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Craig Whiteside

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Book Review Roundtable: A Look Into the Islamic State-Khorasan

Book Review Roundtable: A Look Into the Islamic State-Khorasan

In this roundtable, we asked reviewers to discuss Antonio Giustozzi's new book, "The Islamic State in Khorasan," the Islamic State's offshoot in Central Asia.

Policy Roundtable: 17 Years After September 11

Policy Roundtable: 17 Years After September 11

To understand what has gone both right and wrong since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, we have convened a roundtable of some of this country’s foremost experts on terrorism, insurgency, and strategy.

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1. Introduction: Inside IS-K

By Theo Farrell   The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) burst onto the world scene in 2014, advancing rapidly across Iraq and Syria, declaring its “caliphate,” seizing the city of Mosul and routing the Iraqi Army in its path. What followed was a tidal wave of horror, as ISIL “flooded the Internet with images of hundreds of unnamed Iraqis and Kurds being executed by gun and knife and crucifixion, their heads mounted and displayed on pikes.”[1] In that “haunting summer and fall of 2014,” many in the West wanted to know, “where did ISIS come from, and how did it manage to do so much damage in so short a period of time?”[2] As all eyes were on Iraq and Syria attention was drawn away from Afghanistan, where Western combat forces were drawing down, with the International Security Assistance Force mission due to end in December 2014. Yet, as the withdrawal from Afghanistan proceeded, ISIL — or the Islamic State, as it increasingly became known — already had begun to spread there. As Craig Whiteside notes in his review in this roundtable, “When the Islamic State became highly visible in 2014, experts claimed that its rigid ideology and violent behavior would not travel well. … This book makes a convincing argument that this conventional wisdom was wrong.” All three contributors to this roundtable agree that far too little is known about the Islamic State in Khorasan (IS-K), as the group’s affiliate in Central and South Asia is known. Paul Lushenko states plainly that “we need to know more about the group.” Weeda Mehran notes, in particular, that “much is unknown about how the group’s presence [in Afghanistan] will affect the conflict.” Whiteside observes that even the central ISIL organization “can still be a mystery to those of us who study it.” Antonio Giustozzi, in his recent book The Islamic State in Khorasan, shows how the “IS [Islamic State] model” was “transplanted” to Khorasan, a province in ISIL’s declared global “caliphate” covering a vast area in Asia, encompassing Afghanistan, Pakistan, all of Central Asia, Iran, and parts of Russia and India. For Whiteside, Giustozzi’s book provides “an insider’s account of the expansion of the Islamic State.” The analysis in this book draws on 121 original interviews conducted between 2014 and early 2017, including 62 interviews with members of IS-K. Giustozzi used a team of Afghan researchers, most with journalist backgrounds, to conduct the field research. He warns readers that precise figures given by interviewees, especially regarding finances, “should be taken with a pinch of salt.” At the same time, Giustozzi notes that many of the interviewees were “remarkably frank.”[3] However, two of our reviewers raise some concerns about the data. Whiteside writes, “Amazingly, and worryingly at the same time, half of these sources are alleged IS-K members. This introduces a concern that some of what is reported in the book could be misinformation.” Mehran further observes that “although it is understandable that not all information gathered in this book could be triangulated, some significant information is only from one source.” Such concerns are certainly understandable. In the interest of full disclosure, I collaborated with Giustozzi on a previous project — a study of the Taliban campaign in Helmand Province from 2004 to 2011. While I will refrain from providing a personal view of Giustozzi’s book and will instead stick to introducing the reviews collected in this roundtable, this prior collaboration does give me insight into the issue of data collection. Giustozzi and I employed a similar research design — a semi-structured interview instrument implemented in the field by Afghan researchers — and faced the same challenges, namely, that the research protocols we used to protect interviewee identities prevented replication of research results. Our project relied on the same Afghan field researchers that Giustozzi had used on a large number of studies over many years, to conduct 49 interviews with Taliban members and 58 interviews with local Afghan elders from 2011 to 2012.[4] To check the data, we sent anonymized interview transcript samples to two experts with field research experience in Helmand to get their opinion on the data’s likely authenticity, which they confirmed. Our written-up research findings were sent to the former International Security Assistance Force chief of intelligence, who, in turn, sent it to two Helmand intelligence analysts for feedback. They confirmed that our research findings conformed to the intelligence picture over the period of study. The published version of our paper was assigned as compulsory reading for all British officers deploying to Afghanistan.[5] For our Helmand project, we made sure to use multiple data points — i.e., different interview transcripts provided by different Afghan field researchers — to validate any significant research finding. Giustozzi conducted multiple interviews for this book as well. In some cases, however, single sources were used for key data points. Data points related to extremely sensitive material — e.g., covering matters such as Saudi financial support for IS-K — also appear to have been difficult to validate in some instances. In these cases, readers will need to exercise some judgment as to possible bias on the part of some interview subjects. Each reviewer in this roundtable focuses on different aspects of Giustozzi’s book. Whiteside concentrates on the organizational aspects of IS-K, in particular what its origin can tell us about ISIL and how Giustozzi upends the conventional wisdom that IS-K is mostly made up of Pakistani militants from Tehrik-e Taliban. He writes that Giustozzi “reveals that the founding of IS-K was an ISIL project from the beginning, not an example of a local group ‘bandwagoning’ with a larger, more prestigious global brand.” In her review, Mehran focuses on the financing and regional context of IS-K. She observes how “regional dynamics, and particularly the issue of Shiite-Sunni tensions — spearheaded by regional rivals Iran and Saudi Arabia — were central to IS-K’s rise.” Lushenko, on the other hand, concentrates on the military aspect of IS-K’s campaign and on America’s strategy to defeat it. The Origins of IS-K In April 2014, the Islamic State appointed a special representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan, and began efforts to recruit groups and fighters. Giustozzi describes how dispersed groups in Afghanistan began to form up into larger networks and align with the Islamic State. On Jan. 26, 2015, IS-K was formally announced. Giustozzi observes how “[a]lmost nobody initially believed IS could find any roots in the region, and the near consensus was that IS-K would be limited to recruiting a few opportunists and making some noise for a while.”[6] U.S. officials described what was happening as “superficial rebranding” by some groups in Afghanistan. Likewise, Afghan authorities initially dismissed it as “nothing more than a cunning public relations scheme.”[7] However, a year later IS-K was operating in one-third of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces, and Iranian and Pakistani intelligence sources privately estimated IS-K numbers to be between 5,000 and 8,000 in Afghanistan, and 3,000 and 2,000 in Pakistan. By 2017, IS-K had many hundreds of members in each of Pakistan’s main cities: Islamabad, Quetta, Peshawar, and Lahore.[8] In his review, Whiteside notes how “Giustozzi’s research suggests that core ISIL has worked very hard to propagate its organizational model to its franchises in exact detail, with little room for deviation.” Over a number of chapters, Giustozzi describes how ISIL built up IS-K, over time sending funds, directions on what to do, advisers to train IS-K fighters, and inspectors to check that things were being done properly. The early years were a bit haphazard for IS-K. Giustozzi writes that “2014-16 shows a messy picture of blunders and mistakes, arguments and internecine conflict, personal rivalries and lengthy negotiations with potential future stakeholders.”[9] This can be seen in the manner of IS-K’s expansion in Nangarhar. Far from being part of some grand strategic plan, IS-K developed a large foothold in Nangarhar because of affinity with local villagers. However, after a honeymoon period, IS-K began to control the population and impose strict religious codes in Nangarhar, as elsewhere, through the use of terror tactics. This included blowing up a group of Nangarhar elders using explosives in June 2015.[10] Such brutality triggered a popular opposition to IS-K in Nangarhar and this, combined with U.S. bombing of IS-K camps, caused Islamic State fighters to flee to the mountains of neighboring Kunar province. Cohesion presented a challenge for IS-K in its early years. Giustozzi notes how over 2014 and most of 2015, the number of Islamic State trainers in Khorasan was low (less than 50), the madrassa network was underdeveloped, and many IS-K recruits were not indoctrinated into the Islamic State brand of Salafism.[11] Nonetheless, IS-K put significant effort into developing and enforcing discipline in its units. Giustozzi cites two interviewees — one Pakistan intelligence official and one senior Taliban cadre — as attesting to the superior organization and discipline of IS-K.[12] Hence, for example, in response to local pushback in Nangarhar and elsewhere, ISIL worked through its trainers to encourage IS-K units to adopt a softer approach so as to avoid widespread local revolt. Giustozzi concludes that, “as of early 2017 IS-K had only had partial success in building up the structure mandated by its remote patrons in Mosul.” IS-K was unable to merge its component networks of fighters into a cohesive organization. Furthermore, it struggled to establish functioning sharia courts, which are central to the Islamic State’s mode of governance. Giustozzi suggests that the high rate of attrition among IS-K commanders would have been a hindrance to such a development. However, ISIL was able to improve coordination between its networks, impose a unified social media narrative on IS-K’s campaign, and enforce common rules on how IS-K operated and governed.[13] Money and Regional Politics In her review, Mehran explores how the rise of IS-K is intimately related to regional dynamics and rivalries. She observes that “IS-K is fragmented, decentralized, and has diverse sources of funding, which makes the group well positioned to be used as a pawn by various regional actors.” As Mehran rightly notes, it’s extremely difficult to get a wholly accurate picture of IS-K finances. All the same, she indicates that Giustozzi provides credible evidence of extensive financial assistance from Saudi Arabia and Qatar, as well as private Gulf donors. To support this impressive fundraising effort, IS-K’s Financial Commission maintains offices in Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia. From 2015, IS-K also began to impose taxes in areas it controlled, including a standard 10-percent tax on legitimate economic activity and a 15- to 20-percent tax on drug smugglers. Citing interviews with 11 local elders and five IS-K members, Giustozzi writes, “Sources converged in saying that IS-K was not taxing the poorest of farmers but focusing on shops and the wealthy.” He speculates that one reason for this may be that the areas where IS-K operates are “sparsely populated and poor.” In contrast, shops in rural towns would have presented relatively easy targets for rich pickings.[14] From multiple sources, Giustozzi estimates total IS-K revenue to have been $300 million in 2015, which he notes was “over ten times per capita the Taliban’s.”[15] According to one IS-K source, only $35 million of this was raised through taxation.[16] Raising revenue through taxation would have exposed IS-K units to confrontation with other armed groups, including the Taliban, who were also extracting resources from local communities. This competition between armed groups in Afghanistan over internal resource extraction has increased IS-K dependency on external sources of revenue. As Mehran notes and Giustozzi demonstrates, the regional politics of support and opposition to IS-K are complex. For instance, Qatar is backing IS-K, yet IS-K threatens the Afghan peace process that Qatar is sponsoring. Mehran further observes that “Qatar is playing a double game on the Iranian front as well.” Qatar is viewed by the Gulf states as being pro-Iranian and yet it funds the Islamic State (and IS-K), which is waging jihad on Shiites. For this reason, and because it is supported by Saudi Arabia, Iran seeks to defeat the Islamic State. ISIL set out to dominate in Afghanistan and progressively extend its reach into Pakistan, India, and Central Asia. As Giustozzi notes, “the proclamation of the Islamic State and then of the Caliphate should be read not as an obsession with territorial control per se, but as a strategy for establishing the hegemony of the organization over the wider jihadist movement.”[17] At first, IS-K tried to reach an accommodation with the Quetta Shura (the leadership council) of the Taliban. But this was only ever intended to buy time for IS-K to get established. The intent was always to displace the Taliban. Giustozzi notes how the Quetta Shura came under pressure from Saudi Arabia and Qatar to avoid fighting IS-K. In early 2016, the Taliban’s then-emir, Mullah Mansour, was killed in a U.S. drone strike. His successor, Haibatullah Akhundzada, had closer ties to Iran and therefore more encouragement to confront IS-K. In a remarkable twist of fate, Giustozzi reports how Russia, fearful of the spread of IS-K to the Central Asian republics, began to engage with the Taliban diplomatically in late 2015, “even offering them funds and weapons to fight IS-K.”[18] Taliban cohesion and discipline has broken down in recent years. The doctrine of obedience to the emir that was nearly universal and absolute under Mullah Omar was eroded under Mansour, who was seen as corrupt and self-serving by some Taliban members, and by the manner in which Omar’s death had been covered up for two years while Mansour wielded power.[19] Things have gotten worse for the Taliban under Haibatullah. In comparison to Mansour, who at least was a prominent Taliban figure and skilled political operator, Haibatullah is a relative nobody. Prior to his appointment as emir, he was the Taliban’s chief justice. He is widely viewed within the Taliban as a figurehead with little actual authority or influence. This has impacted his ability to mobilize Taliban fronts for a comprehensive campaign against IS-K.[20] This is especially the case in eastern Afghanistan, where the Haqqani network dominates. Serajuddin Haqqani formally serves as a deputy leader of the Taliban. However, the Haqqanis have a long track record of supporting overseas jihad whereas the Quetta Shura has had no interest in this.[21] Not surprisingly, therefore, the Haqqanis have the deepest links with IS-K of any faction within the Taliban. Prior to 2015, the Haqqani network sent hundreds of fighters to support ISIL’s struggle in Iraq and Syria. Many of these “foreign fighters” returned home to join IS-K. Efforts by IS-K to lure away Haqqani commanders led to a break between the two organizations in late 2016. However, unlike the Taliban under the command of the Quetta Shura, the Haqqanis never fought IS-K. The Military Campaign ISIL displayed impressive fighting power in Iraq and Syria. U.S. intelligence estimated ISIL numbers to be between 20,000 and 30,000 in 2015. The group captured large stockpiles of heavy weapons from Iraqi and Syrian army bases, including tanks, artillery, and anti-aircraft missiles. Crucially, ISIL pursued a “persistently aggressive combat style and uncompromising commitment to expansion.” As two analysts noted, this “produced a significant bandwagon effect, in which many fence-sitters have chosen to join the group rather than be crushed by it.”[22] ISIL hopes to replicate the same battlefield success in Khorasan. Lushenko writes that “exploitation of unclassified documents substantiates Giustozzi’s claim that IS-K is pursuing a ‘blitzkrieg’ strategy designed to concentrate forces to achieve local superiority in areas that are weakly governed.” Giustozzi notes that IS-K “also adopted practices such as an exaggerated show of force, to intimidate its adversaries. This seems to have worked in spreading panic among its enemies, even if it should be taken into account that IS-K mostly confronted local Taliban militias rather than their better trained and equipped mobile forces.”[23] The strong morale of IS-K’s fighters, who are proud to be part of a global jihad, works in the group’s favor. Benefiting from generous financial support from Gulf patrons, IS-K is also able to offer higher pay and far better logistics (in terms of food and weapons) for its fighters than does the Taliban. On the other hand, trainers sent by the Islamic State were disappointed in the quality of IS-K fighters, complaining that they were not as educated and skilful as fighters in Syria and Iraq. The internal politics of the Taliban also have proven incredibly advantageous for IS-K because they prevented the Taliban from mobilizing its forces against the ISIL affiliate. As Lushenko writes, “IS-K has demonstrated remarkable resiliency against unprecedented counter-terrorism pressure levied by the U.S.-led coalition.” He also observes how it has successfully spread further afield, with reports of IS-K operations across Central and South Asia. Lushenko argues that “the available evidence suggests the group has attempted to exacerbate territorial and ethnic flashpoints to broaden its appeal in South and Southeast Asia,” including exploitation of the Rohingya crisis, and launching several attacks in Bangladesh and India. For Lushenko, this all underlines the urgency of a concerted strategy and effort to defeat IS-K. Here it is important to note that the fall of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, with the final village in Syria recaptured in March 2019, did not spell the end of ISIL.[24] Far from it. Five months later, the New York Times reported that “a report by United Nations analysts on the Security Council Counter-Terrorism Committee said that Islamic State leaders, despite their military defeat in Syria and Iraq, are ‘adapting, consolidating and creating conditions for an eventual resurgence’ in those countries.”[25] Rather worryingly, the New York Times also reported on differences between intelligence officials in Washington, D.C. and the U.S. military over the extent of the ongoing threat from IS-K. Officials in the State Department and intelligence agencies consider the IS-K threat to be limited to the region, whereas U.S. military leaders see real risk to the U.S. homeland. Moreover, civilian estimates of IS-K numbers are half those of U.S. Central Command.[26] Viewed in this context, Lushenko’s discussion of a three-pronged strategy to defeat ISIL is most timely. First, Lushenko recommends that the U.S. coalition “attack IS-K on multiple fronts simultaneously.” He notes that the coalition has conducted sequential operations against IS-K, which has given the insurgents time and space to regroup and adapt. Second, Lushenko recommends that the coalition “must enable Afghan forces to consolidate gains” against IS-K, particularly in the hard-to-reach mountainous areas where IS-K is ensconced. Third, he recommends that the coalition “galvanize a strategy that aligns the counter-terrorism actions of regional states against the common goal of defeating IS-K.” This includes a sensible suggestion to adapt “the Quadrilateral Coordination Group, to enable states to systematically integrate personnel, capabilities, and operations to proactively pursue IS-K across state borders.” All of the regional players — Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, China and Russia — have a pressing interest to combat IS-K. Thus, deepening regional cooperation on this is feasible, even if there are many diplomatic hurdles to achieving this goal. However, the first and second recommendations depend on the United States sustaining the military capabilities to launch precision strikes against IS-K and providing direct support to Afghan security forces from embedded U.S. special operations units. Here, news reports indicate that Lushenko’s optimism — “Trump’s withdrawal will not impact the deployment of Special Operations Forces” — is not wholly shared by U.S. military commanders.[27] Prospects? In retrospect, it is not so surprising that the Islamic State should find fertile ground in Afghanistan and Pakistan. In his superb book on the rise of suicide bombings in Afghanistan, David Edwards describes how decades of conflict against “kafir” invaders has militarized Afghan society, and how jihad has come to replace tribal ties as the primary organizing logic of social relations for many young men. Of particular importance in recent decades is the deeply disturbing practice of extreme violence as spectacle, powered by the rise of social media. The Taliban are surprisingly media savvy but the Islamic State are masters by comparison.[28] Edwards reports how ISIL executions were supervised by film crews “rather than any legal authority,” and beheadings would be rehearsed, with multiple takes over many hours, in order to film the horrific scene just right.[29] With an appetite for brutality far exceeding that of the Taliban, IS-K also has more extreme material to promote its brand of jihad with a global audience, including many alienated young people looking for purpose in their lives. Giustozzi’s disturbing conclusion is that the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria “have created a ‘military class’ of professionals of insurgency so large, that movements and organization have now emerged that aim to appeal primarily if not exclusively to that very military class, oblivious to the wider social context of the region.”[30] Unfortunately, all this suggests that a deal with the Taliban may not bring peace to Afghanistan. It would, in theory, enable U.S. forces to focus on targeting IS-K, but that would depend on such a deal allowing a U.S. counter-terrorism force to continue operating in Afghanistan. To date, Taliban negotiators have rejected such a proposal.[31] A peace deal would also free up Taliban forces to focus on eliminating IS-K, but it is not at all clear how such a deal would impact internal Taliban politics. It is possible that the withdrawal of all foreign forces would further erode the Taliban’s cohesion. Lushenko warns in particular that “if the coalition’s peace talks with the Taliban are able to broker a settlement, it is likely that defectors will join IS-K and threaten to catalyze a new brand of Salafi jihadism in Afghanistan.”[32] Echoing this view, Mehran observes that “Both sectarian tensions and regional rivalries will continue feeding insurgencies and insecurity even if a peace deal with the Taliban is reached.” As she puts it, “The picture is rather grim.”   Theo Farrell is full professor and executive dean of the Faculty of Law, Humanities, and the Arts at the University of Wollongong, Australia. He was previously head of the Department of War Studies at King’s College London. He is an editorial board member of the Texas National Security Review.  

2. IS-K: Defeating The New Central and South Asia Jihad

By Paul Lushenko   It is tempting to discount the Islamic State in the Khorasan (IS-K) because the group is small compared to the Taliban, which poses an existential threat to the regime in Kabul. In the past, IS-K has been considered a “boogeyman under the bed” rather than a serious threat.[33] Since its emergence in early 2015, however, IS-K has demonstrated remarkable resiliency against unprecedented counter-terrorism pressure levied by the U.S.-led coalition. While Afghan and U.S. officials assume a negotiated settlement with the Taliban would enable IS-K’s defeat, the group has expanded across Afghanistan at the Taliban’s expense and become increasingly lethal.[34] Amid the loss of the Islamic State’s (ISIL) physical caliphate in Iraq and Syria, IS-K arguably represents the group’s most viable and lethal regional affiliate, and has evolved to represent a significant threat to Afghanistan’s security and stability.[35] Moreover, IS-K’s regional scope reaches beyond Afghanistan. In October 2018, the U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Scott Miller, observed “[t]hey have external aspirations, they have different capabilities, and they are connected outside of Afghanistan.”[36] Michael O’Hanlon also cautions, “[w]e cannot know just how grave a threat…‘ISIS-K’ could become,” adding, “nor should we wish to find out.”[37] These assessments may be true. But, we need to know more about the group. Antonio Giustozzi’s book, The Islamic State in the Khorasan: Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the New Central Asian Jihad, provides a strong foundation. Although he focuses mainly on the group in Afghanistan, his book is a critical jumping-off point to explore both its response to the coalition’s evolving counter-terrorism strategy there and its expansion across the region. As I argue in this essay, these two developments are interrelated. On the one hand, Giustozzi adduces key interactions between the coalition and IS-K that help chronologize the conflict, make sense of iterative adjustments in the coalition’s counter-terrorism strategy, and augment our appreciation of what the coalition has learned after four years of targeting IS-K as a representative form of post-modern terrorists who are transregional, virulent, and intent on providing governance. On the other hand, whereas the coalition’s unremitting targeting constitutes at least one factor contributing to IS-K’s expansion across Central Asia that Giustozzi explores, the group’s expansion in South and Southeast Asia is not addressed.[38] Yet, it is clearly occurring. Hafiz Saeed Khan, the group’s inaugural leader, promised such an expansion.[39] Unclassified documents confiscated during combat operations against IS-K indicate that its members are using encrypted applications including Telegram and WhatsApp to recruit sympathizers and garner resources from Bangladesh, India, and Myanmar.[40] Indeed, the coalition’s efforts in Afghanistan have been intended not only to dislodge the group from key terrain, but also to degrade its ability to communicate, recruit fighters, finance operations, and produce and disseminate media throughout the region. Action-Reaction-Counteraction The exploitation of unclassified documents substantiates Giustozzi’s claim that IS-K is pursuing a “blitzkrieg” strategy designed to concentrate forces to achieve local superiority in areas that are weakly governed and poorly secured.[41] Khan, until his death in July 2016 following a drone strike, expanded IS-K’s territory by weighting the group’s combat power against Nangarhar and Kunar Provinces in eastern Afghanistan, and Jowzjan Province in northwestern Afghanistan. The network’s headquarters is in Nangarhar and consists of approximately 2,000 to 3,000 members. Indoctrination and training take place in Kunar where the group likely has an additional 1,000 to 2,000 members. Until the Taliban’s counterattack in August 2018, which I explore in greater detail below, Jowzjan served as a reception center for foreign fighters travelling from Central and South Asia, as well as Europe.[42] It consisted of approximately 1,000 members.[43] Khan and his successors have pursued an audacious strategy to enable IS-K to encircle Jalalabad City in Nangarhar as evidenced by attacks against predominately “soft” targets including checkpoints, government buildings, and election polling sites. From 2015 to early 2017, Giustozzi explains, the coalition attempted to write-off and then merely contain IS-K, even though officials acknowledged the group was “operationally emergent in Afghanistan.”[44] In May 2017, then-U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis directed the coalition to “annihilate” IS-K.[45] To the extent Giustozzi engages the coalition’s strategy, he reduces its operations to the targeted killing of IS-K leaders, as well as the employment of the largest non-nuclear bomb ever used in combat — the GBU-43 — against the group’s headquarters. A fuller look at the coalition’s adjustments over time, however, is equally, if not more, instructive of the concomitant evolution in IS-K’s operations and regional engagements than is normally appreciated. Since 2015, it is possible to identify three distinct phases of IS-K action, followed by the coalition’s reaction and then IS-K’s counteraction, which help explain the group’s current composition, disposition, and intent. Each phase is punctuated by the removal of IS-K’s supreme leader (emir), a feature Giustozzi also identifies. The framework presented here builds on Giustozzi’s investigation to account for what the coalition has learned in order to shift its counter-terrorism strategy to defeat IS-K. During the first phase, from January 2015 to January 2017, IS-K marshalled personnel and resources to establish a toehold in eastern Afghanistan. Following his pledge of allegiance to the Islamic State on Jan. 10, 2015, Khan and his founding cadre infiltrated Nangarhar and forcibly displaced Afghans not supportive of the group’s eschatology.[46] “As a newcomer in the crowded jihadist environment of Khorasan,” Giustozzi’s research indicates that IS-K’s initial objective was “finding a permanent place for itself in this environment.”[47] Initially hesitant to acknowledge IS-K, the coalition killed Khan in July 2016 following a drone strike and commenced “Operation Green Sword” to dislodge the group from Nangarhar.[48] The combination of drone strikes, raids, and clearance operations compelled IS-K to consolidate within two districts: Achin and Naziyan. According to Giustozzi’s analysis, this amounted to an 80 percent reduction of the group’s territory.[49] As a further response, many IS-K members fled into Pakistan to prevent additional losses. At best, IS-K’s retreat into Pakistan suggested that the group was able to capitalize on the porous Durand Line and a Pakistani security establishment that did not take the threat seriously enough. At worst, it is possible that the Pakistani government pursued a policy of competitive competition, seeking to combat and enable IS-K simultaneously.[50] Indeed, Giustozzi states that the preponderance of evidence suggests “Pakistani authorities oscillated between a wary tolerance of IS-K activities, with occasional effort to contain them, and ad-hoc support when it suited their interest.”[51] Whatever the case, IS-K’s shift into Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas encouraged the coalition to expand its collaboration and cooperation with Pakistan’s military to block IS-K’s future egress, although the results have been dubious. On May 15, 2019, for example, the Islamic State declared a new province (wilayat) in Pakistan to formalize its presence in the area.[52] The group exploited Afghanistan’s titular border with Pakistan to broaden its operational reach beyond Nangarhar during the second phase, which lasted approximately from January 2017 until January 2018. IS-K occupied Kunar by coopting sympathetic Afghans situated in mountainous terrain and enjoyed enhanced protection against drone strikes. Giustozzi interviewed one IS-K commander who exclaimed, “Kunar is a great place for us.” He continued, “when we came to Kunar Province, we did not have any casualties from drones.”[53] The group also integrated defectors from the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan to establish an enclave in Jowzjan led by the redoubtable Qari Hikmatullah, himself a Taliban defector.[54] The coalition, still intent on evicting IS-K’s headquarters from Nangarhar, while also attuned to Mattis’ guidance to defeat the group, sought to “pressure” (i.e., disrupt) IS-K from below while “desynchronizing” (i.e., decapitating) it from above.[55] The objective to retake territory from IS-K helps explain the coalition’s employment of the GBU-43 in April 2017. The bomb destroyed caves and tunnels that the group had protected with mines to thicken the defense of its headquarters. It also reportedly killed 100 IS-K members and destroyed $8 million of the group’s reserves.[56] Rather than these material dividends, the bomb’s more enduring effect may be psychological. According to Giustozzi, the “devastating 21,000-pound bomb attack … demonstrated that no fortification would hold if vulnerable to air attacks.”[57] Shortly following this historic event, the coalition conducted a raid in Achin resulting in the death of IS-K’s second emir, Abdul Hasib. These lethal operations sowed distrust among IS-K’s leaders and members that the coalition stoked through its information operations. The heightened suspicion that followed resulted in greater operational security across the group, which frustrated communications, delayed the disbursement of salaries and arms to fighters, and stalled offensive operations, particularly in Nangarhar. Due to its strategic focus on seizing Jalalabad City, and the Afghan government’s reticence to occupy terrain previously held by IS-K, the group relocated its capital further west to Deh Bala District.[58] The group also expanded its footprint in Kunar and Jowzjan, an impressive feat considering the Taliban’s stiff resistance in both places. Surprisingly, given the group’s recent emergence, Giustozzi argues that IS-K “demonstrated an ability to deploy far and relatively fast (for a force moving on foot), outpacing the Taliban and often allowing it to seize the initiative against a potentially much larger force.”[59] According to IS-K members and commanders interviewed by Giustozzi, “[t]he quality of ammunition and weapons was similarly reported to be greatly superior.”[60] During the third phase, which unfolded in early 2018, IS-K accelerated its attacks across Afghanistan to demonstrate resolve and fulfill the Islamic State’s goal of undermining democracies globally. Notwithstanding its aggressive approach, the group suffered several set-backs. Although the coalition buffeted IS-K in Nangarhar through lethal strikes, it broadened its operations against Jowzjan and capitalized on the Taliban’s complementary counteroffensive against IS-K. On the one hand, the coalition captured IS-K’s capital in July 2018. The coalition followed this success by delivering a drone strike that killed the group’s third emir, Saad Erhabi, in Achin. Meanwhile, the death of Qari Hikmatullah, IS-K’s leader in Jowzjan, as a result of a drone strike in April 2018 encouraged the Taliban to conduct a full-scale assault against the group there in August 2018. Although Taliban leaders issued a “fatwa” or decree to their members in 2016 to prevent IS-K’s expansion, Qari’s charisma lured Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and Taliban defectors who helped reinforce the group’s position in northwest Afghanistan.[61] Giustozzi posits that many members of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan joined IS-K’s ranks due to the questionable legitimacy of the Taliban’s leadership council (shura) in Quetta, Pakistan, a narrative stoked by Qari.[62] His death created a leadership vacuum that the Taliban exploited to roll-back the group. The Taliban killed 153 IS-K members, injured 100 more, and captured nearly 135. Over 200 remaining IS-K members surrendered to Afghan forces.[63] Set against Giustozzi’s research, the three phases elucidated above suggest that the coalition’s iterative engagements with IS-K are both a cause and effect of its increasingly aggressive counter-terrorism strategy, as well as the terrorist group’s attendant trajectory within Afghanistan. Whereas the coalition was intent on simply isolating IS-K in 2015, Mattis’ guidance in early 2017 encouraged Gen. John W. Nicholson, then commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, to adopt an approach designed to dislocate leaders and fighters from their sanctuaries through raids and clearance operations for the purpose of destroying them and disintegrating the group through lethal strikes. Even given the losses imposed by the coalition’s attrition strategy — which Miller continues to pursue albeit to a lesser degree given his main effort to compel a negotiated settlement with the Taliban — IS-K has responded with macabre attacks in urban centers including Kabul and Jalalabad to demonstrate resolve.[64] To be sure, IS-K is not as lethal per attack as the Haqqani Network, which launches massive vehicle-borne suicide attacks in Kabul. Yet, IS-K has outpaced the Haqqani Network and other extremist organizations in the number of attacks conducted in Afghanistan, making it a real threat. Since its emergence, IS-K has executed over 200 attacks in Afghanistan alone resulting in more than 1,500 people killed and almost 3,300 wounded.[65] IS-K in South and Southeast Asia The coalition’s tactical gains against IS-K in Afghanistan seem to have helped reinforce the group’s determination to expand its operations across Asia’s multiple sub-regions.[66] In an April 2019 video message, his first in almost five years, the Islamic State’s reclusive emir, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, encouraged IS-K and other regional affiliates to “attack in different places” pursuant to a “global jihad.”[67] Giustozzi’s investigation of the burgeoning presence of IS-K sympathizers in Central Asia, particularly Tajikistan, which he calls a “special case,” helps explain the group’s confounding staying power and lethality.[68] IS-K’s efforts to establish redoubts in South and Southeast Asia have attracted less scholarly attention, however. This is puzzling because IS-K is clearly expanding eastward from Afghanistan as Khan presaged. In the 14th edition of Dabiq, the Islamic State’s now defunct magazine, Khan intoned that IS-K’s control of Afghanistan and Pakistan is critical to the Islamic State’s potential to subsume both Central and South Asia. Khan argued, “Bengal is located on the eastern side of India, whereas Wilayat Khorasan is located on its western side. Thus, having a strong jihad base in Bengal will facilitate performing guerilla attacks inside India simultaneously from both sides.”[69] IS-K has enjoyed a degree of operational success in South and Southeast Asia even given the relatively effective countermeasures of regional states, competition with indigenous extremist organizations, and the fact that al-Baghdadi “remains an outsider in the eyes of most militants in South Asia” according to Tore Refslund Hamming.[70] Similar to Giustozzi’s analysis of IS-K’s expansion in Central Asia, the available evidence suggests the group has attempted to exacerbate territorial and ethnic flashpoints to broaden its appeal across South and Southeast Asia. In February 2016, for example, IS-K expressed its intent to exploit the irredentist dispute between India and Pakistan in Jammu and Kashmir, and reports of IS-K attacks since then suggest that the group has established a presence there.[71] The group is likely responsible for several attacks in Srinagar, the capital of Jammu and Kashmir, since November 2017, including one in late February 2018 that resulted in the death of a police officer.[72] The group also claimed credit for this attack on the Islamic State’s Amaq News Agency, as well as in a private Telegram chatroom, al Qarar. The chatroom, discovered a month earlier by authorities, is the primary communications conduit for IS-K’s local affiliate, and is one of 40 such accounts maintained by the group, according to Giustozzi.[73] While IS-K’s leader in the area, Abu Anwar al-Kashmiri, was killed by a rival group in early September 2018, Indian officials recently acknowledged that IS-K’s “presence in Kashmir cannot be denied” and that the group is responsible for “small attacks.”[74] IS-K has also exploited the long-standing Rohingya refugee crisis shared between Bangladesh and Myanmar to persuade marginalized Muslims toward its cause.[75] Though only a handful of sympathizers from these countries have likely joined IS-K, some have attempted to indigenize the group’s puritanical ideology to generate attacks against political authorities, law enforcement personnel, and other “apostates,” including Western tourists.[76] For instance, the group is suspected to have supported several attacks in Bangladesh, including an attack on the Holey Artisan Bakery in Dhaka in July 2016 that injured 22 civilians. According to Ali Riza and Saimum Parvez, the “Holey Artisan is the most gruesome and large-scale attack in the recent history of Bangladesh,” and continues to capture public attention.[77] After two years, officials recently killed two terrorists suspected of plotting the attack.[78] This attack points to IS-K’s larger project of enabling a “Bengal governorate” and contributed to the recent designation of the Islamic State in Bangladesh as a terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department.[79] In May 2016, IS-K also published a video commending Indians to join its ranks, although Giustozzi avers that “any presence of IS-K in India and among Indian ‘mujahidin’ remains very marginal.”[80] Indian authorities outlawed the group in 2014 and have since prevented several attacks. Yet, IS-K did attack a train in Madhya Pradesh in March 2017 resulting in the injury of nearly a dozen passengers.[81] While Indian security officials, similar to their Bangladeshi and Pakistani counterparts, contend they have eradicated IS-K, the indication of even an embryonic presence of the group is alarming given Khan’s earlier statement. Indian police, for instance, arrested 103 IS-K sympathizers across 14 states including Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, and New Delhi in December 2017.[82] A year later, Indian authorities dismantled a cell of 10 extremists in New Delhi who were inspired by IS-K to plan attacks intended to take place across the country during Republic Day events in late January 2019.[83] Giustozzi’s IS-K informants also confirmed reports that the group attracted sympathizers from across India to augment its operations in Nangarhar.[84] Coalition forces evidently killed eight Indian members including two commanders in April 2017 operating in the area, possibly during the GBU-43 detonation.[85] On March 24, 2018, Indian officials convicted Yasmeen Mohammed Zahid of recruiting and facilitating the movement of 15 Indians into Nangarhar to join IS-K.[86] Similarly, a recent study identified Shafi Armar as a “former Indian Mujahideen operative seen as the Islamic State’s predominant ‘recruiter’ for India.”[87] The potential for IS-K’s expanded presence in India has caused one leading cleric to recommend that Prime Minister Narendra Modi shut down madrasas,[88] otherwise, the group’s “influence will grow and in 15 years more than half the Muslims in the country will be influenced by their ideology.”[89] Defeating IS-K What does the coalition’s evolving counter-terrorism strategy, which I have argued occurred in parallel with IS-K’s maturation and outreach across Asia, say about the former’s ability to defeat the latter? To arrest IS-K’s “blitzkrieg” strategy and regional initiatives, the U.S.-led coalition must adopt a three-pronged approach that is designed to apply pressure against the depth and breadth of the group in Afghanistan and across Central and South Asia. The coalition needs to (1) attack IS-K on multiple fronts simultaneously, (2) enable Afghan forces to consolidate gains, and (3) shepherd a regional counter-terrorism strategy. As a first step, the coalition must reconceptualize its counter-terrorism strategy to attack the geographic and virtual scope of IS-K at the same time, especially considering the group maintains numerous social media accounts connecting it to sympathetic extremists across the region.[90] The coalition’s preference for sequential operations explains its hesitancy to root out IS-K in Jowzjan sooner than it did given a fixation on Nangarhar. Of course, the coalition removed key personnel, destroyed enabling material, and dislocated IS-K from its sanctuaries. Yet, Giustozzi argues the coalition’s myopic focus resulted from “a direct IS-K threat to a key province, and was not followed by an attempt to go after IS-K elsewhere.”[91] An unintended consequence of the coalition’s linear targeting is that IS-K has enjoyed the time and space to consolidate and reorganize after incurring losses. To militarily defeat the group, the coalition must exploit vulnerabilities associated with its critical requirements at the same time, namely, the ability to communicate, facilitate lethal aid transregionally, and conduct operations. This will impose multiple challenges that IS-K cannot easily overcome. A renewed targeting approach is a more pressing concern because, as I have argued elsewhere, if the coalition’s peace talks with the Taliban are able to broker a settlement,[92] it is likely that defectors will join IS-K and threaten to catalyze a new brand of Salafi jihadism in Afghanistan. Giustozzi concludes his book with a similar prognostication, and for good reason. After the Hezb-e-Islami reconciled with the Afghan government in 2016, multiple defectors joined IS-K.[93] IS-K has also already subsumed two defecting factions from Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed this year.[94] Second, the coalition must enable Afghan forces to consolidate gains against IS-K. Giustozzi’s research implies that IS-K has effectively outmaneuvered coalition and Afghan forces since 2015 by occupying harsh terrain virtually devoid of a government presence.[95] Since Afghan forces have not occupied IS-K’s territory, the Afghan government has sacrificed opportunities to address grievances the group manipulates to gain support from Afghans. Absent a change, the story of IS-K’s longevity will not only be about the ineffectiveness of force separate from a broader, “whole of government” approach. It will also be about the Afghan government’s unwillingness to ensure the country’s internal security, although Afghan forces are dying fighting IS-K across the country.[96] President Donald Trump’s recent announcement that he intends to withdraw half of America’s deployed military within the next several months, amounting to roughly 7,000 troops, makes the requirement for greater sacrifices by Afghan forces increasingly urgent, as well as the U.S. mission to train, advise, and assist them through specialized units known as Security Force Assistance Brigades.[97] The phased U.S. retrograde from Afghanistan also raises several questions. Yet to be determined, for instance, are its implications on how Afghan officials will apportion dwindling resources to fight the Taliban, IS-K, and other extremists frustrated with the government and the country’s lingering “occupation.” Fortunately — and notwithstanding the prospects of the intra-Afghan dialogue to broker the Taliban’s reconciliation, which seem dubious — Trump’s withdrawal will not impact the deployment of Special Operations Forces.[98] Their surgical-strike capability is an insurance policy against external attacks inspired, enabled, or directed from Afghanistan by IS-K.[99] According to recent U.S. Air Force data, coalition airstrikes in Afghanistan reached their highest level since 2010, and many of those have been against IS-K.[100] The coalition also continues to conduct raids against the group’s commanders and facilitators. An operation on Jan. 12, 2019 in Nangarhar, for example, resulted in the death of Khetab Emir, IS-K’s chief of suicide operations.[101] America’s counter-terrorism mission carries an added benefit. It enables Miller to help manage the Taliban given the evolving professionalization of Afghanistan’s security forces, the country’s immature defense industries, and donor fatigue. On at least two occasions this year, Miller evidently capitalized on the flexibility and dynamic targeting of the Special Operations Forces by deploying “Expeditionary Advisory Packages” to enhance the ability of Afghan forces to blunt Taliban offensives across the country.[102] Although the advisers and enabling capabilities — such as artillery and medical support — helped Afghan forces protect key infrastructure in Uruzgan and Kunduz Provinces, it came at a cost of three U.S. soldiers.[103] Finally, because “IS-K has proved to be tactically shrewd and dynamic, exploiting any fissures within the ranks of its enemies and competitors,” according to Giustozzi,[104] the coalition must galvanize a strategy that aligns the counter-terrorism actions of regional states against the common goal of defeating IS-K. Transactional intelligence sharing between states is important to monitoring IS-K. But the coalition should also adapt regional security mechanisms, such as the Quadrilateral Coordination Group, to enable states to systematically integrate personnel, capabilities, and operations to proactively pursue IS-K across state borders. The coalition should also consider broadening its partnership with emerging regional security initiatives including the Association of Southeast Asian Nations’ “Our Eyes Initiative.” This forum is designed to build a common database, enable personnel exchanges, facilitate joint training and operations, and pool resources and experiences to help states combat irregular threats.[105] The coalition’s end-state should be a consortium similar to Operation Gallant Phoenix. According to Gen. John Dunford, America’s top military official, this is “an intelligence sharing arrangement that started out with eight or so countries, and has since expanded to 19 nations who have committed to sharing this intelligence.” He added that “Gallant Phoenix allows allied nations not only to share intelligence on the [Islamic State] foreign fighter threat, but also to get that information back to their law enforcement and homeland security agencies … in order to deal with this challenge.”[106] Absent these changes, it is likely that IS-K will retain and expand its critical capabilities, metastasize, and threaten to realize the Islamic State’s goal of an Islamic governorate across Central and South Asia, sub-regions in Asia that have been historically vulnerable to extremist ideologies.   The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the official policy or position of the U.S. Department of the Army, Department of Defense, or government.   Maj. Paul Lushenko is an intelligence officer in the U.S. Army and has deployed extensively to Afghanistan. He is also a Council on Foreign Relations Term Member, and serves as an adjunct lecturer for the Australian Graduate School of Policing and Security located at Charles Sturt University in Canberra, Australia.  

3. The Islamic State in Khorasan: The Regional Context

By Weeda Mehran On April 29, 2019, the leader of the Islamic State (ISIL), Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, for the first time in five years appeared in a video published by ISIL’s media wing, al-Furqan.[107] The 18-minute video, in which Baghdadi is “seated cross-legged on a flowered mattress,”[108] sparked discussions about the future threat posed by ISIL. The group had recently incurred a significant loss of territory — going from controlling 88,000 square kilometers in Iraq and Syria to controlling no territory at all.[109] While many journalists described the setting of the video in passing, the Afghan media posed the million-dollar question: “Aren’t those pillows and mattress in the Afghani style?” At its height in 2015, the Islamic State announced the establishment of a new branch — the Islamic State in Khorasan (IS-K) — which included Afghanistan, Pakistan, all of Central Asia, Iran, and parts of Russia and India.[110] Whether or not al Baghdadi was or is in Afghanistan, IS-K poses a major threat to the U.S. troops in Afghanistan and to the Afghan government. According to Gen. Joseph Votel, the commander of U.S. Central Command, IS-K “represent[s] a very sophisticated and dangerous threat that we have to stay focused on.”[111] However, the United States is not the only player in the Afghan conflict that is conscious of the threat posed by ISIL. Thirty years after withdrawing its troops from Afghanistan, Russia has taken an active role in negotiations and peace talks with the Taliban, presenting the group as an ally in the fight against the Islamic State.[112] Other regional powers such as Iran, Pakistan, and the Gulf States are also prominent stakeholders in the country. IS-K is a new player in the extremely complex conflict in Afghanistan that has been characterized by long-lasting battles between numerous insurgent groups. It is against this background that IS-K is developing and taking on a major role in the security scene in Afghanistan. And yet, much is unknown about how the group’s presence will affect the conflict. How does IS-K influence the balance of powers in the country? Is the group a threat to potential peace? What impact do regional dynamics have on the formation and evolution of IS-K as another insurgent group in Afghanistan? Antonio Giustozzi’s book, The Islamic State in Khorasan: Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the New Central Asian Jihad, helps illuminate some of these questions by providing information about the structure and funding of IS-K, as well as the role regional actors have played in its formation. The book has a number of vital implications for peace in the region. Giustozzi raises questions that cast doubt over whether the conflict in Afghanistan would come to a close even if a peace agreement were reached with the Taliban. The most prominent theme, discussed at length in some chapters and implied in others, highlights how regional dynamics shape, and to a certain degree are shaped by, IS-K. Before discussing these points, it is worth highlighting that, although it is understandable that not all information gathered for this book could be triangulated, some significant information is only from one source. This issue could have been mitigated by providing more information about the rationale for relying on a single source to help the reader ascertain if the views expressed are biased. Regional Dynamics Regional dynamics of conflict and insurgency in Afghanistan are often explored primarily in relation to Pakistan, and secondarily to India, Russia, and Iran.[113] Giustozzi’s book, however, directs the spotlight to the Gulf States, especially Saudi Arabia and Qatar, whose influence is much greater than typically acknowledged. In this regard, Giustozzi’s study is a great addition to Mustafa Hamid and Leah Farrall’s The Arabs at War in Afghanistan, and Anne Stensersen’s Al-Qaida in Afghanistan, two recent works that similarly cast light on the role of the Gulf States in Afghanistan’s conflicts.[114] As discussed in Giustozzi’s book, regional dynamics, and particularly the issue of Shiite-Sunni tensions — spearheaded by regional rivals Iran and Saudi Arabia — were central to IS-K’s rise.[115] After all, when it comes to the role of the Gulf States, Saudis’ financial support of terrorism is an open secret.[116] After the surge of ISIL from Syria into Iraq, Prince Saud al-Faisal, former foreign minister of Saudi Arabia, reportedly told then-U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, “Daesh [ISIL] is our [Sunni] response to your support for the Da’wa,” referencing the Shia Islamist party that has dominated Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime, and which is supported by both Washington and Tehran.[117] This is by no means surprising given the Saudis’ involvement in the Afghan wars over the years. Saudi Arabia financed Wahhabist groups in Afghanistan and Pakistan during the 1980s and 1990s. According to Ahmad Rashid, almost $4 billion in official aid was funneled to different Mujahidin factions in Afghanistan, not including the unofficial aid that came from Islamic charities, foundations, the private funds of Saudi princes, and mosque collections.[118] In the 1980s, these Mujahidin groups were viewed as freedom fighters who were fighting against the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Later, some of these groups, such as the Haqqani network and Hizb-e Islami (before Hizb-e Islami reconciled with the Afghan government), began fighting against the Afghan government and the American-led NATO forces in Afghanistan. Furthermore, Saudi Arabia helped foster the rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan and supported radical Islamic militants to counter Iranian influence in the region.[119] In addition to encouraging and supporting jihadists against the Soviet troops and the Afghan government, Saudi Arabia also gave its blessing as well as financial support to its hardcore Wahhabi Islamists — including Osama bin Laden — to fight offshore. Currently, the purpose of such Saudi support is twofold: to buy off jihadi organizations and support them to operate offshore, and to undermine Iranian-backed groups and Iranian interests in Afghanistan.[120] Elaborating on Giustozzi’s discussion of the involvement of the Gulf States, it should be noted that like the Saudis, the Qatari royal rulers, although fearing radical Islamists, nonetheless support their activities outside the country. Qatar has historically supported the Muslim Brotherhood, al-Qaeda’s offshoot in Syria, al-Nusra, and other groups in Libya and other Arab countries.[121] In 2014, the U.S. State Department described Qatar as a “permissive jurisdiction” for terrorist financing.[122] Pointing to a similar pattern, Giustozzi’s book highlights Qatar’s financial support of IS-K (more on this below). Although it cannot be established whether the state directly or indirectly funds IS-K or whether it is private Qatari citizens who channel the funds, the question remains: What is Qatar’s interest in supporting IS-K? The answer is both obvious and troubling. Qatar is playing a strategic game in the region against multiple players. For Qataris, the intention has been to prepare IS-K as an eventual replacement for the Taliban, while at the same time limiting the group’s military capacity so that it does not become a major challenge to the Afghan government and does not derail peace talks with the Taliban.[123] Based on Giustozzi’s overall description of Qatar’s involvement, the country is trying to both win favor with the United States and gain status in the region by playing the role of key facilitator/mediator in the peace talks while simultaneously propping up a proxy group — IS-K — to ensure its interests in the region. This strategy is in line with Qatar’s regional strategic approach. In fact, Qatar is playing a double game on the Iranian front as well: On the one hand, of all the Gulf countries (with the exception of the civil war-wrought Yemen), Qatar has shown the most pro-Iranian attitude and is viewed as belonging in the Iranian camp in peace talks with the Taliban.[124] On the other hand, by continuing to support IS-K, the Qatari government can expand its support and improve the capabilities of Baluchi insurgents,[125] who are seen as a threat to the Iranian government.[126] This dual policy allows Qatar to side with Saudi Arabia’s interests should Doha deem it necessary. IS-K’s Organizational Structure and Funding A quick glance at both IS-K’s evolving structure and how it is funded further illustrates how complex regional dynamics and regional rivalries are shaping IS-K. According to Giustozzi’s research, IS-K is fragmented, decentralized, and has diverse sources of funding, which makes the group well positioned to be used as a pawn by various regional actors.[127] In fact, adopting a decentralized and international network is the most viable and effective organizational structure for insurgent groups, given the broader global context of weak borders, wide-reaching media, and easy transportation and communication.[128] IS-K emerged in a region that was already host to a number of jihadi organizations operating across multiple countries. These groups provided the initial recruits for IS-K. In Pakistan alone, hundreds of jihadi organizations of various sizes were operating between 2011 and 2017. Likewise, Hizb-e Islami (before joining the government in 2016), the Haqqani Network, and various factions of the Taliban were present in Afghanistan during this period; six jihadi extremist groups were operating in Iran;[129] Central Asian states such as Tajikistan,[130] Uzbekistan,[131] and Turkmenistan[132] had their own share of jihadi organizations;[133]and al-Qaeda and the Islamic Jihad Union were also present in the region. As the war in Syria broke out in 2012, al-Qaeda’s branch in Afghanistan and Pakistan lobbied its Taliban allies to send volunteers to Syria.[134] According to an estimate from the Russian security services, in April 2012, around 200 to 250 Afghans and 250 to 300 Pakistanis from Tahrik-e Taliban Pakistan were fighting in Syria. That number rose to an estimated 575 and 714, respectively, in 2014.[135] Some of these fighters later pledged their allegiances to IS-K or joined the group. Although modeled after ISIL’s core group, and despite efforts by ISIL leadership to centralize IS-K, the group’s fragmented structure is partially due to its lack of human capital and ambitious plans to achieve a highly centralized organization over a short period of time. Nonetheless, limiting the military capacity of the group was also a strategic decision by IS-K’s Gulf State supporters. As discussed in the book, a militarily capable IS-K would mean that the group could derail a peace deal with the Taliban, which is not ideal for Qatar.[136] While it is extremely difficult to find any evidence that regional states fund IS-K, either directly or indirectly, both private and state donors (e.g., Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Kuwait) help finance IS-K, according to Giustozzi.[137] IS-K receives an estimated $300 million each year from outside donors, mostly individuals from Qatar, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia. Furthermore, IS-K’s financial commission has offices in Qatar (Doha), the United Arab Emirates (Jebel Ali and Al Ain), and Saudi Arabia (Medina and Riyadh).[138] This external funding constitutes the bulk of income for IS-K, although IS-K’s funding is diverse and includes local sources such as the drug trade, illegal extraction of mines, and illegal taxation.[139] Thanks to the generosity of IS-K donors and funders, IS-K recruits are reportedly paid more than other jihadi groups, such as the Taliban or al-Qaeda.[140] IS-K salaries range between $400 and $800 per month for local fighters, and between $1,500 and $2,000 for jihadists sent to Iraq. Additionally, the families of martyrs receive a one-time $15,000 payment, which gives the group a competitive edge. Private donors are described as wealthy individuals, businessmen, government contractors, and allegedly include some members of royal families from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, and Qatar.[141] The rationale for individual donations varies from personal interests — for example, in order to secure a place in heaven — to more political reasons, like animosity toward Shiites. Even if these Gulf State governments are not funding IS-K, it is plausible that they would turn a blind eye to private citizens, whose interests align so well with that of the state, doing so. Giustozzi’s description of the structure and funding of IS-K has dire implications for the prospect of peace in Afghanistan. IS-K and the Prospects of Peace in Afghanistan Given these complex regional dynamics and rivalries, what do peace talks with the Taliban really mean and will IS-K take over the Taliban’s role as the biggest security threat to the Afghan government? The picture is rather grim. Both sectarian tensions and regional rivalries will continue feeding insurgencies and insecurity even if a peace deal with the Taliban is reached. Antagonism toward Shiites is a driving force behind the rise of IS-K. Giustozzi illustrates that many Taliban hardliners defected to IS-K because they believed that the Taliban would eventually sign a peace deal with the American forces and the Afghan government.[142] Furthermore, the Taliban’s closeness with Iran turned off many of its regional anti-Shiite funders and sponsors, some of whom diverted their money to IS-K, which they identified as the new staunch, hard-core anti-Shiite group.[143] Thus, some Taliban elements and groups such as the Haqqani network that do not support a peace deal might defect to IS-K if such a deal is reached. Looking beyond IS-K, regional rivalries between Iran and the Gulf States that influence insecurity in Afghanistan do not appear likely to stop any time soon. Diplomatic relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia, which reached their lowest point in 2016 when Saudi Arabia’s embassy in Tehran was attacked, have only worsened with the recent incident at the mouth of the Persian Gulf when four oil tankers, two of which belonged to Saudi Arabia and one to the United Arab Emirates, were sabotaged.[144] The primary suspect is Iran. Furthermore, Iran’s support for the Houthis in Yemen, the Assad regime in Syria, and Hezbollah in Lebanon will continue to provoke the Gulf States. As for Qatar, only recently Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, and Egypt called on Qatar to stop funding terrorism.[145] So long as tensions between Qatar and Saudi Arabia and its regional allies continue, Qatar will have no interest in changing its dual strategy in the region. Meanwhile, Russia remains a significant player in regional politics. Recently, the Kremlin has deepened its ties with the Taliban and appears to want to play the role of power broker in Afghanistan. Russia’s main concern is the threat of IS-K on its southern border, which could worsen if other ISIL members migrate to Afghanistan as the group incurs further territorial losses in the Middle East. Russia’s gambit of supporting the Taliban in peace talks will pay off should the United States pull out of Afghanistan and the Taliban become a major actor in the government. On the other hand, Russia has come into direct confrontation with the Gulf States and their Western allies in Syria by siding with the Assad regime. Thus, the presence of ISIL elements in Afghanistan could benefit Russia’s rivals in the region. Without any rigid central command-and-control, IS-K, or some individuals within the group, can easily be used by regional rivals. As such, insecurity will continue in the country. After all, “yesterday’s foes, today’s friends” is certainly not a new phenomenon in Afghanistan. The Mujahidin groups that fought the Soviet troops in Afghanistan (1979–1989) and caused the deaths of more than 14,500 Soviet soldiers[146] have recently formed close ties with Russia and have been hosted by Russia to discuss peace talks with the Taliban.[147] In the same vein, it was only in 1998 that the Taliban,[148] a staunch enemy of Iran, killed nine Iranian diplomats in Afghanistan leading to talks of military retaliation by Tehran. Accused of supporting the Taliban in their fight against U.S. troops in Afghanistan and the Afghan government,[149] Tehran has recently been hosting Taliban leaders to discuss “post invasion Afghanistan.” Iran’s support of the Taliban will increase if the current tensions between Iran and the United States escalate and Iran becomes further isolated by the economic sanctions imposed by the Trump administration.[150] In turn, Iranian ties with the Taliban will further incentivize the group’s regional rivals to prop up IS-K. Should the Taliban sign a peace deal and join the Kabul government? Will IS-K take its place as an insurgent group and a peace spoiler? These are questions that only time can answer. Nonetheless, an analysis of the regional dimensions of insurgencies and war in Afghanistan point to the fact that an enduring peace is not possible without addressing regional dynamics and rivalries. Although Giustozzi does not elaborate extensively about these dynamics and only mentions the peace negotiations with the Taliban in passing, his book on IS-K gives insight into a lesser known and secretive organization and raises serious and thorny questions about regional dynamics and the prospect of peace in Afghanistan.   Dr. Weeda Mehran is a post-doctorate fellow at the Global Studies Institute at Georgia State University, and a VoxPol visiting scholar at Dublin City University where she conducts research on extremists’ media strategies. Her research takes a multidisciplinary approach to studying propaganda campaigns across a number of extremist groups such as the Taliban, the Islamic State, al-Qaeda, and Tahrik-e Taliban of Pakistan. You can follow her on Twitter: @WeedaMehran  

4. A Rare Inside Look Into ISIL’s Franchise Business

By Craig Whiteside   Five years after the Islamic State (ISIL) announced its caliphate, researchers and policymakers still struggle to understand a movement that is slowly spreading its influence around the world. Case in point, when the State Department announced its designation of a top ISIL advisor to “caliph” Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as a “Specially Designated Global Terrorist,” it could only use the man’s nom de guerre (kunya) and an all-too-brief description of his long association with the movement.[151] Astoundingly, despite his ties to a group the United States has fought on and off for well over a decade, the designation list left Hajji ‘Abd al-Nasir’s real name unstated. ISIL can still be a mystery to those of us who study it, but thanks to Antonio Giustozzi’s new book, The Islamic State in Khorasan, we have a unique opportunity to study the group’s enigmatic core from a new angle: from the periphery of a transnational “insurgent archipelago” looking in toward the hub.[152] What We Don’t Know Giustozzi is an astute observer of the conflict in Afghanistan and its many participants. He does not pretend to be an expert on ISIL’s core in Iraq and Syria. Rather, he briefly covers the basics of the so-called caliphate early in his book to provide context for his deep dive into the group’s most prolific and at times violent franchise, IS-Khorasan (IS-K). (“Khorasan” is a historical name for a geographic area covering parts or all of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, and Central Asia.)[153] Giustozzi relied on an experienced research team to interview 121 sources to elicit the data for this book. Amazingly, and worryingly at the same time, half of these sources are alleged IS-K members. This introduces a concern that some of what is reported in the book could be misinformation, as has been the case in the past with bogus accounts from intra-jihadist defectors — a result of the intense al Qaeda-ISIL rivalry.[154] Giustozzi also uses the diary of a high-ranking IS-K founder and the group’s media statements, along with secondary sources, to fill the gaps.[155] The indirect access to IS-K group members — which contrasts with the U.S. government’s painstakingly built and still relatively shallow knowledge of ISIL’s core — is the distinguishing value of this work, which argues that the ISIL core seems intent on building replicas around the globe. If this is true, works like Giustozzi’s can be a great help in expanding policymakers’ understanding of ISIL’s core, especially the philosophies and strategies it propagates to its fledglings. The men who founded the Islamic State movement understood the power of projecting their speeches, videos, and interviews from the very beginning, but they also balanced this outreach with extensive secrecy.[156] Their wide-scale adoption of the al-gharib persona (“the stranger”) exemplifies the aloofness and penchant for secrecy that still influences our ability to penetrate the web of lies and misinformation surrounding the group’s early days. As such, what we think we know about ISIL’s leaders and practices from open source material is too often informed by myths and legends.[157] The group’s founder, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, was already an infamous jihadi with pre-existing ties to al-Qaeda when he arrived in Iraq in 2002. His successors, however, a pair known as the “Two Sheikhs,” gave dozens of speeches and interviews yet never released a picture or video of themselves between 2006 and 2010 — despite spending most of a decade in the ISIL movement. Unlike Zarqawi, who had traveled to and from Afghanistan twice before finding his open front of jihad in Iraq, the “Two Sheikhs” — Abu Umar al-Baghdadi and his deputy Abu Hamza al-Muhajir — were veterans of underground Salafi movements in Iraq and Egypt, respectively, and their experience in repressive environments made them quite cautious. Some experts who write on ISIL have failed to mention them in books or articles, skipping over an important formative period in the movement.[158] Most of the lieutenants who served the three sets of ISIL emirs — Zarqawi, Abu Umar al-Baghdadi, and Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi — were killed or captured in counterterror raids, and very few ever talked to non-jihadist outsiders about the group.[159] What we do know about the group has been painstakingly pieced together through captured documents that have been released by the U.S. government, ISIL’s own press releases, or quietly published eulogies of the group’s important figures. RAND’s “Foundations of the Islamic State: Management, Money, and Terror in Iraq (2005-2010)” is an excellent example of archival research of a large set of captured documents from ISIL’s formative years.[160] The findings of this research, and many others that use similar sources, describe the group’s highly bureaucratized, yet carefully compartmentalized, insurgent structure, which was designed to control the application of violence and the management of resources in order to create a highly functioning shadow government capable of upending an incumbent state.[161] This structure clashes with the conventional wisdom of modern insurgency as an increasingly leaderless convergence of loose networks with little direction working toward the same purpose. If this is the way modern insurgency is trending, then ISIL is a throwback and a one-off group not worth over-analyzing. If it is not, however, the spread of the group’s methods from Iraq and Syria to Afghanistan is essential for analysts and policymakers to understand. Giustozzi’s attempt to illuminate the evolution of IS-K from the perspective of those who report to be current members is an opportunity to learn how ISIL spreads its model to areas with active jihadists, and determine how much of ISIL’s core model is exportable outside of Iraq and Syria. When the Islamic State became highly visible in 2014, experts claimed that its rigid ideology and violent behavior would not travel well — that in places like Indonesia, and certainly Afghanistan, there was no additional oxygen remaining for the spark that ISIL wanted to ignite.[162] This book makes a convincing argument that this conventional wisdom was wrong when it comes to Afghanistan and, quite possibly, many other places as well. Upending Conventional Wisdom Giustozzi puts his access to use and is the first to accurately depict the shadowy IS-K, a group long shrouded in misinformation and deception by friend and foe alike. His book makes an important alteration to the legend of the group’s original founders, who have frequently been described as “Pakistani militants” from Tehrik-e Taleban Pakistan (TTP) who struck out on their own and made Afghanistan’s Nangarhar the base for an ISIL affiliate in Central/South Asia.[163] Giustozzi modifies this origins story by injecting two slight wrinkles: First, the contingent of small breakaway groups that formed the early IS-K was an even mix of Afghans and Pakistanis; and second, ISIL invited the leaders of those groups to come to Syria to undergo indoctrination and training. Although both al-Qaeda and ISIL groom future global leaders, the Islamic State commanders Abu Muslim al-Turkmani and Abu Omar al-Shishani were the ones to recruit and train some of the future IS-K leaders during the Syrian conflict that forged the future franchise.[164] ISIL even allegedly recruited among the Haqqani network — albeit carefully so as not to upset the leadership — as well as “Salafized” members of the Taliban, including one Guantanamo alumnus who first encountered the distinct ideology in the American prison. This plot twist — that the inspiration for an ISIL affiliate in Khorasan came from the group’s leaders in Syria between 2012 and 2014 — is revealing for several reasons. First, it means that ISIL leaders were expanding even before the group saw breakthrough success in Syria and Iraq, with the goal of challenging its ostensible parent organization, al-Qaeda, as well as the oft-maligned Taliban — an organization Salafis disparage as parochial, uneducated, and uninterested in global jihad. Second, it reveals that the founding of IS-K was an ISIL project from the beginning, not an example of a local group “bandwagoning” with a larger, more prestigious global brand. This presents a very new perspective, and if true, is very much worth the price of admission. A related, but also revealing, point is Giustozzi’s report that advisers from ISIL’s core have traveled to “Khorasan province” to provide advisory functions. This correlates with the findings of a recent report by Daniel Milton that analyzes several ISIL media documents captured by the United States in Afghanistan, which lay out a sophisticated set of rules and processes IS-K media material must follow before ISIL Central Media Office will publish it.[165] One problem with this claim is that, despite extensive targeting of the group, neither the United States nor its partners have captured or killed any ISIL core members (i.e., members from Iraq/Syria) in Afghanistan. In contrast, the capture of key leaders sent into the country, such as Abd al-Hadi al-Iraqi, frustrated al-Qaeda’s attempts to advise its Iraq franchise between 2003 and 2006.[166] If Giustozzi’s claim is true, this over-the-shoulder style of coaching is an example of the investment in what the U.S. military calls unconventional warfare — the ability to build successful insurgent organizations. Whether advising on the ground or by virtual means, and despite extensive punishment by U.S. forces, it seems that ISIL’s core has succeeded in building one in Afghanistan.[167] An Inside Look at Islamic State-Khorasan Giustozzi paints a picture of IS-K that is remarkably similar to the existing knowledge about ISIL’s core, in terms of its organization, style, ideology, and tactics. For example, the Islamic State’s deserved reputation for playing “dirty pool” and undermining fellow jihadi groups was a fixture in its playbook from its Iraq war period, one it used most recently with the hostile takeover of large parts of the Nusra Front in Syria in 2013.[168] In Afghanistan, ISIL emissaries were able to form what Giustozzi calls “coagulation points” to attract the fragments of existing groups into larger fronts, which eventually merged to form IS-K. Again, this follows how ISIL’s predecessor formed: The Islamic State of Iraq was the product of a merger between several Iraqi Salafi-jihadi groups and al-Qaeda in Iraq in 2006. ISIL’s contemporary stipulations that prospective franchises should unify disparate political entities before pledging allegiance — what it calls tamkin (empowerment/political consolidation) — is the result of lessons learned from previous jihadi failures in Syria and Afghanistan between the 1970s and 1990s, as well as its own struggles in Iraq. Jacob Zenn recently argued this dynamic also played a role in the formation of ISIL affiliates in East Asia and West Africa around the same time as the formation of IS-K.[169] Interestingly, according to Giustozzi’s sources, the newly formed IS-K began to introduce itself to local Afghans as “Daesh Khorasan,” a term ISIL does not use in Arab countries, preferring to use “Dawla Islamiya” (Islamic State). This is a bit odd, and possibly a tip that some of the sources are not fully on board with guidance from the leadership. It is also possible that the proscription against using the term was lost in translation, considering the cultural divide between Iraq and Syria and the Central/South Asian region. Whatever the cause for the discrepancy, the distinguishing characteristic of IS-K has been its dedication to the creation of an “Islamic state” as part of a global caliphate system — a policy goal that greatly differentiated the group from the Taliban. Aside from the use of this term, Giustozzi’s research suggests that core ISIL has worked very hard to propagate its organizational model to its franchises in exact detail, with little room for deviation or local exception. This runs counter to ideas about the importance of local factors in shaping the evolution of insurgencies — a long-held belief in counter-insurgency studies that should not be discarded lightly. There is a local character to IS-K that is different from the core, and Giustozzi portrays this well. But ISIL’s success in establishing the so-called caliphate, and its humbling of both states (Iraq and Syria) and rivals (al-Qaeda), gives the group the credibility necessary to demand that local franchises adhere to its principles without fail. In Afghanistan, this can be seen in the controversial targeting of the Shia Hazaras, the urban terror campaign that echoes the civil war in Iraq after 2003, or the sectarian nature of the early Syrian civil war. Just as the Battle of Marawi — in which the local ISIL affiliate quickly took control of the Filipino city — bore similarities to ISIL’s lightning seizure of Mosul, these tactics and strategies will continue to be replicated in hot spots around the world. In this way, Giustozzi’s book could be a frightening portend of things to come. Conclusion  Giustozzi’s The Islamic State in Khorasan presents an insider’s account of the expansion of the Islamic State into an area (Khorasan) with great historical importance to global jihadists and strategic importance to ISIL’s rival, al-Qaeda. It is also a cautionary tale that highlights the dangers of a forever-war in Afghanistan, which has created what Giustozzi calls a “military class” of professionals in the region. These jihadists have been receptive to the benefits of an association with ISIL, particularly from an ideological and financial perspective, as well as to the cadre of trainers the group sent to Afghanistan to assist in building IS-K’s structure and capabilities. More importantly, IS-K, much like its coaches from ISIL’s core group, demonstrates a newly found sense of pragmatism in adapting to local conditions and learning from its failures. The group’s resilience in the face of fighting a two-front war against the Taliban and U.S.-Afghan forces bodes poorly for any peace settlement, as IS-K stands to benefit from hard-core elements in the Taliban who are unwilling to reconcile with the current Afghan government. Giustozzi’s book on the Islamic State-Khorasan is a valuable contribution that helps explain this surprising resilience, and it offers a partial answer to the question of how ISIL is exporting its tested model of jihad to places near and far.   Craig Whiteside is an associate professor at the U.S. Naval War College program at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California. He teaches a course on national security decision-making and specializes in the Islamic State group.     [post_title] => Book Review Roundtable: A Look Into the Islamic State-Khorasan [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => book-review-roundtable-a-look-into-the-islamic-state-khorasan [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-08-13 16:01:45 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-08-13 20:01:45 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://tnsr.org/?post_type=roundtable&p=1733 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => roundtable [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [lead] => In this roundtable, we asked reviewers to discuss Antonio Giustozzi's new book, "The Islamic State in Khorasan," the Islamic State's offshoot in Central Asia. [pubinfo] => [issue] => [quotes] => [style] => roundtable [type] => Book [style_label] => Roundtable [download] => Array ( [title] => PDF Download [file] => 1738 ) [authors] => Array ( [0] => 288 [1] => 287 [2] => 203 ) [endnotes] => Array ( [title] => Endnotes [endnotes] => [1] Jessica Stern and J. M. Berger, ISIS: The State of Terror (London: William Collins, 2015), 4. [2] Michael Weiss and Hassan Hassan, ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror (New York: Regan Arts, 2015), xiii. [3] Antonio Giustozzi, The Islamic State in Khorasan: Afghanistan, Pakistan and the New Central Asian Jihad (London: Hurst, 2018), 16. I have witnessed this firsthand. In interviews with me and Michael Semple in late 2016, senior Taliban were astonishingly open in their assessment of the internal problems then facing the Taliban. See Theo Farrell and Michael Semple, Ready for Peace? The Afghan Taliban After a Decade of War (London: Royal United Services Institution, January 2017), https://rusi.org/publication/briefing-papers/ready-peace-afghan-taliban-after-decade-war. [4] Including: Antonio Giustozzi, Koran, Kalashnikov and Laptop: The Neo-Taliban Insurgency in Afghanistan (London: Hurst and Company, 2007); Antonio Giustozzi, ed., Decoding the New Taliban: Insights from the Afghan Field (London: Hurst and Company, 2009); Antonio Giustozzi, Empires of Mud: Wars and Warlords in Afghanistan (London: Hurst and Company, 2009); Antonio Giustozzi and Mohammed Isaqzadeh, Policing Afghanistan: The Politics of Lame Leviathan (London: Hurst and Company, 2013); and Antonio Giustozzi, The Army of Afghanistan: A Political History of a Fragile Institution (London: Hurst and Company, 2015). [5] Theo Farrell and Antonio Giustozzi, “The Taliban at War: Inside the Helmand Insurgency, 2004–2011,” International Affairs 89, no. 4 (2013): 845–71, https://doi.org/10.1111/1468-2346.12048. For a more recent paper drawing on the same data, see Theo Farrell, “Unbeatable: Social Resources, Military Adaptation and the Afghan Taliban,” Texas National Security Review 1, no. 3 (May 2018): 58–75 https://doi.org/10.15781/T22B8VW1N. [6] Giustozzi, The Islamic State in Khorasan, 208. [7] Giustozzi, Islamic State in Khorasan, 3. Afghan authorities soon changed their tune and began to hype the threat from IS-K in an effort to persuade the United States to keep forces in Afghanistan. [8] Iranian estimates tended to be higher than Pakistani estimates. Giustozzi, Islamic State in Khorasan, 140–41. [9] Giustozzi, Islamic State in Khorasan, 213. [10] Giustozzi, Islamic State in Khorasan, 183. [11] Giustozzi, Islamic State in Khorasan, 69, 78. [12] Giustozzi, Islamic State in Khorasan, 81–82. [13] Giustozzi, Islamic State in Khorasan, 118–19. [14] Giustozzi, Islamic State in Khorasan, 164. [15] Giustozzi, Islamic State in Khorasan, 94. [16] Giustozzi, Islamic State in Khorasan, 163. [17] Giustozzi, Islamic State in Khorasan, 12. [18] Giustozzi, Islamic State in Khorasan, 140. Two senior Taliban figures that Semple and I interviewed in 2016 similarly claimed that Russia was providing support (as one put it, “money, weapons and ammunition”) in order for the Taliban to combat IS-K. Farrell and Semple, Ready for Peace? 8. [19] Theo Farrell and Michael Semple, “Making Peace with the Taliban,” Survival 57, no. 6 (2015): 94, https://doi.org/10.1080/00396338.2015.1116157. [20] Five senior Taliban figures that Semple and I interviewed in late 2016 attested to the weakness of Haibatullah’s leadership. As one put it, “all know that Haibatullah is a symbol and does not have any authority.” Farrell and Semple, Ready for Peace? 5. [21] Vahid Brown and Don Rassler, Fountainhead of Jihad: The Haqqani Nexus, 1973-2012 (London: Hurst and Company, 2013). [22] James Fromson and Steven Simon, “ISIS: The Dubious Paradise of Apocalypse Now,” Survival, 57, no. 3 (2015): 11, https://doi.org/10.1080/00396338.2015.1046222. [23] Giustozzi, Islamic State in Khorasan, 209. [24] Rukmini Callimachi, “ISIS Caliphate Crumbles as Last Village in Syria Falls,” New York Times, March 23, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/23/world/middleeast/isis-syria-caliphate.html?module=inline. [25] Nick Cumming-Bruce, “ISIS Eyeing Europe: Could Launch Attacks This Year, U.N. Warns,” New York Times, Aug. 3, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/03/world/middleeast/islamic-state-attacks-europe.html?searchResultPosition=2. [26] Thomas Gibbons-Neff and Julian E. Barnes, “U.S. Military Calls ISIS in Afghanistan a Threat to the West. Intelligence Officials Disagree,” New York Times, Aug. 2, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/02/world/middleeast/isis-afghanistan-us-military.html. [27] Thomas Gibbons-Neff, “U.S. Special Forces Battle Against ISIS Turns to Containment, and Concern,” New York Times, June 14, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/14/world/asia/afghanistan-islamic-state.html. [28] On Taliban use of media, see Thomas H. Johnson, with Matthew DuPee and Wali Shaaker, Taliban Narratives: The Use and Power of Stories in the Afghanistan Conflict (London: Hurst & Co. 2017). [29] David B. Edwards, Caravan of Martyrs: Sacrifice and Suicide Bombing in Afghanistan (Oakland, CA: University of California Press, 2017), 200. See also Charlie Winter, Media Jihad: The Islamic State’s Doctrine for Information Warfare, The International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence, 2017, https://icsr.info/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/ICSR-Report-Media-Jihad-The-Islamic-State’s-Doctrine-for-Information-Warfare.pdf. [30] Giustozzi, Islamic State in Khorasan, 207. [31] Kimberley Dozier, “The U.S. Is Close to a Peace Deal with the Taliban,” Time, Aug. 8, 2019, https://time.com/5648002/us-taliban-peace-deal/. [32] Similarly, Giustozzi concludes that “A peace settlement between the Kabul government and the Taliban … will in all likelihood leave behind ‘orphan’ field commanders who will not view peace in general, or at least that particular settlement, to their liking. IS-K would be well placed to attract them, as it already attracted former comrades in arms of theirs, who were upset even about the rumours of negotiations going on.” Giustozzi, Islamic State in Khorasan, 216. [33]. Jean MacKenzie and Aziz Ahmad Tassal, “ISIS in Afghanistan is like Boogeyman Under the Bed,” The Week, Jan. 27, 2015, https://theweek.com/articles/534830/isisin-afghanistan-like-boogeyman-under-bed. See also Antonio Giustozzi, Afghanistan: Taliban’s Organization and Structure (Oslo, Norway: Landinfo, 2017). [34] Rod Nordland and Mujib Mashal, “U.S. and Taliban Make Headway in Talks for Withdrawal from Afghanistan,” New York Times, Jan. 24, 2019, https://www.nytimes .com/2019/01/24/world/asia/usa-taliban-afghanistan-deal.html. See also “Afghanistan: Kunar Conflict Update (as of 03 April 2019),” United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, April 4, 2019, https://www.humanitarianresponse.info/en/operations/afghanistan/document/kunar-conflict-flash-update-no-1-3-april-2019. [35] Abdul Basit, Iftekharul Bashar, Mohammed Sinan Siyech, Sara Mahmood, and Amresh Gunasingham, “Southeast Asia: Indonesia, Philippines, Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand, Singapore,” in Rohan Gunaratna, Mahfuh Bin Haji Halimi, Muhammad Saiful Alam Shah Bin Sudiman, Nur Aziemah Azman, and Mohammed Sinan Siyech, eds., Counter Terrorist Trends and Analyses: Annual Threat Assessment 11, no. 1 (January 2019): 37, https://www.rsis.edu.sg/rsis-publication/icpvtr /counter-terrorist-trends-and-analyses-ctta-volume-11-issue-1/#.XE2zQTHsZv0. [36] Courtney Kube, “New U.S. Commander In Afghanistan Says We’re Going On Offense Against the Taliban,” NBC News, Oct. 31, 2018, https://www.nbcnews.com/news/military/new-u-s-commander-afghanistan-says-he-s-going-offense-n926431. See also Jeff Seldin, “IS In Afghanistan Just Won’t Go Away, US Officals Say,” Voa News, Aug. 7, 2018, https://www.voanews.com/a/islamic-state-afghanistan-persistent-officials-say/4517802.html. [37] Michael O’Hanlon, Afghanistan After Mattis: A Revised Strategy to Focus on Counterterrorism and the Afghan Security Forces (Washington, D.C.: The Brookings Institution, 2019), 2. [38] Antonio Giustozzi, The Islamic State in Khorasan: Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the New Central Asia Jihad (London: Hurst & Company, 2018), 154–55. [39] “Interview With the Wali of Khurasan Shaykh Hafidh Sa’id Khan,” Dabiq: The Rafidah, From Ibn Saba’ to the Dajjal 13, Jan. 19, 2016, https://ia801509.us.archive.org/8/items/Dabiq13. [40] Daniel Milton, Pulling Back the Curtain: An Inside Look at the Islamic State’s Media Organization (New York: West Point Combating Terrorism Center, 2018), 18. See also, “Tackling the ISIS Threat In India,” Hindustan Times, Dec. 31, 2018, https://www.hindustantimes.com/editorials/tackling-the-isis-threat-in-india/story-Qqvi1WFX4uw32Yk6ushpqK.html. [41] Giustozzi, The Islamic State in Khorasan, 42. See also Haroro J. Ingram and Craig Whiteside, “Do Great Nations Fight Endless Wars? Against the Islamic State, They Might,” War on the Rocks, Feb. 25, 2018, https://warontherocks.com/2019/02/do-great-nations-fight-endless-wars-against-the-islamic-state-they-might/. [42] “IS Group Calls on Muslims To Immigrate To Afghanistan,” Agence France-Presse, March 7, 2018, https://www.dailymail.co.uk/wires/afp/article-5472873/IS-group-calls-Muslims-immigrate-Afghanistan.html. [43] Basit et al., “Southeast Asia,” 37. [44] Giustozzi, The Islamic State in Khorasan, 3–5. “Statement for the Record by General John F. Campbell, Commander, U.S. Forces – Afghanistan, Before the Senate Armed Services Committee on the Situation in Afghanistan,” Oct. 6, 2015, https://www.armed-services.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/Campbell_10-06-15.pdf. [45] Kevin Baron and Marcus Weisgerber, “New Tactics, Quicker Decisions Are Helping to ‘Annihilate’ ISIS, Pentagon Says,” Defense One, May 19, 2017, https://www.defenseone.com/threats/2017/05/new-tactics-quicker-decisions-are-helping-annihilate-isis-pentagon-says/138024/. [46] Borhan Osman, “Decent Into Chaos: Why Did Nangarhar Turn Into an IS Hub?” Afghanistan Analysts Network, Sept. 27, 2016, https://www.afghanistan-analysts.org/descent-into-chaos-why-did-nangarhar-turn-into-an-is-hub/. [47] Giustozzi, The Islamic State in Khorasan, 43. [48] “Statement for the Record by General John W. Nicholson, Commander, U.S. Forces – Afghanistan, Before the Senate Armed Services Committee on the Situation in Afghanistan,” Feb. 9, 2017, https://www.armed-services.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/Nicholson_02-09-17.pdf. [49] Giustozzi, The Islamic State in Khorasan, 180. [50] Stephen Tankel, “Beyond the Double Game: Lessons from Pakistan’s Approach to Islamist Militancy,” Journal of Strategic Studies 41, no. 4 (2018): 545­–78, https://doi.org/10.1080/01402390.2016.1174114. [51] Giustozzi, The Islamic State in Khorasan, 59. [52] Ayaz Gul, “Islamic State Announces Pakistan Province,” Voice of America, May 15, 2019, https://www.voanews.com/a/islamic-state-announces-pakistan-province/4918903.html. [53] Giustozzi, The Islamic State in Khorasan, 57. [54] Rod Nordland and Zabihullah Ghazi, “ISIS Leader in Afghanistan Is Killed in U.S. Airstrike,” New York Times, April 9, 2018, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/09/wor ld/asia/afghanistan-isis-leader.html. [55] Paul Lushenko, “Reconsidering the Theory and Practice of High Value Targeting,” Counter Terrorist Trends and Analysis 7, no. 7 (August 2015), 23–30, http://www.rsis.edu.sg/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/CTTA-August-2015.pdf. [56] Giustozzi, The Islamic State in Khorasan, 196. [57] Giustozzi, The Islamic State in Khorasan, 56. [58] Andrew Quilty, “‘Faint Lights Twinkling Against the Dark’: Reportage From the Fight Against ISKP in Nangarhar,” Afghanistan Analysts Network, Feb. 19, 2019, https:// www.afghanistan-analysts.org/faint-lights-twinkling-against-the-dark-reportage-from-the-fight-against-iskp-in-nangrahar/. [59] Giustozzi, The Islamic State in Khorasan, 82. [60] Giustozzi, The Islamic State in Khorasan, 99. [61] Amin Tarzi, “Islamic State-Khurasan Province,” in The Future of ISIS: Regional and International Implications, ed. Feisal al-Istrabadi and Sumit Ganguly (Washington, D.C.: The Brookings Institution, 2019), 132. [62] Giustozzi, The Islamic State in Khorasan, 155. [63] Najim Rahim and Rod Nordland, “Taliban Surge Routs ISIS in Northern Afghanistan,” New York Times, Aug, 1, 2018, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/01/world/asia/afgh anistan-taliban-isis.html. [64] Craig Nelson and Ehsanullah Amiri, “Islamic State Claims Responsibility for Large-Scale Assault in Afghan Capital,” Wall Street Journal, April 21, 2019, https://www.wsj.com/articles/islamic-state-takes-credit-for-large-scale-assault-in-afghan-capital-11555865389. [65] Basit et al., “Southeast Asia,” 37. [66] Michael P. Dempsey, “The Islamic State Threat Hasn’t Gone Away,” Council on Foreign Relations, Aug. 1, 2018, https://www.cfr.org/article/islamic-state-threat-hasnt-gone-away. [67] “ISIL Chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi Appears in Propaganda Video,” Al Jazeera, April 29, 2019, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/asia/2019/04/isil-chief-abu-bakr-al-baghdadi-appears-propaganda-video-190429163448332.html. [68] Giustozzi, The Islamic State in Khorasan, 143. [69] “Interview With the Amir of the Khilafah’s Soldiers in Bengal: Shaykh Abu Ibrahim al-Hanif,” Dabiq: The Murtadd Brotherhood 14, April 13, 2016, https://jihadology.net/2016/04/13/new-issue-of-the-islamic-states-magazine-dabiq-14/. [70] Tore Refslund Hamming, “Jihadists’ Code of Conduct In the Era of ISIS,” Middle East Institute, April 29, 2019 https://www.mei.edu/publications/jihadists-code-conduct-era-isis. [71] Amira Jadoon, “An idea or a Threat? Islamic State Jammu & Kashmir,” USMA CTC Sentinel Online, Feb. 9, 2018, https://ctc.usma.edu/idea-threat-islamic-state-jammu-kashmir/. See also Abdul Basit and Sara Mahmood, “Implications of Possible United States Withdrawal From Afghanistan on the South Asian Militant Landscape,” Counter Terrorist Trends and Analyses 11, no. 4 (April 2019), https://www.rsis.edu.sg/rsis-publication/icpvtr/counter-terrorist-trends-and-analyses-ctta-volume-11-issue-04/. [72] “ISIS Group on Telegram: First Operative Of ‘Islamic State in Jammu and Kashmir’ Was Killed by Police,” Memri Cyber & Jihad Lab, Jan. 10, 2018, http://cjlab.memri.org/latest-reports/isis-group-on-telegram-first-operative-of-islamic-state-in-jammu-and-kashmir-was-killed-by-police-in-november-2017/. [73] “ISIS Group on Telegram.” See also Giustozzi, The Islamic State in Khorasan, 106. [74] Deeptiman Tiwary, “No IS In Kashmit, Says MHA, but Scattered ‘Operatives’ On Radar,” Indian Express, June 23, 2018, https://indianexpress.com/article/india/no-is-in-kashmir-says-mha-but-scattered-operatives-on-radar-5229567/. [75] Kabir Taneja, “The Fall of ISIS and Its Implications for South Asia,” ORF Issue Brief 220 (January 2018), https://www.orfonline.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/ORF_Issue_ Brief_220_ISI_all.pdf. [76] Rohan Gunaratna, Mahfuh Bin Haji Halimi, Muhammad Saiful Alam Shah Bin Sudiman, Nur Aziemah Azman, and Mohammed Sinan Siyech, eds., Counter Terrorist Trends and Analyses: Annual Threat Assessment 11, no. 1 (January 2019), https://www .rsis.edu.sg/rsis-publication/icpvtr /counter-terrorist-trends-and-analyses-ctta-volume-11-issue-1/#.XE2zQTHsZv0. [77] Ali Riaz and Saimum Parvez, “Bangladeshi Militants: What Do We Know?” Terrorism and Political Violence 30, no. 6 (2018), https://doi.org/10.1080/09546553.2018.1481312. [78] “Bangladesh Kills Two Suspects Linked to 2016 Dhaka Café Attack,” Reuters, April 30, 2019, https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/world/bangladesh-kills-two-suspects-linked-to-2016-dhaka-cafe-attack/ar-BBWoo7u?ocid=spartanntp. [79]  Islamic State in Bangladesh likely represents an umbrella term that includes all factions of the Neo-Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh that commit terrorist acts in the name of the Islamic State and its Khorasan affiliate; “State Department Terrorist Designation of ISIS Affiliates and Senior Leaders,” Department of State, Feb. 27, 2018, https://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2018/02/2788 83.htm. See also, Kabir Taneja, “Uncovering the Influence of ISIS in India,” ORF Occasional Papers, July 12, 2018, https://www.orfonline.org/research/42378-uncovering-the-influence-of-isis-in-india/. [80] Giustozzi, The Islamic State in Khorasan, 143. Sanjeev Miglani, “ISIS Threatens Attacks In India and Urges Muslims to Travel to the ‘Caliphate,’” Independent, May 22, 2016, https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asi a/isis-threatens-attacks-in-india-and-urges-muslims-to-travel-to-the-caliphate-a7042801.html. [81] Punya Priya Mitra, “ISIS Module Behind Blast In Bhopal-Ujjain Passenger Train In Madhya Pradesh, Police Say,” Hindustan Times, March 8, 2017, https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/isis-module-behind-blast-in-bhopal-ujjain-passenger-train-in-madhya-pradesh-police-say/story-c0jKbjwKC0qa4xb2kIfQVO.html. [82] Aishwarya Kumar, “Maximum ISIS Arrests Made In Utter Pradesh Says Home Ministry,” News 18, Dec. 21, 2017, https://www.news18.com/news/india/maximum-isis-arrests-made-in-up-says-home-ministry-1610475.html. [83] “India Busts ISIS-Inspired Militant Group,” Straits Times, Dec. 26, 2018, ht tps://www.straitstimes.com/asia/south-asia/india-busts-isis-inspired-militant-group. [84] “ISIS Training 20 Indians in Afghanistan to Conduct Attacks on India: R&AW,” Deccan Chronicle, June 6, 2017, https://www.deccanchronicle.com/nation/current-affairs/060117/isis-training-20-indians-in-aghanistan-to-conduct-attacks-on-india-raw.html. [85] Giustozzi, The Islamic State in Khorasan, 143. [86] Gopikrishnan Unnithan and Jeemon Jacob, “ISIS Operative Yasmin Mohammed Gets 7 Years in Jail for Recruiting 15 Indians,” India Today, March 24, 2018, https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/nia-sentences-yasmin-mohammed-to-7-years-in-jail-for-recruiting-15-indians-for-isis-1196974-2018-03-24. [87] Kabir Taneja, “Uncovering the Influence of ISIS in India.” [88] This injunction is similar to concerns expressed by scholars that IS-K may “attract followers among urban university students” in Afghanistan. See Tarzi, “Islamic State-Khurasan Province,” 138. [89] “Ban Madrasas or ISIS Influence Will Grow in India: Shia Waqf Board Chief,” Hindustan Times, Jan. 22, 2019, https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/ban-madrasas-or-isis-influence-will-grow-in-india-shia-leader/story-PM06Uss3vrQayeCEcLgEgN.html. [90] Giustozzi, The Islamic State in Khorasan, 106. [91] Giustozzi, The Islamic State in Khorasan, 219. [92] Rod Nordland and Mujib Mashal, “U.S. and Taliban Edge Toward Deal to End America’s Longest War,” New York Times, Jan. 26, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/26/world/asia/afghanistan-taliban-peace-deal.html. See also William Maley, “A Negotiated Peace for Afghanistan,” Australian Strategic Policy Institute, Feb. 11, 2019, https://www.aspistrategist.org.au/a-negotiated-peace-for-afghanistan/. [93] Paul Lushenko, “ISKP: Afghanistan’s New Salafi Jihadism,” Middle East Institute, Oct. 19, 2018, https://www.mei.edu/publications/iskp-afghanistans-new-salafi-jihadism. See also Tore Refslund Hamming, “Jihadists’ Code of Conduct in the Era of ISIS.” See also Giustozzi, The Islamic State in Khorasan, 216. [94] Basit et al., “Southeast Asia,” 38. [95] Giustozzi, The Islamic State in Khorasan, 52. [96] In 2018, Afghan soldiers died at a rate of 30 to 40 a day, amounting to 175 a week, and more than 9,000 a year. See Basit et al., “Southeast Asia”; and O’Hanlon, Afghanistan After Mattis. [97] David W. Griffith, Security Force Assistance Brigades: A Permanent Force for Regional Engagement and Building Operational Depth (Fort Leavenworth, KS: U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, 2017). See also, O’Hanlon, Afghanistan After Mattis. [98] “State of the Union,” The White House, February 6, 2018, https://www.whitehouse. gov/sotu/. [99] Dan Lamothe and Pamela Constable, “Smaller Military Presence in Afghanistan Will Likely Focus Trump’s Favored Pentagon Mission: Counterterrorism,” Washington Post, Dec. 21, 2018, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/smaller-military-presence-in-afghanistan-will-likely-focus-on-trumps-favored-pentagon-mission-counterterrorism/2018/12/21/d3df2c22-054f-11e9-b5df-5d3874f1ac36_story.html?noredirect=on. [100] Stephen Losey, “Airstrikes Up Against ISIS, Taliban,” Air Force Times, Jan. 14, 2019, https://www.airforcetimes.com/news/your-air-force/2019/01/14/airstrikes-up-against-isis-taliban/. [101] “Senior ISIS Commander Killed in Afghanistan, US Forces Say,” Jerusalem Post, Jan. 12, 2019, https://www.jpost.com/Breaking-News/Senior-ISIS-commander-killed-in-Afghanistan-US-forces-say-577128. [102] “Statement for the Record by General John W. Nicholson, Commander, U.S. Forces – Afghanistan, Before the Senate Armed Services Committee on the Situation in Afghanistan,” Feb. 9, 2017, https://www.armed-services.senate.gov/imo/media/doc /Nicholson_02-09-17.pdf. [103] Kyle Rempfer, “Pentagon Identifies Army Green Beret Killed in Afghanistan,” Army Times, Jan. 23, 2019, https://www.armytimes.com/news/your-army/2019/01/23/pentagon-identifies-army-green-beret-killed-in-afghanistan/. See also, Fahim Abed, “Two U.S. Service Members Killed in Northern Afghanistan,” New York Times, March 22, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/22/world/asia/americans-killed-afghanistan.html. [104] Giustozzi, The Islamic State in Khorasan, 216. [105] Giustozzi, The Islamic State in Khorasan, 216. See also Ryamizard Ryacudu, “Terrorism in Southeast Asia: The Need for Joint Counter-Terrorism Frameworks,” Counter Terrorist Trends and Analysis 10, no. 11 (November 2018), http://www.rsis.edu.sg/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/CTTA-November-2018.pdf. [106] James Kitfield, “CJCS Dunford Talks Turkey, Iran, Afghan Troop Numbers & Daesh,” Breaking Defense, June 16, 2017, https://breakingdefense.com/2017/06/cjcs-dunford-talks-turkey-iran-afghan-troop-numbers-daesh/. [107] Bianca Britton and Hamdi Alkhshali, “ISIS Leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi May Have Reappeared in New Video,” CNN, April 29, 2019, https://www.cnn.com/2019/04/29/middleeast/isis-leader-abu-bakr-al-baghdadi-video-intl/index.html. [108] Liz Sly and Souad Mekhennet, “ISIS Leader Baghdadi Makes First Video Appearance in 5 Years, Emphasizes Group’s Global Reach,” Washington Post, April 29, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle_east/isis-leader-baghdadi-appears-in-a-video-for-the-first-time-in-five-years/2019/04/29/a82611d4-6a9b-11e9-bbe7-1c798fb80536_story.html?utm_term=.773d7df28f05. [109] “IS ‘Caliphate’ Defeated But Jihadist Group Remains a Threat,” BBC, March 23, 2019, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-45547595; Jin Wu, Derek Watkins, and Rukmini Callimachi, “ISIS Lost Its Last Territory in Syria. But the Attacks Continue,” New York Times, March 23, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/03/23/world/middleeast/isis-syria-defeated.html [110] Markham Nolan and Gilad Shiloach, “ISIS Statement Urges Attacks, Announces Khorasan State,” vocativ, Jan. 26, 2015, https://www.vocativ.com/world/isis-2/isis-khorasan/. [111] Barbara Starr and Ryan Browne, “US Officials Warn ‘ISIS’ Afghanistan Branch Poses a Major Threat,” CNN, Feb. 19, 2019, https://www.cnn.com/2019/02/19/politics/isis-afghanistan-threat/index.html. [112] Henry Meyer, “Russia Says U.S. Exit from Afghanistan Won’t Create Power Vacuum,” Bloomberg, Feb. 12, 2019, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-02-12/russia-says-u-s-exit-from-afghanistan-won-t-create-power-vacuum. [113] Particularly during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. [114] Mustafa Hamid, and Leah Farrall, The Arabs at War in Afghanistan (London: Hurst, 2015); Anne Stenersen, Al-Qaida in Afghanistan (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2017). [115] Antonio Giustozzi, The Islamic State in Khorasan: Afghanistan, Pakistan and the New Central Asian Jihad (London: Hurst, 2018), 167. [116] Giustozzi, The Islamic State in Khorasan, 92, fn 37; “Fighting, While Funding, Extremists,” New York Times, June 19, 2017, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/19/opinion/saudi-arabia-qatar-isis-terrorism.html. [117] David Gardner, “The toxic rivalry of Saudi Arabia and Isis,” Financial Times, July 16, 2015, https://www.ft.com/content/8bba2ab4-2b00-11e5-8613-e7aedbb7bdb7. [118] Ahmed Rashid, Taliban: Islam, Oil and the New Great Game in Central Asia (New York: I.B.Tauris, 2002). [119] Steve Coll, Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001 (New York: Penguin Books, 2004). [120] Giustozzi, The Islamic State in Khorasan, 38–39. [121] “Fighting, While Funding, Extremists.” [122] “Fighting, While Funding, Extremists.” [123] Giustozzi, The Islamic State in Khorasan, 39. [124] Barnett R. Rubin, “Everyone Wants a Piece of Afghanistan,” Foreign Policy, March 11, 2019, https://foreignpolicy.com/2019/03/11/everyone-wants-a-piece-of-afghanistan-russia-china-un-sco-pakistan-isi-qatar-saudi-uae-taliban-karzai-ghani-khalilzad-iran-india/. [125] Giustozzi, The Islamic State in Khorasan, 39. [126] For a discussion on regional tensions over Baluchi insurgents, see, Fatemeh Aman, “Is Saudi Arabia Pulling Pakistan Into War With Iran?” Atlantic Council, Feb. 26, 2019, https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/blogs/iransource/is-saudi-arabia-pulling-pakistan-into-war-with-iran. [127] Giustozzi, The Islamic State in Khorasan, 67. [128] Ethan Frisch, “Insurgencies Are Organizations Too: Organizational Structure and the Effectiveness of Insurgent Strategy,” Peace and Conflict Review 6 no. 1 (2011), http://www.operationspaix.net/DATA/DOCUMENT/6709~v~Insurgencies_are_Organizations_Too__Organizational_Structure_and_the_Effectiveness_of_Insurgent_Strategy.pdf. [129] These groups were, Jundullah and Haraket-e Abasar-e Iran, Jaysh al Adl, Harakat-e Islami Sistan, Wilayat Khorasan Iran, and the West Azerbaijan Islamic Movement. [130] Jihadi extremist groups that operate in Tajikistan are, Jammaat Ansarullah, Jihod Hizbi Nahzati Islamii (Islamic Jihad Renaissance Party), Harakati Islami Tajikistan (Islamic Movement of Tajikistan), Harakati Islami Gulmorad Halimov (Islamic Movement of Gulmorad Halimov). [131] Jihadi extremist groups that operate in Uzbekistan are, Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, The Chinese (Uyghur) Turkestan Islamic Party and East Turkestan Islamic Movement, and the Chechens of Kavkaz Emarat. [132] According to Giustozzi, the Islamic Movement of Turkmenistan and a number of other smaller movements are operating in Turkmenistan and in the region in general. [133] Giustozzi, The Islamic State in Khorasan, 21–22. [134] Giustozzi, The Islamic State in Khorasan, 21. [135] Giustozzi, The Islamic State in Khorasan, 21–22. [136] Giustozzi, The Islamic State in Khorasan, 39. [137] Giustozzi, The Islamic State in Khorasan, 166. [138] Giustozzi, The Islamic State in Khorasan, 165. [139] Giustozzi, The Islamic State in Khorasan, 161–63. [140] Giustozzi, The Islamic State in Khorasan, 4–25. [141] Giustozzi, The Islamic State in Khorasan, 165–66. [142] Giustozzi, The Islamic State in Khorasan, 24–25. [143] Giustozzi, The Islamic State in Khorasan, 37. [144] Vivian Yee, “Claim of Attacks on 4 Oil Vessels Raises Tensions in Middle East,” New York Times, May 13, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/13/world/middleeast/saudi-arabia-oil-tanker-sabotage.html. [145] “Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt Call on Qatar to Stop Funding Terror Groups,” Arab News, May 17, 2019, http://www.arabnews.com/node/1498156/middle-east. [146] Alan Taylor, “The Soviet War in Afghanistan, 1979–1989,” Atlantic, Aug. 4, 2014, https://www.theatlantic.com/photo/2014/08/the-soviet-war-in-afghanistan-1979-1989/100786/. [147] Henry Meyer, “Russia Says U.S. Exit from Afghanistan Won’t Create Power Vacuum,” Bloomberg, Feb. 12, 2019, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-02-12/russia-says-u-s-exit-from-afghanistan-won-t-create-power-vacuum. [148] Douglas Jehl, “Iran Holds Taliban Responsible for 9 Diplomats’ Deaths,” New York Times, Sept. 11, 1998, https://www.nytimes.com/1998/09/11/world/iran-holds-taliban-responsible-for-9-diplomats-deaths.html. [149] Michael Kugelman, “Shutting Out Iran Will Make the Afghan War Even Deadlier,” Foreign Policy, Nov. 16, 2018, https://foreignpolicy.com/2018/11/16/shutting-out-iran-will-make-the-afghan-war-even-deadlier/. [150] Kugelman, “Shutting Out Iran Will Make the Afghan War Even Deadlier.” [151] Office of the Media Spokesman, “State Department Terrorist Designation of Hajji ‘Abd al-Nasir,” U.S. State Department, Nov. 20, 2018, https://www.state.gov/state-department-terrorist-designation-of-hajji-abd-al-nasir/. [152] John Mackinlay conceptualizes the idea of a noncontiguous global insurgency connected by advances in communication technologies and a shared ideology in, The Insurgent Archipelago (New York: Columbia University Press, 2010). [153] Although this term (meaning East/Orient) predates early Islamic usage, the Islamic State seeks to tie into a nostalgia for the territories of the Umayyad and Abbasid caliphates. [154] For examples of disinformation campaigns waged against the Islamic State by jihadi rivals, see Craig Whiteside, “A Pedigree of Terror: The Myth of the Ba’athist Influence in the Islamic State Movement,” Perspectives on Terrorism 11, no. 3 (June 2017): 2–18, https://www.jstor.org/stable/26297838. [155] The provenance of this diary is also unproven/unverified, leaving some doubt as to how well we should rely on the sourcing of the book. [156] Craig Whiteside, “Lighting the Path: the Evolution of the Islamic State Media Enterprise (2003-2016),” The International Centre for Counter-Terrorism – The Hague 7, no. 11 (2016), http://dx.doi.org/10.19165/2016.1.14; Asaad Almohammad and Charlie Winter, “From Battlefront to Cyberspace: Demystifying the Islamic State’s Propaganda Machine,” CTC West Point, June 5, 2019, https://ctc.usma.edu/battlefront-cyberspace-demystifying-islamic-states-propaganda-machine/. [157] For a comprehensive look at the group’s history and deconstruction of these myths and legends, see, Haroro J. Ingram, Craig Whiteside, and Charlie Winter, The ISIS Reader: Milestone Texts of the Islamic State Movement (London: Hurst Publications, forthcoming 2019). [158] A prominent exception to this lacuna is Brian Fishman’s book, The Master Plan: ISIS, al-Qaeda, and the Jihadi Strategy for Final Victory (New London: Yale University Press, 2016). [159] Kyle Orton, “A Turncoat Still Loved by the Islamic State: Manaf al-Rawi,” Kyle Orton’s Blog, Jan. 29, 2017 https://kyleorton1991.wordpress.com/2017/01/29/a-turncoat-still-loved-by-the-islamic-state-manaf-al-rawi/. [160] Patrick B. Johnston, Jacob N. Shapiro, Howard J. Shatz, Benjamin Bahney, Danielle F. Jung, Patrick Ryan, and Jonathan Wallace, Foundations of the Islamic State: Management, Money, and Terror in Iraq, 2005–2010 (Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, 2016), https://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RR1192.html. [161] For prominent examples, see Jacob Shapiro, The Terrorist’s Dilemma: Managing Violent Covert Organizations (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2013), and the CTC’s reports on the Harmony Program, like Danielle F. Jung, Pat Ryan, Jacob Shapiro, and Jon Wallace, “Managing a Transnational Insurgency: The Islamic State of Iraq’s ‘Paper Trail,’ 2005-2010,” CTC West Point (2014), https://scholar.princeton.edu/sites/default/files/jns/files/jrsw_2014_managing-a-transnational-insurgency-isi.pdf. [162] This prominent author claimed that ISIL was bound to fail, and its revolution “highly unlikely to spread”: Stephen Walt, “ISIS as Revolutionary State: New Twist on an Old Story,” Foreign Affairs, (November/December 2015), https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/middle-east/isis-revolutionary-state. [163] Borhan Osman, “The Islamic State in ‘Khorasan’: How It began and Where It Stands Now in Nangarhar,” Afghanistan Analysts Network, July 27, 2016, https://www.afghanistan-analysts.org/the-islamic-state-in-khorasan-how-it-began-and-where-it-stands-now-in-nangarhar/. [164] A brief description of the more important but lesser known al-Turkmani, see Kyle Orton, “The Islamic State’s Deputy and the Ghost of Saddam Hussein,” Kyle Orton’s Blog, Aug. 22, 2015, https://kyleorton1991.wordpress.com/2015/08/22/the-islamic-states-deputy-and-the-ghost-of-saddam-hussein/. [165] Daniel Milton, “Pulling Back the Curtain: An Inside Look at the Islamic State’s Media Organization,” CTC West Point, August 2018, https://ctc.usma.edu/app/uploads/2018/08/Pulling-Back-the-Curtain.pdf. [166] Fishman, The Master Plan, 91–98. [167] Krishnadev Calamur, “ISIS in Afghanistan Is Like a Balloon that Won’t Pop,” Atlantic, Dec. 28, 2017 https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2017/12/afghanistan-isis/549311/. [168] Charles Lister, The Syrian Jihad: Al-Qaeda, The Islamic State, and the Evolution of an Insurgency (London: Oxford University Press, 2016), 119–84. [169] Jacob Zenn, “The Islamic State’s Provinces on the Peripheries: Juxtaposing the Pledges from Boko Haram in Nigeria and Abu Sayyaf and Maute Group in the Philippines,” Perspectives on Terrorism 13, no. 1 (February 2019): 87–104 , https://www.jstor.org/stable/26590511. ) [contents] => Array ( [title] => Table of Contents [contents] => 1. "Introduction: Inside IS-K," by Theo Farrell 2. "IS-K: Defeating the New Central and South Asia Jihad," by Paul Lushenko 3. "The Islamic State in Khorasan: The Regional Context," by Weeda Mehran 4. "A Rare Inside Look Into ISIL’s Franchise Business," by Craig Whiteside ) ) [1] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 716 [post_author] => 202 [post_date] => 2018-09-11 10:38:39 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-09-11 14:38:39 [post_content] =>

1. Introduction: A Most Infamous Day: Marking the 17th Anniversary of the 9/11 Attacks

By Ryan Evans The 9/11 attacks and Pearl Harbor have often been compared. Not long after the towers fell, then-Sen. Chuck Hagel, a future secretary of defense, said, “This is the second Pearl Harbor. I don't think that I overstate it.”[1] A senior E.U. official said that same day, “It is the worst attack on the United States since Pearl Harbor. This is one of those few days in life that one can say will actually change everything.” Around the world and especially in the United States, these comparisons are being repeated today. But marking the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks is fundamentally unlike observing that of the Dec. 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, a day that President Franklin D. Roosevelt said would “live in infamy.” Less than four years after Japanese imperialist forces struck at America’s Pacific Fleet as it sat in Pearl Harbor, Japan surrendered unconditionally, submitting itself to a military occupation by its adversary. Seventeen years after the 9/11 attacks, however, the kindest thing that can be said of the American record against the jihadist movement is that it is mixed. While the United States has succeeded in preventing another mass casualty attack on its soil, its terrorist enemies continue to wreak havoc in Africa, the Middle East, as well as South and Southeast Asia, and have repeatedly attacked Europe. Sept. 11 is a day that, like Dec. 7, lives in infamy, but it is an infamy that today is largely defined by America’s strategic incompetence and confusion, which have played no small role in transforming a vicious tragedy into an expensive — and often fruitless — geopolitical preoccupation that has seen the United States and its allies pay dearly with both blood and treasure without making the world any safer. With the benefit of 17 years of hindsight, one would be hard pressed to imagine a worse way to have honored and avenged the lives of the 3,000 people who perished on this day in 2001. To understand what has gone both right and wrong, we have convened a roundtable of some of this country’s foremost experts on terrorism, insurgency, and strategy. The Contributions Without the durable alliance between al-Qaeda and the Taliban, the attacks might not have taken place and the last 17 years surely would have played out quite differently. Tricia Bacon of American University helps us understand this remarkable alliance and why it has proven so resilient in the face of an all-out assault by some of the world’s most advanced military powers. As Bacon observes, there is a considerable asymmetry in this relationship. For the Taliban, there have been great costs and marginal benefits. For al-Qaeda, great benefits and marginal costs. This case is perhaps the foremost example of America’s “larger failure to prevent or disrupt alliances between militant groups.” These jihadist alignments, however, are often not as stable as the alliance between the Taliban and al-Qaeda, which has posed other problems for America’s global counter-terrorism campaign. Focusing on Syria and the Sahel, Martha Crenshaw of Stanford University assesses the regularly shifting, and often “bewildering,” ties between various militant groups arrayed against the West. As she explains, “These complicated and often obscure interactions among jihadist militants make it hard for governments or international institutions to understand the adversary or predict what will happen.” Even after suffering undeniable military defeats, these groups are able to reconstitute themselves elsewhere with remarkable consistency, calling into question the sustained special operations missions and interventions meant to crush them. America, of course, is not fighting jihadist groups alone. Cooperation and coordination with the governments of Muslim-majority states has been a critical, yet frustrating, part of the war on terrorism. Drawing on his recent book, Stephen Tankel of American University explains how these partners “both help and hinder U.S. counterterrorism efforts.”[2] Even when Washington and a partner state find their interests closely aligned and see a jihadist group as a foe that must be fiercely fought, many Americans find themselves troubled by often repressive methods employed by the partner. And often, America has different priorities than a partner state, either because the local authorities see a jihadist group as useful or simply because they don’t see defeating it as especially important compared to other goals. It is undeniable that there have been some major successes in the global war on terrorism. Speaking as an intelligence professional, Michael Dempsey — formerly the acting director of national intelligence, the deputy director of national intelligence, and President Barack Obama’s primary intelligence briefer — walks us through these victories as well as some notable failures. The U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies have protected the homeland from another mass casualty plot and U.S. military forces, with the support of coalition partners, have more recently regained the battlefield initiative against jihadists in the Middle East. At the same time, however, jihadist groups remain adaptive, the socio-political drivers that sustain their ranks are unresolved, and Washington is prone to “unforced errors” that, in the end, are gifts to America’s enemies. How have American thinking and counter-terrorism efforts evolved in the last 17 years? David A. Brown, Tim Hoyt, and Craig Whiteside, all of the U.S. Naval War College, join forces to answer this question and others in a wide-ranging and creative article that draws on everything from the great naval strategist Alfred Thayer Mahan to Burmese pythons on the loose in Florida to Washington’s alleged reorientation toward great-power competition. “Much like the futility of trying to stop the growth of the python population,” they write, “our failure to reduce the scale of global jihadism is more obvious than ever.” Brown, Hoyt, and Whiteside call for a “shared understanding and more realistic appraisal of the nature of the conflict,” but are decidedly skeptical of Washington’s ability to get there. This roundtable ends where it all began: Afghanistan. Trevor Thrall of George Mason University and Erik Goepner of the Cato Institute examine how the “safe haven fallacy” has sustained poor decision-making on Afghanistan across three presidencies. Thrall and Goepner disassemble the assumptions of the safe haven fallacy — describing it as “an argument for endless war based on unwarranted worst-case scenario assumptions” — and call for Washington to finally end its involvement in the conflict. The Trump administration, they correctly argue, are guilty of relying on shoddy logic if its officials truly believe that with far fewer troops on the ground they can get any closer to something resembling victory than previous administrations have. “Nothing the United States is doing,” they write, “will encourage the Taliban to change its course, regardless of how much resolve Trump and his generals have.” Ryan Evans is the publisher of the Texas National Security Review and the editor-in-chief of War on the Rocks.  

2. Al-Qaeda and the Taliban: The Alliance that Started the Forever War

By Tricia Bacon Today marks 17 years since 9/11 and nearly the same since America’s war in Afghanistan started. Launched on October 7, 2001, the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan quickly overthrew the Taliban regime after their leader, Mullah Omar, refused to hand over Osama bin Laden.[3] While America’s strategic objective in Afghanistan has often been unclear,[4] the Taliban’s refusal to give up al-Qaeda — and by extension the fear that an Afghanistan dominated by the Taliban would remain a safe haven for international terrorists[5] — has been one of the primary motives for the “forever war.”[6] The alliance between al-Qaeda and the Taliban has endured for over 20 years. Between a crushing military campaign by the world’s foremost military alliance and the realpolitik considerations that seemingly should have led the Taliban to break ties long ago, the fact that they haven’t is remarkable. As in other alliances,[7] the two groups remain engaged in cooperation with mutual expectations about consultation and cooperation in the future. An alliance does not mean that partners have merged, operate in lockstep, or even always adhere to one another’s input. In this case, they certainly have not, do not, and they sometimes ignore one another’s counsel.[8] Allies can have areas of major divergence. And the Taliban and al-Qaeda certainly do. Since the inception of their relationship, the two groups have differed on their strategic objectives, priorities, and tactics. The Taliban continues to be staunchly focused on Afghanistan and has never embraced al-Qaeda’s global jihadist ambitions. For its part, al-Qaeda has consistently pursued its agenda with a disregard for how doing so has affected the Taliban. Yet they cooperate in Afghanistan and expect future cooperation and consultation in that realm. They share a desire to expel U.S. forces from Afghanistan and re-instate Taliban rule. And they now have a mutual rival in the Islamic State. But even these common interests do not fully capture what binds these two groups into their long-standing, but difficult, partnership. Their relationship has evolved over time. Though Bin Laden had pledged bayat to Mullah Omar, al-Qaeda was “an organization supporting a state” during the 1990s.[9] Now the Taliban does not rely on al-Qaeda nor does it need al-Qaeda’s support for its insurgency. Al-Qaeda gains more from the relationship, not least of all a role in the insurgency in Afghanistan and an alternative to the Islamic State that it can promote to discredit its former ally.[10] Al-Qaeda also gets the prospect of a future safe haven should the Taliban return to power, though the Taliban’s willingness to provide such sanctuary is uncertain.[11] The alliance has proven resilient and thus poses a hurdle to efforts to find a negotiated settlement to end the war.[12] Heavy Costs for Limited Benefits for the Taliban The Taliban has incurred tremendous costs for its alliance with al-Qaeda over more than two decades. The relationship contributed to the Taliban’s international isolation while it was in power, including a rupture with Saudi Arabia: one of only three states to recognize the Taliban government.[13] Al-Qaeda’s presence was a source of internal strife within the Taliban,[14] with some urging Mullah Omar to oust the group.[15] Some in the Taliban were particularly frustrated by Bin Laden’s declarations of war and al-Qaeda’s acts of terrorism against the United States in the years prior to 2001.[16] But Washington’s responses actually increased the Taliban’s support for al-Qaeda.[17] Of course, most notably, Mullah Omar’s refusal to handover Bin Laden after 9/11 led to the United States’ invasion and the downfall of the Taliban regime. The persistence of their alliance is all the more remarkable when you consider how little the Taliban needs al-Qaeda now. However, it does accrue some benefits. Though al-Qaeda was the cause of the U.S. invasion,[18] it has steadfastly supported the Taliban’s insurgency. The Taliban has benefited from al-Qaeda’s expertise since the onset of the conflict,[19] as it did against the Northern Alliance during the 1990s.[20] Al-Qaeda helped train local Taliban commanders to fabricate improvised explosives beginning in the early days of the insurgency.[21] The terrorist group’s personnel also offer other specialized and technological skills,[22] leading one leading scholar on Afghanistan to refer to al-Qaeda operators as “subcontractors” for the Taliban.[23] Al-Qaeda has assisted the Taliban with special operations and terrorist attacks, offering experienced supplemental manpower.[24] The jihadist group rarely conducts or claims attacks in Afghanistan independently; instead it contributes to attacks by the Taliban and its partner then decides how to claim responsibility. But, by al-Qaeda’s own admission, “the Taliban almost does not need us.”[25] The Taliban’s greatest strength is its ability to capitalize on widespread local grievances and the Afghan government’s lack of legitimacy. It has ample Afghan personnel, and it controls or contests at least 44 percent of Afghanistan’s districts.[26] Even those estimates vastly understate the Taliban’s influence.[27] In addition, at times, especially during the 1990s, the Taliban needed funds from al-Qaeda.[28] That is no longer the case. The Taliban’s coffers are well-stocked through its relations with various patrons, including Pakistan,[29] Iran, and Russia,[30] as well as through its involvement in the drug trade in Afghanistan.[31] It also garners funds locally from extortion and protection rackets.[32] Furthermore, it enjoys substantial support from donor networks in the Gulf.[33] Thus, to the extent that al-Qaeda provides the Taliban with resources, they are not pivotal to the Taliban’s financial health. While al-Qaeda and the Taliban share antipathy towards the Islamic State, there are no indications that the Taliban has needed al-Qaeda’s assistance in forcibly challenging the Islamic State’s local affiliate, the Islamic State in the Khorasan.[34] Nonetheless, some in the Taliban still have a soft spot for al-Qaeda. As recently as 2015, al-Qaeda operated a massive training facility in Kandahar until it was destroyed by the United States.[35] Whether the facility was an anomaly or an indication that the Taliban remains willing to offer al-Qaeda operating space in its territory remains unclear. In addition, the Haqqani Network faction of the Taliban has long been close to al-Qaeda.[36] They have conducted joint operations and al-Qaeda has benefited from Haqqani protection. The Haqqanis’ support for al-Qaida is more important than ever since the faction’s leader, Sirajuddin Haqqani, ascended to the number two spot in the Taliban in 2015. Mostly Benefits with Few Costs for al-Qaeda Through its alliance with the Taliban, al-Qaeda participates in the insurgency in Afghanistan, thereby maintaining a foothold in a campaign against the United States with symbolic importance in the broader global jihadist movement as the site of the defeat of the Soviet Union in 1989. But, as discussed, its involvement is selective, and the Taliban does not rely on al-Qaeda, which limits its losses and the resources it must invest in the effort. This arrangement works well for al-Qaeda because the insurgency in Afghanistan is not its top priority. In recent years, some of its skilled military and explosives experts have even left Afghanistan for Syria.[37] By Ayman al-Zawahiri’s own admission, Afghanistan is on the periphery of the larger battle in which Iraq and Syria command more importance.[38] Since the Islamic State’s emergence, al-Qaeda has garnered additional benefits from its alliance with the Taliban. Al-Qaeda sought to discredit the Islamic State’s claims to have formed a caliphate with Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as the caliph. It did so by touting the Taliban’s leader as the “true” leader of the faithful.[39] This effort initially backfired in the wake of humiliating revelations in 2015 that Mullah Omar had died in 2013.[40] Nonetheless, al-Qaeda stuck with the approach, hailing the Taliban as the only theologically legitimate alternative to the Islamic State.[41] Prospects Going Forward The alliance between these two movements has long defied the apparent cost-benefit calculation, suggesting that their ties run deeper,[42] especially after 17 years of fighting together. Their bond was once attributed primarily to the personal relationship between Mullah Omar and Bin Laden.[43] Thus, Bin Laden’s death in 2011 and the revelation of Mullah Omar’s 2013 death seemed to be as an opening for the Taliban to break with al-Qaeda.[44] Once again, in defiance of predictions, the alliance persisted. However, Zawahiri does not enjoy the same standing as Bin Laden with the Taliban or even among al-Qaeda’s other allies.[45] Mullah Omar’s successors have suffered from their own legitimacy shortfalls. Consequently, they have sought to navigate Zawahiri’s declarations of bayat carefully. Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour publicly accepted Zawahiri’s pledge,[46] only to subsequently remove the announcement from the Taliban’s website. The Taliban’s current leader Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada has not publicly endorsed Zawahiri’s most recent pledge.[47] The Taliban has also undertaken some rhetorical maneuvers to distance itself from al-Qaeda publicly. Most notably, the Taliban’s current leader pledged that the group will not allow Afghanistan to be used for attacks on other countries.[48] While proponents of negotiations are encouraged by the move, al-Qaeda is probably relatively untroubled by such declarations. It does not and never has felt compelled to consult the Taliban about its operations outside of Afghanistan: It is beyond the scope of their alliance. Moreover, the Taliban’s rhetorical steps have been uneven and contradictory; it has also issued statements in recent years seemingly touting ties with al-Qaeda.[49] With the obvious exception of the rupture with the Islamic State, al-Qaeda’s other alliances have also proven resilient. Its affiliates remained loyal despite efforts by the Islamic State to entice them. Al-Qaeda has also sustained a web of relationships with other militant groups, such as the Pakistani Taliban and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, in Afghanistan and Pakistan that have allowed it to survive the past 17 years. Implications for Negotiations There is renewed hope for negotiations since President Donald Trump announced a willingness to engage in direct talks with the Taliban.[50] However, it is hard to imagine the United States being satisfied with a negotiated settlement that does not include the Taliban abdicating al-Qaeda. How much of a stumbling block does this pose? In my experience, officials working on Afghanistan tend to be more optimistic about the prospects of persuading the Taliban to sever ties with al-Qaeda than those working on counter-terrorism. While the cost-benefit analysis offered above seemingly favors the interpretation of former, history is with the latter. Determining the Taliban’s view is difficult because proponents of negotiations within the Taliban are likely the same individuals who would like to break ties with al-Qaeda anyway, so their views on the topic may not represent important factions within the Taliban. Conversely, at least some of those within the Taliban who oppose negotiations would probably also reject renouncing al-Qaeda. In other words, Taliban leadership will have to strike a difficult, perhaps impossible, balance between these two positions.[51] At the same time, Taliban leaders have to be vigilant to avoid fragmentation: a major hurdle to serious negotiations and an eventual political settlement.[52] Though the Taliban has shown remarkable unity to date, Mullah Omar’s successors do not enjoy the same levels of loyalty and deference from Taliban members as he did. The Taliban lost power because its revered founding leader refused to relinquish al-Qaeda. While the insurgency in Afghanistan is certainly not about protecting al-Qaeda, reversing Mullah Omar’s 2001 positon will not be a small feat for any Taliban leader, especially one whose grasp on the various factions within the organization is not fully secure. One British official recently shared his view with me that the Taliban is holding on to severing ties with al-Qaeda as a bargaining chip, which it expects to exchange only for a major concession from the United States. If this is correct, the key question becomes: What is Washington is willing concede? Unfortunately, America’s inability to drive a wedge between al-Qaeda and the Taliban is not an anomaly. It is indicative of a larger failure to prevent or disrupt alliances between militant groups, despite the centrality of such relationships in the threat to the United States since 2001. In the case of al-Qaeda and the Taliban, this failure has been particularly costly. Tricia Bacon is an assistant professor at American University’s School of Public Affairs, fellow at Fordham University's Center for National Security, and non-resident fellow at George Washington’s Program on Extremism. She is the author of Why Terrorist Groups Form International Alliances (University of Pennsylvania, 2018). She was previously a counterterrorism analyst at the U.S. State Department from 2003 to 2013.  

3. The Long Aftermath of 9/11: How Terrorism Doesn’t End

By Martha Crenshaw When American leaders declared a global war on terror in 2001, they warned that victory was distant and elusive. But it is doubtful that any of them foresaw that 17 years later, American and allied troops would still be in Afghanistan facing a resurgent Taliban in the longest war in American history. Nor is it likely that they expected that American counterterrorism operations would be underway in 76 countries by 2017, or that through fiscal year 2018 the cost of the war on terror would be $5.6 trillion.[53] Certainly no one would have thought that in 2014 an “Islamic State” would conquer sizable territory in Syria and Iraq and institute a caliphate governed by its own intolerant version of Islamic law. Indeed, it is clear that jihadist terrorism is lasting much longer than previous waves or cycles of terrorism.[54] Although the 9/11 attacks precipitated the “Global War on Terror,” the jihadist trend had started long before. Its origins lie in the 1980s resistance to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and Abdullah Azzam’s famous appeal to Sunni Muslims worldwide to join in jihad to expel the infidel occupiers. The organization behind the 9/11 attacks and the original target of the war on terrorism was al-Qaeda. Legally, the justification for American military action in the war on terror is the threat from al-Qaeda. But al-Qaeda is no longer the unitary actor it was on 9/11, and it also has a major challenger for overall jihadist primacy in its former partner, the self-proclaimed Islamic State. Each has affiliates and followers around the world.[55] The threat has thus been dispersed. There is no single monolithic jihadist adversary. Yet it is the fragmented and shifting character of jihadism that makes it so persistent and so hard to combat. Relationships among the different actors behind global jihadism are fluid and variable. These actors include a bewildering variety of individuals acting on inspiration, social networks, underground conspiracies, foreign fighters, civil war rebels, dissident splinter factions, franchise operations, loose inter-group alliances, and organizational mergers.[56] Their connections flow easily across national borders. Groups constantly align and realign themselves as friends or rivals as they change their strategic expectations about the future of the conflict in which they are involved. They are often embedded in local struggles and compete or cooperate with nationalists or separatists. Jihadists may be united in an overall belief that violence is both necessary and justified to bring about the liberation of Muslim lands from foreign oppression and restore a just order founded on original principles of Islam. But they are divided along lines of what is permissible in the struggle, the appropriate targets, the best tactics and timing, and where to fight. Is the most dangerous opponent the local government — the “near enemy” — or the United States and its Western allies — the “far enemy”? Is it permissible to target fellow Muslims, especially Sunnis? Should civilians be attacked? How important is unity among jihadist groups? These complicated and often obscure interactions among jihadist militants make it hard for governments or international institutions to understand the adversary or predict what will happen. Even with the best intelligence, governments operate under conditions of high uncertainty. Control of outcomes is impossible. Interventions to overthrow authoritarian governments, for example, result in the emergence of multiple contenders for power, among them diehard jihadists who are likely to gain ascendancy over other less experienced and less well-armed groups. The consequences of counterterrorist measures are often unexpected, unintended, and even counterproductive. Actions intended to defeat or undermine a single organization have “ricochet” effects on other groups, often upsetting the balance of power among them. Sometimes government repression stimulates cooperation that strengthens the jihadist movement. But governments most often seek to sow dissension in the ranks — causing splintering that leads to more violence and escalation of the conflict. Offers to negotiate might attract some relatively moderate groups but provoke the more extreme to heightened violence. Even if a group is defeated within the boundaries of one state, it may simply be displaced to a weaker neighbor, or the struggle can be globalized if losing civil war rebels turn to transnational terrorism. The United States, al-Qaeda, and the Islamic State in Syria There are numerous examples of how interactions among militant groups have impeded the effectiveness of counterterrorism efforts. Consider American policy toward al-Nusra Front and the Islamic State in Syria.[57] Al-Nusra was founded as an outpost of the Islamic State of Iraq, then nominally a branch of al-Qaeda central. Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State of Iraq recognized the Syrian civil war as a golden opportunity for jihadist expansion. Although the mainstream Syrian resistance to the Assad regime was ambivalent toward any group linked to al-Qaeda, its presence in the opposition in effect tainted the whole enterprise. At the least, it gave Assad and later his Russian patrons an excuse for condemning all opposition as jihadist extremism. At most, it was the decisive factor that ensured Western support to the rebels would be limited. When Assad responded to the initial popular uprisings with indiscriminate brutality, jihadists gained credibility. Their fighting prowess also helped. As the conflict intensified al-Nusra’s military contribution became increasingly important. Thus, when in December 2012 the United States declared al-Nusra a “foreign terrorist organization,” even committed secular nationalists came to its defense.[58] U.S. efforts to provide covert assistance exclusively to non-jihadist forces were frequently stymied or diverted due to lack of knowledge of what was going on and inability to monitor the activities of sponsored groups. Congress approved nonlethal assistance in 2013 and a Department of Defense train-and-equip mission for vetted Syrian opposition groups in 2014. The Pentagon’s effort was abandoned in 2015, and the CIA initiative was cancelled in the summer of 2017 after a cost of about $1 billion.[59] The programs suffered from diversions of supplies, defections, and deadly losses to al-Nusra attacks. Shortly after these aid programs got under way and al-Nusra was declared the enemy, al-Qaeda and the Islamic State parted ways, with al-Nusra remaining loyal to al-Qaeda. Over time American aid to its nationalist competitors probably made al-Nusra more extreme, but the Islamic State was much more ruthless and ambitious. It also exhibited remarkable military capability in seizing Fallujah and Ramadi in early 2014 and then Mosul in June. With this surprise victory, the Islamic State declared the establishment of a caliphate in the occupied parts of Syria and Iraq, thus becoming a global rival to al-Qaeda. The United States and its allies began airstrikes against the Islamic State, justifying them in terms of defending Iraq as requested.  An impressive “Global Coalition to Defeat ISIL” assembled. Shortly thereafter, the United States began airstrikes that reportedly hit al-Nusra bases in Idlib province, although the attacks were justified by reference to a mysterious Khorasan Group, described as an external operations branch of al-Qaeda engaged in planning attacks against the West and thus a direct threat to U.S. security.[60] The attacks may have weakened al-Nusra but they also apparently served to deepen loyalty among Syrian jihadists, including the Ahrar al-Sham group, an ally of Turkey as of 2015.[61] The offensive also deepened al-Nusra’s hostility toward the American-supported resistance (at the time the Free Syrian Army and the Kurds). Consequently, al-Nusra embarked on a military campaign against selected U.S.-backed groups, even those that had prudently restricted their attacks to the Islamic State.[62] Paradoxically, the fact that U.S. air strikes targeted al-Nusra generated resentment among the general body of Syrian resistance fighters. At the same time, predictably, the damage inflicted by U.S. strikes on Islamic State command and control systems advantaged its rivals, both Ahrar al-Sham and al-Nusra. The offensive against the Islamic State was also a boon to the regime and its allies. After Russia intervened in the fall of 2015, shifting patterns of military escalation and negotiation offers split the resistance and further divided Ahrar al-Sham from al-Nusra, which was excluded from the political process initiated late in 2016 with a ceasefire offer guaranteed by Russia and Turkey.[63] The United States did not participate directly in these initiatives, which were led by Russia, Iran, the Assad regime, and Turkey, but it supported a negotiated solution to the conflict, preferably through U.N. sponsorship. For al-Nusra, its battlefield strength was no longer the strongest card on the table if negotiations and politics replaced fighting.[64] Organizational twists and turns followed. In July 2016, al-Nusra claimed to have repudiated its affiliation with al-Qaeda and renamed itself the Front for the Conquest of the Levant. In January 2017, it rebranded itself again as the Liberation of the Levant organization (Hayat Tahrir al-Sham), proclaimed as an entirely new entity constituted by the merger of smaller groups and breakaway factions with the dominant al-Nusra. Soon it was engaged in a public dispute with al-Qaeda over the break, as Zawahiri criticized the former al-Nusra’s assumption that separating from al-Qaeda would reduce American pressure. Indeed, the United States continued to define the new rebranded Hayat Tahrir al-Sham as an al-Nusra alias and thus still a branch of al-Qaeda, although experts are divided as to whether the split is phony or genuine.[65] It is hard to escape the conclusion that American decision-makers failed to understand why al-Nusra was valuable to the non-jihadist resistance, how the group’s leaders might be ambivalent about the affiliation with al-Qaeda, or when tactical alliances could be sustained across ideological lines. At the same time, the Islamic State was steadily disintegrating under military assault in Iraq and Syria. By the fall of 2017 it had lost almost all the territory it once held, although it was still capable of mounting terrorist attacks within Syria, controlling a small pocket of territory, and maintaining an estimated 20,000 to 30,000 fighters in Syria and Iraq as well as external branches, such as those in North Africa, Egypt, and Afghanistan. An unknown number of the many foreign fighters recruited to ISIL also relocated outside Syria and Iraq. The decline of the Islamic State advantaged other Islamists such as Hayat Tahrir al-Sham/al-Nusra (now concentrated in Idlib province, the last holdout of the armed opposition to Assad) and Ahrar al-Sham (now part of a Turkish-organized coalition of resistance groups). The erosion of the Islamic State also served the interests of the Syrian regime and its Iranian and Russian supporters, and by early 2018 the United States had admitted that the government and its allies were winning. The Frustrations of Counterterrorism in North Africa and the Sahel Counterterrorism in Africa has proved frustrating for the United States as well as others concerned with regional stability, not only because of difficulties in dealing with partner governments but also because of the complexity and volatility of the jihadist universe. In August 2018, the U.S. military announced plans to draw down its forces in Africa, where special operations forces have been deployed to aid local governments in combatting jihadist terrorists and insurgents in order to prevent their becoming a direct threat to U.S security. According to The New York Times, roughly 1,200 U.S. special operations troops are on missions in Africa, out of 7,300 worldwide.[66] The initiative began at much lower levels when a Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership led by Washington was first established in 2005. The policy change followed the decision to focus on threats from states, rather than non-state terrorists. In announcing a new national security strategy in January 2018, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis explained “We will continue to prosecute the campaign against terrorists, but great-power competition — not terrorism — is now the primary focus of U.S. national security.”[67]  The shift also came in the wake of a deadly attack by the Islamic State of the Greater Sahara on American forces in Niger in the fall of 2017. The history of jihadism in North Africa began well before 9/11. A network of Islamist and jihadist groups evolved from thwarted democratic participation and subsequent civil war in Algeria in the 1990s to cross-border expansion into the Sahel region, particularly into Mali.[68] The center is al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, or AQIM, which is loyal to al-Qaeda central. The much smaller Islamic State unit developed from a splinter of AQIM. Like al-Nusra in Syria, AQIM has rebranded itself as a more inclusive organization. Indeed, both groups appear to be trying to absorb themselves into larger more heterogeneous entities that are more acceptable to local populations. It is hard to know whether these structural adaptations are opportunistic attempts to disguise and conceal intentions and evade retaliation or whether they represent genuine ideological moderation and accommodation to circumstances. AQIM started as a local Algerian rebel organization, although it was tied to global jihadism through the participation of returned Afghan war veterans. Its primary aim was to overthrow the Algerian government.[69] In 2006, it formally signed on as an al-Qaeda franchise, owing in part to its defeat by the Algerian state through a combination of repression and “national reconciliation” initiatives. In addition, the 2003 American invasion of Iraq had inspired a new generation of volunteers for the jihadist cause. By 2011 a powerful AQIM faction in the south of Algeria, its aspirations blocked at home but enriched by lucrative smuggling and kidnapping operations, moved across the border into Mali and formed alliances with dissatisfied local separatists in the north.[70] It remains unclear as to whether the southern faction broke off from the parent organization or acted as a recalcitrant subordinate, especially since the two later reunited. The shift to Mali was aided by the spillover of the Libyan civil war, which erupted following the 2011 overthrow of Qaddafi by NATO forces. State collapse and disorder provided an abundance of weaponry and fighters and offered the prospect of safe haven. The weakness of the Malian state also facilitated the displacement.  The situation became so dire that in January 2013, France intervened at Mali’s request. A U.N. peacekeeping mission was also deployed.[71] Once its authority was more or less re-established, Mali entered into peace negotiations with the non-jihadist separatist groups. These twin military and political pressures stimulated complex organizational realignments in the jihadist network.[72] The renegade southern faction that led the incursion into Mali rejoined AQIM in 2015. The move probably reflected vulnerability to both American and French air strikes as well as disappointment over the fact that Al Qaeda central had not awarded the official recognition that the southern branch had sought. The reunification was also a response to the conclusion of a peace agreement in Mali that excluded jihadists.[73] Moreover, jihadists could maintain fighting capacity by retreating into the chaos of Libya. The organizational reintegration process was marked by a series of terrorist attacks on restaurants, hotels, and beaches frequented by foreigners and tourists. Targets were located in Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, and Ivory Coast. Tellingly, an attack on the Radisson Blu Hotel in Bamako in November 2015 was timed to coincide with the meeting of the official committee responsible for implementing the peace accord from which jihadists were excluded. AQIM was now definitively a pan-Sahel problem, and in February 2016 the five Sahel countries formed a regional force to combat terrorism (Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, Chad, and Mauritania).[74] Further jihadist reorganization followed. In March 2017, a video announced the establishment of a supposedly new organization with an anodyne name, the Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims (acronym JNIM). It was supposedly led not by AQIM, the major player, but by the former leader of the Ansar Dine group, an AQIM ally composed largely of Tuareg separatists from Mali. Al-Qaeda officially approved the new cooperative venture. In September 2018 JNIM became the latest addition to the American FTO roster.[75] Its immediate predecessor, designated in May, was the rival Islamic State in the Greater Sahara. The Saharan Islamic State branch had split from AQIM in spring 2015. The main Islamic State organization had already established a major base in Libya, attracting the defection of senior leaders from local Al Qaeda linked groups. After a protracted struggle, the Government of National Accord significantly assisted by United States air support drove the Islamic State out of its stronghold in Sirte in late 2016. The expulsion reduced the Islamic State presence in Libya but in turn may have allowed more space for AQIM. In March 2018, the first U.S. attack on Al Qaeda targets in Libya killed yet another high-ranking commander, while drone strikes continued to target the Islamic State.[76] Conclusion The convoluted inter-organizational dynamics that help perpetuate jihadist militancy are likely to persist, even as the United States withdraws from its foreign commitments. The question is the extent to which this possibly diluted but still potent form of jihadism threatens American and international security. Certainly, al-Qaeda, the Islamic State, and their friends and affiliates are a source of serious instability in states lacking both a robust security apparatus and political legitimacy. It is not outside the realm of possibility that jihadist groups could prevail in present or future civil wars. This threat would likely spark outside military intervention, yet again. The jihadists’ capacity for directing complex mass-casualty terrorist attacks outside their base areas (as opposed to inspiring sporadic amateur “homegrown” terrorism) has not recently been demonstrated, but it could be revived if groups possess secure bases and are persuaded by the old al-Qaeda argument that the far enemy is the obstacle to the defense of Muslims worldwide. Martha Crenshaw is a Senior Fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies and the Center for International Security and Cooperation at Stanford University.  She is the co-author of Countering Terrorism (Brookings, 2017).   

4. With Us and Against Us: Understanding the Mixed Record of U.S. Partners on Counter-Terrorism Cooperation Since 9/11

By Stephen Tankel Nine days after the 9/11 attacks, the anniversary of which we mark today, President George W. Bush gave an address in front of the U.S. Congress. He declared, “This is the world’s fight. This is civilization’s fight. This is the fight of all who believe in progress and pluralism, tolerance and freedom. We ask every nation to join us.”[77] It was a clarion call for cooperation, but one that also came with an explicit threat. In the same address, Bush famously drew a line in the sand, saying, “Either you are with us or you are with the terrorists.” No government, other than the Taliban-led regime in Afghanistan, seriously entertained siding with al-Qaeda. Yet aligning with America in the “War on Terror” often has not translated to unity of action and purpose, or even effective cooperation. Most partner nations, especially in regions where the terrorists who threaten America are most concentrated, both help and hinder U.S. counter-terrorism efforts. Put another way, they are both with and against the United States. Yet, working with these countries is, for the most part, unavoidable. As the 9/11 Commission Report observed, “Practically every aspect of U.S. counterterrorism strategy relies on international cooperation.”[78] As inter-state competition displaces terrorism as the primary U.S. national security priority, getting more out of partner nations will be critical if the United States is going to do more with less when it comes to counter-terrorism. A core challenge for the United States is to consolidate cooperation where it is good, mitigate risks where it is bad, and get the most out of the space in between. This will require U.S. policymakers and practitioners to devote the same amount of attention and resources to understanding America’s partners as they do to understanding America’s enemies. In my most recent book, With Us and Against Us: How America’s Partners Help and Hinder the War on Terror, I analyze the factors that shape counter-terrorism cooperation between the United States and partner nations in the Middle East, South Asia, and Africa.[79] Combatting al-Qaeda, the Islamic State (ISIL), and affiliated and associated terrorist groups has required the United States to adapt longstanding relationships with some countries in the Middle East, South Asia, and Africa — and to forge new ones with others. If one considers the totality of U.S. counter-terrorism objectives writ large since 9/11, America has been asking for more over the past 17 years than it did before. The United States has also been seeking more from the countries in the aforementioned regions than ever before. In many cases, the United States is seeking cooperation against terrorists who operate on its partner nations’ territory. When it comes to these partnerships, the dynamics of traditional state-to-state alliances interact with the relations that exist between the partner nation and the terrorist group in question. Alliance dynamics include the nature of the U.S. bilateral relationship with the partner in question, and the instruments of statecraft it can bring to bear. State-to-terrorist relations, on the other hand, are a function of both how a state perceives the nature of a given terrorist threat and qualifies it relative to other threats, and how useful it believes the terrorist group to be. The interplay of these two relationships helps to determine the level and type of counter-terrorism cooperation that exists between the United States and a partner nation in four different areas: partner-led counter-terrorism operations that target terrorists or curtail illegal activities that support them; tactical cooperation, which includes the provision of access, intelligence cooperation, and coordination on detainees; regional cooperation, such as through coalitions or diplomatic initiatives; and “countering violent extremism” programs designed to address radicalization and recruitment.  Managing Expectations Because the United States cannot deploy combat troops to every country where terrorists operate, it works by, with, and through partner nations to take the fight to the enemy. Various factors influence whether a partner will expend effort and resources on a counter-terrorism campaign, including its capacity, strategic culture, and the popularity of the terrorists’ cause. A partner’s relationship with a terrorist group or infrastructure is the most critical factor. Where the United States and its partner share the same threat perceptions and both treat a terrorist group as a belligerent, strong bilateral relations and the provision of security assistance can augment and improve the partner’s counter-terrorism operations. However, the United States has often been unable to keep its partners from adopting repressive counter-terrorism approaches that violate the rule of law and fuel terrorist recruitment. In cases where a partner views a terrorist group as useful and nonthreatening, America’s use of incentives or coercion can sometimes move the needle when it comes to these types of counter-terrorism operations. However, such tactics cannot entirely overcome the dynamics related to terrorist-state relations. And while it may seem like a stretch to use the term “partner” when talking about a state that has positive relations with a terrorist group, Pakistan and Yemen did become critical counter-terrorism partners following the 9/11 attacks. The reasons why a partner does or does not conduct robust counter-terrorism operations targeting terrorist groups or infrastructure matter — or at least they should — when it comes to how the United States uses its instruments of statecraft. If resource shortages are a genuine problem for a state that is sincerely committed to conducting counter-terrorism operations, then capacity building might help it become a more effective partner. Conversely, if a state does not consider a terrorist group to be a threat, then pouring in aid is unlikely to make any difference unless its threat perception changes. This is even truer for states that consider a terrorist group to be useful in some way. Traditional alliance dynamics and instruments of statecraft — such as foreign assistance — are most useful for optimizing counter-terrorism cooperation when it comes to access for basing, troop presence, supply lines, over-flight, and drone strikes. These dynamics are also important for intelligence cooperation and coordination on detainees. Notably, these elements, which fall under the umbrella of tactical cooperation, are the most widespread. The United States cooperates on intelligence, coordinates on detainees, and seeks access from allies and partner nations around the world, regardless of whether terrorists operate on or near their territory. Critically, the absence of shared threat perceptions does not preclude tactical cooperation. States may provide access or limited intelligence cooperation even in cases where their position toward a terrorist group or infrastructure makes domestic counter-terrorism efforts unlikely. Sometimes, pre-existing agreements regarding access or longstanding relationships between intelligence agencies help to facilitate ongoing cooperation. Providing access or intelligence cooperation also enables a partner to service its relationship with the United States (and perhaps keep assistance flowing) without acting against its core interests by conducting counter-terrorism operations, committing to regional efforts, or undertaking painful domestic reforms that it does not wish to pursue. Indeed, American officials are often reluctant to press partners in these areas lest they jeopardize access or intelligence cooperation. Of course, stating that traditional alliance dynamics and instruments of statecraft are most useful for optimizing tactical cooperation does not mean that threat perceptions are moot. They still matter, more in some cases than others. If the United States and another country share common threat perceptions, this can enhance these aspects of tactical cooperation. Indeed, some cooperation is even possible in cases where alliance dynamics are weak or nonexistent. For example, the United States cooperated with Syria after 9/11 on rendition and limited intelligence sharing. Conversely, sharing a belligerent position toward a terrorist group does not guarantee tactical cooperation. Algeria and the United States both prioritized counter-terrorism after 9/11, but the Algerian government was unwilling to provide access in large part because of its history of anti-colonialism. Similarly, for years after 9/11, Algerian intelligence officers treated their American colleagues more as counterintelligence threats than counter-terrorism partners. Since 9/11, accomplishing U.S. counter-terrorism objectives has increasingly necessitated contributions from allies and partners to regional counter-terrorism missions, military coalitions, stabilization of conflict zones, and diplomatic initiatives to settle conflicts that enable terrorists to operate freely. A country’s relationship with the United States can be a major determinant of whether and how it cooperates on regional issues. However, whether or not participants deliver often depends heavily on their threat perceptions and capabilities. States may “free ride” in cases where they perceive a threat but believe they can sit back and allow the United States or other countries to do the heavy lifting. Partner nations also sometimes calibrate contributions to a regional initiative based on whether or not they believe robust participation will help or hinder their ability to compete with a regional rival. Take, for example, the anti-ISIL coalition: Many of the key regional players were more invested in toppling the Syrian regime or pursuing other agendas than they were in taking down the jihadist group. As ISIL has lost territory, competition among regional actors has fueled struggles over liberated areas and complicated attempts to build on military gains. One of the many lessons the United States has learned since 9/11 is that it cannot kill its way out of the terrorism problem. Thus, it has attempted, often unsuccessfully, to counter radicalization and jihadist recruitment in countries with large Muslim populations. These efforts fall under the umbrella of countering violent extremism (CVE). Some U.S. officials and counter-terrorism experts have argued for narrowing the scope of CVE initiatives to directly focus on keeping people at risk of executing or supporting terrorist violence from doing so. Others insist on the need for a more wide-ranging approach that includes CVE-relevant activities to address myriad societal risk factors, including poor governance, corruption, inadequate rule of law, economic underperformance, and underinvestment in education and infrastructure. Experts and scholars are beginning to make progress in terms of how to assess, monitor, and evaluate CVE programs. Yet measuring a partner nation’s cooperation on CVE has been and remains difficult for multiple reasons. To begin with, there is no standard set of methods for measurement. And, while data from the United States is hard to find, it is even harder to find data from foreign governments. Then there is the persistent disagreement over which factors contribute to radicalization or recruitment. Finally, it remains challenging to demonstrate conclusively why something — in this case an individual becoming radicalized or joining a terrorist group — does not occur. Nevertheless, it is possible to make two observations. First, partner nations, at least ones in the Middle East, Africa, and South Asia, appear more willing to implement direct or CVE-specific initiatives than they are to embrace indirect or CVE-relevant reforms related to governance, rule of law, or other structural factors. Second, governments in these regions that implement CVE-specific programs often undercut their value by actively restricting space for civil society organizations, which most experts contend should play a crucial role in countering radicalization and recruitment. These governments increasingly are adopting overly broad definitions of terrorism and violent extremism in order to repress these organizations. Know Your Enemies and Your Partners America already had plenty of counter-terrorism instruments at its disposal on 9/11. In the past 17 years, it has expanded its toolkit substantially. The United States has improved its existing capabilities, especially in the areas of intelligence and surveillance, and unleashed new ones, such as the use of drones to launch missile strikes. Yet, despite these advances, counter-terrorism efforts cannot be conducted unilaterally if they are to be both successful and sustainable. This has always been true, and takes on added importance as the United States transitions from prioritizing counter-terrorism to concentrating on great-power competition. Most partners simultaneously help and hinder the U.S. pursuit of its counter-terrorism objectives. Getting the most out of cooperation with other countries, knowing when to shrink or sever partnerships, and recognizing countries worthy of greater investment necessitates that policymakers have realistic expectations about what U.S. partners can or are willing to offer. It is critical to understand the security paradigm that drives a partner’s decision-making, how relations with the terrorist groups that are the target of cooperation fit into that paradigm, and how U.S. policies influence the political and security challenges that a given partner faces. Stephen Tankel is an associate professor at American University, an adjunct senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security, a senior editor at War on the Rocks, and the author of With Us and Against Us: How America’s Partners Help and Hinder the War on Terror.  

5. What Progress Has America Made after 17 Years of Global Counter-Terrorism Efforts?

By Michael P. Dempsey As we approach the 17th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, it’s an opportune moment to stand back and assess both the progress America has achieved in its counter-terrorism fight and the critical work that remains to be done. In examining the campaign’s progress, I believe that it’s worthwhile to look across several broad mission categories to determine whether America is proceeding along a path that will significantly reduce the terrorist threat, or whether it might be time to adjust key elements of the current approach. Protecting the Homeland As a starting point, in the years since 9/11 there has thankfully been no repetition of a centrally directed, large-scale terrorist attack inside the United States, which is a great accomplishment in and of itself, and a credit to the exceptional work of America’s military, intelligence, and law enforcement services. To be sure, the homeland threat has not been entirely eliminated. In the past 17 years, more than 400 Americans and others living inside the United States have been charged with participating in terrorism-related activities, and more than 100 Americans have been killed in various attacks.[80] However, the success in forestalling a second major externally directed attack within the homeland is, in my view, a major achievement. In the nearly two decades since 9/11, America’s homeland defense capabilities have improved by an order of magnitude. Much of this progress is attributable to an increased focus by government agencies on the terrorism threat, as well as a cultural shift within a few key agencies, especially the FBI,[81] to emphasize attack prevention rather than prosecution after the fact.[82] There also has been an exponential increase in collaboration between federal law enforcement, intelligence agencies, and their local partners, especially in sharing new identification and collection technologies, travel information, and threat reporting. So, although there is still critical work to do, especially in trying to prevent lone wolf, jihadist-inspired attacks and in balancing the government’s need to collect potentially sensitive information with the privacy rights of every American citizen, it’s clear that the multi-year effort to harden the homeland from major terrorist attacks has made significant progress. Seizing the Battlefield Initiative Only a few years ago, al-Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate held considerable territory in northwestern Syria,[83] and the group’s affiliates in both Yemen and Somalia held large swaths of terrain in both countries. The Islamic State, meanwhile, was on the march in Syria and then Iraq, capturing Mosul, threatening Erbil, and even triggering concerns in the West about an eventual assault on Baghdad.[84] That situation has, thankfully, been largely reversed, and the American military, along with its coalition partners, has dealt a series of major battlefield blows to both al-Qaeda and the Islamic State. In the fight against al-Qaeda, for example, the United States has succeeded in eliminating several key leaders, including Osama bin Laden, Anwar al-Awlaki, Abu Yaha al-Libi (its second in command), and reportedly last month, Ibrahim al-Asiri, the group’s infamous chief bomb maker. Asiri’s removal is especially significant because of his unique technical skills and creativity, and his central involvement in operations ranging from the attempted “underwear bombing” aboard an airliner flying from Amsterdam to Detroit in 2009, to his reported efforts to devise increasingly complex bombs and embed them inside electronic equipment capable of defeating airline detection systems.[85] U.S. and coalition efforts to contain and roll back al-Qaeda’s franchises and allies have also made significant gains. In Somalia, for example, al-Shabab has suffered several setbacks, including losing the important port cities of Kismayo and Baware to the combined military operations of African Union and Somali security forces, backed by U.S. airstrikes.[86] Illustrative of America’s heavy engagement in Somalia, the U.S. military has already reportedly conducted nearly two dozen airstrikes against Al Shabab in 2018, which is on pace to meet or exceed last year’s total.[87] Moreover, in Yemen, al-Qaeda now controls only about half of the territory it controlled at its peak in 2015. In April 2016, the group lost the important port city of Mukalla to Yemeni government forces assisted by troops from the United Arab Emirates.[88] Meanwhile, in the fight against the self-professed Islamic State, the United States and its allies have made great strides across a broad front. In Iraq and Syria, the U.S-led coalition has virtually eliminated the Islamic State’s physical caliphate, dramatically reduced its financial resources, and killed thousands of the group’s fighters, as well as many of its key leaders. The coalition has also reduced to a trickle the flow of foreign fighters entering the Islamic State’s ranks in Iraq and Syria and, with the seizure of Mosul and Raqqa, significantly curtailed the group’s social media outreach.[89] At the same time, the United States and its allies have inflicted considerable pain on the Islamic State’s overseas affiliates, particularly its branches in Afghanistan (where the affiliate’s senior leader was killed last month),[90] Libya, Mali, and Yemen. Restricting the Terrorists’ Ability to Adapt and Regroup Even as America and its allies have seized the battlefield momentum, there are worrisome signs that al-Qaeda and the Islamic State are rebuilding, shifting tactics, and potentially preparing for a resurgence. Although al-Qaeda has suffered military setbacks, lost territory, and maintained a lower profile in recent years, terrorism experts note that the group is rebuilding quietly and is methodically bolstering its various branches. These experts note that al-Qaeda has deliberately avoided staging high profile attacks in the West so that the Islamic State would receive most of America’s military attention, allowing al-Qaeda to operate below the radar, especially in Syria, while fortifying its strength. Indeed, the latest estimates are that al-Qaeda still maintains an expansive global network of affiliates, and has managed to secure the loyalty of well over 10,000 followers in Syria alone (with most concentrated in Idlib Province, which is now under siege by Russian and Syrian state forces). The group reportedly also retains several thousand supporters in both Yemen and Somalia. And while my experience suggests that personnel estimates for groups such as al-Qaeda and the Islamic State are notoriously unreliable, the broad trends do highlight a worrisome fact — that even in the face of crippling setbacks, these groups are still able to attract and retain followers.[91] As for the Islamic State, while it no longer controls significant territory in Iraq and Syria, it maintains a small presence in the Middle Euphrates River Valley in Syria, and is slowly expanding its presence in Diyala, Salah ad-Din, and Kirkuk in Iraq.[92] Meanwhile in Libya, the Islamic State has lost control of Sirte and oil rich areas of the country, but in recent months has established cells around Tripoli and has carved out a significant presence in southern Libya. The Islamic State has also been more active operationally in recent months, launching a series of attacks across the globe that have killed hundreds and wounded many hundreds more. These attacks have occurred in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, the Sinai, and in Syria. It’s also noteworthy that even after the fall of the caliphate, not one Islamic State branch has renounced their pledge of fealty to the group.[93] Somewhat surprisingly, the United Nations reports that many of the foreign fighters that flocked to the Islamic State’s banners in Iraq and Syria in recent years have largely remained there even after the caliphate’s fall, with recent data suggesting a lower than anticipated return of foreign fighters to their countries of origin.[94] This lack of movement has, on the one hand, provided the Islamic State with residual strength in Iraq and Syria. On the other hand, a potential flood of battle-hardened Islamic State fighters returning to Western Europe and North America has been a key worry of Western intelligence services for most of the past decade, so this latest information that they are staying put is actually welcome news. It’s also evident that the Islamic State has altered its tactical approach over the past several months, avoiding direct, set-piece engagements with U.S. and allied forces, and instead resorting to isolated suicide attacks and hit-and-run operations. This allows the group to avoid casualties while also remaining militarily relevant.[95] On balance, then, it’s fair to say that while the United States has clearly regained the battlefield initiative from both al-Qaeda and the Islamic State, these groups remain wily, adaptive, and lethal, and neither shows any interest in ceding the field anytime soon. Draining the Swamp The question of whether America is removing terrorists from the battlefield faster than they are being replaced has formed the backdrop to every counter-terrorism policy discussion since 9/11, and remains just as relevant today as it was 17 years ago. Unfortunately, there are reasons to worry about current trends. First, the underlying conditions that have fueled the appeal of extremism for the past few decades — fear within vulnerable Sunni communities about the rise of Shia political power, the accompanying proxy conflict between Saudi Arabia and Iran, the collapse of local governing authority in countries from Afghanistan to Yemen, a lack of political space for young people and an accompanying rise in authoritarianism in key countries such as Egypt, and chronically high youth unemployment rates (approaching 30 percent) throughout the Middle East[96] — show no signs of improvement. In fact, in most instances, the trends are decidedly negative. These conditions are the kindling that will keep the extremist fire burning indefinitely. A corollary challenge emanating from this chaos is a growing population-displacement and refugee crisis, which is severely straining governments from Turkey to Jordan, and which may over time increase the appeal of the extremists’ message to segments of the displaced population that remain outside of a formal education process and have no viable employment opportunities. The West’s response to this humanitarian crisis has thus far been largely disjointed and ineffective. Reports about the lack of progress in rebuilding devastated Sunni communities in both Syria and Iraq are especially worrisome,[97] as a key element of the extremist recruiting pitch for years has been that they could offer better basic social services than the central government, and that only they could defend vulnerable Sunni communities. In my view, therefore, any effective long-term campaign to drain the swamp of potential al-Qaeda and Islamic State recruits will have to include programs to improve the quality of life and sense of security for communities devastated by the last several years of fighting. At the moment, that type of tailored assistance seems unlikely. Avoiding Unforced Errors Regardless of where one lands in the debate over whether the United States should have invaded Iraq in 2003, there is no doubt that the invasion gave rise to al-Qaeda in Iraq the following year and lit a match to a combustible region. Similarly, while there were many legitimate reasons to draw down U.S. forces from Iraq in 2011, there is also little doubt that the reduced U.S. footprint facilitated the sudden rise of the Islamic State, fueled of course by the onset of the so-called Arab Spring, the start of the Syrian civil war next door, and the unexpected collapse of the Iraqi military only three years later. And while there was certainly a case to be made for removing Libyan President Muammar Qaddafi in 2011, several of the follow-on effects were quite severe, including the creation of a safe haven for the Islamic State along the coast, and the spillover of the Libyan conflict into sub-Saharan Africa. Thankfully, there have been noticeably fewer foreign policy actions over the past few years that have inadvertently complicated our counter-terrorism campaign on this scale, though there are some issues today that if not handled wisely could fall into the category of major unforced errors. For example, Western policymakers need to be extremely careful in their public rhetoric and actions to avoid creating the perception that the West’s fight against Islamic terrorists is actually a war against all Muslims. Also, Western leaders need to think through the full range of issues involved in determining the final disposition of foreign fighters held in captivity. Some key allies, for example, are likely to be pressured by their political leaders to halt counter-terrorism cooperation with the United States if, as has been reported in the press, the White House decides to send a small number of foreign fighters currently held in Syria to Guantanamo. There is also a growing risk of serious long-term reputational damage to America from its association with the type of incident that occurred last month in Yemen, where, as was widely reported, a busload of Yemeni children were killed by a Saudi-led coalition airstrike.[98] America’s military support to the Saudi campaign in Yemen, which is mainly limited to aerial refueling and targeting training, is nonetheless widely criticized in the Middle East — as well as by prominent international observers — for exacerbating the country’s humanitarian nightmare. According to the United Nations, nearly 9 million Yemenis are now on the brink of starvation in what it describes as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.[99] Therefore, America’s continuing link to the Saudi-led bombing campaign, whether fair or unfair, risks undercutting critical efforts to win hearts and minds in the global fight against extremism, and it would, in my view, behoove U.S. policymakers to redouble their efforts to help end this conflict. A final potential unforced error is the grinding conflict in Afghanistan, which continues to require the commitment of more than 10,000 American troops at a cost of more than $40 billion annually. In many ways, the conflict in Afghanistan is no longer central to the global counter-terrorism struggle, as al-Qaeda’s primary focus is in Syria and with its non-South Asian affiliates, and the Islamic State has at most a few thousand fighters in Afghanistan, located mainly in Nangarhar Province near the border with Pakistan. It’s also evident that the Taliban and the Islamic State hate each other, and press reports suggest that more Islamic State fighters have been killed by the Taliban than by Afghan security forces. The idea, therefore, of the Taliban taking over Kabul and allowing the Islamic State to establish a safe haven or al-Qaeda shifting the bulk of its fighters from Syria back to Afghanistan, seems highly unlikely. The remaining terrorists in Afghanistan are still a patchwork of groups focused primarily on local and regional grievances, thus far with no demonstrated ability or intent to operate internationally.[100] So, while there are many legitimate non-terrorism related reasons to maintain a U.S. military footprint in Afghanistan, U.S. policymakers will need to carefully consider in the coming months whether the long-term terrorist threat there still merits the current commitment of U.S. troops and intelligence resources, or whether the U.S. would be better off redeploying some of these precious resources elsewhere. Laying the Groundwork for Long-Term Success? Along these lines, a final metric to examine is whether the current strategy for countering terrorism is sustainable over the long haul. While there is little doubt that that the United States military, law enforcement, and intelligence services are capable of carrying on this fight for the next few years, there are a few worrisome signs to consider. The cost of this fight is, by any measure, staggering. According to a recent report by the Stimson Center, the United States since 9/11 has on average spent approximately $186 billion per year on counter-terrorism funding (and nearly $3 trillion total) since 2002, an amount equal to about 15 percent of the government’s total discretionary spending.[101] That level of spending may become harder to sustain in the future given America’s growing national debt, and highlights an urgent need to increase efficiencies, avoid unnecessary mission duplication, and enhance burden sharing with our allies in this fight. It also brings to mind a warning from physicist Ernest Rutherford who once wryly remarked that, “We haven’t got the money, so we’ll have to think.” Meanwhile, the tremendous monetary commitment does not capture the total cost of this conflict. In particular, it does not take into account the enormous time and attention U.S. policymakers have had to devote to this issue over several years, and the myriad ways it has shaped America’s relationships with countries across the globe. In fact, as critics have noted, it’s fair to question whether the current counter-terrorism emphasis not only influences U.S. foreign policy, but distorts it and subordinates in its pursuit other critical U.S. interests such as democracy and human rights promotion.[102] While America can certainly bear the cost of the global counter-terrorism campaign at the moment, U.S. policymakers would be wise to constantly question whether there are options for driving down costs, increasing efficiencies, and bolstering its coalition’s contribution to this fight — particularly at a time when military competition with peer states such as China and Russia is on the rise. Lessons Learned America’s counter-terrorism campaign has come a long way from the frantic and frightening days immediately after 9/11. And while there is considerable work left to do and some key adjustments to be made, we have certainly learned important lessons that that will help U.S. policymakers to formulate a more tailored and effective counter-terrorism strategy going forward. We have learned, for example, about the enduring lethality and resiliency of al-Qaeda and the Islamic State, and the urgent requirement to deny them secure territory in which they can train fighters, plan attacks, raise revenue, and expand their online messaging efforts. We have learned about the enormous benefit of working closely with allies, especially from majority Muslim countries such as Jordan and the United Arab Emirates, who have deep expertise about the extremist threat and considerable ground truth to share. We have learned about the utility of empowering partners to spearhead offensive operations with U.S. military and intelligence backing. In this vein, it is critical going forward to maintain close relations with partners such as the Iraqi Special Forces and the Syrian Democratic Forces, allies that have borne the brunt of fighting and are essential to our effort to keep pressure on al-Qaeda and the Islamic State in both Iraq and Syria. We have also learned about the need for a more proactive counter-radicalization strategy, especially online, that focuses primarily on the timeframe before an individual embraces the jihadists’ message and becomes committed to the terrorist cause. And we have learned about the need to formulate a cost-effective, integrated counter-terrorism strategy that begins to address the underlying causes of radicalization, especially in the Middle East, and which carefully balances the terrorism threat with other U.S. security priorities. Fully implementing these hard-earned lessons will not be easy, but will be critical to our eventual success. In the end, the past 17 years of America’s global counter-terrorism campaign have taught us that only with a creative, inclusive, flexible, and sustained approach will we be able to effectively tackle this challenge, and provide a more secure future for all Americans. Michael P. Dempsey is the national intelligence fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, a fellowship sponsored by the U.S. government. He is the former acting director of national intelligence. All opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.  

6. Retrospect and Prospect: On Endless War

By David A. Brown, Tim Hoyt, and Craig Whiteside There is great benefit in thinking about your own country’s struggles while listening to someone else’s, particularly at a conference inspired by the attacks on 9/11 and conducted annually since. At the annual International Counterterrorism conference held this past week at the IDC-Herzilya,[103] we attended a panel titled, “Israel and Gaza: Hudna or Victory?” Hudna is an Arabic word meaning “cease fire,” but the Israelis at this conference understood it more as a “time-out.”[104] The panel consisted of Israeli security officials and politicians debating whether it was a good idea to negotiate with their opponents in order to stop recent border clashes and the periodic rocket, mortar, and flaming kite attacks directed at civilian targets in Israel. Member of Knesset Ksenia Svetlova, from the Israeli center-left Zionist Union party,[105] pithily summed up her perception of the government overtures in this way: “This is not an Israeli victory but a victory for radical Islam: Radical Islam - One, World - Zero.”[106] The body language of the former military official on the panel, whose experience in Gaza led him to argue for the benefits of hudna, made it obvious that the politician’s sound bite had found a tender spot. After all, who wants to be associated with an effort seen by some to appease terrorists, especially from the left side of the political spectrum? In a related observation, the outgoing U.S. commander of Afghanistan recently remarked that “it’s time for this war to end.”[107] This might be interpreted in many ways, but it is difficult not to think that it reflects the universal angst over the failure of the United States and its partners to achieve conflict termination in the larger war against jihadist militants. The conference forced the three of us — faculty of the U.S. Naval War College — to borrow from naval theorist Mahan and ask questions of retrospection and prospection:[108] How do we assess the evolution of our thinking and practice of counterterrorism since 9/11? What do those influences look like today in execution? How will the conflict be evaluated in ten years time? Retrospect Following the 9/11 attacks, successive U.S. administrations have promulgated three consistent objectives: First, to prevent additional mass casualty attacks on our homeland. Second, to find and punish those responsible. And third, to shatter the larger transnational terrorist movement’s capability and capacity to be a future threat. These reasonable objectives contrast with some of the associated rhetoric surrounding the "war on terror," often obscuring these objectives and seeking more expansive ones including eliminating terrorism writ large, eliminating “state-sponsored” terrorism, democratizing large parts of the Islamic world, and the attainment of perfect security for Americans at home and abroad. Ignoring the political rhetoric for the time being, and any corrosive effects it might have on clarity of purpose, we offer an objective evaluation of how the U.S. fared in achieving these three aims. To stop another mass casualty terrorist attack, the United States has reorganized its internal security institutions and upgraded law enforcement and both domestic and international intelligence capabilities.  While these severely complicate jihadist efforts to carry out mass casualty attacks on the United States, there are economic and social costs for this increased surveillance and government infringements on liberty.  In the pursuit of this quest, our political leaders have committed significant errors, such as invading Iraq, ostensibly to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction to jihadist groups. Yet in a narrow but important sense, this concerted effort to prevent a large attack has been impressive and successful with a small residual risk. The hunt for the perpetrators, off to a good start in 2002, took longer than expected but largely achieved the objective in the end when Osama bin Laden was killed in 2011. However, Ayman al-Zawahiri, who leads al-Qaeda, remains at large. Jihadist replacement of leaders with effective replacements, and the rise of the scion of Bin Laden have undercut perceptions of this success.[109] Furthermore, the use of torture to obtain information about terror attacks and the location of leaders has undermined future efforts. The United States and its partners have not only failed to cripple the global jihadist movement, the problem is orders of magnitude worse since 9/11. Although America’s counter-terrorism campaign has restricted jihadist capability to conduct major attacks in the United States, the same cannot be said for Europe, where large terrorist attacks by Islamic State operatives have killed scores of people and injured hundreds. The split between al-Qaeda and Islamic State in 2013 has complicated the picture for intelligence collection, forcing analysts to look in too many directions. Leaders from both al-Qaeda and the Islamic State still exert control over their respective franchises, although in a degraded manner. The networks and affiliates are disaggregated, often focused on local sovereignty designs, and while nominally dedicated to global jihad are practically focused on influencing local Muslim populations.[110] Worryingly, this metastasizing jihadist movement is proving to be an adaptive enemy, operating in a globalized age that has dispersed impressive and cheap technological means to help them in their fight against states. Our evaluation of the attainment of these objectives fall in descending order, from mostly achieved for the first two to an insufficient grade for the last. Both the failure to manage the growth of the global jihadist movement, and the realization that even the destruction of the caliphate has not ended the campaign, inspires the frustration of politicians, practitioners, scholars, journalists, and voters. Worse, the passing scores on the first two objectives are only interim evaluations, not final ones. They require unending maintenance and attention. The resulting disillusionment, compounded by unforced errors that have made the conflict more expansive and expensive, is a serious issue that will continue to have profound consequences if unaddressed by our country’s leaders. To understand the source of this frustration, we present a metaphor to understand the challenges of combatting terrorism. Like analogies, there are many metaphors, and none are perfect, but this one is ours. The Problem with Pythons Florida has a bit of a Burmese python problem, as odd as that might seem. In an age of globalization, imported pet pythons somehow escaped into the Everglades, particularly in the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew in 1992. They have expanded into an estimated population in the tens to hundreds of thousands — not exactly a small margin of error but a reflection of the difficulty in assessing the threat.[111] Described as an apex predator, the python’s breeding habits and voracious diet has been linked to the extinction of marsh hares and the devastation of small mammal populations in the Everglades. The stated goal of the scientists and policymakers tasked with winning “the war” on pythons is to reduce the environmental impact to “a manageable level.”[112] One scientist remarked that while there were other invasive species in Florida, Burmese pythons are “especially unnerving,” and “the idea that this giant snake that doesn’t belong here, is here, just really is in people’s hearts and minds.” All of these phrases should sound familiar for those who study counterinsurgency and terror. Much like the futility of trying to stop the growth of the python population, our failure to reduce the scale of global jihadism is more obvious than ever, with each of the successive “waves” growing larger and larger since the late 1970s.[113] A decade ago, the Islamic State of Iraq had a few thousand members. More recently, the Pentagon was claiming they had killed over 60,000 members.[114] The Islamic State has new franchises all over the world and an end-strength measured in tens of thousands. Like the jihadist problem, the origin of the python problem might be interesting but it is not instructive in creating any solution. Burmese pythons have adapted to their new environment, are almost impossible to find, and while posing little direct threat to humans are in the process of drastically affecting a delicate ecosystem with unknown consequences. Efforts to open up hunting of pythons by politicians are making a laughably small impact on the problem.[115] In essence, these dynamics are very similar to our current effort to reduce terrorism. All analogies and metaphors have their weakness, and this one suffers from a significant one: unlike pythons, terrorists kill people in increasing numbers with worrisome trends.[116] In an age characterized by the rapid transfer of technology, and despite exhortations by some that terrorism is a relatively insignificant problem, the risk of a large-scale terror attack is commensurately increasing.[117] Our past failures are eroding resolve to face up to and try to prevent this future attack, and this is compounded by the looming deficit crisis — some of it fueled by these same costly failures — that will naturally limit our ability to act. The rise of other risks to international cooperation and norms (dare we say an international order) will further complicate and distract from the risk of terrorism.[118] How will we get through the next decade without another massive loss of innocent life? Prospect and the Future of Endless War There are three factors that we think will determine the future trajectory of global efforts to reduce terror acts and associated loss of life and property. The first will center on whether a shared understanding and more realistic appraisal of the nature of the conflict can be attained. This failure is at the root of wasted effort, mistakes, and disillusionment. The second factor will depend on the management of scarce resources to continue prosecuting the war against jihadi actors in an era of multiplying threats. Finally, the outcome will be determined by the ability of policymakers to unify an international coalition to defeat members of the global jihadist movement, which while divided at the moment, still march to the beat of the same drum. War on Terror, or War in Error? The irony about a conference on terror in the 21st century is that you will rarely find the word “war” mentioned. In fact, most conventional definitions — including one long proposed by the conference organizer, Boaz Ganor — specifically exclude attacks on military targets as terrorism.[119] Proponents of this definition desire increased cooperation among international actors and are fearful of delegitimizing what some might call freedom fighters rebelling against brutal oppression. This is the problem in Syria, where critics of groups fighting Assad’s criminal attacks on his own population deliberately elide them with jihadist opportunists, who have quite separate political objectives. As a consequence of this exclusion of attacks on military targets — which often includes police and government workers, even experts get confused about what is terrorism and what is not.[120] Considering that insurgents always use terror in their campaigns to overtake the state, the line is always blurred. [121] The mistake of the Bush administration of terming the struggle as a “War on Terror” produced a distaste for thinking of the struggle as war, which in retrospect it has become — either due to our mistakes or because it was inevitable. Whichever the case, this is now a war, and describing it as such is a much better use of the word than the ubiquitous use of “hybrid war,” “political warfare,” “cyber war,” “economic war,” “the war on drugs,” and so on, when it is doubtful that anything related to war/warfare is happening in any of these constructs. The current effort to defeat the jihadis is a war in almost every sense, fought between military components with sizeable asymmetric power imbalances but nonetheless the power to control territory and populations and inflict violence on one another. It is common to think that the enemy’s strategy is to use terror to achieve their end state. The reality is not this simple. Instead, jihadists use terrorism against civilians and military targets as an integrated strategy of attrition/exhaustion/provocation. We refuse to accept this new reality and continue to misread our jihadi opponents, their objectives, and their relative success in achieving modest success to date. Any focus on the defeat of the caliphate,[122] and not the shocking fact that one was created in the first place by tens of thousands of locals and global migrants,[123] is a good example of this failure to understand. Governments exist in large part to protect its citizens from harm. Failure to do this has large repercussions for politicians. Kori Schake, a member of Bush’s National Security Council, told a panel dissecting the motives behind the Iraq invasion this year that rational arguments against invading Iraq were overcome by a palpable fear of an even larger terrorist attack, one that politicians of both parties in both branches were eager to prevent.[124] Accordingly, they overwhelmingly passed an authorization for the use of military force in 2002.[125] Sixteen years later, we still cannot accept the reality of the war we are fighting, and three administrations have used this law to justify war against Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State.[126] We are not executing a series of isolated military strikes with drones, but an extended and significant campaigns with no end in sight. Crocodiles Closer to the Canoe? Governments have to set priorities to protect their citizens, and efficiently allocate resources in order to protect its citizens and secure their welfare. The Trump administration’s new strategy directives reflect a desire to reshape a balance where the prosecution of the war against jihadist groups is sublimated in every sense to the need to counter a China increasingly acting in a “hegemonic” manner — not just regionally but also globally.[127] This move has been applauded for realistically and belatedly addressing the rise China as a geopolitical threat to the United States’ position as unchallenged global leader.  Fears that we are over-invested in the fight against jihadist groups, at the expense of attention to China or Russia, are valid and reasonable concerns addressed in the new National Security Strategy and National Defense Strategy. That being said, it could be just as much a mistake to understand China as a threat to the United States, as opposed to a competitor for political and economic influence.[128] While the competition for resources is always a zero-sum game, risk assessment is not. The probability of a Chinese threat to U.S. citizens, in an era of nuclear deterrence, is lower than the probability of a successful terror attack on U.S. soil, even if it would be much deadlier. Even if we were to decide to actively contest Chinese island building in the South China Sea, as well as influence efforts in South Asia and Africa, it is extremely unclear as to what we could actually do to stop what is a natural increase in influence due to their rising economic power. Furthermore, it is possible that China’s obtuse and clumsy efforts to use coercive tactics against South China Sea neighbors and political influence to manipulate internal political considerations in countries like Australia will inspire a natural and increasingly common backlash.[129] The dilemma of dealing with a rising China is an example of the strategic planning concept former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld popularized of “known knowns,” etc.[130] Despite indications of China’s growing power and new willingness to use it, there is little indication yet of how this will affect the current international order — one that has benefited China to a large degree and may continue to do so. This would function as a “known unknown.” In contrast, the jihadist threat is a “known known,” with their intentions telegraphed and their determination to fulfill the establishment of the caliphate proven. Without discounting the importance of a new shared awareness that China could develop into a serious threat to stability and the U.S. position as an indispensible leader of the global community, we cannot fail to deal with the “known known.” Certainly, the lessons of chasing uncertain futures should be familiar enough to give us pause. Coalitions of the Willing, and Able The initial response to the establishment of the caliphate in 2014 was uncertain, dividing those who urged rollback from those who advised containment.[131] Subsequent terrorist attacks around the world inspired a slow shift to rollback as the preferred option, and today the self-proclaimed caliphate is no more. Despite this achievement, there has been only limited commitment to the reconstruction necessary to prevent an Islamic State resurgence.[132] States are still largely focused on perceived threats against their specific country, and retain a parochial attitude in approaching the jihadi groups that might be organizationally divided, but follow the same ideology. This well-articulated doctrine clearly defines the enemy, the strategy, and the acceptable tactics for engagement.[133] Despite significant efforts by the United Nations Counter Terrorism Executive Directorate, this lack of unity of the targets of terrorism will likely increase thanks to a U.S. administration that embraces a go-it-alone approach and disdain for the benefits of international cooperation and unified action.[134] The only thing preventing this to date are the efforts of individual diplomats and administration figures dedicated to reducing the threat of terrorism.[135] An important point that came up in the counterterrorism conference was a plea for countries to take responsibility for their citizens that committed terror acts in Syria, Iraq, and elsewhere. Despite the new understanding of the dangers of allowing jihadists to build new networks around the world, countries have increased citizenship revocation for foreign terrorist fighters to avoid bringing them home.[136] To avoid the hassles and risk of repatriating, prosecuting, detaining, rehabilitating, and reintegrating these individuals, countries are passing the buck and contributing to the building of the future fifth wave of global jihad. One United Nations representative at the conference admitted that Russia was taking the lead on repatriating the children of foreign terrorist fighters to grandparents in their country, in an ironic contrast to several liberal democracies.[137] While countries are cooperating in this collective action problem, the absence of leadership from the United States is problematic.[138] We end this analysis by presenting a possible black swan related to the fight against jihadist foes. The United States and others have largely ignored Chinese actions concerning its Uighur population, Muslims who live in the Western province of Xinjiang. Reports that over a million Uighurs have been interned and subject to reeducation because of their religious beliefs could be the inspiration for the unity and support the jihadis have tried so hard to win, especially if the repression inspires an uprising.[139] Anyone entertaining a bit of schadenfreude over these Chinese missteps has failed to learn the lessons of 9/11, and of life in our globalized and ever interconnected world. The Uighur issue might start as a Chinese problem, but it will not end as a strictly Chinese problem. Conclusions How do we think the scorecard on these three factors will look in a decade? It is too early to predict but we are not off to a good start. A lack of confidence in our own values due to past mistakes and shameful violations of our own values are fueling an inclination to reduce our efforts against groups that use terror because of a belief that we are the cause of this increase in terror.[140] Just as the invasion of Iraq was an overreaction inspired by fear, our possible disengagement from the fight against violent extremists could end up as an overreaction to a failure to make an impact on the level of terror violence, and used by populist politicians to justify retrenchment. Western polities are divided and nonchalantly discuss possibilities of civil war, and focus on identity at the cost of unity.[141] Distaste for concepts like limited war against the jihadists, meaning limited objectives as well as limited resources, could force us to use illogical constructs like victory to judge success, much like the Israeli politician calling the negotiations with Hamas a defeat in the global war on terror. Until our politicians embrace these distinctions, or at least refrain from using them against their government opponents, we will never understand the war that we have been fighting, a war that will continue. This war plays out in fits and spurts, and the intensity of it ebbs and flows. The anniversary of 9/11 is a great time to conduct introspection; our governments owe us some real talk on what will continue to be a long struggle to reduce terror attacks around the world. David A. Brown is the executive director of the Advanced Naval Strategist Program and co-director of the Center on Irregular Warfare and Armed Groups. Tim Hoyt is the John Nicholas Brown Chair of Counterterrorism, a professor of strategy and policy, and the acting director of the Advanced Strategist Program  Craig Whiteside is a professor of national security affairs.   All three are faculty members of the U.S. Naval War College. The opinions are the views of the authors and do not reflect any official policy or view of the U.S. government.  

7. Another Year of the War in Afghanistan

By A. Trevor Thrall and Erik Goepner In August 2017, President Donald Trump rubberstamped his predecessors’ failed policies when he announced America’s recommitment to the mission in Afghanistan. In his speech, Trump made the same promises of victory and signed on to the same set of goals outlined many times by President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama: Our troops will fight to win. We will fight to win. From now on, victory will have a clear definition:  attacking our enemies, obliterating ISIS, crushing Al Qaeda, preventing the Taliban from taking over Afghanistan, and stopping mass terror attacks against America before they emerge.[142] Trump’s plan for victory in Afghanistan was dead on arrival. Based on the same faulty premises about the threat of terrorism and the benefits of military action, Trump’s Afghanistan campaign has done little to make Americans safer. None of this is news. By the time Trump made his announcement last year, the fundamental indicators of failure in Afghanistan had been easy to see for quite some time. Why has the United States embraced the same feckless strategy over 17 years and three presidents? The answer is simple: Washington’s continued embrace of a host of strategic myths. The safe haven fallacy has promoted unwarranted concern over the threat of future terrorism. When Trump asked why the United States needed to stay in Afghanistan, Secretary of Defense James Mattis responded, “to prevent a bomb from going off in Times Square.”[143] And indeed, many argue that the failure of terrorists to launch a second 9/11-style attack proves the value of continued American efforts in Afghanistan and military action elsewhere. In his August 2017 speech, Trump made it clear that this argument was central to his decision to extend the American commitment to Afghanistan, noting, The consequences of a rapid exit are both predictable and unacceptable.  9/11, the worst terrorist attack in our history, was planned and directed from Afghanistan because that country was ruled by a government that gave comfort and shelter to terrorists.  A hasty withdrawal would create a vacuum that terrorists, including ISIS and al Qaeda, would instantly fill, just as happened before September 11th.[144] Despite its popularity in Washington,[145] the safe haven argument is overblown.[146] The most important base of operations for the 9/11 terrorists was not Afghanistan, but the United States. As the 9/11 commission report describes, all of the hijackers entered the United States legally,[147] where they received their technical (pilot) training, not in some clandestine Afghan camp. Without the ability to carry out their preparations here in the United States, the 9/11 attack might not have occurred. Post-9/11 security reforms have made it far more difficult for terrorists to enter the United States, and they now are unable to access such sophisticated training without raising suspicion. These efforts, not the campaign in Afghanistan, have been the most effective in curtailing the ability of would-be terrorists to carry out attacks on U.S. soil. More generally, the safe haven fallacy is an argument for endless war based on unwarranted worst-case scenario assumptions. To worry about an attack from Afghanistan, a capable terrorist group must have room to operate there safely, must decide a major attack on the U.S. homeland is a good idea, and must figure out a way to carry out that attack from Afghanistan — 7,000 miles from the American homeland — without the sort of support within the United States that al-Qaeda enjoyed in 2001. And all of this must occur without the United States detecting and disrupting the plot. Though the defense establishment gets paid to plan for trouble, this series of events is so unlikely it does not justify the occupation of Afghanistan today or tomorrow. If the United States left Afghanistan and the Taliban took control again, why would they provide support to Al Qaeda, the Islamic State, or some other group with plans to repeat 9/11? The Taliban did not attack the United States, and they certainly did not benefit from al-Qaeda’s strike on the United States. Moreover, leaving Afghanistan does not mean the United States has to ignore what is happening there. Intelligence can provide early warning should events someday point toward the possibility that a major attack on the United States is becoming more likely. At that point the United States could intervene in a more limited fashion to deal with gathering threats. The belief that terrorism and the conflicts and animosities which give rise to it can be eradicated is the second myth propagating the effort in Afghanistan.[148] Trump’s promise to obliterate the self-proclaimed Islamic State and crush al-Qaeda, while emotionally satisfying, is strategically misguided. The roots of terrorism, like the causes of war, run too deep for even a superpower to do much about.[149] Defeating al-Qaeda and the Islamic State will not put an end to jihadist terrorism because the organizations themselves are simply the symptoms of underlying political dynamics and fundamental social and cultural conflicts, not their cause. Declaring war on these symptoms and intervening in nations riven by conflict is a recipe for failure. The evidence indicates America is further from defeating jihadist groups than it was on Sept. 12, 2001. Despite 17 years in Afghanistan, almost as long in Iraq, as well as drone strikes and special operations missions in Syria, Pakistan, Libya, Somalia, Yemen, the Philippines, and Mali, the State Department reports that the number of Islamist-inspired terrorist groups has tripled since 2001,[150] while the number of fighters has risen from approximately 32,000 to more than 100,000.[151] In Afghanistan alone, there are as many as 20 such groups operating.[152] And though no one is suggesting that American intervention is the only important factor, it seems more likely that America’s presence in Afghanistan is making things worse than making things better when it comes to eliminating the threat. Finally, American military and political leaders wrongly believe that the key to “victory” in Afghanistan is merely a question of convincing the Taliban of American resolve. In contrast to Obama, Trump promised that the American presence in Afghanistan would be condition-based, not time limited, in an effort to pressure the Taliban to negotiate. As a Pentagon report from December 2017 put it, "The objective of the campaign is to convince the Taliban that they cannot win on the battlefield.”[153] With fewer troops on the ground than during the Obama surge, the notion that Trump’s approach is going to produce more leverage is fantastical. Today the Taliban control, contest, or influence more territory than at any point since they were ejected from power in 2001.[154] Making things even worse, the current Afghan government is a disaster. Not only is the government incapable of protecting its own people without help from the United States, Freedom House assesses Afghans as “not free,” the same rating from the Taliban days, and in terms of corruption, Afghanistan ranks fourth worst in the global system.[155] Simply put, nothing the United States is doing will encourage the Taliban to change its course, regardless of how much resolve Trump and his generals have. The failures of America’s war on terror are obvious at this point — even to the president. During his August 2017 speech, Trump began by noting that he shared the public’s frustration with the costly and prolonged stalemate and that his first instinct was to pull American troops out of Afghanistan.[156] As we remember the victims of 9/11 and honor the millions who have served in the war that followed, it is past time for the United States to find its way out of Afghanistan. Trevor Thrall is an associate professor in the Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University and a senior fellow at the Cato Institute.  Erik Goepner (Colonel, U.S. Air Force, Retired) commanded military units in Afghanistan and Iraq, and he is currently an adjunct scholar at the Cato Institute.   Image: Michael Foran [post_title] => Policy Roundtable: 17 Years After September 11 [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => policy-roundtable-17-years-after-september-11 [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-09-19 12:31:57 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-09-19 16:31:57 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://tnsr.org/?post_type=roundtable&p=716 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => roundtable [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [lead] => To understand what has gone both right and wrong since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, we have convened a roundtable of some of this country’s foremost experts on terrorism, insurgency, and strategy. [pubinfo] => [issue] => [quotes] => [style] => roundtable [type] => Policy [style_label] => Roundtable [download] => Array ( [title] => PDF Download [file] => ) [authors] => Array ( [0] => 202 [1] => 187 [2] => 155 [3] => 206 [4] => 204 [5] => 205 [6] => 203 [7] => 207 [8] => 208 ) [endnotes] => Array ( [title] => Endnotes [endnotes] => [1] “Twin Towers Demolished, Pentagon Hit in Terrorist Attacks,” Fox News, Sept. 12, 2001, http://www.foxnews.com/story/2001/09/12/twin-towers-demolished-pentagon-hit-in-terrorist-attacks.html [2] Stephen Tankel, With Us and Against Us: How America’s Partners Help and Hinder the War on Terror (New York: Columbia, 2018). [3] “A Timeline of the U.S. War in Afghanistan,” Council on Foreign Relations, https://www.cfr.org/timeline/us-war-afghanistan. [4] Steve Coll, “We Can’t Win in Afghanistan Because We Don’t Know Why We’re There,” New York Times, Jan. 26, 2018, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/26/opinion/sunday/united-states-afghanistan-win.html. [5] Michael P. Dempsey, “No Longer a Haven for International Terrorists,” New York Times, Dec. 3, 2017, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/03/opinion/no-longer-a-haven-for-international-terrorists.html. [6] Dexter Filkins, The Forever War, (New York: Penguin Random House, 2009). [7] Tricia Bacon, “Is the Enemy of My Enemy My Friend?,” Security Studies 27, no. 3 (2018), https://doi.org/10.1080/09636412.2017.1416813. [8] Alex Strick van Linschoten and Felix Kuehn, An Enemy We Created: The Myth of the Taliban / Al-Qaeda Merger in Afghanistan, 1970–2010 (London: Hurst, 2012). [9] Daniel Benjamin and Steven Simon, The Age of Sacred Terror: Radical Islam’s War Against America (New York: Penguin Random House, 2002). [10] Atiyah abd al-Rahman (aka Mahmud), “Government Exhibit 421,” June 19, 2010, Letter retrieved from Osama bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, https://www.longwarjournal.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/EXHIBIT-421-ENG-TRANS-EX-420-76C5764D-1.pdf; Thomas Joscelyn, “Zawahiri Calls on Muslims to Support Taliban, Reject Islamic State,” FDD's Long War Journal, Aug. 21, 2016, https://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2016/08/zawahiri-calls-on-muslims-to-support-taliban-reject-islamic-state.php. [11] “Undated letter re Afghanistan,” Letter retrieved from Osama bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, declassified May 15, 2015, https://www.dni.gov/files/documents/ubl/english/Undated%20letter%20re%20Afghanistan.pdf. [12] “Twenty-second report of the Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team submitted pursuant to resolution 2368 (2017) concerning ISIL (Da’esh), Al-Qaida and associated individuals and entities,” United Nations, July 27, 2018, http://undocs.org/S/2018/705. [13] Steve Coll, Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001 (New York: Penguin, 2004); “Cable from U.S. Embassy Islamabad to Secretary of State,” U.S. Department of State, Dec. 22, 1998, https://nsarchive2.gwu.edu/NSAEBB/NSAEBB253/19981222.pdf; Zachary Laub, “The Taliban in Afghanistan,” Council on Foreign Relations, July 4, 2014, https://www.cfr.org/backgrounder/taliban-afghanistan. [14] “Cable from U.S. Embassy Islamabad to Secretary of State,” U.S. Department of State, Sept. 24, 1998, https://nsarchive2.gwu.edu/NSAEBB/NSAEBB97/tal26.pdf. [15] “Cable from U.S. Embassy Islamabad to Secretary of State,” U.S. Department of State, Sept. 14, 1998, https://nsarchive2.gwu.edu/NSAEBB/NSAEBB134/Doc 6.pdf; “Strains Surface Between Taliban and Bin Ladin,” Central Intelligence Agency, January 1999, https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/368942-1999-01-strains-surface-between-taliban-and-bin.html. [16] “Cable from U.S. Embassy Islamabad to Secretary of State,” U.S. Department of State, Dec. 30, 1998, https://nsarchive2.gwu.edu/NSAEBB/NSAEBB134/Doc 6.pdf; Osama Bin Laden, “Jihad Against Jews and Crusaders,” World Islamic Front Statement, Feb. 23, 1998, https://fas.org/irp/world/para/docs/980223-fatwa.htm; van Linschoten and Kuehn, An Enemy We Created. [17] "SITREP 6: Pakistan/Afghanistan Reaction to U.S. Strikes," U.S. Embassy (Islamabad), Aug. 25, 1998,  https://nsarchive2.gwu.edu/NSAEBB/NSAEBB134/Doc%204.pdf; "SITREP 7: Pakistan/Afghanistan Reaction to U.S. Strikes," U.S. Embassy (Islamabad), Aug. 26, 1998, https://nsarchive2.gwu.edu/NSAEBB/NSAEBB134/Doc%205.pdf. [18] “Taliban Commander Reveals Anger at Al Qaeda, Dim Hopes for Victory,” TOLOnews, July 11, 2012, https://www.tolonews.com/afghanistan/taliban-commander-reveals-anger-al-qaeda-dim-hopes-victory. [19] “GTD Search Results,” Global Terrorism Database, accessed Sept. 9, 2018, https://www.start.umd.edu/gtd/search/Results.aspx?page=1&casualties_type=b&casualties_max=&dtp2=all&country=4&perpetrator=20029,40325&expanded=no&charttype=line&chart=overtime&ob=GTDID&od=desc - results-table. [20] “Afghanistan Taliban Holding Firm on Bin Ladin for Now,” Central Intelligence Agency, Mar. 23, 2001, https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/368972-2001-03-23-afghanistan-taliban-holding-firm-on.html. [21] Anand Gopal, No Good Men Among the Living: America, the Taliban, and the War through Afghan Eyes (New York: Henry Holt, 2014). [22] Michael Semple, “The Taliban Need Help to Break Their Al-Qaida Ties,” Guardian, Apr. 30, 2012, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2012/apr/30/taliban-al-qaida-ties. [23] Michael Semple, Conversation with the author, Sept. 4, 2018, London. [24] Jason Burke, “Bin Laden Files Show Al-Qaida and Taliban Leaders in Close Contact,” Guardian, Apr. 29, 2012, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2012/apr/29/bin-laden-al-qaida-taliban-contact; Atiyah abd al-Rahman (aka Mahmud), “Government Exhibit 421,” June 19, 2010, Letter retrieved from Osama bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, https://www.longwarjournal.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/EXHIBIT-421-ENG-TRANS-EX-420-76C5764D-1.pdf; Barbara Starr and Zachary Cohen, “US Official: High-Level Al Qaeda Commander Killed in Afghanistan,” CNN, Dec. 5, 2017, https://www.cnn.com/2017/12/05/politics/us-kills-high-level-al-qaeda-commander-omar-bin-khatab/index.html. [25] “Summary of the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan,” Author Unknown, Letter retrieved from Osama bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, declassified May 20, 2015, https://www.dni.gov/files/documents/ubl/english/Summary on situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan.pdf. [26] Rod Nordland, Ash Ngu, and Fahim Abed, “How the U.S. Government Misleads the Public on Afghanistan,” New York Times, Sept. 8, 2018, https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/09/08/world/asia/us-misleads-on-afghanistan.html; “Quarterly Report to the United States Congress,” Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, July 30, 2018, https://www.sigar.mil/pdf/quarterlyreports/2018-07-30qr.pdf. [27] Ashley Jackson, “Life under the Taliban Shadow Government,” ODI, June 2018, https://www.odi.org/publications/11144-life-under-taliban-shadow-government. [28] “Afghanistan Taliban Holding Firm on Bin Ladin for Now.” [29] Steve Coll, Directorate S: The C.I.A. and America’s Secret Wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan (New York: Penguin Random House, 2018). [30] Aziz Amin Ahmadzai, “Iran’s Support for the Taliban Brings It to a Crossroads With Afghanistan,” Diplomat, May 21, 2018, https://thediplomat.com/2018/05/irans-support-for-the-taliban-brings-it-to-a-crossroads-with-afghanistan/. [31] Mujib Mashal, “Afghan Taliban Awash in Heroin Cash, a Troubling Turn for War,” New York Times, Oct. 29, 2017, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/29/world/asia/opium-heroin-afghanistan-taliban.html. [32] Gabriel Dominguez, “How the Taliban Get Their Money” Deutsche Welle, Jan. 21, 2016, https://www.dw.com/en/how-the-taliban-get-their-money/a-18995315. [33] Carlotta Gall, “Saudis Bankroll Taliban, Even as King Officially Supports Afghan Government,” New York Times, Dec. 6, 2016, https://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/06/world/asia/saudi-arabia-afghanistan.html. [34] Ayaz Gul, “Taliban Says IS ‘Purged’ From Northern Afghan Province,” VOA News, Aug. 1, 2018, https://www.voanews.com/a/taliban-says-islamic-state-eliminated-from-northern-afghan-province/4508922.html. [35] Dan Lamothe, “‘Probably the Largest’ Al-Qaeda Training Camp Ever Destroyed in Afghanistan,” Washington Post, Oct. 30, 2015, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/checkpoint/wp/2015/10/30/probably-the-largest-al-qaeda-training-camp-ever-destroyed-in-afghanistan/. [36] Vahid Brown and Don Rassler, Fountainhead of Jihad: The Haqqani Nexus, 1973–2012 (London: Hurst, 2013); Barbara Elias-Sanborn, ed., “The Haqqani History: Bin Ladin's Advocate Inside the Taliban,” National Security Archive, Sept. 11, 2012, https://nsarchive2.gwu.edu/NSAEBB/NSAEBB389/. [37] “Twenty-second report of the Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team”; Wesley Morgan, “Whatever Happened to Al Qaeda in Afghanistan?,” POLITICO, Aug. 15, 2018, https://politi.co/2Bl3t8u. [38] Ayman al-Zawahiri, “Letter to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi (translated),” July 9, 2005, https://ctc.usma.edu/app/uploads/2013/10/Zawahiris-Letter-to-Zarqawi-Translation.pdf. [39] Thomas Jocelyn, “Ayman al Zawahiri swears allegiance to the Taliban’s new leader,” FDD’s Long War Journal, June 11, 2016, https://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2016/06/ayman-al-zawahiri-swears-allegiance-to-the-talibans-new-leader.php. [40] Don Melvin, “Taliban Admit Mullah Omar Died in 2013,” CNN, Aug. 31, 2015, https://www.cnn.com/2015/08/31/asia/taliban-mullah-omar-death/index.html. [41] Jack Moore, “Al-Qaeda’s Zawahiri Calls on Supporters to Reject ISIS and Support Taliban,” Newsweek, Aug. 22, 2016, https://www.newsweek.com/al-qaedas-zawahiri-calls-supporters-reject-isis-and-support-taliban-492337. [42] Barbara Elias, “Know Thine Enemy,” Foreign Affairs, Nov. 2, 2009, https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/pakistan/2009-11-02/know-thine-enemy. [43] Douglas Frantz and David Rohde, “A NATION CHALLENGED: THE BOND; How Bin Laden and Taliban Forged Jihad Ties,” New York Times, Nov. 22, 2001, https://www.nytimes.com/2001/11/22/world/a-nation-challenged-the-bond-how-bin-laden-and-taliban-forged-jihad-ties.html. [44] Coll, Directorate S. [45] “The Al-Qaeda-Taliban Nexus,” Council on Foreign Relations, Nov. 24, 2009, https://www.cfr.org/expert-roundup/al-qaeda-taliban-nexus; Tricia Bacon and Elizabeth Grimm Arsenault, “Did Bin Laden’s Death Help the Islamic State?” Washington Post, May 2, 2018, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2018/05/02/did-bin-ladens-death-help-the-islamic-state/. [46] Bill Roggio, “Full Statement of Mullah Mansour Accepting Al Qaeda’s Oath of Allegiance,” FDD's Long War Journal, Aug. 14, 2015, https://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2015/08/full-statement-of-mullah-mansour-accepting-al-qaedas-oath-of-allegiance.php. [47] Thomas Joscelyn, “Ayman Al Zawahiri Swears Allegiance to the Taliban’s New Leader,” FDD’s Long War Journal, June 11, 2016, https://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2016/06/ayman-al-zawahiri-swears-allegiance-to-the-talibans-new-leader.php. [48] Abdulqahar Balkhi, “Message of Felicitation of the Esteemed Amir-Ul-Momineen, Shiekh-Ul-Hadith Hibatullah Akhundzada, (May Allah Protect Him), on the Occasion of Eid-Ul-Adha – Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan,” Aug. 30, 2017, https://alemarah-english.com/?p=19352. [49] Thomas Joscelyn and Bill Roggio, “Taliban Rejects Peace Talks, Emphasizes Alliance with Al Qaeda in New Video,” FDD’s Long War Journal, Dec. 9, 2016, https://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2016/12/taliban-rejects-peace-talks-emphasizes-alliance-with-al-qaeda-in-new-video.php. [50] Mujib Mashal and Eric Schmitt, “White House Orders Direct Taliban Talks to Jump-Start Afghan Negotiations” New York Times, July 15, 2018, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/15/world/asia/afghanistan-taliban-direct-negotiations.html. [51] Michael Semple,“Top Priorities for New Afghan Taliban Chief,” CNN, May 25, 2016, https://www.cnn.com/2016/05/24/opinions/challenges-for-next-taliban-leader/index.html. [52] Theo Farrell and Michael Semple, “Making Peace with the Taliban,” Survival 57, no. 6 (2015), https://doi.org/10.1080/00396338.2015.1116157. [53]For figures on these costs, see Brown University Watson Institute Costs of War Project, https://watson.brown.edu/costsofwar/. [54] David Rapoport originated the idea of “waves” of terrorism. See his article “The Fourth Wave: September 11 in the History of Terrorism,” Current History, 100 (December 2001), http://www.currenthistory.com/Article.php?ID=226. [55] Barak Mendelsohn, The Al-Qaeda Franchise: The Expansion of al-Qaeda and its Consequences (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016); Camille Tawil, Brothers in Arms: The Story of Al-Qa’ida and the Arab Jihadists (London: Saqi Books, 2010; translated from the 2007 Arabic edition). [56] See the Stanford University Center for International Security and Cooperation Mapping Militants Project, mappingmilitants.stanford.edu. The website has detailed profiles of the militant groups mentioned in this analysis as well as diagrams of their relationships. The sources for the profiles are fully cited. For the most recent profile updates email crenshaw@stanford.edu. See also Martha Crenshaw, “Transnational Jihadism & Civil Wars,” Daedalus, 146, no. 4 (Fall 2017), https://doi.org/10.1162/DAED_a_00459. [57] For a comprehensive account upon which many of the following observations are based see Charles Lister, The Syrian Jihad: Al-Qaeda, the Islamic State, and the Evolution of an Insurgency (London: Hurst Publishers, 2015); and “Hayat Tahrir al-Sham: to Unite or to Divide the Ranks?” in How Al-Qaeda Survived Drones, Uprisings, and the Islamic State: The Nature of the Current Threat, ed. Aaron Y. Zelin (Washington, DC: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, 2017). [58] Michael R. Gordon and Anne Barnard, “U.S. Places Militant Syrian Rebel Group on List of Terrorist Organizations,” New York Times, Dec. 10, 2012, https://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/11/world/middleeast/us-designates-syrian-al-nusra-front-as-terrorist-group.html. [59] Mark MazzettiAdam Goldman, and Michael S. Schmidt, “Behind the Sudden Death of a $1 Billion Secret C.I.A. War in Syria,” New York Times, Aug. 2, 2017, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/02/world/middleeast/cia-syria-rebel-arm-train-trump.html. [60] Karen DeYoung, Liz Sly, and Missy Ryan,” US airstrikes target Al-Qaeda faction in Syria,” Washington Post, Nov. 6, 2014, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2014/11/06/d860ef47-40fa-4f85-8753-0d9de0a6830b_story.html?utm_term=.1d09add13f39. [61] See the profile of Ahrar Al-Sham on the website Mapping Militant Organizations, mappingmilitants.stanford.edu. [62] DeYoung, et al., “US airstrikes”; and Lister, The Syrian Jihad. [63] As the organization evolved and the military situation grew more desperate, the al-Nusra group, in its new form as HTS, agreed to cooperate with Turkey, thus leading to more internal disputes and splits. See Akil Hussein, “Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham’s Deal with Turkey Further Alienates It from Other Jihadists,” The Royal Institute of International Affairs, Chatham House, (November 2017), https://syria.chathamhouse.org/research/hayat-tahrir-al-shams-deal-with-turkey-further-alienates-it-from-other-jihadists. [64] For an account of the evolution of al-Nusra, see the profile on the website Mapping Militant Organizations, mappingmilitants.stanford.edu. On its transformation into HTS, see also Tore Refslund Hamming and Pieter Van Ostaeyen, “The True Story of al-Qaeda’s Demise and Resurgence in Syria,” Lawfare, April 8, 2018, https://www.lawfareblog.com/true-story-al-qaedas-demise-and-resurgence-syria. [65] Charles Lister, “How al-Qa`ida Lost Control of its Syrian Affiliate: The Inside Story,” CTC Sentinel 11, no. 2 (February 2018), https://ctc.usma.edu/al-qaida-lost-control-syrian-affiliate-inside-story/. [66] Helene Cooper and Eric Schmitt, “U.S. Prepares to Reduce Troops and Shed Missions in Africa,” New York Times, Aug. 1, 2018,  https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/01/world/africa/us-withdraw-troops-africa.html. [67] Speech at Johns Hopkins University’s Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies quoted in Dan Lamothe, “Mattis Unveils new Strategy Focused on Russia and China, Takes Congress to Task for Budget Impasse,” Washington Post, Jan. 19, 2018, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/checkpoint/wp/2018/01/19/mattis-calls-for-urgent-change-to-counter-russia-and-china-in-new-pentagon-strategy/?utm_term=.bd234c8cc0e5. [68] For an overview see Christopher S. Chivvis and Andrew Liepman, North Africa’s Menace: AQIM’s Evolution and the U.S. Policy Response (Santa Monica: Rand, 2013) and Marc Mémier, “AQMI et Al-Mourabitoun: le djihad sahélien réunifié?” Etudes de l’Ifri, 2017, http://base.afrique-gouvernance.net/docs/memier_aqmi_et_al-mourabitoun_fr_2017.compressed.pdf. See also Sergei Boeke, “Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb: Terrorism, insurgency, or organized crime?” Small Wars & Insurgencies 27, no. 5 (2016), https://doi.org/10.1080/09592318.2016.1208280. [69] An analysis of the violent competition among the rebel groups in the Algerian civil war leading up to the 2006 merger is found in Mohammed M. Hafez, “Fratricidal Rebels: Ideological Extremity and Warring Factionalism in Civil Wars,” Terrorism and Political Violence 29, no. 6 (2017), https://doi.org/10.1080/09546553.2017.1389726. [70] See Chivvis and Liepman, North Africa’s Menace; and Mémier, “AQMI et Al-Mourabitoun,.”  See also Samuel L. Aronson, “AQIM’s Threat to Western Interests in the Sahel,” CTC Sentinel 7, no. 4 (April 2014), https://ctc.usma.edu/aqims-threat-to-western-interests-in-the-sahel/. [71] See David J. Francis, “The regional impact of the armed conflict and French intervention in Mali,” Norwegian Peacebuilding Resource Centre Report (April 2013), http://www.operationspaix.net/DATA/DOCUMENT/7911~v~The_regional_impact_of_the_armed_conflict_and_French_intervention_in_Mali.pdf. [72] For a theoretical account of how AQIM has survived through fragmentation, also well-informed by primary sources, see Adib Bencherif, “From Resilience to Fragmentation: Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and Jihadist Group Modularity,” Terrorism and Political Violence (2017), https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/09546553.2017.1351956. [73] See commentary by the International Crisis Group, “The Sahel: Mali’s Crumbling Peace Process and the Spreading Jihadist Threat,” March 1, 2017, https://www.crisisgroup.org/africa/west-africa/mali/sahel-malis-crumbling-peace-process-and-spreading-jihadist-threat. [74] On the difficulties faced by the task force see, “Finding the Right Role for the G5 Sahel Joint Force,” International Crisis Group Report No. 258, Dec. 12, 2017, https://www.crisisgroup.org/africa/west-africa/burkina-faso/258-force-du-g5-sahel-trouver-sa-place-dans-lembouteillage-securitaire. 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[114] Ryan Browne, “US Special Ops Chief: More than 60,000 ISIS Fighters Killed,” CNN, Feb. 15, 2017, https://edition.cnn.com/2017/02/14/politics/isis-60000-fighters-killed/index.html. [115] Fleshler, “Hunters.” [116] Max Roser, Mohamed Nagdy, and Hannah Ritchie, “Terrorism,” OurWorldInData, (January 2018), https://ourworldindata.org/terrorism. [117] Nicholas Kristoff, “Overreacting to Terrorism?,” New York Times, March 24, 2016, https://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/24/opinion/terrorists-bathtubs-and-snakes.html. [118] Stephen Wertheim, “Paeans to the ‘Postwar Order’ Won’t Save Us,” War on the Rocks, Aug. 6, 2018, https://warontherocks.com/2018/08/paeans-to-the-postwar-order-wont-save-us/. [119] Boaz Ganor, “The Definition of Terrorism: A Fundamental Counter-Terrorism Measure,” YouTube, accessed Sept. 10, 2018, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lunQwBhzgxo. [120] Boaz Ganor, “Defining Terrorism - Is One Man’s Terrorist Another Man’s Freedom Fighter?” IDC Herzliya, accessed Sept. 10, 2018, https://www.ict.org.il/Article/1123/Defining-Terrorism-Is-One-Mans-Terrorist-Another-Mans-Freedom-Fighter - gsc.tab=0. [121] Martha Crenshaw Hutchinson, “The Concept of Revolutionary Terrorism,” Journal of Conflict Resolution 16, no. 3 (September 1972), https://www.jstor.org/stable/173583. [122] Haroro J. Ingram and Craig Whiteside, “In Search of the Virtual Caliphate: Convenient Fallacy, Dangerous Distraction,” War on the Rocks, Sept. 27, 2017, https://warontherocks.com/2017/09/in-search-of-the-virtual-caliphate-convenient-fallacy-dangerous-distraction/. [123] Robin Wright, “The Ignominious End of the ISIS Caliphate,” New Yorker, Oct. 17, 2017, https://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/the-ignominious-end-of-the-isis-caliphate. [124] Kori Schake, “Realism, Liberalism, and the Ideological Origins of the Iraq War,” ISA panel remarks, moderated by Michael Cox and with John Ikenberry, Daniel Duedney, John Mearsheimer, Michael Williams, Beate Jahn, James Goldgeiger, Patrick Porter, and Joseph Nye (San Francisco, April 4, 2018). [125] “Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002,” Public Law 107–243, Oct. 16, 2002. [126] Jack Goldsmith, “The 2002 Iraq AUMF Almost Certainly Authorizes the President to Use Force Today in Iraq (and Might Authorize the Use of Force in Syria) [UPDATED],” Lawfare, June 13 2014, https://www.lawfareblog.com/2002-iraq-aumf-almost-certainly-authorizes-president-use-force-today-iraq-and-might-authorize-use. [127] Mackenzie Eaglen, “In Search of the White Whale: The National Defense Strategy’s Quest for Lethality,” Texas National Security Review, Roundtable, Jan. 26, 2018, https://tnsr.org/roundtable/policy-roundtable-close-look-2018-national-defense-strategy/ - essay3. [128] Peter Mattis, “From Engagement to Rivalry: Tools to Compete with China,” Texas National Security Review 1, no. 4 (August 2018), https://tnsr.org/2018/08/from-engagement-to-rivalry-tools-to-compete-with-china/. [129] Richard Javad Heydarian, “Duterte’s Efforts to Align the Philippines With China Face a Backlash,” World Politics Review, July 19, 2018, https://www.worldpoliticsreview.com/articles/25126/duterte-s-efforts-to-align-the-philippines-with-china-face-a-backlash; Damien Cave, “Espionage Bills in Australia Stir Fears of Anti-Chinese Backlash,” New York Times, Dec. 19, 2017, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/19/world/australia/australia-china-backlash-influence.html. [130] “DoD News Briefing - Secretary Rumsfeld and Gen. Myers,” Department of Defense, Feb. 12, 2002, http://archive.defense.gov/Transcripts/Transcript.aspx?TranscriptID=2636. [131] Barry R. Posen, “Contain ISIS,” Atlantic, Nov. 20, 2015, https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2015/11/isis-syria-iraq-containment/416799/. [132] Margaret Coker and Gardiner Harris, “Iraq Wants $88 Billion for Rebuilding. Allies Offer a Fraction of That.” New York Times, Feb. 13, 2018, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/13/world/middleeast/iraqi-donor-conference-abadi-tillerson.html. [133] Cole Bunzel, “From Paper State to Caliphate: The Ideology of the Islamic State,” Brookings Institution, March 9, 2015, https://www.brookings.edu/research/from-paper-state-to-caliphate-the-ideology-of-the-islamic-state/. [134] Michèle Coninsx, “Threats to International Peace and Security Caused by Terrorist Acts,” video file, United Nations Security Council, 8330th meeting, Aug. 23, 2018,  http://webtv.un.org/meetings-events/treaty-bodies/watch/mich%C3%A8le-coninsx-cted-on-threats-to-international-peace-and-security-caused-by-terrorist-acts-security-council-8330th-meeting/5826036031001/?term=&sort=date. [135] “Briefing on the Status of Syria Stabilization Assistance and Ongoing Efforts To Achieve an Enduring Defeat of ISIS,” State Department, Aug. 17, 2018, https://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2018/08/285202.htm. [136] David J. Trimbach and Nicole Reiz, “Unmaking Citizens: The Expansion of Citizenship Revocation in Response to Terrorism,” Center for Migration Studies, accessed Sept. 10, 2018, http://cmsny.org/publications/unmaking-citizens/. [137] Ben Hubbard, “Wives and Children of ISIS: Warehoused in Syria, Unwanted Back Home,” New York Times, July 4, 2018, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/04/world/middleeast/islamic-state-families-syria.html. [138] Kori Schake, “The Trump Doctrine Is Winning and the World Is Losing,” New York Times, June 15, 2018, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/15/opinion/sunday/trump-china-america-first.html. [139] Chris Buckley, “China Is Detaining Muslims in Mass Numbers. The Goal: ‘Transformation,’” New York Times, Sept. 8, 2018, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/08/world/asia/china-uighur-muslim-detention-camp.html [140] Philip Bobbitt, “America’s Relation to World Order: Two Indictments, Two Thought Experiments, and a Misquotation,” Texas National Security Review 1, no. 4 (August 2018), https://tnsr.org/2018/08/americas-relation-to-world-order-two-indictments-two-thought-experiments-and-a-misquotation/; Phil Gurski, “An End to the War on Terrorism,” International Centre for Counterterrorism – The Hague, May 30, 2018, https://icct.nl/publication/an-end-to-the-war-on-terrorism/. [141] Francis Fukuyama, “Against Identity Politics: The New Tribalism and the Crisis of Democracy,” Foreign Affairs (September/October 2018), https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/americas/2018-08-14/against-identity-politics. [142] “Remarks by President Trump on the Strategy in Afghanistan and South Asia,” The White House, Aug. 21, 2017, https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/remarks-president-trump-strategy-afghanistan-south-asia/. [143] Christopher Woody, “How Jim Mattis Defused a White House Confrontation That Left Reince Priebus Saying ‘WTF,’” Business Insider, Feb. 8, 2018, https://www.businessinsider.com/mattis-trump-defused-white-house-clash-priebus-mcmaster-2018-2. [144] “Remarks by President Trump on the Strategy in Afghanistan and South Asia.” [145] Jennifer Cafarella, Caitlin Forrest, and Charles Aubin, “ISIS Plotting Attacks from Afghanistan,” Institute for the Study of War, Nov. 17, 2017, http://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/isis-plotting-attacks-afghanistan. [146] A. Trevor Thrall and Benjamin H. Friedman, eds., US Grand Strategy in the 21st Century: The Case for Restraint (Abingdon-on-Thames, U.K.: Routledge, 2018); Risa Brooks, “Do Safe Havens Matter for Terrorist Attacks?” https://www.dropbox.com/s/z019b6y2kayr4b2/PIPES%202017%20Fall-Oct%205-Brooks-paper.pdf?dl=0; Micah Zenko and Amelia Mae Wolf, “The Myth of the Terrorist Safe Haven,” Foreign Policy, https://foreignpolicy.com/2015/01/26/al-qaeda-islamic-state-myth-of-the-terrorist-safe-haven/. [147] “The 9/11 Commission Report,” National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, July 22, 2004, https://www.9-11commission.gov/report/911Report.pdf. [148] “The National Security Strategy of the United States of America,” The White House, September 2002, 5, https://www.state.gov/documents/organization/63562.pdf. [149] Martha Crenshaw, "The Causes of Terrorism," Comparative Politics 13, no. 4 (1981), https://www.jstor.org/stable/421717. [150] “Foreign Terrorist Organizations,” U.S. Department of State, accessed Sept. 9, 2018, http://www.state.gov/j/ct/rls/other/des/123085.htm. [151] A. Trevor Thrall and Eric Goepner, “Step Back: Lessons for U.S. Foreign Policy from the Failed War on Terror,” Cato Institute, June 26, 2017, 9, https://object.cato.org/sites/cato.org/files/pubs/pdf/pa-814.pdf. [152] Helene Cooper, “U.S. Braces for Return of Terrorist Safe Havens to Afghanistan,” New York Times, March 13, 2018, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/12/world/middleeast/military-safe-havens-afghanistan.html. [153] “Enhancing Security and Stability in Afghanistan” U.S. Department of Defense, December 2017, 1, https://media.defense.gov/2017/Dec/15/2001856979/-1/-1/1/1225-REPORT-DEC-2017-FINAL-UNCLASS-BASE.PDF. [154] Peter Bergen, “It’s Trump’s War ... and It’s Not Going Well,” CNN, Sept. 3, 2018, https://www.cnn.com/2018/08/20/opinions/trump-afghanistan-war-not-going-well-bergen/index.html. [155] “Freedom in the World 2018,” Freedom House, https://freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-world/2018/afghanistan; Corruption Perceptions Index 2017 in Afghanistan, Transparency International, https://www.transparency.org/country/AFG. [156] “Remarks by President Trump on the Strategy in Afghanistan and South Asia.” ) [contents] => Array ( [title] => Contents [contents] => 1. Introduction: A Most Infamous Day: Marking the 17th Anniversary of the 9/11 Attacks, by Ryan Evans 2. Al-Qaeda and the Taliban: The Alliance that Started the Forever War, By Tricia Bacon 3. The Long Aftermath of 9/11: How Terrorism Doesn’t End, by Martha Crenshaw 4. With Us and Against Us: Understanding the Mixed Record of U.S. Partners on Counter-Terrorism Cooperation Since 9/11, by Stephen Tankel 5. What Progress Has America Made after 17 Years of Global Counter-Terrorism Efforts? by Michael P. Dempsey 6. Retrospect and Prospect: On Endless War, by David A. Brown, Tim Hoyt, and Craig Whiteside 7. Another Year of the War in Afghanistan, by A. Trevor Thrall and Erik Goepner ) ) ) [post_count] => 2 [current_post] => -1 [in_the_loop] => [post] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 1733 [post_author] => 288 [post_date] => 2019-08-13 07:00:31 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-08-13 11:00:31 [post_content] =>

1. Introduction: Inside IS-K

By Theo Farrell   The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) burst onto the world scene in 2014, advancing rapidly across Iraq and Syria, declaring its “caliphate,” seizing the city of Mosul and routing the Iraqi Army in its path. What followed was a tidal wave of horror, as ISIL “flooded the Internet with images of hundreds of unnamed Iraqis and Kurds being executed by gun and knife and crucifixion, their heads mounted and displayed on pikes.”[1] In that “haunting summer and fall of 2014,” many in the West wanted to know, “where did ISIS come from, and how did it manage to do so much damage in so short a period of time?”[2] As all eyes were on Iraq and Syria attention was drawn away from Afghanistan, where Western combat forces were drawing down, with the International Security Assistance Force mission due to end in December 2014. Yet, as the withdrawal from Afghanistan proceeded, ISIL — or the Islamic State, as it increasingly became known — already had begun to spread there. As Craig Whiteside notes in his review in this roundtable, “When the Islamic State became highly visible in 2014, experts claimed that its rigid ideology and violent behavior would not travel well. … This book makes a convincing argument that this conventional wisdom was wrong.” All three contributors to this roundtable agree that far too little is known about the Islamic State in Khorasan (IS-K), as the group’s affiliate in Central and South Asia is known. Paul Lushenko states plainly that “we need to know more about the group.” Weeda Mehran notes, in particular, that “much is unknown about how the group’s presence [in Afghanistan] will affect the conflict.” Whiteside observes that even the central ISIL organization “can still be a mystery to those of us who study it.” Antonio Giustozzi, in his recent book The Islamic State in Khorasan, shows how the “IS [Islamic State] model” was “transplanted” to Khorasan, a province in ISIL’s declared global “caliphate” covering a vast area in Asia, encompassing Afghanistan, Pakistan, all of Central Asia, Iran, and parts of Russia and India. For Whiteside, Giustozzi’s book provides “an insider’s account of the expansion of the Islamic State.” The analysis in this book draws on 121 original interviews conducted between 2014 and early 2017, including 62 interviews with members of IS-K. Giustozzi used a team of Afghan researchers, most with journalist backgrounds, to conduct the field research. He warns readers that precise figures given by interviewees, especially regarding finances, “should be taken with a pinch of salt.” At the same time, Giustozzi notes that many of the interviewees were “remarkably frank.”[3] However, two of our reviewers raise some concerns about the data. Whiteside writes, “Amazingly, and worryingly at the same time, half of these sources are alleged IS-K members. This introduces a concern that some of what is reported in the book could be misinformation.” Mehran further observes that “although it is understandable that not all information gathered in this book could be triangulated, some significant information is only from one source.” Such concerns are certainly understandable. In the interest of full disclosure, I collaborated with Giustozzi on a previous project — a study of the Taliban campaign in Helmand Province from 2004 to 2011. While I will refrain from providing a personal view of Giustozzi’s book and will instead stick to introducing the reviews collected in this roundtable, this prior collaboration does give me insight into the issue of data collection. Giustozzi and I employed a similar research design — a semi-structured interview instrument implemented in the field by Afghan researchers — and faced the same challenges, namely, that the research protocols we used to protect interviewee identities prevented replication of research results. Our project relied on the same Afghan field researchers that Giustozzi had used on a large number of studies over many years, to conduct 49 interviews with Taliban members and 58 interviews with local Afghan elders from 2011 to 2012.[4] To check the data, we sent anonymized interview transcript samples to two experts with field research experience in Helmand to get their opinion on the data’s likely authenticity, which they confirmed. Our written-up research findings were sent to the former International Security Assistance Force chief of intelligence, who, in turn, sent it to two Helmand intelligence analysts for feedback. They confirmed that our research findings conformed to the intelligence picture over the period of study. The published version of our paper was assigned as compulsory reading for all British officers deploying to Afghanistan.[5] For our Helmand project, we made sure to use multiple data points — i.e., different interview transcripts provided by different Afghan field researchers — to validate any significant research finding. Giustozzi conducted multiple interviews for this book as well. In some cases, however, single sources were used for key data points. Data points related to extremely sensitive material — e.g., covering matters such as Saudi financial support for IS-K — also appear to have been difficult to validate in some instances. In these cases, readers will need to exercise some judgment as to possible bias on the part of some interview subjects. Each reviewer in this roundtable focuses on different aspects of Giustozzi’s book. Whiteside concentrates on the organizational aspects of IS-K, in particular what its origin can tell us about ISIL and how Giustozzi upends the conventional wisdom that IS-K is mostly made up of Pakistani militants from Tehrik-e Taliban. He writes that Giustozzi “reveals that the founding of IS-K was an ISIL project from the beginning, not an example of a local group ‘bandwagoning’ with a larger, more prestigious global brand.” In her review, Mehran focuses on the financing and regional context of IS-K. She observes how “regional dynamics, and particularly the issue of Shiite-Sunni tensions — spearheaded by regional rivals Iran and Saudi Arabia — were central to IS-K’s rise.” Lushenko, on the other hand, concentrates on the military aspect of IS-K’s campaign and on America’s strategy to defeat it. The Origins of IS-K In April 2014, the Islamic State appointed a special representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan, and began efforts to recruit groups and fighters. Giustozzi describes how dispersed groups in Afghanistan began to form up into larger networks and align with the Islamic State. On Jan. 26, 2015, IS-K was formally announced. Giustozzi observes how “[a]lmost nobody initially believed IS could find any roots in the region, and the near consensus was that IS-K would be limited to recruiting a few opportunists and making some noise for a while.”[6] U.S. officials described what was happening as “superficial rebranding” by some groups in Afghanistan. Likewise, Afghan authorities initially dismissed it as “nothing more than a cunning public relations scheme.”[7] However, a year later IS-K was operating in one-third of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces, and Iranian and Pakistani intelligence sources privately estimated IS-K numbers to be between 5,000 and 8,000 in Afghanistan, and 3,000 and 2,000 in Pakistan. By 2017, IS-K had many hundreds of members in each of Pakistan’s main cities: Islamabad, Quetta, Peshawar, and Lahore.[8] In his review, Whiteside notes how “Giustozzi’s research suggests that core ISIL has worked very hard to propagate its organizational model to its franchises in exact detail, with little room for deviation.” Over a number of chapters, Giustozzi describes how ISIL built up IS-K, over time sending funds, directions on what to do, advisers to train IS-K fighters, and inspectors to check that things were being done properly. The early years were a bit haphazard for IS-K. Giustozzi writes that “2014-16 shows a messy picture of blunders and mistakes, arguments and internecine conflict, personal rivalries and lengthy negotiations with potential future stakeholders.”[9] This can be seen in the manner of IS-K’s expansion in Nangarhar. Far from being part of some grand strategic plan, IS-K developed a large foothold in Nangarhar because of affinity with local villagers. However, after a honeymoon period, IS-K began to control the population and impose strict religious codes in Nangarhar, as elsewhere, through the use of terror tactics. This included blowing up a group of Nangarhar elders using explosives in June 2015.[10] Such brutality triggered a popular opposition to IS-K in Nangarhar and this, combined with U.S. bombing of IS-K camps, caused Islamic State fighters to flee to the mountains of neighboring Kunar province. Cohesion presented a challenge for IS-K in its early years. Giustozzi notes how over 2014 and most of 2015, the number of Islamic State trainers in Khorasan was low (less than 50), the madrassa network was underdeveloped, and many IS-K recruits were not indoctrinated into the Islamic State brand of Salafism.[11] Nonetheless, IS-K put significant effort into developing and enforcing discipline in its units. Giustozzi cites two interviewees — one Pakistan intelligence official and one senior Taliban cadre — as attesting to the superior organization and discipline of IS-K.[12] Hence, for example, in response to local pushback in Nangarhar and elsewhere, ISIL worked through its trainers to encourage IS-K units to adopt a softer approach so as to avoid widespread local revolt. Giustozzi concludes that, “as of early 2017 IS-K had only had partial success in building up the structure mandated by its remote patrons in Mosul.” IS-K was unable to merge its component networks of fighters into a cohesive organization. Furthermore, it struggled to establish functioning sharia courts, which are central to the Islamic State’s mode of governance. Giustozzi suggests that the high rate of attrition among IS-K commanders would have been a hindrance to such a development. However, ISIL was able to improve coordination between its networks, impose a unified social media narrative on IS-K’s campaign, and enforce common rules on how IS-K operated and governed.[13] Money and Regional Politics In her review, Mehran explores how the rise of IS-K is intimately related to regional dynamics and rivalries. She observes that “IS-K is fragmented, decentralized, and has diverse sources of funding, which makes the group well positioned to be used as a pawn by various regional actors.” As Mehran rightly notes, it’s extremely difficult to get a wholly accurate picture of IS-K finances. All the same, she indicates that Giustozzi provides credible evidence of extensive financial assistance from Saudi Arabia and Qatar, as well as private Gulf donors. To support this impressive fundraising effort, IS-K’s Financial Commission maintains offices in Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia. From 2015, IS-K also began to impose taxes in areas it controlled, including a standard 10-percent tax on legitimate economic activity and a 15- to 20-percent tax on drug smugglers. Citing interviews with 11 local elders and five IS-K members, Giustozzi writes, “Sources converged in saying that IS-K was not taxing the poorest of farmers but focusing on shops and the wealthy.” He speculates that one reason for this may be that the areas where IS-K operates are “sparsely populated and poor.” In contrast, shops in rural towns would have presented relatively easy targets for rich pickings.[14] From multiple sources, Giustozzi estimates total IS-K revenue to have been $300 million in 2015, which he notes was “over ten times per capita the Taliban’s.”[15] According to one IS-K source, only $35 million of this was raised through taxation.[16] Raising revenue through taxation would have exposed IS-K units to confrontation with other armed groups, including the Taliban, who were also extracting resources from local communities. This competition between armed groups in Afghanistan over internal resource extraction has increased IS-K dependency on external sources of revenue. As Mehran notes and Giustozzi demonstrates, the regional politics of support and opposition to IS-K are complex. For instance, Qatar is backing IS-K, yet IS-K threatens the Afghan peace process that Qatar is sponsoring. Mehran further observes that “Qatar is playing a double game on the Iranian front as well.” Qatar is viewed by the Gulf states as being pro-Iranian and yet it funds the Islamic State (and IS-K), which is waging jihad on Shiites. For this reason, and because it is supported by Saudi Arabia, Iran seeks to defeat the Islamic State. ISIL set out to dominate in Afghanistan and progressively extend its reach into Pakistan, India, and Central Asia. As Giustozzi notes, “the proclamation of the Islamic State and then of the Caliphate should be read not as an obsession with territorial control per se, but as a strategy for establishing the hegemony of the organization over the wider jihadist movement.”[17] At first, IS-K tried to reach an accommodation with the Quetta Shura (the leadership council) of the Taliban. But this was only ever intended to buy time for IS-K to get established. The intent was always to displace the Taliban. Giustozzi notes how the Quetta Shura came under pressure from Saudi Arabia and Qatar to avoid fighting IS-K. In early 2016, the Taliban’s then-emir, Mullah Mansour, was killed in a U.S. drone strike. His successor, Haibatullah Akhundzada, had closer ties to Iran and therefore more encouragement to confront IS-K. In a remarkable twist of fate, Giustozzi reports how Russia, fearful of the spread of IS-K to the Central Asian republics, began to engage with the Taliban diplomatically in late 2015, “even offering them funds and weapons to fight IS-K.”[18] Taliban cohesion and discipline has broken down in recent years. The doctrine of obedience to the emir that was nearly universal and absolute under Mullah Omar was eroded under Mansour, who was seen as corrupt and self-serving by some Taliban members, and by the manner in which Omar’s death had been covered up for two years while Mansour wielded power.[19] Things have gotten worse for the Taliban under Haibatullah. In comparison to Mansour, who at least was a prominent Taliban figure and skilled political operator, Haibatullah is a relative nobody. Prior to his appointment as emir, he was the Taliban’s chief justice. He is widely viewed within the Taliban as a figurehead with little actual authority or influence. This has impacted his ability to mobilize Taliban fronts for a comprehensive campaign against IS-K.[20] This is especially the case in eastern Afghanistan, where the Haqqani network dominates. Serajuddin Haqqani formally serves as a deputy leader of the Taliban. However, the Haqqanis have a long track record of supporting overseas jihad whereas the Quetta Shura has had no interest in this.[21] Not surprisingly, therefore, the Haqqanis have the deepest links with IS-K of any faction within the Taliban. Prior to 2015, the Haqqani network sent hundreds of fighters to support ISIL’s struggle in Iraq and Syria. Many of these “foreign fighters” returned home to join IS-K. Efforts by IS-K to lure away Haqqani commanders led to a break between the two organizations in late 2016. However, unlike the Taliban under the command of the Quetta Shura, the Haqqanis never fought IS-K. The Military Campaign ISIL displayed impressive fighting power in Iraq and Syria. U.S. intelligence estimated ISIL numbers to be between 20,000 and 30,000 in 2015. The group captured large stockpiles of heavy weapons from Iraqi and Syrian army bases, including tanks, artillery, and anti-aircraft missiles. Crucially, ISIL pursued a “persistently aggressive combat style and uncompromising commitment to expansion.” As two analysts noted, this “produced a significant bandwagon effect, in which many fence-sitters have chosen to join the group rather than be crushed by it.”[22] ISIL hopes to replicate the same battlefield success in Khorasan. Lushenko writes that “exploitation of unclassified documents substantiates Giustozzi’s claim that IS-K is pursuing a ‘blitzkrieg’ strategy designed to concentrate forces to achieve local superiority in areas that are weakly governed.” Giustozzi notes that IS-K “also adopted practices such as an exaggerated show of force, to intimidate its adversaries. This seems to have worked in spreading panic among its enemies, even if it should be taken into account that IS-K mostly confronted local Taliban militias rather than their better trained and equipped mobile forces.”[23] The strong morale of IS-K’s fighters, who are proud to be part of a global jihad, works in the group’s favor. Benefiting from generous financial support from Gulf patrons, IS-K is also able to offer higher pay and far better logistics (in terms of food and weapons) for its fighters than does the Taliban. On the other hand, trainers sent by the Islamic State were disappointed in the quality of IS-K fighters, complaining that they were not as educated and skilful as fighters in Syria and Iraq. The internal politics of the Taliban also have proven incredibly advantageous for IS-K because they prevented the Taliban from mobilizing its forces against the ISIL affiliate. As Lushenko writes, “IS-K has demonstrated remarkable resiliency against unprecedented counter-terrorism pressure levied by the U.S.-led coalition.” He also observes how it has successfully spread further afield, with reports of IS-K operations across Central and South Asia. Lushenko argues that “the available evidence suggests the group has attempted to exacerbate territorial and ethnic flashpoints to broaden its appeal in South and Southeast Asia,” including exploitation of the Rohingya crisis, and launching several attacks in Bangladesh and India. For Lushenko, this all underlines the urgency of a concerted strategy and effort to defeat IS-K. Here it is important to note that the fall of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, with the final village in Syria recaptured in March 2019, did not spell the end of ISIL.[24] Far from it. Five months later, the New York Times reported that “a report by United Nations analysts on the Security Council Counter-Terrorism Committee said that Islamic State leaders, despite their military defeat in Syria and Iraq, are ‘adapting, consolidating and creating conditions for an eventual resurgence’ in those countries.”[25] Rather worryingly, the New York Times also reported on differences between intelligence officials in Washington, D.C. and the U.S. military over the extent of the ongoing threat from IS-K. Officials in the State Department and intelligence agencies consider the IS-K threat to be limited to the region, whereas U.S. military leaders see real risk to the U.S. homeland. Moreover, civilian estimates of IS-K numbers are half those of U.S. Central Command.[26] Viewed in this context, Lushenko’s discussion of a three-pronged strategy to defeat ISIL is most timely. First, Lushenko recommends that the U.S. coalition “attack IS-K on multiple fronts simultaneously.” He notes that the coalition has conducted sequential operations against IS-K, which has given the insurgents time and space to regroup and adapt. Second, Lushenko recommends that the coalition “must enable Afghan forces to consolidate gains” against IS-K, particularly in the hard-to-reach mountainous areas where IS-K is ensconced. Third, he recommends that the coalition “galvanize a strategy that aligns the counter-terrorism actions of regional states against the common goal of defeating IS-K.” This includes a sensible suggestion to adapt “the Quadrilateral Coordination Group, to enable states to systematically integrate personnel, capabilities, and operations to proactively pursue IS-K across state borders.” All of the regional players — Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, China and Russia — have a pressing interest to combat IS-K. Thus, deepening regional cooperation on this is feasible, even if there are many diplomatic hurdles to achieving this goal. However, the first and second recommendations depend on the United States sustaining the military capabilities to launch precision strikes against IS-K and providing direct support to Afghan security forces from embedded U.S. special operations units. Here, news reports indicate that Lushenko’s optimism — “Trump’s withdrawal will not impact the deployment of Special Operations Forces” — is not wholly shared by U.S. military commanders.[27] Prospects? In retrospect, it is not so surprising that the Islamic State should find fertile ground in Afghanistan and Pakistan. In his superb book on the rise of suicide bombings in Afghanistan, David Edwards describes how decades of conflict against “kafir” invaders has militarized Afghan society, and how jihad has come to replace tribal ties as the primary organizing logic of social relations for many young men. Of particular importance in recent decades is the deeply disturbing practice of extreme violence as spectacle, powered by the rise of social media. The Taliban are surprisingly media savvy but the Islamic State are masters by comparison.[28] Edwards reports how ISIL executions were supervised by film crews “rather than any legal authority,” and beheadings would be rehearsed, with multiple takes over many hours, in order to film the horrific scene just right.[29] With an appetite for brutality far exceeding that of the Taliban, IS-K also has more extreme material to promote its brand of jihad with a global audience, including many alienated young people looking for purpose in their lives. Giustozzi’s disturbing conclusion is that the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria “have created a ‘military class’ of professionals of insurgency so large, that movements and organization have now emerged that aim to appeal primarily if not exclusively to that very military class, oblivious to the wider social context of the region.”[30] Unfortunately, all this suggests that a deal with the Taliban may not bring peace to Afghanistan. It would, in theory, enable U.S. forces to focus on targeting IS-K, but that would depend on such a deal allowing a U.S. counter-terrorism force to continue operating in Afghanistan. To date, Taliban negotiators have rejected such a proposal.[31] A peace deal would also free up Taliban forces to focus on eliminating IS-K, but it is not at all clear how such a deal would impact internal Taliban politics. It is possible that the withdrawal of all foreign forces would further erode the Taliban’s cohesion. Lushenko warns in particular that “if the coalition’s peace talks with the Taliban are able to broker a settlement, it is likely that defectors will join IS-K and threaten to catalyze a new brand of Salafi jihadism in Afghanistan.”[32] Echoing this view, Mehran observes that “Both sectarian tensions and regional rivalries will continue feeding insurgencies and insecurity even if a peace deal with the Taliban is reached.” As she puts it, “The picture is rather grim.”   Theo Farrell is full professor and executive dean of the Faculty of Law, Humanities, and the Arts at the University of Wollongong, Australia. He was previously head of the Department of War Studies at King’s College London. He is an editorial board member of the Texas National Security Review.  

2. IS-K: Defeating The New Central and South Asia Jihad

By Paul Lushenko   It is tempting to discount the Islamic State in the Khorasan (IS-K) because the group is small compared to the Taliban, which poses an existential threat to the regime in Kabul. In the past, IS-K has been considered a “boogeyman under the bed” rather than a serious threat.[33] Since its emergence in early 2015, however, IS-K has demonstrated remarkable resiliency against unprecedented counter-terrorism pressure levied by the U.S.-led coalition. While Afghan and U.S. officials assume a negotiated settlement with the Taliban would enable IS-K’s defeat, the group has expanded across Afghanistan at the Taliban’s expense and become increasingly lethal.[34] Amid the loss of the Islamic State’s (ISIL) physical caliphate in Iraq and Syria, IS-K arguably represents the group’s most viable and lethal regional affiliate, and has evolved to represent a significant threat to Afghanistan’s security and stability.[35] Moreover, IS-K’s regional scope reaches beyond Afghanistan. In October 2018, the U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Scott Miller, observed “[t]hey have external aspirations, they have different capabilities, and they are connected outside of Afghanistan.”[36] Michael O’Hanlon also cautions, “[w]e cannot know just how grave a threat…‘ISIS-K’ could become,” adding, “nor should we wish to find out.”[37] These assessments may be true. But, we need to know more about the group. Antonio Giustozzi’s book, The Islamic State in the Khorasan: Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the New Central Asian Jihad, provides a strong foundation. Although he focuses mainly on the group in Afghanistan, his book is a critical jumping-off point to explore both its response to the coalition’s evolving counter-terrorism strategy there and its expansion across the region. As I argue in this essay, these two developments are interrelated. On the one hand, Giustozzi adduces key interactions between the coalition and IS-K that help chronologize the conflict, make sense of iterative adjustments in the coalition’s counter-terrorism strategy, and augment our appreciation of what the coalition has learned after four years of targeting IS-K as a representative form of post-modern terrorists who are transregional, virulent, and intent on providing governance. On the other hand, whereas the coalition’s unremitting targeting constitutes at least one factor contributing to IS-K’s expansion across Central Asia that Giustozzi explores, the group’s expansion in South and Southeast Asia is not addressed.[38] Yet, it is clearly occurring. Hafiz Saeed Khan, the group’s inaugural leader, promised such an expansion.[39] Unclassified documents confiscated during combat operations against IS-K indicate that its members are using encrypted applications including Telegram and WhatsApp to recruit sympathizers and garner resources from Bangladesh, India, and Myanmar.[40] Indeed, the coalition’s efforts in Afghanistan have been intended not only to dislodge the group from key terrain, but also to degrade its ability to communicate, recruit fighters, finance operations, and produce and disseminate media throughout the region. Action-Reaction-Counteraction The exploitation of unclassified documents substantiates Giustozzi’s claim that IS-K is pursuing a “blitzkrieg” strategy designed to concentrate forces to achieve local superiority in areas that are weakly governed and poorly secured.[41] Khan, until his death in July 2016 following a drone strike, expanded IS-K’s territory by weighting the group’s combat power against Nangarhar and Kunar Provinces in eastern Afghanistan, and Jowzjan Province in northwestern Afghanistan. The network’s headquarters is in Nangarhar and consists of approximately 2,000 to 3,000 members. Indoctrination and training take place in Kunar where the group likely has an additional 1,000 to 2,000 members. Until the Taliban’s counterattack in August 2018, which I explore in greater detail below, Jowzjan served as a reception center for foreign fighters travelling from Central and South Asia, as well as Europe.[42] It consisted of approximately 1,000 members.[43] Khan and his successors have pursued an audacious strategy to enable IS-K to encircle Jalalabad City in Nangarhar as evidenced by attacks against predominately “soft” targets including checkpoints, government buildings, and election polling sites. From 2015 to early 2017, Giustozzi explains, the coalition attempted to write-off and then merely contain IS-K, even though officials acknowledged the group was “operationally emergent in Afghanistan.”[44] In May 2017, then-U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis directed the coalition to “annihilate” IS-K.[45] To the extent Giustozzi engages the coalition’s strategy, he reduces its operations to the targeted killing of IS-K leaders, as well as the employment of the largest non-nuclear bomb ever used in combat — the GBU-43 — against the group’s headquarters. A fuller look at the coalition’s adjustments over time, however, is equally, if not more, instructive of the concomitant evolution in IS-K’s operations and regional engagements than is normally appreciated. Since 2015, it is possible to identify three distinct phases of IS-K action, followed by the coalition’s reaction and then IS-K’s counteraction, which help explain the group’s current composition, disposition, and intent. Each phase is punctuated by the removal of IS-K’s supreme leader (emir), a feature Giustozzi also identifies. The framework presented here builds on Giustozzi’s investigation to account for what the coalition has learned in order to shift its counter-terrorism strategy to defeat IS-K. During the first phase, from January 2015 to January 2017, IS-K marshalled personnel and resources to establish a toehold in eastern Afghanistan. Following his pledge of allegiance to the Islamic State on Jan. 10, 2015, Khan and his founding cadre infiltrated Nangarhar and forcibly displaced Afghans not supportive of the group’s eschatology.[46] “As a newcomer in the crowded jihadist environment of Khorasan,” Giustozzi’s research indicates that IS-K’s initial objective was “finding a permanent place for itself in this environment.”[47] Initially hesitant to acknowledge IS-K, the coalition killed Khan in July 2016 following a drone strike and commenced “Operation Green Sword” to dislodge the group from Nangarhar.[48] The combination of drone strikes, raids, and clearance operations compelled IS-K to consolidate within two districts: Achin and Naziyan. According to Giustozzi’s analysis, this amounted to an 80 percent reduction of the group’s territory.[49] As a further response, many IS-K members fled into Pakistan to prevent additional losses. At best, IS-K’s retreat into Pakistan suggested that the group was able to capitalize on the porous Durand Line and a Pakistani security establishment that did not take the threat seriously enough. At worst, it is possible that the Pakistani government pursued a policy of competitive competition, seeking to combat and enable IS-K simultaneously.[50] Indeed, Giustozzi states that the preponderance of evidence suggests “Pakistani authorities oscillated between a wary tolerance of IS-K activities, with occasional effort to contain them, and ad-hoc support when it suited their interest.”[51] Whatever the case, IS-K’s shift into Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas encouraged the coalition to expand its collaboration and cooperation with Pakistan’s military to block IS-K’s future egress, although the results have been dubious. On May 15, 2019, for example, the Islamic State declared a new province (wilayat) in Pakistan to formalize its presence in the area.[52] The group exploited Afghanistan’s titular border with Pakistan to broaden its operational reach beyond Nangarhar during the second phase, which lasted approximately from January 2017 until January 2018. IS-K occupied Kunar by coopting sympathetic Afghans situated in mountainous terrain and enjoyed enhanced protection against drone strikes. Giustozzi interviewed one IS-K commander who exclaimed, “Kunar is a great place for us.” He continued, “when we came to Kunar Province, we did not have any casualties from drones.”[53] The group also integrated defectors from the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan to establish an enclave in Jowzjan led by the redoubtable Qari Hikmatullah, himself a Taliban defector.[54] The coalition, still intent on evicting IS-K’s headquarters from Nangarhar, while also attuned to Mattis’ guidance to defeat the group, sought to “pressure” (i.e., disrupt) IS-K from below while “desynchronizing” (i.e., decapitating) it from above.[55] The objective to retake territory from IS-K helps explain the coalition’s employment of the GBU-43 in April 2017. The bomb destroyed caves and tunnels that the group had protected with mines to thicken the defense of its headquarters. It also reportedly killed 100 IS-K members and destroyed $8 million of the group’s reserves.[56] Rather than these material dividends, the bomb’s more enduring effect may be psychological. According to Giustozzi, the “devastating 21,000-pound bomb attack … demonstrated that no fortification would hold if vulnerable to air attacks.”[57] Shortly following this historic event, the coalition conducted a raid in Achin resulting in the death of IS-K’s second emir, Abdul Hasib. These lethal operations sowed distrust among IS-K’s leaders and members that the coalition stoked through its information operations. The heightened suspicion that followed resulted in greater operational security across the group, which frustrated communications, delayed the disbursement of salaries and arms to fighters, and stalled offensive operations, particularly in Nangarhar. Due to its strategic focus on seizing Jalalabad City, and the Afghan government’s reticence to occupy terrain previously held by IS-K, the group relocated its capital further west to Deh Bala District.[58] The group also expanded its footprint in Kunar and Jowzjan, an impressive feat considering the Taliban’s stiff resistance in both places. Surprisingly, given the group’s recent emergence, Giustozzi argues that IS-K “demonstrated an ability to deploy far and relatively fast (for a force moving on foot), outpacing the Taliban and often allowing it to seize the initiative against a potentially much larger force.”[59] According to IS-K members and commanders interviewed by Giustozzi, “[t]he quality of ammunition and weapons was similarly reported to be greatly superior.”[60] During the third phase, which unfolded in early 2018, IS-K accelerated its attacks across Afghanistan to demonstrate resolve and fulfill the Islamic State’s goal of undermining democracies globally. Notwithstanding its aggressive approach, the group suffered several set-backs. Although the coalition buffeted IS-K in Nangarhar through lethal strikes, it broadened its operations against Jowzjan and capitalized on the Taliban’s complementary counteroffensive against IS-K. On the one hand, the coalition captured IS-K’s capital in July 2018. The coalition followed this success by delivering a drone strike that killed the group’s third emir, Saad Erhabi, in Achin. Meanwhile, the death of Qari Hikmatullah, IS-K’s leader in Jowzjan, as a result of a drone strike in April 2018 encouraged the Taliban to conduct a full-scale assault against the group there in August 2018. Although Taliban leaders issued a “fatwa” or decree to their members in 2016 to prevent IS-K’s expansion, Qari’s charisma lured Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and Taliban defectors who helped reinforce the group’s position in northwest Afghanistan.[61] Giustozzi posits that many members of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan joined IS-K’s ranks due to the questionable legitimacy of the Taliban’s leadership council (shura) in Quetta, Pakistan, a narrative stoked by Qari.[62] His death created a leadership vacuum that the Taliban exploited to roll-back the group. The Taliban killed 153 IS-K members, injured 100 more, and captured nearly 135. Over 200 remaining IS-K members surrendered to Afghan forces.[63] Set against Giustozzi’s research, the three phases elucidated above suggest that the coalition’s iterative engagements with IS-K are both a cause and effect of its increasingly aggressive counter-terrorism strategy, as well as the terrorist group’s attendant trajectory within Afghanistan. Whereas the coalition was intent on simply isolating IS-K in 2015, Mattis’ guidance in early 2017 encouraged Gen. John W. Nicholson, then commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, to adopt an approach designed to dislocate leaders and fighters from their sanctuaries through raids and clearance operations for the purpose of destroying them and disintegrating the group through lethal strikes. Even given the losses imposed by the coalition’s attrition strategy — which Miller continues to pursue albeit to a lesser degree given his main effort to compel a negotiated settlement with the Taliban — IS-K has responded with macabre attacks in urban centers including Kabul and Jalalabad to demonstrate resolve.[64] To be sure, IS-K is not as lethal per attack as the Haqqani Network, which launches massive vehicle-borne suicide attacks in Kabul. Yet, IS-K has outpaced the Haqqani Network and other extremist organizations in the number of attacks conducted in Afghanistan, making it a real threat. Since its emergence, IS-K has executed over 200 attacks in Afghanistan alone resulting in more than 1,500 people killed and almost 3,300 wounded.[65] IS-K in South and Southeast Asia The coalition’s tactical gains against IS-K in Afghanistan seem to have helped reinforce the group’s determination to expand its operations across Asia’s multiple sub-regions.[66] In an April 2019 video message, his first in almost five years, the Islamic State’s reclusive emir, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, encouraged IS-K and other regional affiliates to “attack in different places” pursuant to a “global jihad.”[67] Giustozzi’s investigation of the burgeoning presence of IS-K sympathizers in Central Asia, particularly Tajikistan, which he calls a “special case,” helps explain the group’s confounding staying power and lethality.[68] IS-K’s efforts to establish redoubts in South and Southeast Asia have attracted less scholarly attention, however. This is puzzling because IS-K is clearly expanding eastward from Afghanistan as Khan presaged. In the 14th edition of Dabiq, the Islamic State’s now defunct magazine, Khan intoned that IS-K’s control of Afghanistan and Pakistan is critical to the Islamic State’s potential to subsume both Central and South Asia. Khan argued, “Bengal is located on the eastern side of India, whereas Wilayat Khorasan is located on its western side. Thus, having a strong jihad base in Bengal will facilitate performing guerilla attacks inside India simultaneously from both sides.”[69] IS-K has enjoyed a degree of operational success in South and Southeast Asia even given the relatively effective countermeasures of regional states, competition with indigenous extremist organizations, and the fact that al-Baghdadi “remains an outsider in the eyes of most militants in South Asia” according to Tore Refslund Hamming.[70] Similar to Giustozzi’s analysis of IS-K’s expansion in Central Asia, the available evidence suggests the group has attempted to exacerbate territorial and ethnic flashpoints to broaden its appeal across South and Southeast Asia. In February 2016, for example, IS-K expressed its intent to exploit the irredentist dispute between India and Pakistan in Jammu and Kashmir, and reports of IS-K attacks since then suggest that the group has established a presence there.[71] The group is likely responsible for several attacks in Srinagar, the capital of Jammu and Kashmir, since November 2017, including one in late February 2018 that resulted in the death of a police officer.[72] The group also claimed credit for this attack on the Islamic State’s Amaq News Agency, as well as in a private Telegram chatroom, al Qarar. The chatroom, discovered a month earlier by authorities, is the primary communications conduit for IS-K’s local affiliate, and is one of 40 such accounts maintained by the group, according to Giustozzi.[73] While IS-K’s leader in the area, Abu Anwar al-Kashmiri, was killed by a rival group in early September 2018, Indian officials recently acknowledged that IS-K’s “presence in Kashmir cannot be denied” and that the group is responsible for “small attacks.”[74] IS-K has also exploited the long-standing Rohingya refugee crisis shared between Bangladesh and Myanmar to persuade marginalized Muslims toward its cause.[75] Though only a handful of sympathizers from these countries have likely joined IS-K, some have attempted to indigenize the group’s puritanical ideology to generate attacks against political authorities, law enforcement personnel, and other “apostates,” including Western tourists.[76] For instance, the group is suspected to have supported several attacks in Bangladesh, including an attack on the Holey Artisan Bakery in Dhaka in July 2016 that injured 22 civilians. According to Ali Riza and Saimum Parvez, the “Holey Artisan is the most gruesome and large-scale attack in the recent history of Bangladesh,” and continues to capture public attention.[77] After two years, officials recently killed two terrorists suspected of plotting the attack.[78] This attack points to IS-K’s larger project of enabling a “Bengal governorate” and contributed to the recent designation of the Islamic State in Bangladesh as a terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department.[79] In May 2016, IS-K also published a video commending Indians to join its ranks, although Giustozzi avers that “any presence of IS-K in India and among Indian ‘mujahidin’ remains very marginal.”[80] Indian authorities outlawed the group in 2014 and have since prevented several attacks. Yet, IS-K did attack a train in Madhya Pradesh in March 2017 resulting in the injury of nearly a dozen passengers.[81] While Indian security officials, similar to their Bangladeshi and Pakistani counterparts, contend they have eradicated IS-K, the indication of even an embryonic presence of the group is alarming given Khan’s earlier statement. Indian police, for instance, arrested 103 IS-K sympathizers across 14 states including Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, and New Delhi in December 2017.[82] A year later, Indian authorities dismantled a cell of 10 extremists in New Delhi who were inspired by IS-K to plan attacks intended to take place across the country during Republic Day events in late January 2019.[83] Giustozzi’s IS-K informants also confirmed reports that the group attracted sympathizers from across India to augment its operations in Nangarhar.[84] Coalition forces evidently killed eight Indian members including two commanders in April 2017 operating in the area, possibly during the GBU-43 detonation.[85] On March 24, 2018, Indian officials convicted Yasmeen Mohammed Zahid of recruiting and facilitating the movement of 15 Indians into Nangarhar to join IS-K.[86] Similarly, a recent study identified Shafi Armar as a “former Indian Mujahideen operative seen as the Islamic State’s predominant ‘recruiter’ for India.”[87] The potential for IS-K’s expanded presence in India has caused one leading cleric to recommend that Prime Minister Narendra Modi shut down madrasas,[88] otherwise, the group’s “influence will grow and in 15 years more than half the Muslims in the country will be influenced by their ideology.”[89] Defeating IS-K What does the coalition’s evolving counter-terrorism strategy, which I have argued occurred in parallel with IS-K’s maturation and outreach across Asia, say about the former’s ability to defeat the latter? To arrest IS-K’s “blitzkrieg” strategy and regional initiatives, the U.S.-led coalition must adopt a three-pronged approach that is designed to apply pressure against the depth and breadth of the group in Afghanistan and across Central and South Asia. The coalition needs to (1) attack IS-K on multiple fronts simultaneously, (2) enable Afghan forces to consolidate gains, and (3) shepherd a regional counter-terrorism strategy. As a first step, the coalition must reconceptualize its counter-terrorism strategy to attack the geographic and virtual scope of IS-K at the same time, especially considering the group maintains numerous social media accounts connecting it to sympathetic extremists across the region.[90] The coalition’s preference for sequential operations explains its hesitancy to root out IS-K in Jowzjan sooner than it did given a fixation on Nangarhar. Of course, the coalition removed key personnel, destroyed enabling material, and dislocated IS-K from its sanctuaries. Yet, Giustozzi argues the coalition’s myopic focus resulted from “a direct IS-K threat to a key province, and was not followed by an attempt to go after IS-K elsewhere.”[91] An unintended consequence of the coalition’s linear targeting is that IS-K has enjoyed the time and space to consolidate and reorganize after incurring losses. To militarily defeat the group, the coalition must exploit vulnerabilities associated with its critical requirements at the same time, namely, the ability to communicate, facilitate lethal aid transregionally, and conduct operations. This will impose multiple challenges that IS-K cannot easily overcome. A renewed targeting approach is a more pressing concern because, as I have argued elsewhere, if the coalition’s peace talks with the Taliban are able to broker a settlement,[92] it is likely that defectors will join IS-K and threaten to catalyze a new brand of Salafi jihadism in Afghanistan. Giustozzi concludes his book with a similar prognostication, and for good reason. After the Hezb-e-Islami reconciled with the Afghan government in 2016, multiple defectors joined IS-K.[93] IS-K has also already subsumed two defecting factions from Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed this year.[94] Second, the coalition must enable Afghan forces to consolidate gains against IS-K. Giustozzi’s research implies that IS-K has effectively outmaneuvered coalition and Afghan forces since 2015 by occupying harsh terrain virtually devoid of a government presence.[95] Since Afghan forces have not occupied IS-K’s territory, the Afghan government has sacrificed opportunities to address grievances the group manipulates to gain support from Afghans. Absent a change, the story of IS-K’s longevity will not only be about the ineffectiveness of force separate from a broader, “whole of government” approach. It will also be about the Afghan government’s unwillingness to ensure the country’s internal security, although Afghan forces are dying fighting IS-K across the country.[96] President Donald Trump’s recent announcement that he intends to withdraw half of America’s deployed military within the next several months, amounting to roughly 7,000 troops, makes the requirement for greater sacrifices by Afghan forces increasingly urgent, as well as the U.S. mission to train, advise, and assist them through specialized units known as Security Force Assistance Brigades.[97] The phased U.S. retrograde from Afghanistan also raises several questions. Yet to be determined, for instance, are its implications on how Afghan officials will apportion dwindling resources to fight the Taliban, IS-K, and other extremists frustrated with the government and the country’s lingering “occupation.” Fortunately — and notwithstanding the prospects of the intra-Afghan dialogue to broker the Taliban’s reconciliation, which seem dubious — Trump’s withdrawal will not impact the deployment of Special Operations Forces.[98] Their surgical-strike capability is an insurance policy against external attacks inspired, enabled, or directed from Afghanistan by IS-K.[99] According to recent U.S. Air Force data, coalition airstrikes in Afghanistan reached their highest level since 2010, and many of those have been against IS-K.[100] The coalition also continues to conduct raids against the group’s commanders and facilitators. An operation on Jan. 12, 2019 in Nangarhar, for example, resulted in the death of Khetab Emir, IS-K’s chief of suicide operations.[101] America’s counter-terrorism mission carries an added benefit. It enables Miller to help manage the Taliban given the evolving professionalization of Afghanistan’s security forces, the country’s immature defense industries, and donor fatigue. On at least two occasions this year, Miller evidently capitalized on the flexibility and dynamic targeting of the Special Operations Forces by deploying “Expeditionary Advisory Packages” to enhance the ability of Afghan forces to blunt Taliban offensives across the country.[102] Although the advisers and enabling capabilities — such as artillery and medical support — helped Afghan forces protect key infrastructure in Uruzgan and Kunduz Provinces, it came at a cost of three U.S. soldiers.[103] Finally, because “IS-K has proved to be tactically shrewd and dynamic, exploiting any fissures within the ranks of its enemies and competitors,” according to Giustozzi,[104] the coalition must galvanize a strategy that aligns the counter-terrorism actions of regional states against the common goal of defeating IS-K. Transactional intelligence sharing between states is important to monitoring IS-K. But the coalition should also adapt regional security mechanisms, such as the Quadrilateral Coordination Group, to enable states to systematically integrate personnel, capabilities, and operations to proactively pursue IS-K across state borders. The coalition should also consider broadening its partnership with emerging regional security initiatives including the Association of Southeast Asian Nations’ “Our Eyes Initiative.” This forum is designed to build a common database, enable personnel exchanges, facilitate joint training and operations, and pool resources and experiences to help states combat irregular threats.[105] The coalition’s end-state should be a consortium similar to Operation Gallant Phoenix. According to Gen. John Dunford, America’s top military official, this is “an intelligence sharing arrangement that started out with eight or so countries, and has since expanded to 19 nations who have committed to sharing this intelligence.” He added that “Gallant Phoenix allows allied nations not only to share intelligence on the [Islamic State] foreign fighter threat, but also to get that information back to their law enforcement and homeland security agencies … in order to deal with this challenge.”[106] Absent these changes, it is likely that IS-K will retain and expand its critical capabilities, metastasize, and threaten to realize the Islamic State’s goal of an Islamic governorate across Central and South Asia, sub-regions in Asia that have been historically vulnerable to extremist ideologies.   The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the official policy or position of the U.S. Department of the Army, Department of Defense, or government.   Maj. Paul Lushenko is an intelligence officer in the U.S. Army and has deployed extensively to Afghanistan. He is also a Council on Foreign Relations Term Member, and serves as an adjunct lecturer for the Australian Graduate School of Policing and Security located at Charles Sturt University in Canberra, Australia.  

3. The Islamic State in Khorasan: The Regional Context

By Weeda Mehran On April 29, 2019, the leader of the Islamic State (ISIL), Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, for the first time in five years appeared in a video published by ISIL’s media wing, al-Furqan.[107] The 18-minute video, in which Baghdadi is “seated cross-legged on a flowered mattress,”[108] sparked discussions about the future threat posed by ISIL. The group had recently incurred a significant loss of territory — going from controlling 88,000 square kilometers in Iraq and Syria to controlling no territory at all.[109] While many journalists described the setting of the video in passing, the Afghan media posed the million-dollar question: “Aren’t those pillows and mattress in the Afghani style?” At its height in 2015, the Islamic State announced the establishment of a new branch — the Islamic State in Khorasan (IS-K) — which included Afghanistan, Pakistan, all of Central Asia, Iran, and parts of Russia and India.[110] Whether or not al Baghdadi was or is in Afghanistan, IS-K poses a major threat to the U.S. troops in Afghanistan and to the Afghan government. According to Gen. Joseph Votel, the commander of U.S. Central Command, IS-K “represent[s] a very sophisticated and dangerous threat that we have to stay focused on.”[111] However, the United States is not the only player in the Afghan conflict that is conscious of the threat posed by ISIL. Thirty years after withdrawing its troops from Afghanistan, Russia has taken an active role in negotiations and peace talks with the Taliban, presenting the group as an ally in the fight against the Islamic State.[112] Other regional powers such as Iran, Pakistan, and the Gulf States are also prominent stakeholders in the country. IS-K is a new player in the extremely complex conflict in Afghanistan that has been characterized by long-lasting battles between numerous insurgent groups. It is against this background that IS-K is developing and taking on a major role in the security scene in Afghanistan. And yet, much is unknown about how the group’s presence will affect the conflict. How does IS-K influence the balance of powers in the country? Is the group a threat to potential peace? What impact do regional dynamics have on the formation and evolution of IS-K as another insurgent group in Afghanistan? Antonio Giustozzi’s book, The Islamic State in Khorasan: Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the New Central Asian Jihad, helps illuminate some of these questions by providing information about the structure and funding of IS-K, as well as the role regional actors have played in its formation. The book has a number of vital implications for peace in the region. Giustozzi raises questions that cast doubt over whether the conflict in Afghanistan would come to a close even if a peace agreement were reached with the Taliban. The most prominent theme, discussed at length in some chapters and implied in others, highlights how regional dynamics shape, and to a certain degree are shaped by, IS-K. Before discussing these points, it is worth highlighting that, although it is understandable that not all information gathered for this book could be triangulated, some significant information is only from one source. This issue could have been mitigated by providing more information about the rationale for relying on a single source to help the reader ascertain if the views expressed are biased. Regional Dynamics Regional dynamics of conflict and insurgency in Afghanistan are often explored primarily in relation to Pakistan, and secondarily to India, Russia, and Iran.[113] Giustozzi’s book, however, directs the spotlight to the Gulf States, especially Saudi Arabia and Qatar, whose influence is much greater than typically acknowledged. In this regard, Giustozzi’s study is a great addition to Mustafa Hamid and Leah Farrall’s The Arabs at War in Afghanistan, and Anne Stensersen’s Al-Qaida in Afghanistan, two recent works that similarly cast light on the role of the Gulf States in Afghanistan’s conflicts.[114] As discussed in Giustozzi’s book, regional dynamics, and particularly the issue of Shiite-Sunni tensions — spearheaded by regional rivals Iran and Saudi Arabia — were central to IS-K’s rise.[115] After all, when it comes to the role of the Gulf States, Saudis’ financial support of terrorism is an open secret.[116] After the surge of ISIL from Syria into Iraq, Prince Saud al-Faisal, former foreign minister of Saudi Arabia, reportedly told then-U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, “Daesh [ISIL] is our [Sunni] response to your support for the Da’wa,” referencing the Shia Islamist party that has dominated Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime, and which is supported by both Washington and Tehran.[117] This is by no means surprising given the Saudis’ involvement in the Afghan wars over the years. Saudi Arabia financed Wahhabist groups in Afghanistan and Pakistan during the 1980s and 1990s. According to Ahmad Rashid, almost $4 billion in official aid was funneled to different Mujahidin factions in Afghanistan, not including the unofficial aid that came from Islamic charities, foundations, the private funds of Saudi princes, and mosque collections.[118] In the 1980s, these Mujahidin groups were viewed as freedom fighters who were fighting against the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Later, some of these groups, such as the Haqqani network and Hizb-e Islami (before Hizb-e Islami reconciled with the Afghan government), began fighting against the Afghan government and the American-led NATO forces in Afghanistan. Furthermore, Saudi Arabia helped foster the rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan and supported radical Islamic militants to counter Iranian influence in the region.[119] In addition to encouraging and supporting jihadists against the Soviet troops and the Afghan government, Saudi Arabia also gave its blessing as well as financial support to its hardcore Wahhabi Islamists — including Osama bin Laden — to fight offshore. Currently, the purpose of such Saudi support is twofold: to buy off jihadi organizations and support them to operate offshore, and to undermine Iranian-backed groups and Iranian interests in Afghanistan.[120] Elaborating on Giustozzi’s discussion of the involvement of the Gulf States, it should be noted that like the Saudis, the Qatari royal rulers, although fearing radical Islamists, nonetheless support their activities outside the country. Qatar has historically supported the Muslim Brotherhood, al-Qaeda’s offshoot in Syria, al-Nusra, and other groups in Libya and other Arab countries.[121] In 2014, the U.S. State Department described Qatar as a “permissive jurisdiction” for terrorist financing.[122] Pointing to a similar pattern, Giustozzi’s book highlights Qatar’s financial support of IS-K (more on this below). Although it cannot be established whether the state directly or indirectly funds IS-K or whether it is private Qatari citizens who channel the funds, the question remains: What is Qatar’s interest in supporting IS-K? The answer is both obvious and troubling. Qatar is playing a strategic game in the region against multiple players. For Qataris, the intention has been to prepare IS-K as an eventual replacement for the Taliban, while at the same time limiting the group’s military capacity so that it does not become a major challenge to the Afghan government and does not derail peace talks with the Taliban.[123] Based on Giustozzi’s overall description of Qatar’s involvement, the country is trying to both win favor with the United States and gain status in the region by playing the role of key facilitator/mediator in the peace talks while simultaneously propping up a proxy group — IS-K — to ensure its interests in the region. This strategy is in line with Qatar’s regional strategic approach. In fact, Qatar is playing a double game on the Iranian front as well: On the one hand, of all the Gulf countries (with the exception of the civil war-wrought Yemen), Qatar has shown the most pro-Iranian attitude and is viewed as belonging in the Iranian camp in peace talks with the Taliban.[124] On the other hand, by continuing to support IS-K, the Qatari government can expand its support and improve the capabilities of Baluchi insurgents,[125] who are seen as a threat to the Iranian government.[126] This dual policy allows Qatar to side with Saudi Arabia’s interests should Doha deem it necessary. IS-K’s Organizational Structure and Funding A quick glance at both IS-K’s evolving structure and how it is funded further illustrates how complex regional dynamics and regional rivalries are shaping IS-K. According to Giustozzi’s research, IS-K is fragmented, decentralized, and has diverse sources of funding, which makes the group well positioned to be used as a pawn by various regional actors.[127] In fact, adopting a decentralized and international network is the most viable and effective organizational structure for insurgent groups, given the broader global context of weak borders, wide-reaching media, and easy transportation and communication.[128] IS-K emerged in a region that was already host to a number of jihadi organizations operating across multiple countries. These groups provided the initial recruits for IS-K. In Pakistan alone, hundreds of jihadi organizations of various sizes were operating between 2011 and 2017. Likewise, Hizb-e Islami (before joining the government in 2016), the Haqqani Network, and various factions of the Taliban were present in Afghanistan during this period; six jihadi extremist groups were operating in Iran;[129] Central Asian states such as Tajikistan,[130] Uzbekistan,[131] and Turkmenistan[132] had their own share of jihadi organizations;[133]and al-Qaeda and the Islamic Jihad Union were also present in the region. As the war in Syria broke out in 2012, al-Qaeda’s branch in Afghanistan and Pakistan lobbied its Taliban allies to send volunteers to Syria.[134] According to an estimate from the Russian security services, in April 2012, around 200 to 250 Afghans and 250 to 300 Pakistanis from Tahrik-e Taliban Pakistan were fighting in Syria. That number rose to an estimated 575 and 714, respectively, in 2014.[135] Some of these fighters later pledged their allegiances to IS-K or joined the group. Although modeled after ISIL’s core group, and despite efforts by ISIL leadership to centralize IS-K, the group’s fragmented structure is partially due to its lack of human capital and ambitious plans to achieve a highly centralized organization over a short period of time. Nonetheless, limiting the military capacity of the group was also a strategic decision by IS-K’s Gulf State supporters. As discussed in the book, a militarily capable IS-K would mean that the group could derail a peace deal with the Taliban, which is not ideal for Qatar.[136] While it is extremely difficult to find any evidence that regional states fund IS-K, either directly or indirectly, both private and state donors (e.g., Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Kuwait) help finance IS-K, according to Giustozzi.[137] IS-K receives an estimated $300 million each year from outside donors, mostly individuals from Qatar, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia. Furthermore, IS-K’s financial commission has offices in Qatar (Doha), the United Arab Emirates (Jebel Ali and Al Ain), and Saudi Arabia (Medina and Riyadh).[138] This external funding constitutes the bulk of income for IS-K, although IS-K’s funding is diverse and includes local sources such as the drug trade, illegal extraction of mines, and illegal taxation.[139] Thanks to the generosity of IS-K donors and funders, IS-K recruits are reportedly paid more than other jihadi groups, such as the Taliban or al-Qaeda.[140] IS-K salaries range between $400 and $800 per month for local fighters, and between $1,500 and $2,000 for jihadists sent to Iraq. Additionally, the families of martyrs receive a one-time $15,000 payment, which gives the group a competitive edge. Private donors are described as wealthy individuals, businessmen, government contractors, and allegedly include some members of royal families from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, and Qatar.[141] The rationale for individual donations varies from personal interests — for example, in order to secure a place in heaven — to more political reasons, like animosity toward Shiites. Even if these Gulf State governments are not funding IS-K, it is plausible that they would turn a blind eye to private citizens, whose interests align so well with that of the state, doing so. Giustozzi’s description of the structure and funding of IS-K has dire implications for the prospect of peace in Afghanistan. IS-K and the Prospects of Peace in Afghanistan Given these complex regional dynamics and rivalries, what do peace talks with the Taliban really mean and will IS-K take over the Taliban’s role as the biggest security threat to the Afghan government? The picture is rather grim. Both sectarian tensions and regional rivalries will continue feeding insurgencies and insecurity even if a peace deal with the Taliban is reached. Antagonism toward Shiites is a driving force behind the rise of IS-K. Giustozzi illustrates that many Taliban hardliners defected to IS-K because they believed that the Taliban would eventually sign a peace deal with the American forces and the Afghan government.[142] Furthermore, the Taliban’s closeness with Iran turned off many of its regional anti-Shiite funders and sponsors, some of whom diverted their money to IS-K, which they identified as the new staunch, hard-core anti-Shiite group.[143] Thus, some Taliban elements and groups such as the Haqqani network that do not support a peace deal might defect to IS-K if such a deal is reached. Looking beyond IS-K, regional rivalries between Iran and the Gulf States that influence insecurity in Afghanistan do not appear likely to stop any time soon. Diplomatic relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia, which reached their lowest point in 2016 when Saudi Arabia’s embassy in Tehran was attacked, have only worsened with the recent incident at the mouth of the Persian Gulf when four oil tankers, two of which belonged to Saudi Arabia and one to the United Arab Emirates, were sabotaged.[144] The primary suspect is Iran. Furthermore, Iran’s support for the Houthis in Yemen, the Assad regime in Syria, and Hezbollah in Lebanon will continue to provoke the Gulf States. As for Qatar, only recently Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, and Egypt called on Qatar to stop funding terrorism.[145] So long as tensions between Qatar and Saudi Arabia and its regional allies continue, Qatar will have no interest in changing its dual strategy in the region. Meanwhile, Russia remains a significant player in regional politics. Recently, the Kremlin has deepened its ties with the Taliban and appears to want to play the role of power broker in Afghanistan. Russia’s main concern is the threat of IS-K on its southern border, which could worsen if other ISIL members migrate to Afghanistan as the group incurs further territorial losses in the Middle East. Russia’s gambit of supporting the Taliban in peace talks will pay off should the United States pull out of Afghanistan and the Taliban become a major actor in the government. On the other hand, Russia has come into direct confrontation with the Gulf States and their Western allies in Syria by siding with the Assad regime. Thus, the presence of ISIL elements in Afghanistan could benefit Russia’s rivals in the region. Without any rigid central command-and-control, IS-K, or some individuals within the group, can easily be used by regional rivals. As such, insecurity will continue in the country. After all, “yesterday’s foes, today’s friends” is certainly not a new phenomenon in Afghanistan. The Mujahidin groups that fought the Soviet troops in Afghanistan (1979–1989) and caused the deaths of more than 14,500 Soviet soldiers[146] have recently formed close ties with Russia and have been hosted by Russia to discuss peace talks with the Taliban.[147] In the same vein, it was only in 1998 that the Taliban,[148] a staunch enemy of Iran, killed nine Iranian diplomats in Afghanistan leading to talks of military retaliation by Tehran. Accused of supporting the Taliban in their fight against U.S. troops in Afghanistan and the Afghan government,[149] Tehran has recently been hosting Taliban leaders to discuss “post invasion Afghanistan.” Iran’s support of the Taliban will increase if the current tensions between Iran and the United States escalate and Iran becomes further isolated by the economic sanctions imposed by the Trump administration.[150] In turn, Iranian ties with the Taliban will further incentivize the group’s regional rivals to prop up IS-K. Should the Taliban sign a peace deal and join the Kabul government? Will IS-K take its place as an insurgent group and a peace spoiler? These are questions that only time can answer. Nonetheless, an analysis of the regional dimensions of insurgencies and war in Afghanistan point to the fact that an enduring peace is not possible without addressing regional dynamics and rivalries. Although Giustozzi does not elaborate extensively about these dynamics and only mentions the peace negotiations with the Taliban in passing, his book on IS-K gives insight into a lesser known and secretive organization and raises serious and thorny questions about regional dynamics and the prospect of peace in Afghanistan.   Dr. Weeda Mehran is a post-doctorate fellow at the Global Studies Institute at Georgia State University, and a VoxPol visiting scholar at Dublin City University where she conducts research on extremists’ media strategies. Her research takes a multidisciplinary approach to studying propaganda campaigns across a number of extremist groups such as the Taliban, the Islamic State, al-Qaeda, and Tahrik-e Taliban of Pakistan. You can follow her on Twitter: @WeedaMehran  

4. A Rare Inside Look Into ISIL’s Franchise Business

By Craig Whiteside   Five years after the Islamic State (ISIL) announced its caliphate, researchers and policymakers still struggle to understand a movement that is slowly spreading its influence around the world. Case in point, when the State Department announced its designation of a top ISIL advisor to “caliph” Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as a “Specially Designated Global Terrorist,” it could only use the man’s nom de guerre (kunya) and an all-too-brief description of his long association with the movement.[151] Astoundingly, despite his ties to a group the United States has fought on and off for well over a decade, the designation list left Hajji ‘Abd al-Nasir’s real name unstated. ISIL can still be a mystery to those of us who study it, but thanks to Antonio Giustozzi’s new book, The Islamic State in Khorasan, we have a unique opportunity to study the group’s enigmatic core from a new angle: from the periphery of a transnational “insurgent archipelago” looking in toward the hub.[152] What We Don’t Know Giustozzi is an astute observer of the conflict in Afghanistan and its many participants. He does not pretend to be an expert on ISIL’s core in Iraq and Syria. Rather, he briefly covers the basics of the so-called caliphate early in his book to provide context for his deep dive into the group’s most prolific and at times violent franchise, IS-Khorasan (IS-K). (“Khorasan” is a historical name for a geographic area covering parts or all of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, and Central Asia.)[153] Giustozzi relied on an experienced research team to interview 121 sources to elicit the data for this book. Amazingly, and worryingly at the same time, half of these sources are alleged IS-K members. This introduces a concern that some of what is reported in the book could be misinformation, as has been the case in the past with bogus accounts from intra-jihadist defectors — a result of the intense al Qaeda-ISIL rivalry.[154] Giustozzi also uses the diary of a high-ranking IS-K founder and the group’s media statements, along with secondary sources, to fill the gaps.[155] The indirect access to IS-K group members — which contrasts with the U.S. government’s painstakingly built and still relatively shallow knowledge of ISIL’s core — is the distinguishing value of this work, which argues that the ISIL core seems intent on building replicas around the globe. If this is true, works like Giustozzi’s can be a great help in expanding policymakers’ understanding of ISIL’s core, especially the philosophies and strategies it propagates to its fledglings. The men who founded the Islamic State movement understood the power of projecting their speeches, videos, and interviews from the very beginning, but they also balanced this outreach with extensive secrecy.[156] Their wide-scale adoption of the al-gharib persona (“the stranger”) exemplifies the aloofness and penchant for secrecy that still influences our ability to penetrate the web of lies and misinformation surrounding the group’s early days. As such, what we think we know about ISIL’s leaders and practices from open source material is too often informed by myths and legends.[157] The group’s founder, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, was already an infamous jihadi with pre-existing ties to al-Qaeda when he arrived in Iraq in 2002. His successors, however, a pair known as the “Two Sheikhs,” gave dozens of speeches and interviews yet never released a picture or video of themselves between 2006 and 2010 — despite spending most of a decade in the ISIL movement. Unlike Zarqawi, who had traveled to and from Afghanistan twice before finding his open front of jihad in Iraq, the “Two Sheikhs” — Abu Umar al-Baghdadi and his deputy Abu Hamza al-Muhajir — were veterans of underground Salafi movements in Iraq and Egypt, respectively, and their experience in repressive environments made them quite cautious. Some experts who write on ISIL have failed to mention them in books or articles, skipping over an important formative period in the movement.[158] Most of the lieutenants who served the three sets of ISIL emirs — Zarqawi, Abu Umar al-Baghdadi, and Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi — were killed or captured in counterterror raids, and very few ever talked to non-jihadist outsiders about the group.[159] What we do know about the group has been painstakingly pieced together through captured documents that have been released by the U.S. government, ISIL’s own press releases, or quietly published eulogies of the group’s important figures. RAND’s “Foundations of the Islamic State: Management, Money, and Terror in Iraq (2005-2010)” is an excellent example of archival research of a large set of captured documents from ISIL’s formative years.[160] The findings of this research, and many others that use similar sources, describe the group’s highly bureaucratized, yet carefully compartmentalized, insurgent structure, which was designed to control the application of violence and the management of resources in order to create a highly functioning shadow government capable of upending an incumbent state.[161] This structure clashes with the conventional wisdom of modern insurgency as an increasingly leaderless convergence of loose networks with little direction working toward the same purpose. If this is the way modern insurgency is trending, then ISIL is a throwback and a one-off group not worth over-analyzing. If it is not, however, the spread of the group’s methods from Iraq and Syria to Afghanistan is essential for analysts and policymakers to understand. Giustozzi’s attempt to illuminate the evolution of IS-K from the perspective of those who report to be current members is an opportunity to learn how ISIL spreads its model to areas with active jihadists, and determine how much of ISIL’s core model is exportable outside of Iraq and Syria. When the Islamic State became highly visible in 2014, experts claimed that its rigid ideology and violent behavior would not travel well — that in places like Indonesia, and certainly Afghanistan, there was no additional oxygen remaining for the spark that ISIL wanted to ignite.[162] This book makes a convincing argument that this conventional wisdom was wrong when it comes to Afghanistan and, quite possibly, many other places as well. Upending Conventional Wisdom Giustozzi puts his access to use and is the first to accurately depict the shadowy IS-K, a group long shrouded in misinformation and deception by friend and foe alike. His book makes an important alteration to the legend of the group’s original founders, who have frequently been described as “Pakistani militants” from Tehrik-e Taleban Pakistan (TTP) who struck out on their own and made Afghanistan’s Nangarhar the base for an ISIL affiliate in Central/South Asia.[163] Giustozzi modifies this origins story by injecting two slight wrinkles: First, the contingent of small breakaway groups that formed the early IS-K was an even mix of Afghans and Pakistanis; and second, ISIL invited the leaders of those groups to come to Syria to undergo indoctrination and training. Although both al-Qaeda and ISIL groom future global leaders, the Islamic State commanders Abu Muslim al-Turkmani and Abu Omar al-Shishani were the ones to recruit and train some of the future IS-K leaders during the Syrian conflict that forged the future franchise.[164] ISIL even allegedly recruited among the Haqqani network — albeit carefully so as not to upset the leadership — as well as “Salafized” members of the Taliban, including one Guantanamo alumnus who first encountered the distinct ideology in the American prison. This plot twist — that the inspiration for an ISIL affiliate in Khorasan came from the group’s leaders in Syria between 2012 and 2014 — is revealing for several reasons. First, it means that ISIL leaders were expanding even before the group saw breakthrough success in Syria and Iraq, with the goal of challenging its ostensible parent organization, al-Qaeda, as well as the oft-maligned Taliban — an organization Salafis disparage as parochial, uneducated, and uninterested in global jihad. Second, it reveals that the founding of IS-K was an ISIL project from the beginning, not an example of a local group “bandwagoning” with a larger, more prestigious global brand. This presents a very new perspective, and if true, is very much worth the price of admission. A related, but also revealing, point is Giustozzi’s report that advisers from ISIL’s core have traveled to “Khorasan province” to provide advisory functions. This correlates with the findings of a recent report by Daniel Milton that analyzes several ISIL media documents captured by the United States in Afghanistan, which lay out a sophisticated set of rules and processes IS-K media material must follow before ISIL Central Media Office will publish it.[165] One problem with this claim is that, despite extensive targeting of the group, neither the United States nor its partners have captured or killed any ISIL core members (i.e., members from Iraq/Syria) in Afghanistan. In contrast, the capture of key leaders sent into the country, such as Abd al-Hadi al-Iraqi, frustrated al-Qaeda’s attempts to advise its Iraq franchise between 2003 and 2006.[166] If Giustozzi’s claim is true, this over-the-shoulder style of coaching is an example of the investment in what the U.S. military calls unconventional warfare — the ability to build successful insurgent organizations. Whether advising on the ground or by virtual means, and despite extensive punishment by U.S. forces, it seems that ISIL’s core has succeeded in building one in Afghanistan.[167] An Inside Look at Islamic State-Khorasan Giustozzi paints a picture of IS-K that is remarkably similar to the existing knowledge about ISIL’s core, in terms of its organization, style, ideology, and tactics. For example, the Islamic State’s deserved reputation for playing “dirty pool” and undermining fellow jihadi groups was a fixture in its playbook from its Iraq war period, one it used most recently with the hostile takeover of large parts of the Nusra Front in Syria in 2013.[168] In Afghanistan, ISIL emissaries were able to form what Giustozzi calls “coagulation points” to attract the fragments of existing groups into larger fronts, which eventually merged to form IS-K. Again, this follows how ISIL’s predecessor formed: The Islamic State of Iraq was the product of a merger between several Iraqi Salafi-jihadi groups and al-Qaeda in Iraq in 2006. ISIL’s contemporary stipulations that prospective franchises should unify disparate political entities before pledging allegiance — what it calls tamkin (empowerment/political consolidation) — is the result of lessons learned from previous jihadi failures in Syria and Afghanistan between the 1970s and 1990s, as well as its own struggles in Iraq. Jacob Zenn recently argued this dynamic also played a role in the formation of ISIL affiliates in East Asia and West Africa around the same time as the formation of IS-K.[169] Interestingly, according to Giustozzi’s sources, the newly formed IS-K began to introduce itself to local Afghans as “Daesh Khorasan,” a term ISIL does not use in Arab countries, preferring to use “Dawla Islamiya” (Islamic State). This is a bit odd, and possibly a tip that some of the sources are not fully on board with guidance from the leadership. It is also possible that the proscription against using the term was lost in translation, considering the cultural divide between Iraq and Syria and the Central/South Asian region. Whatever the cause for the discrepancy, the distinguishing characteristic of IS-K has been its dedication to the creation of an “Islamic state” as part of a global caliphate system — a policy goal that greatly differentiated the group from the Taliban. Aside from the use of this term, Giustozzi’s research suggests that core ISIL has worked very hard to propagate its organizational model to its franchises in exact detail, with little room for deviation or local exception. This runs counter to ideas about the importance of local factors in shaping the evolution of insurgencies — a long-held belief in counter-insurgency studies that should not be discarded lightly. There is a local character to IS-K that is different from the core, and Giustozzi portrays this well. But ISIL’s success in establishing the so-called caliphate, and its humbling of both states (Iraq and Syria) and rivals (al-Qaeda), gives the group the credibility necessary to demand that local franchises adhere to its principles without fail. In Afghanistan, this can be seen in the controversial targeting of the Shia Hazaras, the urban terror campaign that echoes the civil war in Iraq after 2003, or the sectarian nature of the early Syrian civil war. Just as the Battle of Marawi — in which the local ISIL affiliate quickly took control of the Filipino city — bore similarities to ISIL’s lightning seizure of Mosul, these tactics and strategies will continue to be replicated in hot spots around the world. In this way, Giustozzi’s book could be a frightening portend of things to come. Conclusion  Giustozzi’s The Islamic State in Khorasan presents an insider’s account of the expansion of the Islamic State into an area (Khorasan) with great historical importance to global jihadists and strategic importance to ISIL’s rival, al-Qaeda. It is also a cautionary tale that highlights the dangers of a forever-war in Afghanistan, which has created what Giustozzi calls a “military class” of professionals in the region. These jihadists have been receptive to the benefits of an association with ISIL, particularly from an ideological and financial perspective, as well as to the cadre of trainers the group sent to Afghanistan to assist in building IS-K’s structure and capabilities. More importantly, IS-K, much like its coaches from ISIL’s core group, demonstrates a newly found sense of pragmatism in adapting to local conditions and learning from its failures. The group’s resilience in the face of fighting a two-front war against the Taliban and U.S.-Afghan forces bodes poorly for any peace settlement, as IS-K stands to benefit from hard-core elements in the Taliban who are unwilling to reconcile with the current Afghan government. Giustozzi’s book on the Islamic State-Khorasan is a valuable contribution that helps explain this surprising resilience, and it offers a partial answer to the question of how ISIL is exporting its tested model of jihad to places near and far.   Craig Whiteside is an associate professor at the U.S. Naval War College program at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California. He teaches a course on national security decision-making and specializes in the Islamic State group.     [post_title] => Book Review Roundtable: A Look Into the Islamic State-Khorasan [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => book-review-roundtable-a-look-into-the-islamic-state-khorasan [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-08-13 16:01:45 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-08-13 20:01:45 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://tnsr.org/?post_type=roundtable&p=1733 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => roundtable [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [lead] => In this roundtable, we asked reviewers to discuss Antonio Giustozzi's new book, "The Islamic State in Khorasan," the Islamic State's offshoot in Central Asia. [pubinfo] => [issue] => [quotes] => [style] => roundtable [type] => Book [style_label] => Roundtable [download] => Array ( [title] => PDF Download [file] => 1738 ) [authors] => Array ( [0] => 288 [1] => 287 [2] => 203 ) [endnotes] => Array ( [title] => Endnotes [endnotes] => [1] Jessica Stern and J. M. Berger, ISIS: The State of Terror (London: William Collins, 2015), 4. [2] Michael Weiss and Hassan Hassan, ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror (New York: Regan Arts, 2015), xiii. [3] Antonio Giustozzi, The Islamic State in Khorasan: Afghanistan, Pakistan and the New Central Asian Jihad (London: Hurst, 2018), 16. I have witnessed this firsthand. In interviews with me and Michael Semple in late 2016, senior Taliban were astonishingly open in their assessment of the internal problems then facing the Taliban. See Theo Farrell and Michael Semple, Ready for Peace? The Afghan Taliban After a Decade of War (London: Royal United Services Institution, January 2017), https://rusi.org/publication/briefing-papers/ready-peace-afghan-taliban-after-decade-war. [4] Including: Antonio Giustozzi, Koran, Kalashnikov and Laptop: The Neo-Taliban Insurgency in Afghanistan (London: Hurst and Company, 2007); Antonio Giustozzi, ed., Decoding the New Taliban: Insights from the Afghan Field (London: Hurst and Company, 2009); Antonio Giustozzi, Empires of Mud: Wars and Warlords in Afghanistan (London: Hurst and Company, 2009); Antonio Giustozzi and Mohammed Isaqzadeh, Policing Afghanistan: The Politics of Lame Leviathan (London: Hurst and Company, 2013); and Antonio Giustozzi, The Army of Afghanistan: A Political History of a Fragile Institution (London: Hurst and Company, 2015). [5] Theo Farrell and Antonio Giustozzi, “The Taliban at War: Inside the Helmand Insurgency, 2004–2011,” International Affairs 89, no. 4 (2013): 845–71, https://doi.org/10.1111/1468-2346.12048. For a more recent paper drawing on the same data, see Theo Farrell, “Unbeatable: Social Resources, Military Adaptation and the Afghan Taliban,” Texas National Security Review 1, no. 3 (May 2018): 58–75 https://doi.org/10.15781/T22B8VW1N. [6] Giustozzi, The Islamic State in Khorasan, 208. [7] Giustozzi, Islamic State in Khorasan, 3. Afghan authorities soon changed their tune and began to hype the threat from IS-K in an effort to persuade the United States to keep forces in Afghanistan. [8] Iranian estimates tended to be higher than Pakistani estimates. Giustozzi, Islamic State in Khorasan, 140–41. [9] Giustozzi, Islamic State in Khorasan, 213. [10] Giustozzi, Islamic State in Khorasan, 183. [11] Giustozzi, Islamic State in Khorasan, 69, 78. [12] Giustozzi, Islamic State in Khorasan, 81–82. [13] Giustozzi, Islamic State in Khorasan, 118–19. [14] Giustozzi, Islamic State in Khorasan, 164. [15] Giustozzi, Islamic State in Khorasan, 94. [16] Giustozzi, Islamic State in Khorasan, 163. [17] Giustozzi, Islamic State in Khorasan, 12. [18] Giustozzi, Islamic State in Khorasan, 140. Two senior Taliban figures that Semple and I interviewed in 2016 similarly claimed that Russia was providing support (as one put it, “money, weapons and ammunition”) in order for the Taliban to combat IS-K. Farrell and Semple, Ready for Peace? 8. [19] Theo Farrell and Michael Semple, “Making Peace with the Taliban,” Survival 57, no. 6 (2015): 94, https://doi.org/10.1080/00396338.2015.1116157. [20] Five senior Taliban figures that Semple and I interviewed in late 2016 attested to the weakness of Haibatullah’s leadership. As one put it, “all know that Haibatullah is a symbol and does not have any authority.” Farrell and Semple, Ready for Peace? 5. [21] Vahid Brown and Don Rassler, Fountainhead of Jihad: The Haqqani Nexus, 1973-2012 (London: Hurst and Company, 2013). [22] James Fromson and Steven Simon, “ISIS: The Dubious Paradise of Apocalypse Now,” Survival, 57, no. 3 (2015): 11, https://doi.org/10.1080/00396338.2015.1046222. [23] Giustozzi, Islamic State in Khorasan, 209. [24] Rukmini Callimachi, “ISIS Caliphate Crumbles as Last Village in Syria Falls,” New York Times, March 23, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/23/world/middleeast/isis-syria-caliphate.html?module=inline. [25] Nick Cumming-Bruce, “ISIS Eyeing Europe: Could Launch Attacks This Year, U.N. Warns,” New York Times, Aug. 3, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/03/world/middleeast/islamic-state-attacks-europe.html?searchResultPosition=2. [26] Thomas Gibbons-Neff and Julian E. Barnes, “U.S. Military Calls ISIS in Afghanistan a Threat to the West. Intelligence Officials Disagree,” New York Times, Aug. 2, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/02/world/middleeast/isis-afghanistan-us-military.html. [27] Thomas Gibbons-Neff, “U.S. Special Forces Battle Against ISIS Turns to Containment, and Concern,” New York Times, June 14, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/14/world/asia/afghanistan-islamic-state.html. [28] On Taliban use of media, see Thomas H. Johnson, with Matthew DuPee and Wali Shaaker, Taliban Narratives: The Use and Power of Stories in the Afghanistan Conflict (London: Hurst & Co. 2017). [29] David B. Edwards, Caravan of Martyrs: Sacrifice and Suicide Bombing in Afghanistan (Oakland, CA: University of California Press, 2017), 200. See also Charlie Winter, Media Jihad: The Islamic State’s Doctrine for Information Warfare, The International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence, 2017, https://icsr.info/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/ICSR-Report-Media-Jihad-The-Islamic-State’s-Doctrine-for-Information-Warfare.pdf. [30] Giustozzi, Islamic State in Khorasan, 207. [31] Kimberley Dozier, “The U.S. Is Close to a Peace Deal with the Taliban,” Time, Aug. 8, 2019, https://time.com/5648002/us-taliban-peace-deal/. [32] Similarly, Giustozzi concludes that “A peace settlement between the Kabul government and the Taliban … will in all likelihood leave behind ‘orphan’ field commanders who will not view peace in general, or at least that particular settlement, to their liking. IS-K would be well placed to attract them, as it already attracted former comrades in arms of theirs, who were upset even about the rumours of negotiations going on.” Giustozzi, Islamic State in Khorasan, 216. [33]. Jean MacKenzie and Aziz Ahmad Tassal, “ISIS in Afghanistan is like Boogeyman Under the Bed,” The Week, Jan. 27, 2015, https://theweek.com/articles/534830/isisin-afghanistan-like-boogeyman-under-bed. See also Antonio Giustozzi, Afghanistan: Taliban’s Organization and Structure (Oslo, Norway: Landinfo, 2017). [34] Rod Nordland and Mujib Mashal, “U.S. and Taliban Make Headway in Talks for Withdrawal from Afghanistan,” New York Times, Jan. 24, 2019, https://www.nytimes .com/2019/01/24/world/asia/usa-taliban-afghanistan-deal.html. See also “Afghanistan: Kunar Conflict Update (as of 03 April 2019),” United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, April 4, 2019, https://www.humanitarianresponse.info/en/operations/afghanistan/document/kunar-conflict-flash-update-no-1-3-april-2019. [35] Abdul Basit, Iftekharul Bashar, Mohammed Sinan Siyech, Sara Mahmood, and Amresh Gunasingham, “Southeast Asia: Indonesia, Philippines, Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand, Singapore,” in Rohan Gunaratna, Mahfuh Bin Haji Halimi, Muhammad Saiful Alam Shah Bin Sudiman, Nur Aziemah Azman, and Mohammed Sinan Siyech, eds., Counter Terrorist Trends and Analyses: Annual Threat Assessment 11, no. 1 (January 2019): 37, https://www.rsis.edu.sg/rsis-publication/icpvtr /counter-terrorist-trends-and-analyses-ctta-volume-11-issue-1/#.XE2zQTHsZv0. [36] Courtney Kube, “New U.S. Commander In Afghanistan Says We’re Going On Offense Against the Taliban,” NBC News, Oct. 31, 2018, https://www.nbcnews.com/news/military/new-u-s-commander-afghanistan-says-he-s-going-offense-n926431. See also Jeff Seldin, “IS In Afghanistan Just Won’t Go Away, US Officals Say,” Voa News, Aug. 7, 2018, https://www.voanews.com/a/islamic-state-afghanistan-persistent-officials-say/4517802.html. [37] Michael O’Hanlon, Afghanistan After Mattis: A Revised Strategy to Focus on Counterterrorism and the Afghan Security Forces (Washington, D.C.: The Brookings Institution, 2019), 2. [38] Antonio Giustozzi, The Islamic State in Khorasan: Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the New Central Asia Jihad (London: Hurst & Company, 2018), 154–55. [39] “Interview With the Wali of Khurasan Shaykh Hafidh Sa’id Khan,” Dabiq: The Rafidah, From Ibn Saba’ to the Dajjal 13, Jan. 19, 2016, https://ia801509.us.archive.org/8/items/Dabiq13. [40] Daniel Milton, Pulling Back the Curtain: An Inside Look at the Islamic State’s Media Organization (New York: West Point Combating Terrorism Center, 2018), 18. See also, “Tackling the ISIS Threat In India,” Hindustan Times, Dec. 31, 2018, https://www.hindustantimes.com/editorials/tackling-the-isis-threat-in-india/story-Qqvi1WFX4uw32Yk6ushpqK.html. [41] Giustozzi, The Islamic State in Khorasan, 42. See also Haroro J. Ingram and Craig Whiteside, “Do Great Nations Fight Endless Wars? Against the Islamic State, They Might,” War on the Rocks, Feb. 25, 2018, https://warontherocks.com/2019/02/do-great-nations-fight-endless-wars-against-the-islamic-state-they-might/. [42] “IS Group Calls on Muslims To Immigrate To Afghanistan,” Agence France-Presse, March 7, 2018, https://www.dailymail.co.uk/wires/afp/article-5472873/IS-group-calls-Muslims-immigrate-Afghanistan.html. [43] Basit et al., “Southeast Asia,” 37. [44] Giustozzi, The Islamic State in Khorasan, 3–5. “Statement for the Record by General John F. Campbell, Commander, U.S. Forces – Afghanistan, Before the Senate Armed Services Committee on the Situation in Afghanistan,” Oct. 6, 2015, https://www.armed-services.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/Campbell_10-06-15.pdf. [45] Kevin Baron and Marcus Weisgerber, “New Tactics, Quicker Decisions Are Helping to ‘Annihilate’ ISIS, Pentagon Says,” Defense One, May 19, 2017, https://www.defenseone.com/threats/2017/05/new-tactics-quicker-decisions-are-helping-annihilate-isis-pentagon-says/138024/. [46] Borhan Osman, “Decent Into Chaos: Why Did Nangarhar Turn Into an IS Hub?” Afghanistan Analysts Network, Sept. 27, 2016, https://www.afghanistan-analysts.org/descent-into-chaos-why-did-nangarhar-turn-into-an-is-hub/. [47] Giustozzi, The Islamic State in Khorasan, 43. [48] “Statement for the Record by General John W. Nicholson, Commander, U.S. Forces – Afghanistan, Before the Senate Armed Services Committee on the Situation in Afghanistan,” Feb. 9, 2017, https://www.armed-services.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/Nicholson_02-09-17.pdf. [49] Giustozzi, The Islamic State in Khorasan, 180. [50] Stephen Tankel, “Beyond the Double Game: Lessons from Pakistan’s Approach to Islamist Militancy,” Journal of Strategic Studies 41, no. 4 (2018): 545­–78, https://doi.org/10.1080/01402390.2016.1174114. [51] Giustozzi, The Islamic State in Khorasan, 59. [52] Ayaz Gul, “Islamic State Announces Pakistan Province,” Voice of America, May 15, 2019, https://www.voanews.com/a/islamic-state-announces-pakistan-province/4918903.html. [53] Giustozzi, The Islamic State in Khorasan, 57. [54] Rod Nordland and Zabihullah Ghazi, “ISIS Leader in Afghanistan Is Killed in U.S. Airstrike,” New York Times, April 9, 2018, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/09/wor ld/asia/afghanistan-isis-leader.html. [55] Paul Lushenko, “Reconsidering the Theory and Practice of High Value Targeting,” Counter Terrorist Trends and Analysis 7, no. 7 (August 2015), 23–30, http://www.rsis.edu.sg/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/CTTA-August-2015.pdf. [56] Giustozzi, The Islamic State in Khorasan, 196. [57] Giustozzi, The Islamic State in Khorasan, 56. [58] Andrew Quilty, “‘Faint Lights Twinkling Against the Dark’: Reportage From the Fight Against ISKP in Nangarhar,” Afghanistan Analysts Network, Feb. 19, 2019, https:// www.afghanistan-analysts.org/faint-lights-twinkling-against-the-dark-reportage-from-the-fight-against-iskp-in-nangrahar/. [59] Giustozzi, The Islamic State in Khorasan, 82. [60] Giustozzi, The Islamic State in Khorasan, 99. [61] Amin Tarzi, “Islamic State-Khurasan Province,” in The Future of ISIS: Regional and International Implications, ed. Feisal al-Istrabadi and Sumit Ganguly (Washington, D.C.: The Brookings Institution, 2019), 132. [62] Giustozzi, The Islamic State in Khorasan, 155. [63] Najim Rahim and Rod Nordland, “Taliban Surge Routs ISIS in Northern Afghanistan,” New York Times, Aug, 1, 2018, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/01/world/asia/afgh anistan-taliban-isis.html. [64] Craig Nelson and Ehsanullah Amiri, “Islamic State Claims Responsibility for Large-Scale Assault in Afghan Capital,” Wall Street Journal, April 21, 2019, https://www.wsj.com/articles/islamic-state-takes-credit-for-large-scale-assault-in-afghan-capital-11555865389. [65] Basit et al., “Southeast Asia,” 37. [66] Michael P. Dempsey, “The Islamic State Threat Hasn’t Gone Away,” Council on Foreign Relations, Aug. 1, 2018, https://www.cfr.org/article/islamic-state-threat-hasnt-gone-away. [67] “ISIL Chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi Appears in Propaganda Video,” Al Jazeera, April 29, 2019, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/asia/2019/04/isil-chief-abu-bakr-al-baghdadi-appears-propaganda-video-190429163448332.html. [68] Giustozzi, The Islamic State in Khorasan, 143. [69] “Interview With the Amir of the Khilafah’s Soldiers in Bengal: Shaykh Abu Ibrahim al-Hanif,” Dabiq: The Murtadd Brotherhood 14, April 13, 2016, https://jihadology.net/2016/04/13/new-issue-of-the-islamic-states-magazine-dabiq-14/. [70] Tore Refslund Hamming, “Jihadists’ Code of Conduct In the Era of ISIS,” Middle East Institute, April 29, 2019 https://www.mei.edu/publications/jihadists-code-conduct-era-isis. [71] Amira Jadoon, “An idea or a Threat? Islamic State Jammu & Kashmir,” USMA CTC Sentinel Online, Feb. 9, 2018, https://ctc.usma.edu/idea-threat-islamic-state-jammu-kashmir/. See also Abdul Basit and Sara Mahmood, “Implications of Possible United States Withdrawal From Afghanistan on the South Asian Militant Landscape,” Counter Terrorist Trends and Analyses 11, no. 4 (April 2019), https://www.rsis.edu.sg/rsis-publication/icpvtr/counter-terrorist-trends-and-analyses-ctta-volume-11-issue-04/. [72] “ISIS Group on Telegram: First Operative Of ‘Islamic State in Jammu and Kashmir’ Was Killed by Police,” Memri Cyber & Jihad Lab, Jan. 10, 2018, http://cjlab.memri.org/latest-reports/isis-group-on-telegram-first-operative-of-islamic-state-in-jammu-and-kashmir-was-killed-by-police-in-november-2017/. [73] “ISIS Group on Telegram.” See also Giustozzi, The Islamic State in Khorasan, 106. [74] Deeptiman Tiwary, “No IS In Kashmit, Says MHA, but Scattered ‘Operatives’ On Radar,” Indian Express, June 23, 2018, https://indianexpress.com/article/india/no-is-in-kashmir-says-mha-but-scattered-operatives-on-radar-5229567/. [75] Kabir Taneja, “The Fall of ISIS and Its Implications for South Asia,” ORF Issue Brief 220 (January 2018), https://www.orfonline.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/ORF_Issue_ Brief_220_ISI_all.pdf. [76] Rohan Gunaratna, Mahfuh Bin Haji Halimi, Muhammad Saiful Alam Shah Bin Sudiman, Nur Aziemah Azman, and Mohammed Sinan Siyech, eds., Counter Terrorist Trends and Analyses: Annual Threat Assessment 11, no. 1 (January 2019), https://www .rsis.edu.sg/rsis-publication/icpvtr /counter-terrorist-trends-and-analyses-ctta-volume-11-issue-1/#.XE2zQTHsZv0. [77] Ali Riaz and Saimum Parvez, “Bangladeshi Militants: What Do We Know?” Terrorism and Political Violence 30, no. 6 (2018), https://doi.org/10.1080/09546553.2018.1481312. [78] “Bangladesh Kills Two Suspects Linked to 2016 Dhaka Café Attack,” Reuters, April 30, 2019, https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/world/bangladesh-kills-two-suspects-linked-to-2016-dhaka-cafe-attack/ar-BBWoo7u?ocid=spartanntp. [79]  Islamic State in Bangladesh likely represents an umbrella term that includes all factions of the Neo-Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh that commit terrorist acts in the name of the Islamic State and its Khorasan affiliate; “State Department Terrorist Designation of ISIS Affiliates and Senior Leaders,” Department of State, Feb. 27, 2018, https://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2018/02/2788 83.htm. See also, Kabir Taneja, “Uncovering the Influence of ISIS in India,” ORF Occasional Papers, July 12, 2018, https://www.orfonline.org/research/42378-uncovering-the-influence-of-isis-in-india/. [80] Giustozzi, The Islamic State in Khorasan, 143. Sanjeev Miglani, “ISIS Threatens Attacks In India and Urges Muslims to Travel to the ‘Caliphate,’” Independent, May 22, 2016, https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asi a/isis-threatens-attacks-in-india-and-urges-muslims-to-travel-to-the-caliphate-a7042801.html. [81] Punya Priya Mitra, “ISIS Module Behind Blast In Bhopal-Ujjain Passenger Train In Madhya Pradesh, Police Say,” Hindustan Times, March 8, 2017, https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/isis-module-behind-blast-in-bhopal-ujjain-passenger-train-in-madhya-pradesh-police-say/story-c0jKbjwKC0qa4xb2kIfQVO.html. [82] Aishwarya Kumar, “Maximum ISIS Arrests Made In Utter Pradesh Says Home Ministry,” News 18, Dec. 21, 2017, https://www.news18.com/news/india/maximum-isis-arrests-made-in-up-says-home-ministry-1610475.html. [83] “India Busts ISIS-Inspired Militant Group,” Straits Times, Dec. 26, 2018, ht tps://www.straitstimes.com/asia/south-asia/india-busts-isis-inspired-militant-group. [84] “ISIS Training 20 Indians in Afghanistan to Conduct Attacks on India: R&AW,” Deccan Chronicle, June 6, 2017, https://www.deccanchronicle.com/nation/current-affairs/060117/isis-training-20-indians-in-aghanistan-to-conduct-attacks-on-india-raw.html. [85] Giustozzi, The Islamic State in Khorasan, 143. [86] Gopikrishnan Unnithan and Jeemon Jacob, “ISIS Operative Yasmin Mohammed Gets 7 Years in Jail for Recruiting 15 Indians,” India Today, March 24, 2018, https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/nia-sentences-yasmin-mohammed-to-7-years-in-jail-for-recruiting-15-indians-for-isis-1196974-2018-03-24. [87] Kabir Taneja, “Uncovering the Influence of ISIS in India.” [88] This injunction is similar to concerns expressed by scholars that IS-K may “attract followers among urban university students” in Afghanistan. See Tarzi, “Islamic State-Khurasan Province,” 138. [89] “Ban Madrasas or ISIS Influence Will Grow in India: Shia Waqf Board Chief,” Hindustan Times, Jan. 22, 2019, https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/ban-madrasas-or-isis-influence-will-grow-in-india-shia-leader/story-PM06Uss3vrQayeCEcLgEgN.html. [90] Giustozzi, The Islamic State in Khorasan, 106. [91] Giustozzi, The Islamic State in Khorasan, 219. [92] Rod Nordland and Mujib Mashal, “U.S. and Taliban Edge Toward Deal to End America’s Longest War,” New York Times, Jan. 26, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/26/world/asia/afghanistan-taliban-peace-deal.html. See also William Maley, “A Negotiated Peace for Afghanistan,” Australian Strategic Policy Institute, Feb. 11, 2019, https://www.aspistrategist.org.au/a-negotiated-peace-for-afghanistan/. [93] Paul Lushenko, “ISKP: Afghanistan’s New Salafi Jihadism,” Middle East Institute, Oct. 19, 2018, https://www.mei.edu/publications/iskp-afghanistans-new-salafi-jihadism. See also Tore Refslund Hamming, “Jihadists’ Code of Conduct in the Era of ISIS.” See also Giustozzi, The Islamic State in Khorasan, 216. [94] Basit et al., “Southeast Asia,” 38. [95] Giustozzi, The Islamic State in Khorasan, 52. [96] In 2018, Afghan soldiers died at a rate of 30 to 40 a day, amounting to 175 a week, and more than 9,000 a year. See Basit et al., “Southeast Asia”; and O’Hanlon, Afghanistan After Mattis. [97] David W. Griffith, Security Force Assistance Brigades: A Permanent Force for Regional Engagement and Building Operational Depth (Fort Leavenworth, KS: U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, 2017). See also, O’Hanlon, Afghanistan After Mattis. [98] “State of the Union,” The White House, February 6, 2018, https://www.whitehouse. gov/sotu/. [99] Dan Lamothe and Pamela Constable, “Smaller Military Presence in Afghanistan Will Likely Focus Trump’s Favored Pentagon Mission: Counterterrorism,” Washington Post, Dec. 21, 2018, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/smaller-military-presence-in-afghanistan-will-likely-focus-on-trumps-favored-pentagon-mission-counterterrorism/2018/12/21/d3df2c22-054f-11e9-b5df-5d3874f1ac36_story.html?noredirect=on. [100] Stephen Losey, “Airstrikes Up Against ISIS, Taliban,” Air Force Times, Jan. 14, 2019, https://www.airforcetimes.com/news/your-air-force/2019/01/14/airstrikes-up-against-isis-taliban/. [101] “Senior ISIS Commander Killed in Afghanistan, US Forces Say,” Jerusalem Post, Jan. 12, 2019, https://www.jpost.com/Breaking-News/Senior-ISIS-commander-killed-in-Afghanistan-US-forces-say-577128. [102] “Statement for the Record by General John W. Nicholson, Commander, U.S. Forces – Afghanistan, Before the Senate Armed Services Committee on the Situation in Afghanistan,” Feb. 9, 2017, https://www.armed-services.senate.gov/imo/media/doc /Nicholson_02-09-17.pdf. [103] Kyle Rempfer, “Pentagon Identifies Army Green Beret Killed in Afghanistan,” Army Times, Jan. 23, 2019, https://www.armytimes.com/news/your-army/2019/01/23/pentagon-identifies-army-green-beret-killed-in-afghanistan/. See also, Fahim Abed, “Two U.S. Service Members Killed in Northern Afghanistan,” New York Times, March 22, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/22/world/asia/americans-killed-afghanistan.html. [104] Giustozzi, The Islamic State in Khorasan, 216. [105] Giustozzi, The Islamic State in Khorasan, 216. See also Ryamizard Ryacudu, “Terrorism in Southeast Asia: The Need for Joint Counter-Terrorism Frameworks,” Counter Terrorist Trends and Analysis 10, no. 11 (November 2018), http://www.rsis.edu.sg/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/CTTA-November-2018.pdf. [106] James Kitfield, “CJCS Dunford Talks Turkey, Iran, Afghan Troop Numbers & Daesh,” Breaking Defense, June 16, 2017, https://breakingdefense.com/2017/06/cjcs-dunford-talks-turkey-iran-afghan-troop-numbers-daesh/. [107] Bianca Britton and Hamdi Alkhshali, “ISIS Leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi May Have Reappeared in New Video,” CNN, April 29, 2019, https://www.cnn.com/2019/04/29/middleeast/isis-leader-abu-bakr-al-baghdadi-video-intl/index.html. [108] Liz Sly and Souad Mekhennet, “ISIS Leader Baghdadi Makes First Video Appearance in 5 Years, Emphasizes Group’s Global Reach,” Washington Post, April 29, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle_east/isis-leader-baghdadi-appears-in-a-video-for-the-first-time-in-five-years/2019/04/29/a82611d4-6a9b-11e9-bbe7-1c798fb80536_story.html?utm_term=.773d7df28f05. [109] “IS ‘Caliphate’ Defeated But Jihadist Group Remains a Threat,” BBC, March 23, 2019, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-45547595; Jin Wu, Derek Watkins, and Rukmini Callimachi, “ISIS Lost Its Last Territory in Syria. But the Attacks Continue,” New York Times, March 23, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/03/23/world/middleeast/isis-syria-defeated.html [110] Markham Nolan and Gilad Shiloach, “ISIS Statement Urges Attacks, Announces Khorasan State,” vocativ, Jan. 26, 2015, https://www.vocativ.com/world/isis-2/isis-khorasan/. [111] Barbara Starr and Ryan Browne, “US Officials Warn ‘ISIS’ Afghanistan Branch Poses a Major Threat,” CNN, Feb. 19, 2019, https://www.cnn.com/2019/02/19/politics/isis-afghanistan-threat/index.html. [112] Henry Meyer, “Russia Says U.S. Exit from Afghanistan Won’t Create Power Vacuum,” Bloomberg, Feb. 12, 2019, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-02-12/russia-says-u-s-exit-from-afghanistan-won-t-create-power-vacuum. [113] Particularly during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. [114] Mustafa Hamid, and Leah Farrall, The Arabs at War in Afghanistan (London: Hurst, 2015); Anne Stenersen, Al-Qaida in Afghanistan (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2017). [115] Antonio Giustozzi, The Islamic State in Khorasan: Afghanistan, Pakistan and the New Central Asian Jihad (London: Hurst, 2018), 167. [116] Giustozzi, The Islamic State in Khorasan, 92, fn 37; “Fighting, While Funding, Extremists,” New York Times, June 19, 2017, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/19/opinion/saudi-arabia-qatar-isis-terrorism.html. [117] David Gardner, “The toxic rivalry of Saudi Arabia and Isis,” Financial Times, July 16, 2015, https://www.ft.com/content/8bba2ab4-2b00-11e5-8613-e7aedbb7bdb7. [118] Ahmed Rashid, Taliban: Islam, Oil and the New Great Game in Central Asia (New York: I.B.Tauris, 2002). [119] Steve Coll, Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001 (New York: Penguin Books, 2004). [120] Giustozzi, The Islamic State in Khorasan, 38–39. [121] “Fighting, While Funding, Extremists.” [122] “Fighting, While Funding, Extremists.” [123] Giustozzi, The Islamic State in Khorasan, 39. [124] Barnett R. Rubin, “Everyone Wants a Piece of Afghanistan,” Foreign Policy, March 11, 2019, https://foreignpolicy.com/2019/03/11/everyone-wants-a-piece-of-afghanistan-russia-china-un-sco-pakistan-isi-qatar-saudi-uae-taliban-karzai-ghani-khalilzad-iran-india/. [125] Giustozzi, The Islamic State in Khorasan, 39. [126] For a discussion on regional tensions over Baluchi insurgents, see, Fatemeh Aman, “Is Saudi Arabia Pulling Pakistan Into War With Iran?” Atlantic Council, Feb. 26, 2019, https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/blogs/iransource/is-saudi-arabia-pulling-pakistan-into-war-with-iran. [127] Giustozzi, The Islamic State in Khorasan, 67. [128] Ethan Frisch, “Insurgencies Are Organizations Too: Organizational Structure and the Effectiveness of Insurgent Strategy,” Peace and Conflict Review 6 no. 1 (2011), http://www.operationspaix.net/DATA/DOCUMENT/6709~v~Insurgencies_are_Organizations_Too__Organizational_Structure_and_the_Effectiveness_of_Insurgent_Strategy.pdf. [129] These groups were, Jundullah and Haraket-e Abasar-e Iran, Jaysh al Adl, Harakat-e Islami Sistan, Wilayat Khorasan Iran, and the West Azerbaijan Islamic Movement. [130] Jihadi extremist groups that operate in Tajikistan are, Jammaat Ansarullah, Jihod Hizbi Nahzati Islamii (Islamic Jihad Renaissance Party), Harakati Islami Tajikistan (Islamic Movement of Tajikistan), Harakati Islami Gulmorad Halimov (Islamic Movement of Gulmorad Halimov). [131] Jihadi extremist groups that operate in Uzbekistan are, Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, The Chinese (Uyghur) Turkestan Islamic Party and East Turkestan Islamic Movement, and the Chechens of Kavkaz Emarat. [132] According to Giustozzi, the Islamic Movement of Turkmenistan and a number of other smaller movements are operating in Turkmenistan and in the region in general. [133] Giustozzi, The Islamic State in Khorasan, 21–22. [134] Giustozzi, The Islamic State in Khorasan, 21. [135] Giustozzi, The Islamic State in Khorasan, 21–22. [136] Giustozzi, The Islamic State in Khorasan, 39. [137] Giustozzi, The Islamic State in Khorasan, 166. [138] Giustozzi, The Islamic State in Khorasan, 165. [139] Giustozzi, The Islamic State in Khorasan, 161–63. [140] Giustozzi, The Islamic State in Khorasan, 4–25. [141] Giustozzi, The Islamic State in Khorasan, 165–66. [142] Giustozzi, The Islamic State in Khorasan, 24–25. [143] Giustozzi, The Islamic State in Khorasan, 37. [144] Vivian Yee, “Claim of Attacks on 4 Oil Vessels Raises Tensions in Middle East,” New York Times, May 13, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/13/world/middleeast/saudi-arabia-oil-tanker-sabotage.html. [145] “Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt Call on Qatar to Stop Funding Terror Groups,” Arab News, May 17, 2019, http://www.arabnews.com/node/1498156/middle-east. [146] Alan Taylor, “The Soviet War in Afghanistan, 1979–1989,” Atlantic, Aug. 4, 2014, https://www.theatlantic.com/photo/2014/08/the-soviet-war-in-afghanistan-1979-1989/100786/. [147] Henry Meyer, “Russia Says U.S. Exit from Afghanistan Won’t Create Power Vacuum,” Bloomberg, Feb. 12, 2019, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-02-12/russia-says-u-s-exit-from-afghanistan-won-t-create-power-vacuum. [148] Douglas Jehl, “Iran Holds Taliban Responsible for 9 Diplomats’ Deaths,” New York Times, Sept. 11, 1998, https://www.nytimes.com/1998/09/11/world/iran-holds-taliban-responsible-for-9-diplomats-deaths.html. [149] Michael Kugelman, “Shutting Out Iran Will Make the Afghan War Even Deadlier,” Foreign Policy, Nov. 16, 2018, https://foreignpolicy.com/2018/11/16/shutting-out-iran-will-make-the-afghan-war-even-deadlier/. [150] Kugelman, “Shutting Out Iran Will Make the Afghan War Even Deadlier.” [151] Office of the Media Spokesman, “State Department Terrorist Designation of Hajji ‘Abd al-Nasir,” U.S. State Department, Nov. 20, 2018, https://www.state.gov/state-department-terrorist-designation-of-hajji-abd-al-nasir/. [152] John Mackinlay conceptualizes the idea of a noncontiguous global insurgency connected by advances in communication technologies and a shared ideology in, The Insurgent Archipelago (New York: Columbia University Press, 2010). [153] Although this term (meaning East/Orient) predates early Islamic usage, the Islamic State seeks to tie into a nostalgia for the territories of the Umayyad and Abbasid caliphates. [154] For examples of disinformation campaigns waged against the Islamic State by jihadi rivals, see Craig Whiteside, “A Pedigree of Terror: The Myth of the Ba’athist Influence in the Islamic State Movement,” Perspectives on Terrorism 11, no. 3 (June 2017): 2–18, https://www.jstor.org/stable/26297838. [155] The provenance of this diary is also unproven/unverified, leaving some doubt as to how well we should rely on the sourcing of the book. [156] Craig Whiteside, “Lighting the Path: the Evolution of the Islamic State Media Enterprise (2003-2016),” The International Centre for Counter-Terrorism – The Hague 7, no. 11 (2016), http://dx.doi.org/10.19165/2016.1.14; Asaad Almohammad and Charlie Winter, “From Battlefront to Cyberspace: Demystifying the Islamic State’s Propaganda Machine,” CTC West Point, June 5, 2019, https://ctc.usma.edu/battlefront-cyberspace-demystifying-islamic-states-propaganda-machine/. [157] For a comprehensive look at the group’s history and deconstruction of these myths and legends, see, Haroro J. Ingram, Craig Whiteside, and Charlie Winter, The ISIS Reader: Milestone Texts of the Islamic State Movement (London: Hurst Publications, forthcoming 2019). [158] A prominent exception to this lacuna is Brian Fishman’s book, The Master Plan: ISIS, al-Qaeda, and the Jihadi Strategy for Final Victory (New London: Yale University Press, 2016). [159] Kyle Orton, “A Turncoat Still Loved by the Islamic State: Manaf al-Rawi,” Kyle Orton’s Blog, Jan. 29, 2017 https://kyleorton1991.wordpress.com/2017/01/29/a-turncoat-still-loved-by-the-islamic-state-manaf-al-rawi/. [160] Patrick B. Johnston, Jacob N. Shapiro, Howard J. Shatz, Benjamin Bahney, Danielle F. Jung, Patrick Ryan, and Jonathan Wallace, Foundations of the Islamic State: Management, Money, and Terror in Iraq, 2005–2010 (Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, 2016), https://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RR1192.html. [161] For prominent examples, see Jacob Shapiro, The Terrorist’s Dilemma: Managing Violent Covert Organizations (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2013), and the CTC’s reports on the Harmony Program, like Danielle F. Jung, Pat Ryan, Jacob Shapiro, and Jon Wallace, “Managing a Transnational Insurgency: The Islamic State of Iraq’s ‘Paper Trail,’ 2005-2010,” CTC West Point (2014), https://scholar.princeton.edu/sites/default/files/jns/files/jrsw_2014_managing-a-transnational-insurgency-isi.pdf. [162] This prominent author claimed that ISIL was bound to fail, and its revolution “highly unlikely to spread”: Stephen Walt, “ISIS as Revolutionary State: New Twist on an Old Story,” Foreign Affairs, (November/December 2015), https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/middle-east/isis-revolutionary-state. [163] Borhan Osman, “The Islamic State in ‘Khorasan’: How It began and Where It Stands Now in Nangarhar,” Afghanistan Analysts Network, July 27, 2016, https://www.afghanistan-analysts.org/the-islamic-state-in-khorasan-how-it-began-and-where-it-stands-now-in-nangarhar/. [164] A brief description of the more important but lesser known al-Turkmani, see Kyle Orton, “The Islamic State’s Deputy and the Ghost of Saddam Hussein,” Kyle Orton’s Blog, Aug. 22, 2015, https://kyleorton1991.wordpress.com/2015/08/22/the-islamic-states-deputy-and-the-ghost-of-saddam-hussein/. [165] Daniel Milton, “Pulling Back the Curtain: An Inside Look at the Islamic State’s Media Organization,” CTC West Point, August 2018, https://ctc.usma.edu/app/uploads/2018/08/Pulling-Back-the-Curtain.pdf. [166] Fishman, The Master Plan, 91–98. [167] Krishnadev Calamur, “ISIS in Afghanistan Is Like a Balloon that Won’t Pop,” Atlantic, Dec. 28, 2017 https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2017/12/afghanistan-isis/549311/. [168] Charles Lister, The Syrian Jihad: Al-Qaeda, The Islamic State, and the Evolution of an Insurgency (London: Oxford University Press, 2016), 119–84. [169] Jacob Zenn, “The Islamic State’s Provinces on the Peripheries: Juxtaposing the Pledges from Boko Haram in Nigeria and Abu Sayyaf and Maute Group in the Philippines,” Perspectives on Terrorism 13, no. 1 (February 2019): 87–104 , https://www.jstor.org/stable/26590511. ) [contents] => Array ( [title] => Table of Contents [contents] => 1. "Introduction: Inside IS-K," by Theo Farrell 2. "IS-K: Defeating the New Central and South Asia Jihad," by Paul Lushenko 3. "The Islamic State in Khorasan: The Regional Context," by Weeda Mehran 4. 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