The real threat


IS is a bigger problem than all others


The Islamic state or Daesh is a collection of Sunni insurgent groups formed in 2006, the responsibility of whose emergence, according to a professor of Harvard University Stephen M Walt lies with neoconservatives of US who pushed for invasion of Iraq in 2003. Writing in the Foreign Policy magazine, he said: “The Islamic state would not exist if the neo-cons had not led us blindly into Iraq and Iran would have no reason to contemplate getting nuclear weapons if it had not watched the US throw its weight around in the region and threaten it directly with regime change.” This view is also supported by a former US Ambassador to Saudi Arabia under George Bush, Mr Chas W Freeman Jr. In a speech he observed that the US attempts to reconfigure the Middle East had backfired: “If we are at all honest, we must admit that the deplorable state of affairs in the Middle East, Egypt, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, Syria, Iran and peripherally in Afghanistan–is a product not only of the dynamics of the region but also of a lapse in our capacity to think and act strategically.”

Irrespective of the fact how the IS emerged, the reality of today is that almost 60 countries across the globe are waging war against the group. It claims political, religious and military authority over all the Muslim countries in the world and its avowed aim is to establish an Islamic state comprising all the Muslim lands under one caliph. The IS now is the biggest threat to all the Muslim countries including Saudi Arabia. It has also been declared as a terrorist organisation by the UN, EU, US, UK, Australia, Canada, Turkey Saudi Arabia, UAE, Syria, Egypt, India and Russia. It controls territories in Iraq, Syria and Libya. According to a report compiled by a panel of UN experts, more than 25,000 foreign fighters hailing from Tunisia, Morocco, France, Russia, Maldives, Finland and sub-Saharan countries are joining Islamist and Al Qaida groups in Syria, Iraq and Libya.

So the biggest threat to Middle East and the Muslim countries, including Saudi Arabia and even Iran at the moment, is from this group and Al Qaida. Pakistan also being a Muslim country is very much a likely target of IS and there are already indications of its presence in Afghanistan. The Russian President Vladimir Putin addressing a press conference after the SCO summit in Ufa last week warned against the arrival of the group in Afghanistan.

There are confirmed reports that the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) which owes allegiance to Islamic State is fighting against the Afghan regime along with Taliban in the Northern province of Kunduz where it has relocated after having been pushed out of North Waziristan by Zarb-e-zab. The IMU’s strength is estimated to be in the range of 5-7 thousand and their ranks reportedly are swelling due to new recruitments from the Central Asian States. Some TTP groups based on the Afghan soil have also vowed their allegiance to IS.

The foregoing developments are very worrying for Afghanistan and Pakistan and might have a debilitating impact on chances of reconciliation in Afghanistan and fight against terrorism that Pakistan and Afghanistan have vowed to take to its logical end, if not checked in their tracks before they become a formidable threat.

Recent acts of IS-sponsored terrorism in Saudi Arabia and the horrendous suicide attack in Turkey that killed 32 people on Monday is indicative of its outreach and the capability of enacting such inhuman acts designed to create chaos and instability in the targeted countries.

Therefore, Pakistan and Afghanistan will have to forge an impregnable alliance against this new threat to peace and stability in the region. It is indeed very satisfying to note that some recent developments at the international level have strengthened the anti-IS cause and given new vitality to the countries of the region to fight the menace. Pak-Afghan leaders who met on the sidelines of the SCO summit were able to resurrect their relations and reaffirm their resolve to fight the forces of terrorism with their full might and also promote process of reconciliation in Afghanistan, set rolling by Pakistan sponsored dialogue between Afghan government and Taliban in Murree which was also attended by China and US as observers. If as a result of the dialogue the Taliban reach an understanding with the Afghan government and agree to join the mainstream of Afghan politics, it would strengthen the hands of the Afghan government in dealing with the threat posed of IMU.

Another very significant development in regards to fight against terrorism practised by any entity is the grant of full member status to Pakistan by the SCO; an organisation which is committed to eliminating terrorism from the region. That would certainly lead to enhanced cooperation among the member states including Pakistan to thwart the designs of terrorist outfits including IS.

The deal between world powers and Iran on the latter’s nuclear programme is yet another auspicious development that can tremendously contribute to the fight against terrorism and the IS threat to the region. Iranian ambassador to UN speaking in the Security Council, which unanimously endorsed the deal, in an obvious reference to IS threat, said, “Tehran is ready to engage in good faith with its neighbours in the region. It is time to start working together against our most common and important challenges which include, above all, violent extremism.”

It is pertinent to note that Iran and US have been collaborating in the fight against IS in Syria and Iraq even before the deal and in the post-deal scenario that cooperation is likely to be further strengthened. Iran now having clinched the deal is in a better position to deal with the IS threat with the cooperation of the countries of the region including Afghanistan and Pakistan. There are already reports of the Afghan Taliban having contacts with Iran for a possible cooperation in dealing with the IS threat.

The IS, though being a specific threat to peace and tranquility in the Muslim countries, is also a real threat to the world peace. And probably the stage is now set for a collective action by the Muslim countries and the world powers to scuttle this threat at the global level. In the regional context a new level of cooperation commensurate with the scale of threat between Pakistan, Afghanistan, China and Russia as well as joining of hands at the SCO level can pose a real challenge to the IS sponsored terrorism. Pakistan is on the right track in regards to fight against terrorism and building regional linkages for peace and security as well as shared economic prosperity. That now needs to be pursued with even more vigour and commitment.