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Dhaka Tribune

Defeating the radicals

Update : 06 Dec 2015, 06:35 PM

Recent events in France and Belgium are cause for concern to the world. It’s been 16 months since the fall of Mosul at IS hands. After the defeat of the Iraqi forces in Ramadi, the coalition suffered a major setback, but since July 2015, they, along with Iraqi and Kurdish forces, have been making steady progress against IS.

There were proposals floating in Washington to put American troops on the ground in large numbers but it was ignored by policy-makers. The fall of Ramadi was mainly due to weaknesses in Iraqi forces and sectarian politics. The recent successes by Kurdish Peshmerga fighters supported by US airstrikes exhibited some success of the coalition forces. But the attack in Paris was a hard blow.

The killing of 129 people in six separate attacks on November 13 has put pressure on European countries to do some serious soul searching as to how to deal with the rising terrorism of IS. While considering these actions, they must also consider how to keep their societies open as per democratic norms. The governments in Europe have to consider the delicate aspect of not bowing down to the pressure of the far right, particularly anti-Muslim groups and Euro skeptics. To give way to these groups is what IS probably wants.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi is trying to be more inclusive, trying to engage people of other sects, especially the neglected Sunni community. But reconciliation is a time-consuming factor, as till now, the Sunnis in Iraq are not sure about their future.

The proposal to form a national guard concept to include Sunni armed cadres has not yet been passed by the Shia-dominated parliament. The training of security forces has fallen short of target, reaching only 35%. There are questions arising with regards to the Iraqi state, and if, in its present form, it is a viable state or not. The biggest challenge for the Coalition is to retake the Sunni-dominated areas from the IS.

In Syria, the situation appears to be more confused and grim after the physical participation of Russia in favour of Assad forces.

The Free Syrian Army is suffering at the hands of Russian air attacks. Assad and the Russians are harming the Free Syrian Army more than IS, their main aim to stabilise and reinforce Assad’s army rather than defeat IS.

There are other problems in the region. As reported, the Salafi fighters backed by the Saudis, Qataris, and Turkish have affiliation with terrorist groups like Al-Qaeda and Jabhat al-Nusra and have a separate agenda.

Due to suspicion among Saudi and Gulf states on the rising Iranian influence in the region, they are concerned more about defeating Assad than IS. The conflicting interest amongst the coalition is slowing down the operation. Amid this state of indecision, IS is extending terrorist activities in France, threatening to attack other capital cities of the world. They are extending their influence in other regions, gaining the allegiance of Boko Haram in Nigeria and Ansar Bait al-Maqdis in Egypt. In Libya and North Africa, IS is taking advantage of political and social instability and are organising their cells.

On the international front, a coalition of 60 states has been formed in the last 11 months. In addition to providing air support, sharing intelligence, training, and slowing down IS funding, they are providing humanitarian relief and logistical aid to the affected population.

Some counties in Europe, like Germany, who were hesitant in participating with the coalition, fearing repercussion against its own people, are now deciding to take part in military actions.

It’s important for European nations to realise that that Syria has suffered at the hands of Assad forces for five years, thus creating militant opposition leading to a vacuum which gave opportunity for IS to grow.

It also resulted in breeding home-grown terror groups in Europe. Right wing politicians in Germany and Poland are linking terrorist attacks to Syrian refugees, affecting humanitarian assistance.

Some countries are using the attacks as an excuse to avoid taking in refugees. Their efforts to equate the refugees with murderers is unfortunate. Anti-immigration and anti-Muslim groups are creating further pressure.

European governments and the EU have the capability of taking measures to protect their citizens, borders, and critical infrastructure. There is a scope for much greater sharing of intelligence among them. But as these terrorist cells are home-grown, the present measures alone are not sufficient.

Civil society organisations and governments in European countries have to take long-term measures. They have to change their education system to aim at a policy of integration that will allow the second or third generation of immigrants to possess a sense of identity with their country and population.

For a decisive blow to IS, the West must be prepared to pay a price, but the price the IS would pay would be far higher. The attacks in Paris were organised and centrally planned by an outlawed, self-declared nation state which has acquired substantial capabilities which cannot be destroyed by an air war alone or by the use of proxy forces. To achieve a decisive victory, they have to plan beyond these steps.

All IS-controlled areas must be considered as a similar threat, as no virtual border exists between Iraq and Syria. A clear strategy has to be worked out against the IS affiliates worldwide. Enough funds must be made available to cater to about 15 million displaced persons in Syria and Iraq out of which a large number are internally displaced.

The coalition requires having one central commander to combat the IS. There is also a requirement of creating an integrated Arab stabilising force which is the need of the hour. The weakest link in the crisis faced by the coalition is a clear Syria policy. The civil war there has created a vacuum in which the IS has thrived.

Syrian Kurds also can be a force which has to be organised for the campaign to destroy IS. In addition, the battered Syrian Army of Assad will have to be encouraged to defect in large numbers. A structured regional approach backed up by a more coherent political strategy is required to solve the issue. 



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