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The Red Brigades and far-left terrorism

The Red Brigades: What We Can Learn From Italian History

Origins of The Red Brigades

The Red Brigades, an Italian far-left guerrilla group, were active between the 1970s and 80s. They represent the most important terrorist group in all Italian history. The Red Brigades are also known for the abduction and murder of former Prime Minister Aldo Moro. The group grew in universities of the north of Italy. Its aim was to change Italian politics and law to create a revolutionary state according to communist principles. They saw themselves as the continuation of the Italian Partisan Movement, and they opposed both the right and capitalism.

Political Background

The group began by expressing its dissatisfaction with the status quo through the sabotage of industries and private properties. Then, their strategy changed to the carrying out of high-profile political kidnappings in order to obtain resources, capture attention, and fight the state and capitalists. The Red Brigades were against the state because they believed that the state was an “Imperialist collection of multinational corporations.”

Instead, their aim was to guide the working class towards revolution. To recruit people, they distributed propaganda in factories to attract the “proletariat” to join their fight against capitalism and power. The killings of high-profile figures and propaganda were their main tactics to attract attention and new recruits. Their most well-known act was the abduction and killing of Prime Minister Aldo Moro. Moro was the main mediator between the Christian Democrats Party and the Communist Party. The killing of the Prime Minister was defined by the group as the last expression of the Marxist-Leninist revolutionary action. They believed that Aldo Moro was the symbol of the imperialist counter-revolution.

Violence and Political Agenda

Though the violence of the Red Brigades has to be understood in its historical context. The Red Brigades grew during the Italian Years of Lead, a period of political turmoil and violence in Italy. This period was marked by violence from both the far-right and the far-left. Far-left groups drew inspiration from Communism and the far-right sought to push Italy back towards Fascism. This far-right agenda grew from the fear of Communism during the Cold War.

The group’s growth happened in a period when the Christian Democrats had ruled since the early 1940s. And it was during a time when there was no prospect of change. The Christian Democrats Party contained many ideas, it integrated many different political figures and maintained a hold on power. This created a sentiment of inability to change politics. This, together with the influence from other ideologies spreading in Europe, pushed some groups towards extremism and violence.

The Red Brigades and Terrorism

The theory of terrorism arising from the inability to change the status quo, legally, was developed by Professor Deniz Aksoy. Aksoy hypothesised that some opposition groups have no access to a legislature, they are more likely to turn to terrorism. According to her empirical findings, there is a positive correlation between the presence of an opposition party in the absence of a legislature and the emergence of terrorist groups. This was not the precise case during the Italian Years of Lead, due to the presence of a legislature and the opportunity to compete in politics. However, the political scenario in Italy seemed stagnant to many young people. For this reason, they engaged in violent means to change the status quo.

The Red Brigades existed in a specific Italian historical context in which democracy was new and there was a lot of instability across Europe. However, we can learn from this case how the inability to change politics and express ideas can be a source of frustration and means towards violence. In order to have peace, it is important to listen to different actors and to take them into account. Implementing new reforms and being open to political debate may be a source of strength moving forward if we want to create peace.

Reciprocal Radicalisation – What Is It And How Do We Fight It?

With the tragic deaths of five and injury to over 150 people during the storming of the Capitol Building, ISIL propaganda channels became predictably awash with posts hailing the crowds as “great symbolism”. 

The Capitol Insurrection provided us with a recent reminder of the need to explore reciprocating narratives between extremists of differing ideology. Whether Islamist as in the example above or between the predominantly domestic movements of far-right and far-left groups, and how these narratives can aid one another, allowing us to better understand how to counter the threat.

Definitions

Reciprocal radicalisation refers to the purported reliance of terrorist organisations upon one another, sharing and feeding in narratives. According to the organisation CREST, based in Lancaster, U.K., the concept emerged initially during analysis of the 2001 Race Riots in England, and further embedded following the establishment of the EDL, a far-right Islamophobic movement. The EDL itself had formed in response to controversial protests by Ahle Sunnah al Jamah, an Islamist offshoot publicly opposing parades for soldiers returning from Iraq

Similarly, when the Finsbury Park Mosque was targeted in June 2017, the perpetrator shouted “this is for London Bridge”, referencing an attack that occurred three weeks prior. The resulting investigation found he was directly influenced by far-right material which called for retribution for those prior attacks. This is where the crux of the argument for drawing parallels presents itself; whilst a range of terrorising motives may exist mutually exclusive in terms of their ideological background, they often share in the modus operandi of their actions, to cause and sow division.

Challenges

Widely understood amongst academia, the term has held less recognition within political circles where support for counterterrorism policy can often fall along partisan lines, rather than out of altruistic concern for best practice. Critique has been applied to the extent to which these acts are linked, viewing a natural source of conflict between extremists of differing motivations rather than any premeditated or implicit interoperation. Supporters argue such analysis is valuable beyond the actual acts of terror, in assessing a movement or individual’s propensity towards violence – thereby evaluating the ‘powder-keg’ type incidents which do not necessarily constitute attacks, but which may be utilised to further radicalise those involved.

Whilst a reluctance to empirically adopt such processes as the norm is understandable, there are strong denominators which explain why such prevalence is apparent. After the Christchurch attacks, ASPI argued there were a number of pervasive, “eerie similarities” in the perpetrator’s far-right manifesto with Jihadist propaganda preceding and following the attack. These include the terrorists portraying their actions as a defence mechanism against ‘foreign invaders’, seeking revenge for previous attacks (further continuing the spiral of violence) and an apparent ‘restoration of glory’, drawing on historical narratives of conflict between East and West and a wish to preserve the status quo ante. Hence where the far-right position themselves in opposition to immigration, Islamists view themselves at war with ‘infidels’ and external forces, whether non-believers or other Muslims who do not subscribe to their brand of fundamentalism.

Conclusions

The road towards committing acts of terrorism is influenced by a range of factors. Rather than spreading panic in the aftermath of attacks we need legislators to take stringent action and provide measured responses. We should look to those in a position of power to reassure communities, irrespective of personal opinion.

This duly applies to any in a position to do good, for it is only with cooperation and education on a much wider scale that we can hope to defeat terrorism. The truth is no single approach will ever work in preventing extremism or the dynamics underlining it, but by raising awareness of these issues and setting a firm example of how best to respond to terror, we can progress towards stymieing these movements from gaining further traction. 

Maritime Terrorism and the United States

The Rise And Countering Of Maritime Terrorism By The United States

Since the maritime environment is so open there is plenty of opportunity for maritime terrorism. Many terrorist organisations like Al Qaeda, the Chechen rebels, Hezbollah, and Hamas participate in maritime terrorism. Maritime terrorism is the act of terrorism in the maritime environment, using boat vessels or seaports. One of the most interesting types of maritime terrorism is the targeting of cruise ships for the purpose of mass casualties, and the hijacking of larger vessels like oil tankers. The goal of most maritime terrorism is economic, to kill, or shift foreign or domestic policy. Vessels like US navy ships and vessels are attractive targets because they symbolise American power

In the early 2000s, there was a spike in terrorist attacks in the sea. Fear that more transnational terrorist organisations are going to move their tactics to the water was high in the west. Many planned strike attacks were planned by Al Qaeda, including an attack on the USS The Sullivans in January 2000

Maritime Terrorism Solutions

The future of countering maritime terrorism needs to focus on offensive and defensive options for the long-term solution, not just the short-term. The problem is the long-term solution to maritime terrorism is not as feasible as the short-term. Typically when the US sees a quick solution like combat or prevention policy making we hop on it very fast. War is a very easy way to defeat an enemy, just going in and attacking them. 

Cruise ships, ferries, and cargo ships are targets for maritime terrorism because they offer mass casualties and even economic harm. The US is currently on the front lines on trying to combat maritime terrorism, they have created the container security initiative, the International ship and port facility security code, the proliferation security initiative,  and the customs trade partnership against terrorism. Washington has been active in investing in these initiatives because the US gives counter-terrorism the highest priority.

Counter-Terrorism Initiatives

These initiatives are on the defensive side of countering terrorism but are only short-term. These initiatives are for prevention purposes and crisis management. The pros of this type of defence are that the US is being active in countering the attack. The cons of these initiatives are that these only go so far. The US should enforce a maritime security collaboration that conducts high-level maritime threats. The Maritime industry should also be increasing their communication with each other, in order for the security of the water to be in a good position to combat or prevent an attack. 

Another tactic that the United States use in order to combat maritime terrorism is the war model. The US began to attack terrorist organisations in order to dismantle them, prevent them from spreading their ideology, and protect ourselves from future attacks. The problem with the war model is that it is very short-term. Just removing terrorists, is not going to end terrorism. The pros of the war model are the intelligence that we collect on terrorism through the military, which we can use to learn about terrorism and use the intelligence to de-radicalise or take terrorism down in another way. 

Conclusions and Recommendations

At any time there are tens of thousands of vessels traveling the ocean and employing people from all over the world. The ocean is a highway for a huge international market. Maritime terrorism has the potential to paralyse global maritime commerce. Many terrorist organisations do not have the skill or resources to successfully carry out one of these attacks, but those who do pose a major threat that is constantly growing. The debate that is going on about maritime terrorism is about conserving resources that the West has. Should we be spending money on combatting maritime terrorism when it is rarer than land terrorism? The problem with this argument is that, once a major terrorist attack happens on the water it could ruin global maritime commerce. We can not wait for an attack to happen, we should be prepared for the possibility of the attack. 

Chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation Abdullah Abdullah arrives for an intra-Afghan talks in Doha, Qatar

The Biden Administration And Afghan Peace Negotiations In Doha

As the peace process in Doha continues to unfold, the Biden Administration will face several difficult decisions regarding the future of Afghanistan. The war’s effects have been felt at every level. With trust at an all time low, Americans have demanded solutions to the never-ending wars which plague U.S. Foreign Policy and fail to address the plight of average Afghans. However, a full-scale withdraw from the crucial peace talks would prove imprudent and disastrous for all parties. Additionally, renewing Operation Enduring Freedom is no longer a viable option. Thus, a comprehensive grand strategy that accounts for current realities on the ground and capitalises on upcoming negotiations prior to the May 1st deadline is necessary.

 

Operation Enduring Freedom

Withdrawing from Afghanistan neglects the reality on the ground. Namely that even a limited U.S. presence in the region prevents the Taliban from establishing an emirate with its capital in Kabul in a matter of months. It would also entail consequences such as the outbreak of a civil war, fortifying Al-Qaeda’s safe havens, and the emergence of a refugee crisis. The Afghan military is not equipped to handle another Taliban insurgency. The Taliban’s forces have grown precipitously as of late, ascending to around fifty-thousand fighters.

Additionally, they continue to generate hundreds of millions of dollars from the opium trade and enjoy support from select, rural portions of the country. Reviving Operation Enduring Freedom is also not a viable option, having claimed thousands of lives and burned through billions of taxpayer dollars. America will not send its men and women overseas to “get the job done,” when the proverbial goal-post keeps moving farther and farther away. For nearly a decade, the United States has clung to the narrative of training and equipping Afghan forces. This sentiment will not be dislodged, and nor should it be.

 

Engaging with the Peace Process

Although the Taliban entered negotiations to settle for peace, they failed to uphold their commitments. Furthermore, previous talks have often collapsed due to subsidiary issues such as, prisoner exchanges. For example, the original deal included the severing of ties between the Taliban and Al-Qaeda, yet the relationship remains intact. The mention of peace has led to the narrative that the Taliban had defeated the world’s great superpower. Their refusal to concede even on subsidiary points reflects their vision of victory. With this in mind, the U.S. must gently pressure the Taliban to accept mutually-agreed upon terms, without risking further conflict.

Knowing which areas to pressure will require in-depth knowledge of the ever-changing local circumstances. It will also require a willingness to negotiate with an emboldened enemy. If the U.S. does not commit to the likely prolonged peace process, it runs the risk of damaging its credibility in the long-run. Despite debates regarding ISIS’s presence in Iraq prior to 2014, the premature withdrawal and unwillingness to monitor and support the transition of power directly contributed to ISIS’s success, especially in terms of vital materials such as weapons caches and vehicles. The Biden Administration must take heed of this vital lesson.

 

Afghanistan’s Lasting Peace

A viable option, which achieves the goals of diminishing foreign military presence and addressing the terrorist concerns, would be to bolster U.S. intelligence operations. Afghan security forces also need strengthening to uproot the safe-havens guaranteed by Taliban officials in quasi-independent regions of the country. This would also remove the leverage held by Taliban forces who frequently bait U.S. diplomatic efforts. Taliban promises of abandoning their affiliation with terrorist groups will need to be achieved.

Additionally, the Taliban successfully managed to avoid their promises, while placing a clock on the complete withdrawal of U.S. forces. They understood that the United States, like many other great nations before it, would grow weary of fighting recurring insurgencies. If the U.S. leaves without creating conditions for lasting peace, it fails to uphold its promises to the Afghan people. And may damage its reputation within Afghanistan in the process.

 

The Role of the United States

In the meantime, a core group of U.S. troops must remain in the country to support a lasting peace. Particularly as diplomacy alone will not solve the endemic problems facing Afghanistan and its people. A further demonstration that the U.S. will maintain its resolve in the support of Afghan government forces, would send the message that negotiations are the only path forward. Currently, the United States has not proven that it can dismantle Taliban forces or build a sustainable government.

Thus, the negotiations are stuck in limbo. The Taliban also understand that they can outlast the U.S. military. If the United States does not intend to strengthen the government’s capabilities, then negotiations represent a means to manipulate the country’s future. And all without sacrificing valuable assets. A true strategic vision for Afghanistan is not Taliban-centric, either. It incorporates Pakistan, China, and others who have stakes in a stable and secure Afghanistan. Pakistan has long refused to provide assistance to U.S. forces in the fight against terrorist entities such as Al-Qaeda, and they are seeking to alter this perception by facilitating discussions and refusing to throw support to either side, which could improve relations with the international community at large.

 

Conclusion

In short, the problems facing Afghanistan are an American problem, and given the current deadline of May 1st, the United States possesses little time to find a solution that is beneficial for all parties. The United States, despite its unparalleled ability to project power, is not negotiating from a position of strength. Some could argue that an extension of the current deadline would solve the problem. However, extensions often lead to a lack of urgency. The Taliban need only wait until a new administration arrives or the deal collapses on its own. Finally, a soon-to-be-announced conference may address the possibility for an extension directly.

Human Rights Abuses by China

Human Rights Abuses By The People’s Republic of China

Overview

Out of the eleven million Uyghurs living in Xinjiang in China, between 800,000 and one million people have been detained in Chinese internment camps indefinitely.1 Despite the initial denial by the People’s Republic of China (PRC), leaked documents and first hand accounts detail the repressive policies targeting the Uyghurs. Reportedly, these internment camps permit torture, food deprivation, forced labor, and sterilisation. The PRC now defends these abuses in the name of national security. While evidence has shown that Uyghurs have been increasingly targeted for their cultural and religious practices. 

The world is not new to these atrocities. The Holocaust, in addition to the Rwandan, Cambodian, and Rohingya genocide, have stained the past century. However, while other governments commit such atrocities, the PRC plays a unique role. As a permanent member of the UN Security Council, they are able to weaken human rights worldwide. They are able to do this while not facing penalties for their violations.

One of the biggest security challenges within the international system is the rise of the PRC on a global scale. Fearing the loss of their own power, the PRC uses its economic prowess to silence its opposition within and beyond their borders. This has led to their policies and actions often undermining the very international system upholding human rights standards. 

The Role of the United States

President Trump signed the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act of 2020, which imposes sanctions on foreign individuals and entities responsible for human rights abuses in Xinjiang. While it is a step in the right direction, and more than the U.S. did at the beginning of Khmer Rouge rule in Cambodia, it may not be enough.

As the PRC poses a significant threat to U.S. hegemony, the U.S. should be inclined to act. One possible approach could be to implement a multilateral and multidimensional approach that deters these atrocities. 

The U.S. is uniquely capable of campaigning for multilateral partnerships across the world to increase international pressure on Beijing. However, economic sanctions solely distributed by the U.S., would hurt the Western nation more than the PRC. They would also be relatively ineffective considering the PRC is a top exporting country.

However, the Chinese government cannot maintain its economic dominance if ties across portions of the world are severed. Ideally, the U.S. could partner with Japan, South Korea, or Australia to implement economic penalties or forge military partnerships. This unprecedented global pressure could expedite economic hardship and successfully disrupt PRC supply chains.

Challenges

In normal circumstances, the UN could be a potential mitigator. However, the PRC vetos all matters detrimental to them, including what constitutes a genocide. The PRC previously used its veto power in regards to human rights violations in Syria and Myanmar. This has showcased their efforts to neglect human rights standards.

Therefore, it is imperative to look at other organisations such as The Uyghur Human Rights Project or World Uyghur Congress to seek institutional change. The gradual progression of international awareness can be accelerated by advocacy from these organisations and other grassroots movements that will force governments worldwide to unite and take action. 

Recommendations

Internationally, communities could use the 2022 Olympics as a platform to urge the Olympic Committee to reconsider holding the Olympics in Beijing. Widespread and severe actions must be taken in order to stop genocides. Too often we see the world idly watch and fail. Despite the challenge, world powers should come together and take a stance against nations who do not follow global standards in regards to human rights.

EU commitment to Afghanistan

The European Union And Their Long-Term Commitment To Afghanistan

Since 2001, the European Union (EU) has shown its interest in Afghanistan, resulting in 4 billion Euros provided in aid. This has made Afghanistan the largest beneficiary of its development assistance. The EU’s interest in Afghanistan has both a humanitarian element and the interest in reducing the root causes of its migration flows. These migration flows arise as a result of the security situation, the political instability and the economic crisis. 

EU Development Aid In Afghanistan

The EU’s recent strategic objectives for development aid within Afghanistan, were defined by the 2014-2020 Multiannual Indicative Programme. The programme focused on three main priority sectors: the creation of peace and stability, the fostering of economic growth and the provision of social services. 

The EU still shows a strong commitment to the establishment of peace in Afghanistan. The long-term intentions of these commitment was reaffirmed by the EU’s support in Afghanistan for peace and stability. In January 2021, Ms. Urpilainen, the European Commissioner for International Partnerships, assured Mr. Atmar, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Afghanistan, of the European Union’s firm support to the continuation and success of the Afghan peace process.  

The EU’s Role In Afghanistan’s Peace

According to the European Union, the signature, on 29th of February 2020, of the agreement between the U.S. and the Taliban and the parallel Declaration between the Government of Afghanistan and the U.S, already lay the foundations for the settlement of an Intra-Afghan Peace negotiations in order to find a just and durable solution to the conflict. 

The EU stresses the importance of reaffirming a strong support for an Afghan-owned and an Afghan-led peace process. It supports that the peace process should be owned by Afghans. Including that international partners should have to respect Afghanistan’s sovereignty and independence during peace negotiations. The EU highlights the crucial role of the Taliban and the Afghan government in the establishment of peace. It also creates a space where the mutual ceasefire between the actors. And acts as a highly relevant confidence-building measure between the two sides.

Challenges

The European Union stresses the importance of inclusivity within the peace process. This inclusivity includes all political factions, minorities, civil societies and women are meaningfully represented. The representation of all in Afghanistan would ease the peace process and would support grievances and promote reconciliation. For this, the EU calls on all stakeholders to put above all other considerations the interests of the nation.

The European Union stands ready to facilitate and promote the settlement of the peace process. But it also believes that the peace-making negotiations should be held not forgetting the achievements of the former years. These achievements are specifically important in the areas of social and economic development, human rights protection and freedom protections for all Afghans, with special consideration on women.

It is only in this way that the democratic foundation of a peaceful and prosperous Afghanistan. The EU also places importance on the reintegration of former fighters, their families, and the victims of conflict in Afghanistan.

Recommendations

To achieve peace in Afghanistan, the European Union is working with all parties. The meeting on the 24th of March in Brussels between the High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs, Josep Borrell Fontelles, and the US secretary, Antony Blinken, has showed a strong willingness of cooperation between the US and EU. In fact, Roland Kobia, the EU Special Envoy for Afghanistan, has twitted “EU and US intend to intensify cooperation on Afghanistan to advance the peace process & ensure its long-term stability/prosperity”. The cooperation of these two international actors is a positive sign for the creation of an enduring peace in Afghanistan. 

 

Gulf relationships and their importance to Afghanistan and its peace process

The Gulf States’ Relationship With Afghanistan And Peace

The Persian Gulf states have played an important role in Afghanistan’s conflict. Their prominence in the area will likely continue to do so after American troops withdraw. During the Soviet occupation, Saudi Arabia matched American funding to the mujahideen for weapons and humanitarian development. One of the financiers was Osama Bin Laden. Saudi Arabia’s Wahhabi ideology and religious leaders also served to stir anti-Soviet sentiment and inspire Arabs to join the mujahideen.

Gulf Region Cooperation

In 1996, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were the only Gulf states to recognise the Taliban government after its takeover of Kabul. After strained relations over the extradition of Bin Laden, they formally cut ties with its government after 9/11. Since the US invasion, Gulf states like Saudi Arabia and Qatar have facilitated negotiations with various Afghan parties. This includes the most recent negotiations in Doha, and have given millions of dollars for reconstruction.

The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) will have increased importance as the US prepares to leave the country, after two decades. Much of the investment and reconstruction efforts by the GCC are influenced by external actors like Pakistan and Iran. Pakistan is one of Saudi Arabia’s and the UAE’s closest partners, and they will pursue development projects that advance their objectives to strengthen their Sunni base in Afghanistan. Not only can Riyadh and Abu Dhabi advance their regional interests in the country, but they can also create goodwill with the United States by taking increased responsibility in counterterrorism and stability operations.

Relationships Within The Gulf

Unlike some Gulf states who relied on the US as their conduit into Afghanistan, Iran independently forged partnerships. It’s partnerships with various groups and leaders have strengthened its position in the country. With American troops leaving, Saudi and Emirati could find their relationship in increasingly precarious positions. Iran has interests protecting the Hazara Shia community, which comprises 15-20% of the Afghan population from persecution and Taliban violence. Many Hazara are recruited to the defend Bashar Al-Assad through the Fatemiyoun Brigade, an Afghan detachment founded by Qassim Soleimani to participate in Iran’s regional agenda. Iran’s economic foothold in Afghanistan as its largest trading partner as of 2018 will also create concerns with Saudi and Pakistani officials who will try to subvert its influence. US engagement with Iran on other issues like the nuclear issue may increase the urgency of Iran’s rivals to curb its influence in Afghanistan.

Summary & Recommendations

The Persian Gulf states invested millions of dollars in Afghanistan after 9/11. Their involvement in the country will likely increase to fill the void once held by US troops. They may support armed groups if civil war ensues or support their respective religious and political allies to retain influence during peace. The mediation and stability brought by the Gulf states in Afghanistan will continue. The result of its loss would be a breakout of conflict, which would destabilise the region. This result is not in any of the countries’ interests. These investments are a broader competition between regional rivals, who want to advance their religious, security and political goals.

 

Reintegration of ex-combatants in Colombia discussed at UN meeting

Lessons To Be Learnt From Colombia’s Economic Reintegration Programs

A successful peace agreement does not guarantee lasting peace. The successful reintegration of ex-combatants back into society, while it does not guarantee lasting peace, is essential if peace is to stay. Afghanistan is at a crucial moment in its history. If a peace agreement is negotiated, ex-Taliban fighters must be reintegrated back into Afghan society. This will be achieved by implementing a sound reintegration project. Afghanistan might find success by looking at what other countries have done in the past. In particular, Columbia and its economic reintegration programs that have been implemented in recent years. 

Economic Reintegration In Colombia

Decades of war has led to several cease-fire agreements between the Colombian government and its guerrillas and paramilitaries. As a result, there have been demobilisation efforts which have resulted in the need for reintegration programs. During President Alvaro Uribe’s presidency, the economic programs that were created were centred around the integrity of the free market. Thus, the government had a program whereby ex-combatants would receive a 1.5 million Colombian Pesos (COP) grant to start their own businesses or to invest in housing or education. However, the program was not as successful as the government hoped. The grant allowed the ex-combatants to start their own businesses, but it did not prevent them from experiencing severe income insecurity. Moreover, the Colombian government, in the early stages of reintegration, seemed to put more stock into entrepreneurial programs.

Entrepreneurship In Colombia

Alongside the grant program, the government implemented an entrepreneurial program that gave ex-combatants a one-time 8 million pesos (COP) seed capital. The idea was for the recipients of this capital to invest and create their businesses. This program was a success for some but not all. The main problem stemmed from the fact that the ex-combatants simply did not have the entrepreneurial skills necessary to run a business. The government then shifted its focus away from entrepreneurial programs to employability programs.

The 2010 Law of Formalization and Job Creation (Ley 1429) marks this shift. Ley 1429 gave businesses incentives to hire ex-combatants partaking in reintegration programs by granting them a tax exemption. Despite the government’s attempts to increase employability through vocational training and Ley 1429, there has not been an increase in employment opportunities. Even those that are employed earn less than minimum wage. With some ex-combatants earning less than COP 200,000 per month. Moreover, there is wide stigma that prevents ex-combatants from finding and keeping jobs. Although these programs have not had wide-reaching success, there are a fair number of individuals that have benefitted and succeeded through these programs.  

Entrepreneurial programs should only be implemented for those that possess the sufficient entrepreneurial skills necessary to run a business. The Afghan government, if it intends to implement these types of programs, should provide individuals with entrepreneurial training. It should also implement a loan-based program that should run parallel to any grants that they might provide. If Afghanistan is to implement a loan program, it must supply the individuals with loan management training. Businesses that are created must also fill a need in the community.   

How Can Afghanistan Learn From Colombia?

The Colombian government failed, in the early days of the reintegration process, to prevent the stigma of ex-combatants by the Colombian society. This complicated the reintegration process and made economic reintegration programs less effective. Businesses did not want to hire ex-combatants for fear of being publicly judged. Thus, there was a lack of employment opportunities and the vocational training they received did not increase their employability. The stigma that ex-combatants faced in Colombia will likely be faced by ex-Taliban members and this must be taken into account before implementing an economic reintegration plan. By building trust between ex-Taliban members and the wider Afghan community through community-based programs. 

The Afghan government should also make sure that it provides ex-combatants with adequate vocational training. Which covers a wide variety of skills and professions. However, the training should reflect the community’s needs in order to prevent a lack of employment opportunities. It would be pointless to provide ex-combatants with training for professions that are not in high demand.   

Moreover, Afghanistan should create programs that provide reintegration assistance to ex-Taliban members with disabilities. If not, these individuals run the risk of being excluded and they will be less likely to reap the benefits that untailored reintegration programs will provide. 

Success will depend on the ability of the State to promote a more community-focused reintegration that focuses on both the social and economic aspects of reintegration.  

Rahmatullah Nabil discusses Istanbul conference and Afghan Peace Process

Rahmatullah Nabil Discusses Afghanistan’s Peace Process

An Impossible Task?

Rahmatullah Nabil, Former Director of the National Directorate of Security (NDS) in Afghanistan discussed what lies ahead for Afghanistan’s Peace Process while referencing the Istanbul conference on his Twitter account.
The Istanbul conference was originally scheduled for April 5th but is likely to be delayed due to ongoing arrangements. Given the date of May 1st for US troop withdrawal, the 11,000 troops that remain in Afghanistan, and the many other moving parts concerning the process – it is almost impossible for the deadline to be met. Ahmad Shah Mohibi, founder of Rise to Peace, reiterated the impossible task of a quick troop withdrawal and also mentioned the possible need for another conference in the style of the Bonn Conference in 2001.

Troop Withdrawal Extension

What is expected to happen? The United States (US) will ask Pakistan and the Taliban to agree to a 6-month delay in the withdrawal of American troops. The extension would be for the implementation of decisions to be made at the Istanbul conference – not for the sake of delay on the part of the US.
U.S. Special Representative Zalmay Khalilzad and the State Department appear to be satisfied by the break of the Taliban. However, Al-Qaeda, the US Congress, the intelligence community, and the UN sanctions committee still have doubts about the break.
The 90 day period of violence reduction talks are ongoing and appear to be successful. The Taliban is expected to request the release of all remaining prisoners and the removal of the Taliban from UN and other sanctions/blacklists. Ghani’s removal no longer key. To Taliban, as other stakeholders have already agreed to his stepping down.

New Istanbul Conference?

If all continues smoothly behind the scenes, a new date for the Istanbul conference will be selected. And a power-sharing transitional government will be discussed – likely to be agreed to with minor modifications. The current Resolute Support mission may be changed to UN peace-keeping forces – perhaps with some Muslim country forces as additions.
The Afghan Special Forces and the Taliban’s Special Force Unit will possibly be set up under the UN peace-keeping umbrella also. An Islamic country, perhaps Turkey will monitor the political arrangements of the conference. If none of the above transpire – Afghanistan will likely be dragged deeper into crises and conflict with spillover effects to the region and the rest of the world. This would also likely impact the flow of refugees currently spilling over into Europe.
Rahmatullah Nabil’s discussion is available in full on his official Twitter account here.
Mourners leave flowers at the site of domestic terrorism attack at a supermarket in Boulder, Colorado.

Recent Domestic Terrorism Attacks In The United States

Nearly a week after tragedy struck in Atlanta, flags in the United States were briefly raised. Less than two days later they returned to half-staff following yet another mass shootings. The US has seen at least 34 mass shootings over the last five years, with 365 people killed and many more injured. The nation saw a brief reprieve from mass shootings as states went into 2020 Covid-19 lockdowns. However, these attacks remind Americans that this type of violence is disturbingly common. With domestic terrorism on the rise in the United States, it is important that legislation targets the perpetrators of these attacks.

These crimes represent a unique phenomenon that stymies policymakers who try to legislate and prepare for these unpredictable events. Ideologically driven crimes which endanger human life in the United States are defined as domestic terrorism. Despite the United States’ history of domestic terrorism attacks, there are no specific federal statutes in place to prosecute it.

Recent Impact

Mass shootings are becoming more frequent and more deadly. 20% of mass killings that have occurred in the last 50 years, have taken place in the last 5 years. 2017 and 2018 were the deadliest years on record for the US. Following a single mass shooting, there is a 15% increase in the number of gun control bills introduced into legislation. However, gun control bills lack bipartisan support to actually enact change.

Racial motivations behind the recent killings in Atlanta are under review. On March 16th Robert Long, a 21-year-old white man, bought a handgun hours before his attack on three different Asian-owned spas in Atlanta, Georgia. The deadly rampage took eight victims, six of whom were of Asian descent. The attack has not yet been classified as a hate crime by the officials investigating. However, attacks on Asian-Americans are on the rise, particularly since the beginning of 2020 and the rise of Covid-19.

On March 22nd 21-year-old Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa opened fire on unsuspecting grocery shoppers at King Sooper’s supermarket in Boulder, Colorado. 10 victims lost their lives during the violent assault. Alissa bought the assault-style weapon on March 16th. Alissa’s motive for the attack has not yet been identified.

United States’ Extremism

Research has identified hundreds of extremist groups categorised as white nationalists, within the United States. In 2019, the Southern Poverty Law Center reported an increase in white nationalist groups for the second year in a row, with a 55% increase since 2017. With domestic terrorism on the rise, there are many examples of these deadly attacks. In 2015, Dylann Roof murdered 9 Black parishioners inside an African Episcopal church in South Carolina. Patrick Wood Crusius killed 23 people in a deadly anti-Latino hate crime in 2019. Violent extremism is a significant threat in 2021, and the pandemic has only stressed an increasing number of anti-government attitudes. Growing racial tensions and political demonstrations have only increased the United States’ susceptibility to radicalisation.

Domestic Terrorism Laws

Following the insurrection at the Capitol, it has come to light that there are no federal domestic terrorism laws in the United States. The lack of consensus on the topic and the unwilling to regulate weapons in the United States impacts new legislation. Those identified as terrorists are another point of contention preventing bipartisan support. Numerous countries have taken the step to write clear statutes that allow prosecutors to charge perpetrators with domestic terrorism. For instance, in Canada Statute 83.18(1) identifies anyone who is participating in the activity of a terrorist group. To better target and prosecute individuals and groups with these murderous intentions, the US needs to come to a consensus on what is and isn’t terrorism within its borders.

Recommendations

Domestic terrorism, mass killings, and ideological extremism have proliferated the landscape of the U.S. Commenting on the killings in Boulder, a Chicago-area teen told CNN, “I’m horrified to tell you I feel nothing, […] This kind of trauma feels so normal.” Unlike the United States, countries around the world have implemented aggressive gun control legislation following similar attacks. In 2019, two attacks took place in New Zealand both were mass shootings at mosques. Prime Minister Ardern announced a ban on assault style weapons 5 days after the terrorist attack.

In order to address extremism, swift action must be taken by legislators. Gun control measures implemented around the world have shown a decrease in domestic violence. Legislative impasse is not a foregone conclusion. Common-sense solutions exist and have support from the American electorate. Policymakers need to measure their tolerance for normalized violence, listen to American voters, and begin the process of codifying solutions to prevent the next mass shooting or act of domestic terror. 

Rise to Peace