in new humanitarian aid. Mr. Blinken’s message was echoed by Vice President Kamala Harris during visit this week to three African states, Ghana, Tanzania, and Zambia.
Nonetheless, despite more than a decade of US and French-led counterterrorism efforts, militancy is spreading, most recently to the West African coastal states of Benin and Togo.
In testimony last year to the Senate Armed Forces Committee before he stepped down as head of the US Africa Command, Gen. Stephen J Townsend, warned that “seven of the 10 countries with the largest increase in terrorism in 2020 were in sub-Saharan Africa, with Burkina Faso suffering a 590 per cent increase.”
Desperate to end the violence, many in West Africa welcome Russia and the Wagner Group, hoping they may succeed where France and the United States and corrupt regional governments have failed.
In Mali and elsewhere in the region, Russian psychological warfare helped pave the way for the Wagner Group.
So did Russia’s willingness, in contrast to France and the United States, despite the high cost to civilian life of their actions, to conduct and allow local governments to wage counterinsurgency and counterterrorism operations unconstrained by human rights concerns.
Yet, the combination of brutality with no political, social, or economic component of any significance, and lack of differentiation between transnational militants in Africa, such as Al Qaeda affiliate Jama’a Nusrat ul-Islam wa al-Muslimin (JNIM) and the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (IS-GS) and various regional self-autonomy movements, promises to produce short-term results, at best, rather than structural solutions.
The failure to distinguish between different types of militants precludes the design of tailor-made approaches that address specific grievances and reduce the risk of driving non-jihadist tribal and ethnic movements into the arms of religious militants.
Moreover, by paying Russia and the Wagner Group for their services in concessions for natural resources, commercial contracts, and/or access to critical infrastructure, such as airbases and ports, African governments enable Russia to embed itself in their economies and social fabric.
In Burkina Faso, a landlocked nation of 20 million, protesters waving Russian flags attacked the French embassy and a cultural institute in Ouagadougou, the capital, after a military takeover in September 2022, the second in a year.
The head of the Wagner Group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, was among the first to congratulate the new junta, praising it for doing what “was necessary.”
Russia was a factor in the coup, even if Russia may not have instigated it, and despite assurances by Burkina Faso’s new president, Captain Ibrahim Traore, that his country would not follow in Mali’s footsteps.
West African sources close to Mr. Traore said he had toppled the leader of Burkina Faso’s first coup, Lt. Col. Paul Henri Sandaogo Damiba, because he was dragging his feet on turning to Russia after France refused to sell him military equipment, including helicopters.
The US, France, and Russia’s focus on counterterrorism in West Africa ignores the north of the continent at their peril.
Officials, strategists, and analysts believe that North Africa’s experience dating to Algeria’s bloody war in the 1990s against Islamist militants and militancy in Libya and Tunisia in the wake of the 2011 popular Arab revolts, as well as Egypt’s brutal crackdown on Islamists in 2013, has, at least for now, firewalled the region against militancy.
The opposite could be true. The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown regional economies into chaos. Many perform worse than they were on the eve of the 20l11 uprisings. Socio-economic disparities, corruption, and unemployment have increased. Significant segments of the population are angry, frustrated, and hopeless.
A report in 2021 by the US Institute for Peace and the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace warned that “frustration with the inability of regional governments to address these problems boiled over in 2011, leading to popular revolutions that toppled three of the five regimes in power in North Africa. Yet, despite these highly visible and destabilising popular uprisings, reform has been slow. As a result, the social and economic factors that have made the region so fertile for terrorist recruitment and incitement remain unaddressed.”
If Europe may be the external power most affected by increasing instability and political violence on its periphery, China could become the major power most targeted in Afghanistan and Central Asia.
China has moved more firmly into the Islamic State’s crosshairs in the past year.
At the same time, the Turkistan Islamic Party (TIP), long a transnational jihadist group aligned with Al Qaeda, has increasingly shifted from pursuing global jihad to wanting to liberate the north-western Chinese province of Xinjiang.
The party’s deputy emir, Abdusalam al-Turkistani, signalled the shift in a seven-page statement on Telegram.
Speaking in Dari, one of Afghanistan’s official languages, rather than Uyghur or Arabic, Mr. Al-Turkistani, asserted that “we are not from China, our homeland is East Turkistan… We are your Muslim brothers from East Turkistan of Central Asia… We are not terrorists; we are fighters for the freedom of the oppressed Uyghurs in East Turkistan.”
Mr. Al-Turkistani’s assertion that his group, formerly known as the East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM), was not a terrorist organisation was undergirded by a decision in 2020 by the US State Department to take the movement off its terrorism list.
China got a taste of what the Islamic State and TIP shifts could entail when three men stormed a Chinese-owned hotel in the centre of Kabul, the Afghan capital, in December 2022. The attackers were killed, and five of the approximately 30 Chinese nationals in the hotel were wounded.
It was the first attack on a Chinese target since the Taliban came to power in August 2021. The Islamic State Khurasan Province (ISKP) claimed responsibility.
A day earlier, Chinese ambassador to Afghanistan Wang Yu expressed “dissatisfaction” about security and urged the Taliban to improve its protection of the People’s Republic’s diplomatic mission.
The attack followed a series of anti-Chinese statements and publications by the Islamic State in which the group denounced Chinese “imperialism.” The renewed focus broke the Islamic State’s five-year silence about China.
It also raised the spectre of the group attacking Chinese targets in Pakistan as it did in 2017 when it kidnapped and executed two Chinese nationals in the Pakistani province of Balochistan, a key node in China’s Belt and Road Initiative.
Similarly, the TIP vowed revenge for China’s repression of Turkic Muslims in a statement released a week before the attack on the hotel.
Western governments, Uyghurs, and human rights activists have accused China of imprisoning more than one million Turkic Muslims to reshape their religious and ethnic identity in the mould of the country’s rulers.
The brutal repression of Turkic Muslims in Xinjiang and the effort to Sinicise Islam in China is one major reason why the People’s Republic is in jihadist crosshairs.
Another is China’s largely unnoticed growing commercial interests in Afghanistan.
China is one of only a handful of countries to maintain a diplomatic presence in Kabul, and trade with Afghanistan, even if it, like the rest of the world, refuses to recognize the Taliban regime.
Nevertheless, China advised its citizens in Afghanistan, Kabul’s largest ex-pat community, to leave the country “as soon as possible” in the wake of the hotel attack.
Meanwhile, arrivals at Kabul’s airport are greeted by a billboard beckoning them to Chinatown, a collection of drab 10-storey buildings in the northwest of the city populated by shops selling Chinese products ranging from office furniture to appliances, solar panels, toiletries, and clothing.
In addition, China’s first infrastructural project in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan is a 57-hectar, $216-million industrial park that sprawls across the northeastern edge of Kabul. China picked the project up after the United States abandoned it with US forces’ withdrawal and President Ashraf Ghani’s fall.
China has since removed tariffs on 98 per cent of Afghan goods and revived an air transport service to import US$800 million a year worth of pine nuts.
Africa and Afghanistan may be jihadists’ current centres of gravity, but militants’ ambitions go far beyond.
Islamic State attacks on Afghan mosques near the border with Central Asia and a purported cross-border missile attack on Uzbekistan have dashed Central Asian hopes that the Taliban would be able to control the frontier region and shield former Soviet republics from the jihadists.
Like China, Russia’s involvement in the African fight against extremism will, sooner rather than later, make Russia a jihadist target.
An Islamic State suicide bombing in September 2022 near the Russian embassy in Kabul in which two Russian embassy staff were among six people killed may have been a shot across Moscow’s bow.
Offering alternatives across Africa to men like Mr. Mohamed, the former Somali militant in search of a job and a wife, would enhance counterterrorism efforts in Africa and Central Asia, provided the United States, Europe, and local governments have the political will to implement necessary reforms.
That will be far more difficult in Afghanistan, where the Taliban is internationally isolated, desperate to hold on to power, and unwilling to meet minimal conditions of the international community that wants to see more inclusive policies.
The 2022 attacks on the hotel and the Russian embassy in Kabul suggest that Russia and China are increasingly in jihadist crosshairs in ways that could see militants expand their theatre of operations, and, in the case of Afghanistan, target others like the United Arab Emirates, that do business with the Taliban.
Author’s note: An earlier version of this article was first published by Counter Terrorist Trends and Analyses
The Afghan Foreign Minister Is Wrong About ISIS: It Threatens Regional Security
Recent claims made by the Foreign Minister of Afghanistan, Amir Muttaqi, that there is no Daesh or ISKP presence in Afghanistan are not only unsubstantiated but also refuted by recent developments on the ground. The US Intelligence reports on terrorism have claimed that IS and other regionally focused terror groups maintain an active presence in Afghanistan and are conducting terrorist activities. Furthermore, ongoing military operations by the General Directorate of Intelligence (GDI) against ISKP in Afghanistan repudiate claims made by FM Amir Muttaqi about the absence of ISKP.
Recent weeks have seen a number of ISKP militants being arrested and key commanders being killed by Afghan Special Forces during raids in Kabul and various cities of Balkh, Nangarhar, Panjshir, Jawzjan, and Faryab provinces. These military operations are a clear indication of the active presence of ISKP in Afghanistan and its operational capabilities. Such activities pose a significant regional threat to not only Afghanistan but also its neighboring countries.
In addition to military operations, Afghan Taliban sources have claimed that they have found millions of USD at an alleged ISKP hideout in Mazar-e-Sharif, Balkh Province. The discovery of such hideouts, coupled with the arrest of militants and the killing of key commanders, is a clear indication of the operational bases of these terrorist groups in Afghanistan. The discovery of significant amounts of money also indicates that these groups are well-funded and pose a severe threat to regional security.
Furthermore, the killings of ISKP/Daesh commanders, including Qari Fateh and Ijaz Amin Ahangar, inside Afghanistan, are undeniable proof of the presence of terrorist groups and their operational bases in the country. The presence of such groups and their activities pose a significant regional threat and endanger the stability and security of the entire region.
The claims made by FM Amir Muttaqi that there is no presence of Daesh or ISKP in Afghanistan are not only unfounded but also dangerous. These claims are likely to lull regional actors into a false sense of security, which can have disastrous consequences for the entire region. The threat posed by these terrorist groups is real, and it is imperative that regional actors work together to counter this threat effectively.
It is also essential to note that the US country reports on terrorism are based on factual evidence and are compiled after extensive research and analysis. The reports are not biased or politically motivated, as is being suggested by some Afghan officials. These reports are an important source of information for policymakers and regional actors, and it is crucial that they are taken seriously.
The recent actions taken by the International Assistance Group (IAG) against ISKP/Daesh are indeed a welcoming development, and it is expected that the same level of commitment will be shown in dealing with the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) threat as well. IAG is bound to fulfill its commitment under the Doha deal that Afghanistan’s soil will not be allowed to be used for violence and terrorism against any country.
The Doha deal is a crucial agreement between the United States and the Taliban that was signed in February 2020. It aims to bring peace and stability to Afghanistan and ensure that the country does not become a breeding ground for terrorist activities. Under the agreement, the Taliban committed to preventing terrorist groups such as Al Qaeda and Daesh from using Afghan soil to launch attacks against other countries.
The TTP is a significant threat to regional security, and it is imperative that steps are taken to counter this threat effectively. The group has been responsible for numerous terrorist attacks in Pakistan, and its activities pose a significant threat to the stability and security of the entire region.
It is essential that IAG works closely with the Afghan government to address this threat effectively. Kabul’s cooperation with bordering states in counter-terrorism efforts is in mutual interest as Afghanistan itself is becoming a hotbed of terrorism.
IAG’s actions against ISKP/Daesh are a welcoming development, and it is expected that the same level of commitment will be shown in dealing with the TTP threat as well. Kabul’s cooperation with bordering states in counter-terrorism efforts is in mutual interest, and it is crucial that regional actors work together to ensure peace and stability in the region.
The Role of Technology and Innovation in Countering Extremism and Terrorism
Extremism and terrorism are on the rise at a never-before-seen rate in the entire world. These two global threats have been seriously harming social cohesion, economic development, and human life all over the world. Governments, civil society, and private organizations have all struggled to find viable solutions to these threats. Since the development of modern technology, terrorist groups have used it more frequently to carry out their attacks. Due to the spread of these violent and radical ideologies, many people have died, the property has been destroyed, and nations and regions have become unstable. Military action, law enforcement, and intelligence gathering are just a few of the strategies that have been used in response to counter these threats. The use of innovation and technology, however, is one strategy that is gaining popularity.
Somehow, it has been determined that the internet, social media, and other digital communication channels play a significant role in the spread of extremist ideologies, recruitment, and attack planning. In order to stop this activity, efforts have been made to monitor and thwart extremist content online using technology. Tech firms like Google, Facebook, and Twitter, for instance, have created algorithms to recognize and delete extremist content from their platforms. In order to find and remove extremist content, Facebook uses machine learning algorithms. Similarly, YouTube has created a system that combines human review with machine learning in order to remove content that violates its policies. However, extremist groups are increasingly making use of these channels to spread propaganda and find new members. Governments have also passed laws governing online content and pressed businesses to take action against extremist content.
Due to advancements in surveillance technology like drones, facial recognition software, and biometric scanners, it is now possible to monitor and track potential threats more effectively. Terrorist plots have been detected and stopped in their tracks using these technologies. For instance, the installation of biometric scanners at border and airport checkpoints has boosted security and reduced the risk of terrorist attacks. Similarly, artificial intelligence (AI) and data analytics are two additional ways that technology is being used to combat extremism. It is possible to find patterns in online behavior that may be signs of extremist activity using AI and data analytics. AI algorithms, for instance, are capable of analyzing online conversations and social media posts to find words and phrases that extremist groups frequently use. Then, this data can be used to spot people who might be at risk of radicalization or to keep tabs on the actions of recognized extremist organizations.
In addition to these measures, counterarguments to extremist ideologies have also been disseminated using technology and innovation. Social media and other platforms can be used to disseminate messages of acceptance, comprehension, and unity that can work as a counterweight to the messages of hatred and division advanced by extremist groups. The “Think Again, Turn Away” campaign, which aims to counter ISIS propaganda by offering alternative viewpoints, is one example of an initiative that has shown promise in this area.
Over time, technology has played a bigger role in counterterrorism operations. To find and stop terrorist activity, governments all over the world have made significant investments in technologies for intelligence gathering, surveillance, and data analysis. Drones and other unmanned vehicles have completely changed how counterterrorism operations are carried out. These technologies have improved the effectiveness and efficiency of counterterrorism efforts by lowering the number of human casualties and collateral damage.
Law enforcement agencies around the world have faced a significant challenge as a result of extremist groups’ use of social media to disseminate their propaganda, find new members, and organize attacks. However, technology has also provided opportunities to counter this threat. Social media data has been analyzed to find extremist content using cutting-edge techniques like machine learning, natural language processing, and AI-powered algorithms. Another instance of how technology can be used to combat terrorism and extremism is the development of block chain-based solutions. By tracking and tracing extremist groups’ financial transactions, block chain technology can stop them from gaining access to money and resources. These technologies can aid in the swift identification and removal of extremist content, the prevention of its dissemination, and the blocking of access to the websites and social media accounts of extremist groups.
Furthermore, a key tactic that can help stop the spread of extremist ideology and radicalization is empowering communities through technology to prevent extremism. Technology has the potential to promote understanding, communication, and community building—all of which are essential for creating robust and resilient communities. We can contribute to preventing the conditions that breed extremism and radicalization by utilizing technology to empower communities.
Providing communities with information and resources is one way to give them more power. Online platforms, for instance, can be used to distribute educational content on the perils of extremism and the value of tolerance and inclusivity. By making these tools available, we can lower the risk of radicalization and assist people in making thoughtful decisions about their beliefs and behavior. We can aid in creating solid and resilient communities that are less vulnerable to extremist ideologies by facilitating access to information and resources, encouraging communication and dialogue, and fostering social and economic development. To effectively prevent extremism, technology must be used responsibly and ethically, in addition to other strategies.
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