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Global Terrorist Trends 2020 to 2022: An analysis

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Over the years, the surging global trends have assumed varying characteristics between 2020 and 2022. While on the one hand, negotiations between the state apparatus and terrorists have become normalised and a part of the international relations conducted in Africa and South-Central Asia. On the other hand, the non-state actors, having accumulated far-reaching influence and fear factor, have now audaciously challenged the state’s integrity and thereby compel the government of the day to heed to its demands, from the bottom-up to the top-down.

On the other hand, far-right and politically charged acts of terrorism have primarily swept away the traditional Islamist jihadist threats facing the West without wholly diluting its essence. In contrast, the narratives about accelerationism, the great replacement theory, and video games as a radicalisation toolkit have become vital to analysing the first world’s developing security challenges.

Negotiating with terrorists: The Malian way

Amid the widening rift with the French, the Malian junta has presumably sought to acquire an alternative, even a disagreeable partner, to diminish the locals’ growing angst and frustration at continuing violence and insecurity. Accordingly, the Malian leadership is reportedly in the works of negotiating a deal with Jamaat Nusrat Al-Islam wal Muslimeen (JNIM), an Al-Qaeda affiliate and the most rapidly expanding terrorist outfit worldwide. This step has presumably been initiated as part of the government’s last-ditch attempt to retain power and bring the ravaging war, from 2017 onwards to an end.

Analysts like Wassim Nasr believe that the already strained relationship between the Malian junta burdened with multiple economic embargoes and President Emmanuel Macron hit its rock bottom due to the prospect of a ceasefire between the government and the terrorists. He claims

“Negotiations were the last affront for France and, in the current context, it is the junta’s last card to play. But even if the negotiations ultimately fail, a ceasefire would allow the junta to boast that it has facilitated the return of displaced populations or that it has enabled a particular village to stop being encircled by the jihadists and that is what counts for the local people.”

In central Mali, several tribal leaders have signed what crudely termed as “survival pacts” with JNIM fighters in the absence of effective army control and destabilising security situation countrywide.

To preserve peace and prevent the killing of ordinary civilians and the looting of cattle by the jihadists, the communities have collectively sought to achieve a fragile but ongoing truce with this deadly terrorist organisation. However, while freedoms have been put aside to eliminate violence by the terrorists, the hard-won stability does not appear to be taken for granted. Some of these tribal heads have now called upon the government to officially open a channel for negotiations with JNIM, including them and clerics. Whether or not this will be mainstreamed and eventually bear fruit is still debated.

The Afghan-Central Asian quicksand

As the Afghan example suggests, the US-led attempts to negotiate a dignified exit from its longest-running war after 2001 also normalised diplomatic engagement with insurgents-turned administrators. Most states globally have exercised caution in granting official recognition to the Taliban’s interim government. Nonetheless, their continued engagement, beginning with the Doha agreement signed in February 2020 or the Troika Plus Meeting held in Moscow, has de facto accorded an informal diplomatic status to Afghanistan’s new regime.

A country undergoing a multifaceted human security crisis as Afghanistan is bound to be the forerunner on the Global Terrorism Index report. The internalised violent rivalry between the Taliban and the Islamic State in Khorasan Province (ISKP), with a potential for spillover, has added to the Afghans’ chaos and instability, especially in the Shia Hazara community, frequently jolted by bloodshed and insecurity. Moreover, replacing the Taliban as the deadliest terrorist organisation in 2021, the ISKP has continued to stage the ground for a protracted conflict locally while attempting to permeate the Central Asian borders, including those of Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.

It has also tried to depict any cooperation between the Taliban and the Uzbeks as a betrayal on the former’s part for colluding with a country that it accuses of being Islam’s enemy and for being heretics. Furthermore, while the outfit is hailing the allegedly recent attack on the Tajik soil as the initiation of its parent organisation’s “great jihad to Central Asia,” its association with hardened Tajik jihadists goes back to their recruitment by the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq in 2014 and Afghanistan in 2015.

According to a Voice of America report unveiled in April 2022, the ISKP claimed to have staged ten rocket attacks, targeting the Uzbek territory, particularly a military facility in Termez. Although the Uzbek government swiftly refuted this assertion, the SITE Intelligence Group, a non-governmental organisation that tracks jihadist and white supremacist outfits’ online terrorist propaganda, has published alleged pictures supporting the ISKP’s audacious claims.

Since the fall of the Ghani administration in August 2021, Afghanistan’s neighbouring countries have apprehensively looked at the evolving trends. This comes amid the growing tensions between the Taliban’s interim government and the Tajik leaders over the latter’s assistance to the National Resistance Front of Afghanistan. Its torchbearers like Ahmed Shah Massoud and Amrullah Saleh are ethnic Tajiks.

The never-ending Pakistani crises

On the other hand, the evolving terrorist trends have also included Pakistan’s domestic crisis and its confrontation with the TTP. The TTP is the Pakistani branch of the Afghan Taliban. It has waged a protracted armed battle against the host state, with some of its earlier attacks, like the massacre at an army school in Peshawar in December 2014, resulting in hundreds of school children and teachers’ deaths. However, last year, after the one-month ceasefire broke down in December 2021, it had intensified its attrition. While this temporary ceasefire agreement failed to materialise into a more permanent initiative, it reinforced the normalisation of negotiating with proscribed groups and terrorists. Nonetheless, it set the stage for a probable return to negotiations with the Afghan Taliban mediating the talks based on a similar format.

Since the beginning of May 2022, the state and TTP have been re-engaged in discussions, albeit constantly arriving at a stalemate due to demands that neither side can appear to agree to. For example, end to military operations in the former Federally Administered Tribal Areas and halting attacks on Pakistani installations. Over the past month, they have extended the ceasefire thrice. This time, they have done so for an indefinite period, after the last one expired on 30 May. A three-member committee to iron out differences, moderated by Sirajuddin Haqqani, has also been formed.

Pakistani officials have claimed that over 100 officers have lost their lives in TTP attacks since 2022. This is only a minuscule sample size to understand the gravity of the situation wholly. However, the state establishment has found it increasingly challenging to convince its Afghan compatriots to rein in the TTP as it had hoped and give it some respite to shift its focus to the deteriorating economic crisis.

However, the persevering patron-client ties now face the hurdle of overcoming what appears to be a nearly-insurmountable roadblock. Despite repeated requests by the Pakistani leadership, the de facto Afghan rulers have refused to cooperate on severing ties with the TTP and instead sought to militarily engage with armed forces in constructing fences along the contested Durand Line. Furthermore, an internationalised diplomatic crisis has ensued due to Pakistani forces’ “counter-terrorism operations” in Afghanistan’s eastern Khost and Kunar provinces in April 2022. Reportedly to eliminate TTP jihadists, the airstrikes killed at least 47 civilians, including 20 children.  In such instances, counter-terrorism strategies are intertwined to penalise neighbouring states who refuse to conform to patron countries’ demands.

When terrorism comes to the West: The United States, the UK, Germany, and Canada

  • The United States of America

The Capitol Hill Riots organised in January 2020 to protests against those who “stole” the election, or the most recent targeted killings of African-Americans by Payton Gendron, an 18-year-old white supremacist and conspiracy theorist, in a prominently African-American neighbourhood supermarket in Buffalo, New York, reveal the country’s diverse security challenges. They are driven by the deep-rooted paranoia associated with the Great Replacement Theory – a conspiracy theory touted by ultra-right white supremacists according to whom the “superior” race, i.e., the white community in the Western world, is threatened by the immigration of non-whites, which will result in the former’s extinction.

Additionally, although not directly linked to a terrorist ideology, accelerationism, is a loophole that ought to be remedied at urgent notice. Its proponents believe that it is obligatory for the alt-right white nationalists to violently ensure the liberal democratic order’s destruction to make way for an order dominated by them to emerge. Ethnic and racial minorities, Jews, “race traitors” such as whites indulging in inter-racial relationships must also be wholly wiped out. Furthermore, it is unsurprising that such distorted notions have gained prominence during the pandemic, convincing a segment of the population that migrants and Jews bear responsibility for the spread of this infectious disease.

Seth Aaron Pendley is currently serving a ten-year imprisonment sentence for plotting to blow up an Amazon data centre, driven by the farce idea that this act would disrupt most of the internet and federal agencies’ digital communication services. He believed that the fallout would have such a devastating impact on the Americans’ lives that they would violently rise against the “dictatorship.”

On the other hand, in November 2021, a large-scale shooting at the Oxford High School in Michigan has become the first even to be categorised by prosecutors as an act of domestic terrorism in the country. The mass violence and fear generated by one of the several incidents related to gun violence in the United States has relatively convinced the authorities that acts of terrorism, whether committed by Islamist jihadists or a high school teenager, should be placed and judged within the same paradigm. Whether it was 9/11 or blood spilled at an academic institution and a supermarket, these events fulfilled some of the essential criteria of terrorism

“Any act intended to cause death or serious bodily injury to a civilian, or to any other person not taking an active part in the hostilities in a situation of armed conflict, when the purpose of such act, by its nature or context, is to intimidate a population or to compel a government or an international organization to do or to abstain from doing any act.”

  • The United Kingdom

Violence linked to alt-right ideologies has catapulted, including in the United Kingdom (UK), according to the Metropolitan (Met) Police’s Assistant Commissioner, Matt Jukes. 41 percent of arrested individuals in 2021 comprised of those affiliated with or ideologically inclined towards the alt-right. Last year, a 13-year-old teenager was arrested on charges of trying to make a bomb.

However, the Islamist jihadist threat has not waned yet in the UK. Three arrests – a 13 and an 18-year-old boy and a 17-year-old girl – have been made by the police during a week on terrorism-related charges in May 2022. Although their investigations are currently viewed independently for the moment, Richard Smith, Commander of Met’s Counter-Terrorism Command Centre, has claimed that –

“It is a further indication of a concerning upward trend in police action against younger people for terrorism-related matters.”

Moreover, Prevent, a core component of the British government’s counter-terrorism, counter-radicalisation strategy, has also struggled to address the loopholes in its countrywide de-radicalisation programmes. For example, Sir David Amess, a former parliamentarian, was assassinated in October 2021 by Ali Harbi Ali, an Islamist terrorist who was once a part of this initiative.

  • Germany

In 2020, violent right-wing extremist incidents across Germany reached a two-decade high. The past statistics indicated that 23,064 alt-right-related crimes accounted for all politically-motivated crimes during that year, with an increase of 18.8 percent in violent hate crimes, including attempted murders and fatal injuries. In addition, January 2020 witnessed a racially-motivated attack against the country’s only serving black member of the Bundestag (the German federal parliament), Dr. Karamba Diaby, when his car was found riddled with five bullet holes. A week after that incident, he received a threatening email warning that he would meet the same fate as Herr Lübcke (details mentioned below).

In March of that year, Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz (Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution – The German Domestic Intelligence Services) placed the alt-right Alternative für Deutschland’s (Alternative for Germany) influential party leaders under surveillance and categorically defined it as an extremist organisation. According to Herr Thomas Haldenwang, the Intelligence Chief, at least 200 lives have been lost due to right-wing extremism between the German re-unification and March 2020.

Furthermore, one must also consider two significant far-right attacks – The deadly Hanau shooting in February 2020, where nine people died and five suffered injuries by Tobias Rathjen, a right-wing ideologue driven by anti-Semitic sentiments. Even though his letters detailing his chilling thoughts had been delivered to the state authorities, no action had been taken. Following his rampage, he murdered his mother and committed suicide after returning home. This was preceded by the assassination of Walter Lübcke, a politician from Hesse, in June 2019, who was targeted by Stephen Ernst, a neo-Nazi, due to his pro-refugee stance.

On the other hand, the Ukrainian war appears to have given the German neo-Nazis a fresh impetus to advocate for their ideological aspirations –  

“When Putin marches through, men will again be men, electricity and fuel will become cheaper, Islamization will end, and the greens and lefties will all be locked up.”

This message appeared on Free Thuringians, an alt-right extremist groups’ Telegram channel.

  • Canada

The threat analysis report released by the federal administration’s Integrated Terrorism Assessment Centre in 2021 warned that authorities’ ability to detect potential attacks committed by such religiously or ideologically motivated groupings or persons has become challenging. For example, there are hundreds of alt-right outfits across the country. Unsurprisingly, law enforcement and security personnel find it difficult to narrow down and clamp down on at-risk individuals and groups.

Furthermore, as Jessica Davis, a former Senior Intelligence Analyst with the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, has aptly pointed out, while a considerable segment of radicalised people is active on social media platforms only a minority of them genuinely translate their views into threatening actions, the “challenge is really figuring out who in that big bucket is actually going to do something.” The pandemic has also witnessed a surge in neo-Nazi activities, predominantly hate crimes, as targeted violence against the Black community in Canada has catapulted by more than 96 percent, with analogies being drawn with the Buffalo shooting in the United States of America.

Conclusion

Terrorist threats have magnified over the past few years, gradually subsuming efforts to prioritise socio-economic development, particularly in fragile states. Namely, Mali is still struggling to address the local grievances and is unable to develop and implement a multi-pronged counter-terrorism strategy that works. This has forced the government’s hand and compelled it to potentially strike a peace deal with the terrorists. In addition, the efforts to do so have intensified amid the inevitable French withdrawal from the Malian territory and the desire to secure peace and stability. However, one could also assert that, like Mali, Afghanistan also served as the theatre of negotiations to end the “forever wars.”

Unstable countries in the Sahel region, including Mali, have eclipsed West Asia and North Africa region, and Afghanistan, in the at-risk category. On the other hand, according to the Global Terrorism Index Report 2022, Afghanistan has retained its place as the worst impacted by this menace third year in a row. 

Concurrently, one must remember that Afghanistan’s position has been cemented primarily because of its humanitarian and security quagmire. It is confronted with numerous challenges –  the absence of adequate funds to run the country and provide essential services and security, in addition to brain drain and the threat of a booming narco-terror economy looming ahead. The trajectory it will take is debatable despite numerous dialogues and conferences focused on its emanating issues being organised worldwide.  

Additionally, Pakistan also sought to adopt a similar playbook to halt, even partially, the radicalised elements,’ including those belonging to the Taliban’s Pakistan branch’s advance. The army and intelligence agencies have faced this mounting dilemma despite their long-standing relationship with the Afghan Taliban. Their radicalisation occurred in the Pakistani madrassas over two decades ago. It retained the support of subsequent governments during their insurgency against Hamid Karzai and Ashraf Ghani’s administrations and the international coalition forces. As explained Sami Yousufzai, an Afghan journalist –

“Pakistan is angry that the Taliban are copying its playbook by hosting a militant group hostile to a neighbouring country.”

Invariably, such sentiments will remain unchanged because the subsequent Afghan governments are unlikely to compromise on their jihadist principles to such an extent. They are already under severe strain due to reported Uyghur defections to the ISKP and criticism for parlaying with the West. Betraying their TTP brethren would unravel the fundamental argument for waging the bloody insurgency to replace the American-backed administrations and replace them with an Islamic system based on Sharia. A group whose inability to secure the country from ISKP attacks or to overcome the humanitarian catastrophe amid the pandemic would not survive such an overreaching compromise of their Islamic beliefs. Like the Afghan Taliban, the TTP also seeks to violently overthrow the existing state infrastructure and replace it with a Sharia-backed Islamic government.

Alt-right terrorism and conspiracy theories have increasingly gained ground among the new breed of terrorists in the western world. The Great Replacement Theory is at the core of emerging security challenges. However, developed countries have also continued to experience its fallout, rapidly shifting its course from Islamist threats to alt-right domestic violent extremism or politically motivated violence. For example, first-world countries such as the United States of America have realised that individuals who are generally the amalgamation of white supremacists and conspiracy theorists pose some of the most significant domestic threats to the nation-state.

Despite emerging as the European powerhouse over the last few years, Germany has been compelled to navigate challenges of politically-motivated terrorism, frequently attributed to the alt-right ideology. As per official accounts, it is believed to have recorded at least 19 such attacks, surpassing those anywhere in the western world. A substantive degree of radicalisation occurs on chat forums and video games, particularly among middle-class persons. Over time, this can take the form of politically-motivated terrorism, and the situation appears to have worsened amid the pandemic. The United Kingdom is a case in point.

The Canadian authorities, who have remained relatively immune, vis-à-vis their western counterparts to such acts of terror, have recently begun to confront security challenges posed by lone-wolf actors and small-scale organisations.

On the other hand, while the Covid restrictions have constrained people’s ability to participate in physical meetings and engage in activities intended to cause tangible harm, hours spent traversing through online forums have spurred alt-right radicalisation and continued to inspire lone-wolf attacks. The targets of attacks are often those who are considered a threat to white supremacy, either due to their racial or religious attributes, and “race traitors.”

Nevertheless, catapulting alt-right tendencies in the West cannot dilute the threat posed by Islamist jihadists. For example, the challenges associated with Prevent, a core component of the British government’s counter-terrorism strategy, have recently been subjected to greater scrutiny due to its loopholes.

These overlapping conflicts are detrimental to domestic and regional security dynamics.

As has been indicated above, governments have resorted to backtracking from their ideal positions or refraining from engagement with terrorists to save face, redirect resources towards socio-economic crises engulfing their populace, or reduce fatalities of the civilians, or state personnel, including the police, and armed forces.

Saman Ayesha Kidwai is a Research Analyst in the Counter-Terrorism Centre at the Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, New Delhi. Her views are personal and do not reflect those of the institute.

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With Al Qaeda down but not out, killing Zawahiri is symbolic

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President Joe Biden was not wrong when he declared that “justice has been served” with the killing of Al Qaeda leader Ayman Zawahiri in a US drone strike.

The problem is that’s only half of the truth; the other half is that Mr. Zawahiri was more a has-been than a power to be reckoned with on the jihadist totem pole. In death, he may have scored his most significant achievement since becoming head of Al Qaeda as the symbol of the failure of decades of war in Afghanistan.

Mr. Zawahiri’s presence in Kabul in a house owned by Sirajuddin Haqqani, Afghanistan’s de  facto deputy head of state, will be touted as evidence that Afghanistan has reverted to being a base for terrorist groups. Mr. Haqqani’s son and son-in-law are believed to have also died in the drone strike.

In addition, the killing will likely become a partisan issue in domestic US politics, with Republicans pointing to Mr. Biden’s bungled withdrawal a year ago of US troops from Afghanistan.

In anticipation of the criticism, Mr. Biden said the killing demonstrated the United States’ post-withdrawal ability to protect Americans without “thousands of boots on the ground.”

Even so, the withdrawal resulted from a war that the United States and its allies could not win and a fundamentally flawed US-Taliban agreement negotiated by the administration of former President Donald J. Trump that helped the Taliban regain power.

Since succeeding Osama bin Laden after the United States killed him in 2011, Mr. Zawahiri, the man who helped shape Al Qaeda from day one, could not garner the stature of the group’s former leader. Nor was he able to impose his will on Al Qaeda franchises in Yemen, Somalia, and elsewhere in Africa.

Researcher Nelly Lahoud argues in a recently published book based on computer files confiscated in the US raid that killed Mr. Bin Laden that Al Qaeda had lost much of its operational capability in the immediate years after the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan.

The Islamic State, the foremost jihadist organization locked into a bitter fight with the Taliban, increasingly overshadowed Al Qaeda, showcasing Mr. Zawahiri’s inability to fill Mr. Bin Laden’s shoes.

In fact, the Islamic State today poses a greater threat to the United States than Al Qaeda. Equally importantly, the Islamic State also constitutes a more significant threat to Central Asian states like Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, as well as Russia and China.

If Mr. Zawahiri’s presence in Kabul raises questions about the Taliban’s willingness and determination to prevent militant groups from operating from its territory, repeated Islamic State attacks on domestic Afghan targets, and the firing of rockets into Tajikistan and Uzbekistan call into question the group’s ability to do so.

To be sure, granting Al Qaeda leaders shelter does not by definition amount to Taliban acquiescence of the group launching attacks from Afghan soil.

The questions are particularly acute given that Mr. Zawahiri was killed days after the Taliban engaged with representatives of 30 countries at a conference in the Uzbek capital of Tashkent in a bid to unfreeze some US$7 billion in Afghan foreign currency reserves.

Days later, Tashkent hosted foreign ministers of the Shanghai Cooperation Council (SCO), who had Afghanistan high on their agenda. The SCO groups India, Russia, China, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan.

The Taliban regime has yet to be officially recognized by any country. Countries across geopolitical divides have insisted that the Taliban first demonstrate their willingness and ability to control all of Afghanistan and curtail militant groups.

The international community also required the Taliban to form an inclusive government and ensure women’s rights. The Taliban have yet to deliver on any of its promises.

Reporting to the United Nations Security Council in January, UN Special Representative for Afghanistan Deborah Lyons noted that “the existence of numerous terrorist groups in Afghanistan remains a broad international and especially regional concern. The desire of the de facto authorities to take on this threat across the board remains to be convincingly demonstrated.”

Ms. Lyons’ remarks have seemingly gone unheeded in Kabul. In response to the Islamic State attacks on Tajikistan, home to Russia’s largest foreign military base, the Taliban are building a watchtower on the two countries’ border with the help of a Tajik group bent on changing the regime in Dushanbe.

Adding insult to injury, graffiti near the tower celebrates Muhammad Sharipov, aka M. Arsalon or Mahdi Arsalon, a Tajik national wanted by authorities for the past eight years on terrorism charges.

During talks last month, Tajik President Emomali Rahmon cautioned his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, against a possible recognition by Moscow of the Taliban regime. Mr. Putin insisted that he would consider Tajik concerns about ethnic minority rights in Afghanistan.

While ethnic minority rights may be a Tajik concern, the opposite may be true for China. China fears that the militant Turkestan Islamic Party (TIP), also known as the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), hardened by the war in Syria, may want to use Afghanistan as a launching pad for attacks in retaliation for China’s brutal crackdown on the Uyghur Turkic Muslim minority in the northwestern province of Xinjiang.

A United Nations Security Council report said last month that the  group had built strongholds in Badakhshan near the Chinese border in northeast Afghanistan, where it had “expanded its area of operations and covertly purchased weapons, with the aim of improving its capabilities for terrorist activities.”

The Taliban suggested that they had moved the estimated 1,000 Uyghur fighters away from the Chinese border to other parts of Afghanistan last October. China has long pressed the Taliban to curtail the group’s activity.

Creating distance between Uyghur militants and the Chinese border may not be good enough. The Islamic State sought to make that clear when it employed an Uyghur as a suicide bomber in an attack last October on a Shiite Muslim mosque in the Afghan city of Kunduz.

The message was: Uyghur militants have alternatives. The Taliban may not be their best bet.

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Afghanistan on the Verge of Religious Terrorism and Sectarian Warfare

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In Afghanistan, the Taliban’s position towards the Salafists has become punitive and ruthless once again. Albeit followers of numerous religious Sects live in Afghanistan, such as Ismailia, Shia, Jafri, Ahle-Hadith/Wahhabis, and Sunni-Hanafi. The position of the Taliban militants concerning the Sunni-Hanafi religion is soft and the level of danger to its followers is very low and even zero, compared to followers of other religions. Nevertheless, there are three religious sects, whose followers are utmost risk, and are under the greatest threat and danger.

These three religious groups are particularly tarnished in Afghanistan, since they are assumed to be the elements of foreign intelligence organizations and are used for a common intelligence goal.     The first category is the Shias, whose lives are currently under threat in the country, and there are always deadly attacks on their religious ceremonies. Even the Taliban militants intervene in their rites, while disrupting their religious rituals and beating them up. Meantime, attacks against the Shia religions by the Daesh group or using the name of this group have been intensified, while slaying them, are tactics of foreign intelligence especially CIA.

Steering an intelligence war tactics in the name of religion between Daesh/Salafi and Shia religions in Afghanistan, like Mosul and other parts of Iraq, which will in turn strain the relations between the new administration of the Taliban of Afghanistan and Iran, is part of the CIA’s policy. Because it will   force Iran to use the Fatimun proxy group to defend the right of the Shia religion’s followers in Afghanistan. Thus, the practice of anti-Taliban armed forces and fronts against the Taliban to indirectly control the Taliban in Afghanistan is a special part of the US foreign policy. Nonetheless, if the US wants to directly control the Taliban, then they are supposed to intervene militarily, or apply tremendous external pressure on the Taliban, to get them abide by the US policy.

However, after August 15, the United States used some methods to directly control the Taliban, but the result was deleterious. Because the relationship between America and the Taliban has strained and the United States almost lost control over, this organized and faith-based armed militia. Consequently, the United States, with the help of the Daesh group or using its name, incited the followers of the Shiite religion against the Taliban in Afghanistan.

As they want to create such anti-Taliban fronts against the Taliban in Afghanistan letting other countries support them financially, providing them with training centers and sanctuaries, and on the international level, they will be defamed, while benefiting America indirectly.  The United States will keep the Taliban amused by claiming to defend the Taliban against those groups, and in some cases, the United States will conduct airstrikes to defend the Taliban against the anti-Taliban fronts. Actually, the US tries to wage a religious and ethnic war in Afghanistan, by means of the Daesh group to multiply the heat of the civil war in Afghanistan.

Moreover, the first juncture of the civil war, is the use of the Daesh group against the Shia religions in Afghanistan, and for the defense of Shia sects, Iran will deploy its proxy-armed groups, namely Fatimiun fighters.  Keeping the ethnic war upward in Afghanistan, the main victims are supposedly Tajiks, Hazaras and other non-Pashtun tribes, but the likely victims of this war will be Pashtuns as well.

The second sect’s follower whose lives are under severe threat and danger, are Ahle-Hadith/ Wahhabis/Salafis. The Wahhabi religion has many followers in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Turkey, Egypt, Malaysia, and Indonesia. In Afghanistan, Wahhabis are called by the Taliban as Khariji and the pedigrees of ISIS. Henceforth, its followers have been either killed, missing or persecuted.

Wahhabis, whose financial supporters are said to be the Gulf countries, customarily some of their citizens are active members of Daesh.

The third sect of which followers’ lives are currently under threat in Afghanistan are the Ahle-tasawuf/ Sufis, whose followers were targeted and their worship places have been blown up recently.

Subsequently, a new phase of intelligence warfare between the US’ CIA and Iran’s VAJA, thru their proxies will begin, and Afghanistan will turn into a hotbed of state sponsored Jihadi terrorism, which will in turn extensively divide Afghanistan into numerous fronts. Moreover, the contemporary values such as democracy, peace, political stability, republicanism and social-market economy will remain vague and unachievable.

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Analyzing link between Middle Eastern politics and the rise of ISIS

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The vacuum in the politics of Middle East has always provided an opportunity for external actors to intervene. After the decomposition of Ottoman Empire, puppet governments were placed to rule the Middle East, in best interest of imperial powers. It was an indirect imperialism. The puppet politicians always depended on external forces to consolidate their authority rather than people. They kept the local population and their security at stake to serve the imperial powers, in order to maintain their rule. People were considered as a subject to secure interests of state and the ruling elite. External powers were given easy access to the resources specifically oil reserves. One of the major goals of Western interference in Middle East was to merge it in the global economy. Therefore, people felt endangered, and insecure. Further, it gave rise to two main social groups, one was ruling elite and the other was subordinate. Different forms of nationalism developed in both the social groups. The ruling class developed in it liberal nationalism, wanted independence from Western influence but keep healthy relations as well. And the other class which was marginalized with the introduction of capitalist economic system, resisted centralization of state power and economic integration. External forces backed the oppressive regimes to suppress the resistance movements.

Street politics and Arab nationalism shaped the new paradigm of Middle Eastern politics. Many Arab revolutionary leaders appeared on the horizon like Nasser of Egypt who confronted Western-backed regimes. Street politics and military coups overthrew the existing political system. Many new socio-economic policies were introduced granting the control of resources to local population. Programs were designed to pursue the goals, but they lacked sustainability. It appeared that those programs could not function without excessive amounts of foreign aid. The economies of Middle Eastern states were again opened for foreign investments and integration. Its consequences proved to be devastating. Take, for example, Egypt government cut back subsidies on bread and other goods. Famous “bread riots” started there. People protested against the governments and their policies. The resistance was again tried to suppress using authoritarian tools. The consistent rioting, suppression, deprivation, insecurities and chaos led to the breakdown of social institutions. They were unable to function and fulfil their duties. During all the mayhem, Iraq was invaded by US and Saddam regime was toppled down. Nouri-al-Maliki was made the Prime Minister of Iraq. The government consisted of majority Shias. Maliki started targeting and marginalizing Sunni population of Iraq. Unwarranted detentions, murders, abductions, torture, and etc. On the other side, Syria was also going through a civil war due to the oppressive regime of Bashar-al-Asad. Hence, this ignited the fire of sectarianism in Middle East which was further pumped up by the sectarian clashes of Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Stepping in of Islamist organizations:

People were deprived of their due share of rights. After US invasion, state and society of Iraq was completely damaged. Syria was in a civil war. Many Islamist organizations appeared in the scenario. They started to provide basic necessities to people through charity. They presented an alternative social vision. But it was unclear what purpose the mosque-based charity projects actually had. One of the similar kind of organization was initiated by Abu Musab Al- Zarqawi. Slowly and steadily the organization instrumentalized the deprivation and sectarian elements in people. It was named as Al- Qaeda in Iraq. It was a Sunni organization, therefore, prejudiced against Shia sect. They considered them as “infidels” and “friends of Westerners”. After gaining popular support the organization expressed its motive of eliminating the “near and far enemies” of Islam, which were all sects of Islam except Sunni, Westerners, and Muslims who support West. The organization targeted Shia population in Iraq, claiming it as a retaliation of government’s actions. Religious sites, processions, meetings of Shias were suicide bombed. The government or military convoys were also attacked. People started joining the organization to fight the oppression of US and puppet regime of Maliki. Zarqawi was killed in a US-led airstrike in 2006. The organization almost shattered. But then it reappeared in 2011, under the leadership of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. It was then named as “Islamic state”. The goal was to establish “Islamic Caliphate”, a state where West cannot influence Muslims and they can live their lives according to their religion, freely. Muslims will neither be humiliated nor attacked. Their identity and recognition will be secured. This was also a Sunni organization. Many Iraqis started joining the organization for the “state”, considering the social, political and economic circumstances of Iraq at that time. IS began to expand across the borders, in Syria. It wanted to exploit the situation in Syria as well to gain maximum control and power. The organization was renamed as “Islamic State in Iraq and Syria”. As Sunnis in Syria were also oppressed under the Alawite regime, a huge number of people recruited themselves in ISIS. It began its activities in Syria by suicide bombing, targeting government offices, military convoys and Shia population. With its attacks, ISIS captured territories which had minimum control by the state. Baghdadi declared the establishment of Islamic State with himself as the Caliph in 2014. The state comprised of captured territories in Iraq and Syria with Raqqa as its nominal capital. This was an encouraging factor for many people resisting against repression. Large numbers were recruited in ISIS. Even marginalized non-Muslims in Western countries converted to Islam in order to join ISIS. They fled to Iraq and Syria. ISIS was a by-product of destroyed institutions and damaged social fabric. When the outlets of political expression are blocked by the tyrant structures, people adopt terrorism as their expression.

Consolidation and spread of the narrative:

With the boom of social media, ISIS used the opportunity to spread its narrative all across the world. Fighters made their official accounts on Twitter and many other sites to reach the common man. They started posting about their day to day lives and convince people to join the “Greater Cause” which will lead them to “Jannah”. They also posted videos of torture and beheadings of abducted foreigners, military personnel and journalists. They called it as revenge of humiliation and oppression against Muslims. Such accounts were identified and then suspended time to time. But they popped up one after another. The initiation of new account affected the traffic and followers but it was not completely rooted out. With the initiation of global “War on Terror”, authorities of social media sites were contacted and asked to suspend all such accounts accordingly. The violent content on different visual platforms was also removed. It did not wholly wiped ISIS out, but to some extent the reach was limited. Though accounts were being suspended, but the impact they had created could not be easily neutralized. ISIS extended its roots in many countries. It has been comprehensively explained by Jessica Stern and J. M. Berger in their book ISIS: The State of Terror about how ISIS expanded its influence through social media and attracted a large following across the world due to its violent videos and catchy slogans. The videos were made with high-quality equipment and fine graphics, in more than two dozen languages. All the efforts were done to gain popular support. But they were not able to achieve their desired goal because of their violence and genocidal vision. A huge mass of world population did not endorse the “ideology”.

As per the analysts, rise of ISIS is the result of dismantled institutions and damaged social fabric. The state institutions and government failed to serve the population, it created a vacuum for non-state actors to step in. They established parallel institutions and structure to provide sense of security which the state could not. This brought them popular support, after which they started pursing their interests. Although, the organization inflicted much harm on the world but its current state depicts that such ideologies can only survive in weak environment like that in Iraq and Syria.

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