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Debunking the myth of Islamic State’s presence in Af-Pak:

Published: September 28, 2017
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Recently, the Islamic State’s purported “terror franchises” in Afghanistan and Pakistan have claimed a spate of bombings against the Shi’a and Barelvi Muslims who are regarded as heretics by Takfiris. But to contend that the Islamic State is responsible for suicide blasts in Pakistan and Afghanistan is to declare that the Taliban are responsible for the sectarian war in Syria and Iraq.

Both are localized militant outfits and the Islamic State without its Baathist command structure and superior weaponry is just another ragtag, regional militant outfit. The distinction between the Taliban and the Islamic State lies in the fact that the Taliban follow Deobandi sect of Sunni Islam which is a sect native to South Asia and the jihadists of the Islamic State mostly belong to Wahhabi denomination.

Secondly, and more importantly, the insurgency in the border regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan is a Pashtun uprising which is an ethnic group native to Afghanistan and northwestern Pakistan, while the bulk of the Islamic State’s jihadists is comprised of Arab militants of Syria and Iraq.

The so-called “Khorasan Province” of the Islamic State in the Af-Pak region is nothing more than an alliance of several breakaway factions of the Taliban and a few other inconsequential local militant outfits that have adopted the name “Islamic State” to enhance their prestige, but that don’t have any organizational and operations association, whatsoever, with the Islamic State proper in Syria and Iraq.

Conflating the Islamic State either with Al-Qaeda, with the Taliban or with myriads of ragtag, local militant groups is a deliberate deception intended to mislead public opinion in order to exaggerate the threat posed by the Islamic State which serves the scaremongering agenda of security establishments.

Regardless, the only difference between the Afghan jihad back in the ‘80s that spawned Islamic jihadists such as the Taliban and Al-Qaeda for the first time in history and the Libyan and Syrian civil wars, 2011-onward, is that the Afghan jihad was an overt jihad: back then, the Western political establishments and their mouthpiece, the mainstream media, used to openly brag that the CIA provides all those AK-47s, rocket-propelled grenades and stingers to Pakistan’s intelligence agencies, which then distributes those deadly weapons amongst the Afghan so-called “freedom fighters” to combat the Soviet troops in Afghanistan.

After the 9/11 tragedy, however, the Western political establishments and corporate media have become a lot more circumspect, therefore this time around they have waged covert jihads against the Arab-nationalist Gaddafi regime in Libya and the anti-Zionist Assad regime in Syria, in which Islamic jihadists (aka terrorists) have been sold as “moderate rebels” with secular and nationalist ambitions to the Western audience.

Since the regime change objective in those hapless countries went against the mainstream narrative of ostensibly fighting a war against terrorism, therefore the Western political establishments and the mainstream media are now trying to muddle the reality by offering color-coded schemes to identify myriads of militant and terrorist outfits operating in Syria: such as the red militants of the Islamic State and Al-Nusra Front which the Western powers want to eliminate; the yellow Islamic jihadists, like Jaysh al-Islam and Ahrar al-Sham, with whom the Western powers can collaborate under desperate circumstances; and the green militants of the Free Syria Army (FSA) and a few other inconsequential outfits which together comprise the so-called “moderate” Syrian opposition.

If we were to draw parallels between the Soviet-Afghan jihad during the ‘80s and the Syrian civil war of today, the Western powers used the training camps located in the Af-Pak border regions to train and arm Afghan “Mujahideen” against the Soviet troops in Afghanistan.

Similarly, the training camps located in the border regions of Turkey and Jordan are being used to provide training and weapons to Sunni Arab militants to battle the Shi’a-dominated Syrian regime with the collaboration of Turkish, Jordanian and Saudi intelligence agencies.

During the Afghan jihad, it is a known historical fact that the bulk of the so-called “freedom fighters” was comprised of Pashtun Islamic jihadists, such as the factions of Jalaluddin Haqqani, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, Abdul Rab Rasul Sayyaf and scores of other militant outfits, some of which later coalesced together to form the Taliban movement.

Similarly, in Syria, the majority of the so-called “moderate rebels” is comprised of Sunni Arab jihadists, such as Jaysh al-Islam, Ahrar al-Sham, al-Nusra Front, the Islamic State and myriads of other militant groups, including a small portion of defected Syrian soldiers who go by the name of Free Syria Army (FSA).

Moreover, apart from Pashtun Islamic jihadists, various factions of the Northern Alliance of Tajiks and Uzbeks constituted the relatively “moderate” segment of the Afghan rebellion, though those “moderate” warlords, like Ahmad Shah Massoud and Abul Rashid Dostum, were more ethnic and tribal in character than secular or nationalist, as such.

Similarly, the Kurds of the so-called “Syrian Democratic Forces” can be compared to the Northern Alliance of Afghanistan. The socialist PYD/YPG Kurds of Syria, however, were allied with the Baathist regime against the Sunni Arab jihadists for the first three years of the Syrian civil war, i.e. from August 2011 to August 2014.

At the behest of American stooge in Iraqi Kurdistan, Massoud Barzani, the Syrian Kurds have switched sides in the last three years after the United States policy reversal and declaration of war against one faction of the Syrian opposition, the Islamic State, when the latter overstepped its mandate in Syria and overran Mosul and Anbar in Iraq in June 2014, from where the US troops had withdrawn only a couple of years ago in December 2011.

Regarding the creation and composition of the Islamic State, apart from training and arms which have been provided to Syrian militants in the training camps located in the Turkish and Jordanian border regions adjacent to Syria by the CIA in collaboration with Turkish, Jordanian and Saudi intelligence agencies, another factor that has contributed to the stellar success of the Islamic State is that its top cadres are comprised of former Baathist military and intelligence officers from the Saddam era.

According to reports, hundreds of ex-Baathists constitute the top and mid-tier command structure of the Islamic State who plan all the operations and direct its military strategy. The only feature that differentiates Islamic State from all other insurgent groups is its command structure which is comprised of professional ex-Baathists and its state-of-the-art weaponry that has been provided to all the Sunni Arab militant outfits fighting in Syria by the intelligence agencies of the Western powers, Turkey, Jordan and the Gulf states.

Moreover, it is an indisputable fact that morale and ideology plays an important role in battle, and well-informed readers must also be aware that the Takfiri brand of most jihadists these days has directly been inspired by the puritanical Wahhabi-Salafi ideology of Saudi Arabia, but ideology alone is not sufficient to succeed in battle.

Looking at the Islamic State’s astounding gains in Syria and Iraq in 2014, a question arises that where does its recruits get all the training and state-of-the-art weapons that are imperative not only for hit-and-run guerrilla warfare but also for capturing and holding large swathes of territory?

According to a revelatory December 2013 news report [1] from “The National” newspaper affiliated with the UAE government which supports the Syrian opposition: it is clearly mentioned that along with AK-47s, rocket-propelled grenades and other military gear, the Saudi regime also provides machine gun-mounted Toyota pick-up trucks to every batch of five jihadists who have completed their training in the training camps located at the border regions of Jordan.

Once those militants cross over to Daraa and Quneitra in southern Syria from the Jordan-Syria border, then those Toyota pick-up trucks can easily travel all the way to Raqqa and Deir al-Zor and thence to Mosul and Anbar in Iraq.

Moreover, it is clearly spelled out in the report that Syrian militants get arms and training through a secret command center based in the intelligence headquarters’ building in Amman, Jordan, that has been staffed by high-ranking military officials from 14 countries, including the US, European nations, Israel and the Gulf Arab States to wage a covert war against the government in Syria.

Finally, unlike al Qaeda, which is a transnational terrorist organization that generally employs anticolonial and anti-West rhetoric to draw funds and followers, the Islamic State and the majority of Sunni Arab militant groups fighting in Syria are basically anti-Shi’a sectarian outfits. By the designation “terrorism” it is generally implied and understood that an organization which has the intentions and capability of carrying out acts of terrorism on the Western soil.

Although the Islamic State has carried out a few acts of terrorism against the Western countries, such as the high profile Paris, Brussels and Manchester attacks, but if we look at the pattern of its subversive activities, especially in the Middle East, it generally targets the Shi’a Muslims in Syria and Iraq. A few acts of terrorism that it has carried out in the Gulf Arab states were also directed against the Shi’a Muslims in the Eastern province of Saudi Arabia and Shi’a mosques in Yemen and Kuwait.

Sources and links:

[1] Syrian rebels get arms and advice through secret command center in Amman:

http://www.thenational.ae/world/middle-east/syrian-rebels-get-arms-and-advice-through-secret-command-centre-in-amman

About the author:

Nauman Sadiq is an Islamabad-based attorney, columnist and geopolitical analyst focused on the politics of Af-Pak and Middle East regions, neocolonialism and petro-imperialism.

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