Hezbollah’s Tentacles Threaten Latin America

Hezbollah, also known as Hizbullah, is a Lebanon-based Shia terrorist organization. Its creation dates back to 1982, after the Israeli intervention in Lebanon. Since its foundation, Hezbollah has participated in several terrorist attacks against civilians in the Middle East.

For instance, Hezbollah militants carried out the 1983 suicide truck bombings against the U.S embassy and Marine Barracks in Beirut, the 1985 hijacking of TWA Flight 847, the kidnappings of Israeli soldiers in 2006, and the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq al-Hariri in 2005.

The Middle East is Hezbollah’s main geographical area of influence. Moreover, Hezbollah has participated in the Lebanese government since 1992, was involved in the Syrian Civil War through the use of militants to support the Bashar Al-Assad Regime, and is backed by Iran in its anti-Israeli and anti-Western activities.

However, Hezbollah’s activities and influence are not restricted to the Middle East.  Their presence has been reported in several areas throughout Latin America, and it is probable that Hezbollah’s tentacles will continue to spread in the southern zone of South America.

Historical Background of Hezbollah’s Presence in Latin America

Hezbollah’s presence in Latin America dates back to the group’s foundation. An essential factor in the establishment of Hezbollah cells was the flow of Lebanese migrants arriving at the Tri-Border Area (TBA) connecting Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay during the 1960s and 1970s. The multi-generational diaspora and zones that facilitated trade for Lebanese migrants enabled Hezbollah militants to infiltrate the subcontinent and carry out their activities.

After Hezbollah was officially founded in 1982, Latin American cells began cooperating with Iranian personnel to commit terrorist attacks in Argentina. For instance, Hezbollah used a car bomb against the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires, killing 23 people. Furthermore, Hezbollah allegedly participated in the terrorist attack against the Asociación Mutual Israelita Argentina (AMIA), a Jewish center in Buenos Aires, where 85 people died.

Venezuela, a Safe Haven for Hezbollah’s Criminal Activities

Once Hezbollah’s presence in the Tri-Border area was consolidated, this terrorist organization found a safe haven to carry out its illicit activities. When Hugo Chávez took power in 1999, a relationship began between the regime and Hezbollah, allowing Hezbollah to build a vast network to carry out illicit activities, such as drug trafficking, money laundering, and smuggling.

In fact, Hezbollah established a crime structure in Venezuela that operates through compartmentalized, familial clans, such as Nassereddine, Saleh y Rada, that embed into the regime-controlled illicit economy and the regime’s political apparatus and bureaucracy. Hezbollah has control in zones such as Margarita Island, where they operate freely.

The advantage for Hezbollah operating in an area with so many facilities and where the current government is a close ally is that the terrorist group receives billions of dollars annually, mainly from drug and arms trafficking. However, Hezbollah’s main source of income is the funding it receives from Iran, which is also a close strategic ally of Venezuela.

Hezbollah’s Presence in Other Latin American Countries

Hezbollah has a strong presence in the countries comprising the Tri-Border Area. Activities such as counterfeiting and drug trafficking have been identified in Puerto Iguazú, Foz do Iguaçu, and Ciudad del Este in Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay.  The authorities found that Sobhi Mahmoud Fayad, a Hezbollah militant from this zone, has sent more than $50 million to Hezbollah since 1995.

Hezbollah’s activities and presence have also been identified in Colombia.  The Colombian Intelligence Services has detected enterprises and commercial platforms that operate as money laundering centers. Furthermore, counterfeiting networks were identified in Cartagena, Barranquilla, and Maicao.

In addition, Hezbollah and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) converged to cooperate with crimes such as drug trafficking, which is the most profitable source of funding for both groups. The FARC specialized in cocaine trafficking and production, while Hezbollah specialized in money laundering, thus creating a nexus between crime and terrorism.

Finally, Hezbollah is establishing itself in an area known as the New Tri-Border Area, which is comprised of northern Chile (Arica and Iquique), southern Peru (Tacna and Puno), and Bolivia (from El Alto to the Iranian Embassy in La Paz).

In Chile, Hezbollah seeks to take advantage of its ports and indoctrinate young people to join its cause. In Bolivia, Hezbollah seeks to increase its presence by taking advantage of its poor diplomatic relations with the United States. Finally, in Peru, Hezbollah seeks to profit from cocaine production, again facilitating the crime-terror nexus.

What Should be Done?

Hezbollah’s presence in Latin America illustrates how the region’s crime-terror nexus is a significant security threat. Factors such as little state control in border areas, strategic routes to traffic weapons and drugs, money laundering, and support from regimes, such as Iran and Venezuela, have allowed Hezbollah to transform into a wealthy terrorist organization with a considerable presence in Latin America.

In order to reduce the power and influence of Hezbollah in the region, the United States has implemented financial sanctions against the group. However, sanctions are not enough to reduce the activities and income of this organization.

Thus, it is necessary to improve cooperation among Latin American countries, implement more effective legal instruments against money laundering and terrorist financing, increase security in the Tri-Border Area, and continue efforts to cut off Hezbollah’s tentacles in Latin America.


Daniel Felipe Ruiz Rozo, Counter-Terrorism Research Fellow


Powder Keg of the Pandemic: Exploring the Ongoing Situation in Bosnia

Since the start of the pandemic there have been many worrying trends within global affairs. Among these have been the deteriorating relations between global powers and a stark contrast between the allocation of vaccines of affluent nations with that of the globe’s poorest nations. Additionally, there exists a dire crisis within the Balkans, which has been critically overlooked. Renewed ethnic tensions within Bosnia and Herzegovina are threatening the integrity of its governing institutions.

The Bosnian War has largely defined the small Balkan nation, which ravaged the country in the late 1990s. The conflict shaped the governance in the country, with the 1995 Dayton Peace Accords splitting the nation into ethnic divisions with the Serbs residing in Republika Srpska and the Muslim Bosniaks as well as Croats residing in the rest of the country.

As a result of the ethnic divisions which plagued the country, the government was organized into a tripartite presidency allowing a representative of each major ethnic group to have their voice heard in policy matters. This measure was intended to ease tensions between Bosnia’s ethnic groups, as they feared that an opposing group could marginalize them if given the sole monopoly on power.

The Current Crisis

The current crisis stems from Bosnian Serb politician Milorad Dodik espousing irredentist rhetoric about leaving key institutions. Among these talking points include withdrawing from the military of Bosnia, which reignited sore memories of atrocities committed by Serbian paramilitary groups during the Bosnian War. His actions were also emboldened by nefarious regional actors who simply seek to weaken the integrity of Bosnia’s institutions at the expense of the nation’s citizens. A renewed conflict along ethnic lines would lead to a loss of economic progress made since 1995 and a humanitarian crisis.

Mounting Tensions

Prior to the pandemic, there were clear signs of political gridlock in the country surrounding several key issues. One such issue, which has become emblematic of gridlock among the major ethnic groups, is that of NATO membership.

Russia has used the separatist aims of the minority Croat party (Croatian Democratic Union) and the Bosnian Serb party (Alliance of Independent Social-democrats) to influence the ascension of Bosnia to key continental institutions, which would weaken their foothold in the Balkans. Russia has long viewed itself as a brother-Slavic nation to Serbia and came to its defense in the First World War. It now capitalizes on this historical relationship to only further its political aims at the expense of smaller states. It has long been a sphere of influence in which it sees as vital to its security.

Policy Recommendations

To reduce the possibility of armed conflict between Bosnia’s major ethnic groups, the United States and Europe need to take action. The actions of Milorad Dodik have been caused by the reduction of credible deterrence and concrete assurances of bringing Bosnia into the fold of key European institutions. The scope of Operation Althea needs to be expanded with Bosnia to send a credible deterrence to nations seeking to interfere in the country’s internal affairs. Chief among the most salient atrocities of the Bosnian War is the Srebrenica massacre, which resulted in the deaths of 8,000 Bosniaks left behind by a United Nations force bereft of deterrence.

Second, the United States and European Union should introduce sanction regimes in concert on individuals who seek to engage in continued separatist rhetoric while in an official capacity of the Bosnian government.

Third, the European Union should reengage with Bosnia to encourage permanent reform within the governance of the country, to be more inclusive of the ethnic minorities within the nation, as well as provide tangible timeframes for Bosnia to join European institutions.

A Region to Be Heeded

Historically, the Balkans have long been a source of conflict, ranging from the Balkan Wars of the 1910s to the Yugoslav Wars of the late 1990s. With a region that has produced devastating crises to international security, it is important for the aforementioned policies to be implemented to avoid igniting the powder keg of Europe.

In present conditions, the presence of COVID-19 only serves to exacerbate a potential humanitarian disaster, should armed conflict arise. Such a disaster would also serve to impede a pandemic response with larger powers backing their preferred factions rather than coordinate global public health efforts such as COVAX.


Chris Ynclan, Counter-Terrorism Research Fellow


FARC Removed from Terrorist List – What’s Next for Colombia’s Peace Process?

On November 30th the United States announced plans to remove the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) from its list of foreign terrorist organizations. The decision to redesignate the terrorist status of the former guerrilla group follows the signing of a peace deal between the Colombian government and the FARC in 2016.  In a statement following the announcement, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that the FARC “no longer exists as a unified organization that engages in terrorism or terrorist activity or has the capability or intent to do so.”


The FARC was founded in 1964 by a group of Marxist-Leninist revolutionaries in response to anti-communist repression across Colombia. The group waged a half-century war to overthrow the government, funding its operations through extortion, taxation, kidnappings, illegal mining, and the drug trade. At its height, the FARC counted 20,000 men and women under its command, controlled around 70% of Colombia’s coca crop, and generated well over 1 billion dollars in annual income.

The conflict between the FARC and the Colombian government represented the longest-running war in the western hemisphere, having cost the lives of over 220,000 people and displacing over five million civilians. After decades of meetings and negotiations, Colombia’s 2016 peace accord was signed. The deal was celebrated as one of the most all-encompassing peace agreements in modern history. The FARC agreed to demobilize, and the Colombian government promised to address poverty and inequality across the country’s rural regions.

Why is the FARC Being Removed from the Terrorist List?

The State Department’s decision to revoke the FARC’s terrorist designation comes five years into the deal’s 15-year time frame and represents the United States’ continued support for the country’s peace process. Whilst the move has been criticized by some U.S. politicians, including a number of senior Republicans, many Colombians have lauded it as a necessary step that will allow the United States to play a more central role in the country’s peace-building efforts.

Since the signing of the 2016 peace deal, 13,000 former FARC combatants have laid down their arms, and many of these former members now play crucial roles in the country’s peace process. Indeed, the FARC has been succeeded by a legal, registered political party, and many of the guerilla group’s former commanders now serve as prominent politicians. However, under the FARC’s designation as a foreign terrorist organization, U.S. officials were prohibited from meeting or working with former FARC militants and were unable to fund important peace-building programs, such as a formerly FARC-led campaign to destroy land mines across the country. Mr. Blinken’s statement said that delisting the FARC would allow the United States to “better support implementation of the 2016 accord, including by working with demobilized combatants.”

Preserving the Peace Process

The United States’ decision to redesignate the FARC comes at a pivotal point in the peace process. The Colombian government’s promise to tackle poverty in rural regions was at the heart of the peace accord, but experts are increasingly warning that these efforts are moving too slowly. As of 2020, just 4% of the deal’s rural reform measures are complete and security experts warn that the slow implementation of the promised reforms risk undermining the trust of rural communities and the return of armed conflict.

Colombia is already seeing a worrying surge in mass violence directed at rural communities. The government has been slow to seize control of the territory once held by the FARC, and a number of violent criminal organizations have moved in. The measures of the peace agreement, including the establishment of a national transitional justice court, threaten these groups’ illegal operations, and mass killings are increasingly used to let civilians know the high cost of supporting the deal.

Colombia’s peace process is at a precarious point. Five years have passed since the signing of the 2016 accord, but the peace remains delicate. The State Department’s decision to remove the FARC from its list of terrorist organizations will allow the U.S. to increase its support for the implementation of the 2016 deal by working alongside former members of the FARC and funding important peace-building programs across the country.

However, this alone will not be enough to secure the long-term success of the peace process. Colombia must accelerate the rollout of its rural development program. These promises were central to the peace deal, and failure to honor them will deeply damage the trust of rural communities, exacerbating the same frustrations that fueled the conflict for decades. Colombia must also work to protect communities from violent criminal organizations, providing rural Colombians the security to participate in a democratic society and supporting the efforts of the country’s transitional justice court.

The 2016 peace agreement gave Colombia the chance to move beyond its violent past, but its success is not yet guaranteed. The United States should continue to work with its Colombian partners to advance the cause of peace. The removal of the FARC from its terrorist list is an important step, but the U.S. must remain cognizant of the broader threats to the peace process. It should work with those in the government and those on the ground in rural Colombia to restore trust, promote economic development, and prevent the influx of armed criminal groups.


Oliver Alexander Crisp, Counter-Terrorism Research Fellow


Kidnappings in Haiti Terrorize the Nation

In recent weeks, two collective kidnappings have been registered in Haiti. After the death of President Jovenel Moïse, Haiti has suffered a wave of crimes and kidnappings throughout the country, which have severely affected the local population.

The situation in Haiti is critical. Despite the fact that two hostages were released a few days ago, insecurity terrorizes the country and the Central American region.


Haiti is currently recovering from the political crisis generated by the assassination of its president, Jovenel Moïse, and from an earthquake in August. In addition, the Haitian State does not have the capacity to effectively address these problems and the increased violence. In fact, the Haitian Armed Forces have not been able to control the territory and prevent the proliferation of armed gangs.

The power of the Haitian criminal gangs can be evidenced in situations such as the blocking of the country’s fuel supply. After Moïse’s death, gangs such as G9 and Family blocked Terminal Varreux, the country’s largest oil terminal. This blockade restricted access to fuel across the country to destabilize the government, impact the nation’s electricity grid, and threaten citizens’ lives and wellbeing. The gangs are so powerful that the blockade only ended due to a truce between the G9 and Family and the local government.

Overall, security and public order in Haiti are worrisome. An estimated 165 gang factions operate in Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince, and these gangs have carried out numerous kidnappings in 2021 alone.

The Kidnappings

The first mass kidnapping occurred on October 16th, when 17 members (12 adults and five children) of a U.S.-based missionary group were kidnapped by the 400 Mawozo gang, which controls the Croix-des-Bouquets area east of Port-au-Prince. According to authorities, the missionaries were kidnapped when en route to visit an orphanage and carry out humanitarian aid. The gang has demanded a $17 million ransom, $1 million per hostage.

In addition, on November 21st 2 of the 17 kidnapped missionaries were released. However, only after FBI agents, Haitian authorities, and the anti-kidnapping unit of the national police negotiated with the kidnappers for more than one month.

The second mass kidnapping occurred on November 23rd, when an armed gang kidnapped 15 passengers from a bus in northwestern Haiti. Authorities have indicated that the gang is asking for a large sum of money to release the hostages, although the exact ransom amount remains unknown.

As of late, the number of kidnappings in Haiti has increased exponentially. So far in 2021, nearly 800 kidnappings have been reported in Haiti. In fact, The Center for Analysis and Research in Human Rights (CARDH) notes that at least 782 kidnappings were reported this year, up until October 16th, compared to 796 cases in all of 2020, without taking into account unregistered cases.

What’s Next for Haiti?

Due to the weak presence and lack of territorial control by the Haitian State, the power of the gangs, the criminal governance in certain areas of the country, the increased crime rate, the difficult economic climate, and mounting social tensions, crimes, such as mass kidnappings, are likely to persist.

Public order and security will only stabilize once security forces, such as the Haitian National Police, are reinforced and improved, allowing them to effectively confront the gangs and regain control of the country. Furthermore, after the death of President Moïse, political power needs to be reorganized to effectively address the ongoing security challenges.

For this reason, the country has experienced events such as the new Haitian cabinet, which will be made up of members of the opposition, the impending delivery of 19 police vehicles and protective equipment to the Haitian police by the United States, and more actions by the armed forces to restore order. These planned actions and events are expected to reduce violent crimes, such as kidnappings, and improve security conditions, throughout Haiti.


Daniel Felipe Ruiz Rozo, Counter-Terrorism Research Fellow


The Taliban Kingmaker: Haqqani or Durrani?

Author’s note: The Taliban group was founded in the 1990s by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and appointed Mullah Omar as founder and Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar as co-founder–the two Pashtun leaders from the Durrani tribe of Afghanistan from heavily populated density provinces in western Afghanistan (Kandahar, Helmand, and Uruzgan regions). In 1996, after the Taliban’s first victory, the Haqqani Network joined the Taliban and since then have committed some of the deadliest bombings and have advanced terrorist targeting capabilities. 

A key factor for the prolonged war in Afghanistan has been the thirst for power among the groups and, subsequently, within those groups, other factions, who all want to rule but are unwilling to compromise. There is a layer of interest within each group. The Taliban are a majority-dominated Pashtun-led group that emerged in the 1990s and are now on their second attempt to form their government. However, they are struggling to unify due to tribal, religious, regional, and political differences.

The Taliban took power in Afghanistan in August 2021 but have struggled to maintain power in their second attempt at forming a government. However, the dynamics of the Taliban government have changed.

While the Taliban seeks global recognition, a political dispute between its factions is occurring. Although the Taliban Islamic Emirate is characterized as radical, anti-democracy, and anti-Western values, there are some differences in how Taliban factions view social norms, politics, and governance. The Mullah Baradar Ghani Group is keen to compromise. At the same time, the Haqqani Network is a hard-core extremist group that is unwilling to deviate from its path of an Islamic emirate. The Haqqani Network is considered an extreme faction of the Taliban with no desire to engage with the world, particularly the West.

In general terms, the Haqqani Network, a designated terrorist organization per the U.S. State Department, is considered a more conservative and radical wing of the Taliban. In contrast, Baradar’s group is more liberal and seeks greater rapprochement with the international community.

20210914 taliban whos who no head 780px - The Taliban Kingmaker: Haqqani or Durrani?

Current Taliban Leadership. Source: The Counter Extremism Project, United Nations, Taliban, Pakistan Foreign Ministry, US Treasury, US State Department Photos: Handout/Taliban, Getty Images, The Counter Extremism Project, US Federal Bureau of Investigation Graphic: Henrik Pettersson, Laura Smith-Spark, Saleem Mehsud, Kara Fox and Tim Lister, CNN


The Haqqani Network was founded by Jalaluddin Haqqani, a Sunni Islamist, and ex-mujahidin warlord during the anti-Soviet war in Afghanistan. During the 80s, Jalaluddin’s group was aided and supported by several members of the international community, becoming one of the most influential groups in Eastern Afghanistan. Furthermore, Jalaluddin had close ties to the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence and to Osama Bin Laden.

Despite the fact that Jalaluddin died in 2018 from illness, the group continued under the command of his son, Sirajuddin Haqqani.

The Haqqani Network is one of the deadliest terrorist groups in the world. During the Afghan war, they were responsible for some of the highest-profile terrorist attacks against U.S. forces and civilians. For instance, the June 2011 assault on the Kabul Intercontinental Hotel and two major suicide bombings, in 2008 and 2009, against the Indian Embassy in Kabul.

The military and financial power of the Haqqani Network derives from its involvement in illegal activities such as smuggling, kidnapping, and extortion. However, they also receives financial support from agencies such as the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence and other wealthy donors, which makes the fight against this organization complex.

On the other hand, the Mullah Baradar faction is also seeking political control of Afghanistan. This group seeks to represent the interests of historical Taliban leaders such as Mullah Omar and his son, Mullah Yaqoob, who are originally from the Kandahar region in southern Afghanistan; unlike members of the Haqqani Network, who come from the northeastern region of the country.

Mullah Baradar is the co-founder of the Taliban and participated in negotiations with the United States in Doha during 2020, resulting in the eventual withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan. Also, Baradar met with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Beijing this year. Mullah Baradar is considered a respected negotiator among the organization and his faction is perceived as the moderate and more liberal wing of the Taliban.

Mullah Baradar’s faction seeks greater rapprochement with the world and is open to negotiation, exemplified by the U.S. negotiations in Qatar. Additionally, this faction proposes a more inclusive government that allows for the participation of ethnic minorities. This approach to foreign policy contradicts the Haqqani Network’s ideals, which, form a more conservative perspective and prefers that other states not interfere in the Taliban government.

The differences between these two factions have led to a current dispute within the Taliban. Mullah Baradar hoped to head the government but instead, he was appointed as a deputy. In fact, on September 21st 2021, there was an armed confrontation between the two groups, resulting in Baradar’s brief disappearance and subsequent move to the Kandahar region.

One of the perpetual afflictions plaguing Afghanistan in the modern era has been an inability for Kabul to consolidate governance over their entire territory. While geography has played a considerable role in this hindrance, it cannot be understated how tribal differences have obstructed the peace process.

In Afghanistan, a significant portion of the Pashtuns are a part of the Durrani confederation and have comprised a large number of the Taliban’s political elite, such as Hamid Karzai. Their power base extends into Pakistan, providing refuge to rebuild strength for future campaigns.

Presently the Durrani are represented by Mullah Baradar, who hopes to continue their monopoly of power within the country. Moreover, with their policy of rapprochement with larger powers, such as China, they can benefit from substantial capital. They could also benefit from arms, which could be used to consolidate power within the country and further transnational infrastructure projects, like the Belt and Road Initiative.

At the moment their primary rivals within Afghanistan are the Haqqani Network, which is primarily composed of the Zadran tribe. The group has traditionally used armed opposition against conflicting foreign powers. Their strength draws from this resistance as well as past alliances with the most dangerous Islamic fundamentalist groups in the region, such as Al Qaeda.

They may see their opposition as only a conduit for foreign influence, and thus feel emboldened to conduct a prolonged conflict against the Duranni faction. Without reconciliation by a third party, the nation may devolve into devastating conflict along tribal and ideological lines, leaving civilians caught in the crossfire.

The most affected: The civilian population

While the Afghan government internally disputes over which Taliban faction should prevail, the civilian population suffers.

Afghans are currently experiencing widespread famine throughout the country. This is due to the current drought, difficult economic climate, and cessation of international food aid.

Today, Afghanistan has a poverty rate of 72%. However, even more worrisome is the notion that the quality of life will continue to decline due to the current political instability, uneconomical public finances, freezing of foreign aid, and the COVID-19 pandemic. If current conditions persist, 97 percent of Afghans could plunge into poverty by mid-2022.

What is next?

The internal dispute between the Haqqani Network and the Mullah Baradar faction is likely to jeopardize the government and consequently negatively impact the civilian population.

Therefore, while the political confrontation between the two factions continues, it is necessary to think about solutions in public policy to prevent and stop the ongoing humanitarian disaster in Afghanistan. It is necessary to evaluate alternatives to intervene on problems such as generalized famine and extreme poverty.

Ahmad Shah Mohibi is the Founder of Rise to Peace and a former US Counter-Terrorism Adviser in Afghanistan @ahmadsmohibi

Christopher Ynclan Jr, Counter-Terrorism Research Fellow

Daniel Ruiz, Counter-Terrorism Research Fellow


The Refugee Crisis at the Belarus-Poland Border

With the recent happenings on the global scenes, especially in Belarus and Poland, one can fully understand the term global community. A decade after the Arab Spring that led to the breakdown of peace and order in the MENA region, creating opportunities for extremists to take advantage of, the world still feels the impact.

For Europe, the continuing effect of the conflicts in the MENA has resulted in an increased influx of refugees seeking asylum or illegal entry into the region. In 2015, the world witnessed a frightening situation involving immigrants fleeing and attempting to enter Europe through the Mediterranean Sea. Unfortunately, a tragic result ensued, thousands of people lost their lives in the process. Humanitarian concerns led and, in some cases, compelled countries in the European Union to offer asylum to these immigrants.

Refugee Crisis or Hybrid War?

Six years later, Europe seems to be facing what the world terms a refugee crisis. However, some believe that the term “refugee crisis” is inappropriate in light of the current situation.

Reports claim that immigrants, from Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, etc., have been airlifted by the Belarus government and subsequently abandoned at the borders of neighboring countries, especially Poland. The European Union and its allies consider Belarus’ actions as nothing but a tactic in a hybrid war that seeks to undermine security and perhaps cause a provocation.

Belarus continues to deny any involvement. However, immigrants claim to have received help from the Belarusian military to illegally enter Poland in the middle of the night, thereby implicating Belarus.

Whatever the case, the undisputed fact remains that a blatant exploitation of immigrants and their situation is occurring as a result of a miserable struggle of hegemony between two blocs.

Poland, even in normal circumstances, is opposed to accepting refugees from these regions in their country. The current administration of Mateusz Morawiecki has made no reservations concerning its stand against Islamic immigrants and its commitment to preserving the Christian culture of its society.

The Future of the Crisis

In the last few days, immigrants stranded at the Polish borders have resorted to violence, prompting an even harsher response from Polish security. With support from the European Union, it is improbable that Poland will open its borders to these immigrants, who have become understandably frustrated and increasingly violent. On the other hand, Belarus continues to welcome immigrants from the Middle East.

The complexity of this crisis is apparent, and the possibility that it could spiral into something much worse is imminent if swift action is not taken.

At this point, forcing Poland to accept immigrants is unlikely to yield positive results. On the contrary, with almost zero tolerance for other religions, especially Islam, within its society, internal conflicts could arise from hate crimes and reprisals, should they decide to accept immigrants across their borders.

Increased tensions in the European Union and, of course, the international community are likely to occur. However, whether or not this provocation from Belarus and ‘hybrid war’ would spin into confrontations among countries rests in the actions of the nation’s leaders.

A Lesson for the World

If there are any lessons to be learned from this, it is that a crisis in the faraway Middle East or Africa can impact global security. Therefore, now more than ever, the international community must collaborate with conflict-torn countries to restore peace and order.

Failure to prioritize promoting peace in fragile regions will lead to further displacements and more threats to the domestic security and interests of stable regions in the world.


Joan McDappa, Counter-Terrorism Research Fellow at Rise to Peace


Prioritizing the Evacuation of High-Risk Afghans

With the last American troops leaving Afghanistan this year, there are many questions regarding what the future holds for the Central Asian country. Afghanistan has been beset with conflict for much of recent memory, which has been to the detriment of its citizens. They have once again been put under the harsh rule of the Taliban, erasing years of progress for Afghan rights. Since this has occurred, their future has been thrown into danger and uncertainty.

Women’s Rights

While the Taliban has eroded much of the progress made in the past two decades, it is important to acknowledge previous achievements. Chief among them has been the increase in the number of women educated within Afghanistan. This achievement has allowed generations of young women to take advantage of opportunities, benefiting both themselves and their families.

Moreover, there has been a decrease in the infant mortality rate within Afghanistan with the help of the USAID. However, without a meaningful attempt by the international community to address these issues, the country will likely backslide in these key areas, which have proven instrumental in the progress made thus far.

Taliban Reprisals

More troublingly, the Taliban has engaged in a campaign of reprisals of those who worked with the United States and those deemed as subversive to their ideology. A prime example of this violent campaign was the attack on an interpreter’s brother by the Taliban to send a message to their perceived enemies.

Such attacks are not isolated incidents but rather an attempt to consolidate their power without any opposition to their radical governance. Although there have been successful evacuations of high-risk Afghans out of the country, a significant population remains left behind.

Economic and Political Challenges

In the aftermath of the American withdrawal, the country has faced economic and political woes due to the power vacuum created by Ashraf Ghani fleeing the country. This instability has caused the local currency to depreciate at an alarming rate, thus creating a dire situation for Afghans. To make matters worse, many Afghans are on the verge of starvation as food prices exponentially increase.

It is evident that such instability is troublesome for the region and, more importantly, for the Afghans themselves. This instability will also weaken the state from protecting against the onslaught of attacks from more radical extremist groups, such as ISIS-K. Therefore, it is imperative for policy to be enacted to remedy the situation and ensure the safety of Afghan nationals.

The United States’ Impact

Because the United States has evacuated its military from Afghanistan, it has lost considerable leverage within politics; however, this does not mean that they have run out of policy options. Once the Taliban is unable to feed those under their governance and are defunct of international financial funds, the United States can use its soft power within international organizations to renew negotiations. By doing so, the United States would be able to operate from a position of strength in which they can advocate for policy that would ensure Afghans’ well-being.

Such policies which would ensure this outcome would include the participation of Afghans who share opposing views within their government. Considerable resources have been expended to extract and evacuate Afghans with the highest risk of Taliban retaliation.

However, due to the number of individuals who have worked in the United States during the war, it would be logistically impossible to retrieve everyone. These policies would allow for their safety to be guaranteed through negotiations. The United States should also advocate for the safe evacuation of the last remaining operations underway, to evacuate Afghans at highest risk of attack. The Taliban government would also have to make a commitment to ensure the human rights of its citizens under the aforementioned policy regime.

Looking Forward

These policies potentially represent the last remaining window to ensure the Afghans’ safety and well-being of those who have spent their lives enveloped by conflicts. The dire situation has the possibility of devolving into a humanitarian crisis on par with that of Yemen. Moreover, the lack of capital by the Taliban would most certainly lead to the growth of groups like ISIS-K, who would be able to gain permanent footholds in the regions of the country with the harshest terrain.

The policies would also provide the last possibility of a democratic Afghanistan, where Afghans would be able to decide their future for the first time in decades. More importantly, the country would not forgo the progress which has been made through the sacrifices of both Americans and Afghans alike.


Chris Ynclan, Counter-Terrorism Research Fellow at Rise to Peace

Ahmad Shah Mohibi, Founder of Rise to Peace


The Liverpool Attack: A Need for Community-Based Counter-Terrorism Efforts

The Liverpool bombing on Remembrance Sunday has once again raised questions about the U.K. Counter-Terrorism Prevention Program. The alacrity with which these attacks have occurred in recent times has once again highlighted the rise of extremism in the Western world.

Just before the national two minutes of silence commenced on Sunday, November 14th, a taxi exploded outside the Liverpool Women’s Hospital.  The taxi driver, who locked the taxi doors before the attacker could escape and prevented him from entering the hospital, has been released from the hospital.  The attacker, Emad al-Swealmeen, has been declared dead.

Four men have been arrested under the Terrorist Act but have since been released from custody. Counter-Terrorism Police detectives have stated that they are keeping an open mind so far.

Home Secretary Priti Patel has confirmed that the United Kingdom’s threat level has been raised to “severe;” indicating that an attack is now judged to be “highly likely.” The Liverpool bombing closely follows another incident that rocked the country last month when conservative MP David Amess was stabbed to death in a shocking event described as a terrorist incident.

A miasma of uncertainty and fear surrounds the United Kingdom. Four people have been arrested on suspicion of being connected to the Liverpool bombing, while Ali Harbi Ali has been charged with the murder of Amess. Ali has also been accused of preparing terrorist acts.

The Rise of Islamist Extremist Groups in the West

In the last 20 years, various Islamist extremist groups have sought to spread their message through various ways, with radicalisation being the prime intention. The West has been accused of slowly malforming the culture and the religion, and this has further radicalised lone-wolves.  In addition, the extent of social media and various online platforms carries with it certain banes, and terrorist groups have found it easier to convey their message through such platforms.

The Liverpool attack has once again sharply brought the focus onto the United Kingdom’s Counter-Terrorism Prevention Program. Despite various new initiatives and strategies to counteract terrorism (including the Prevent scheme as part of the Contest strategy), the U.K. continues to act as a hotbed for consistent terrorist activities.

In 2005, four coordinated attacks were carried out by Islamic terrorists in London, which killed 52 people. This was the country’s first Islamist suicide attack, the impact of which continues to reverberate to this day. In 2017, an Islamic extremist detonated a bomb that killed 23 people following an Ariana Grande concert.

The Militarisation of Counter-Terrorism and the Neglect of Community-Based Approaches

However, the Liverpool bombing has once again revived the discussion around the impact of U.K. counter-terrorism programs.

The U.K. response to the rise in extremist attacks has been met with efforts to train and equip a Counter Terrorist Police Force in the hopes to meet terrorist attacks with immediacy. However, the elite group of firearms officers portrays a militarised approach to counter-terrorism. While this may be effective in deterring attacks when they happen, they do little to address the push and pull factors of radicalisation.

In May of this year, Al Jazeera released a report assessing a mental health program run by the U.K. Counter-Terrorism Police. Disturbing facts have been revealed in that report. The “Vulnerability Support Hubs,” as they have been termed, were utilised as a way of tracking and accessing sensitive medical information on certain people. As a result, Muslims with poor mental health have come under heavy scrutiny.

An additional argument regarding the U.K.’s approach to counter-terrorism is that it could do more to be proactive, rather than reactive. The West Midlands Counter-Terrorism Unit documents that 80% of their investigations connected to seized weaponry stem from Islamist extremists. Far-right extremists comprised a fifth of their investigations. However, in the last two years, far-right extremism has been rapidly increasing. Should this trend continue, the U.K. must act promptly to implement effective counter-terrorism policies across various religions, socio-economic groups, and ethnicities.

Origins of extremist behavior need to be analyzed and combatted before meeting the point of seizing weaponry.  The U.K. must raise active involvement by civil society, religious communities, their respective leaders, teachers, and doctors to preemptively recognizing and addressing extremist behaviors.

The U.K. must steer clear from inflammatory rhetoric, evidenced in areas of Europe, in an effort to avoid alienating certain minorities, thus risking the loss of their cooperation.

The Need to Build Trust and Confidence

The U.K. must put more thought into building trust and confidence between its wide range of communities and counter-terrorism units. There is no denying that every program will have its setbacks and challenges. The aim should be to educate the masses and build trust. There should be an emphasis on a more open counter-terrorism program that offers civil-society a chance to approach counter-terrorism units with independent research and recommendations to compliment the law enforcing element, as opposed to militarizing it entirely.

Abhinav Anand, Counter-Terrorism Research Fellow at Rise to Peace

Carla Bilson, Counter-Terrorism Research Fellow at Rise to Peace

Ahmad Shah Mohibi, Founder of Rise to Peace


What Measures Should be Taken to Counter Nigeria’s Insecurities?

Nigeria has benefited from several projects and programs, all aimed at resolving the issue of insecurity including, addressing identified root causes and engendering factors. While these efforts seem promising, over time, one realizes its temporal traits. Being a significant player with yielding influence in Africa, Nigeria must understand all that is at stake for the continent if it fails to address its internal problems.

Insecurity in Nigeria 

Since its independence, Nigeria has experienced, at an ever-increasing pace, a series of conflicts and insurgencies.  These conflicts have turned the budding land in the Sahel to a leading figure on the list of unstable regions in the continent. From political violence to ethnoreligious conflicts, social agitations, resource conflicts, and now radical extremism, the nation continues to navigate these issues in hopes of survival.

Having survived a terrifying civil war, as well as spates of violence and conflicts, one would expect that Nigeria’s resilience will lead to stability. But in reality, this is not the case, as fears that the worst is yet to come remain strong. It was, therefore, no surprise to many when events of extremism began to gradually build up in the northern region of Nigeria, with Boko Haram taking the lead.

In 2002, Mohammed Yusuf, a famous preacher and proponent of the Izala sect of Islam and the founder of Boko Haram, began to radicalize his followers in Maiduguri, Nigeria. Establishing a religious center and an Islamic school, Yusuf reached many people from poor backgrounds across the country. In no time, Yusuf’s teachings attracted many followers and expanded into other states including Yobe, where it established a base nicknamed ‘Afghanistan.’ The ‘Afghanistan’ base (just like other operation bases) enjoys a geographical advantage, as it is within close proximity to Nigeria’s borders, thus aiding their expansion into neighboring West African countries.

Responses to Insecurity and Terrorism

Almost always, the first response to quell reports of security disruptions in Nigeria is the use of force. Following this response is an attempt to create a lasting solution through program developments, usually aimed at management and recovery.

Many of these initiatives, such as the NYSC scheme (introduced in the aftermath of the civil war), the Amnesty program (focused on ending militancy in the Niger Delta), and the de-radicalization program, all fail to address root causes; instead, they manage the situation for as long as possible.

Consequently, we see a resurgence of the same issues across Nigerian regions: in eastern Nigeria, there is a reawakening of secession agitations by Biafra, in the Niger Delta, an increasing rate of crime and kidnappings, and in the North East, terrorism is growing with reports of abductees willingly returning to their captors.


Nigeria’s rising insecurity may remain unresolved until the government understands the importance of engaging and collaborating with relevant stakeholders in the country. Thus, while external aid has its role, the outcome may not be as desired, until every group in the country bears its responsibility and the right environment to execute them is created.

Collaborate with CSOs

Civil society and humanitarian organizations have been present in Nigeria for decades, closely collaborating with the Nigerian government to maintain security and stability. Their role in Nigeria’s security largely revolves around responding to conflict situations by offering relief support, spearheading mediation and reconciliation, and rehabilitating victims and perpetrators.

While these are commendable efforts, the government and these organizations need to take progressive steps to ensure appropriate mechanisms are in place to identify and address early warning signs of extremism and incitement.

Community Engagement

The role of the community has largely been ignored in Nigeria’s decision-making system, regardless of it being a democratic nation.  A review is essential with relevant measures made effective immediately. The government should fully engage communities in various approaches to counter violent extremisms, as well as identify and prevent future cases.

Deliberate efforts to ensure a balanced representation of women and youth in counter-extremism approaches is necessary, as they introduce a unique perspective from a largely marginalized and vulnerable population.

Contingency Plans

As a nation whose primary responsibility entails protecting the lives and properties of its citizens, expecting a contingency plan is in place at all times is not out of the ordinary. Due to Nigeria’s porous borders, Boko Haram and other extremist groups are in an advantageous position. Unfortunately, even with the lessons learned from Boko Haram, Nigeria’s borders remain largely unprotected.

Address Root Causes

The impoverished state of the country and the northern regions, alongside poor tenets of its society, are some factors that aid extremists’ growth. Time and time again, we have seen extremist groups all over the world garner support from citizens by providing basic amenities that governments fail to supply. Some abductees who willingly returned to Boko Haram camps after being freed by Nigerian soldiers cited the harsh economic conditions as the reason they rejoined. The government must rise to its responsibility in driving development in Nigeria.

In addition to developmental challenges, other root causes such as intolerance and marginalization remain unaddressed. Intolerance remains a bane in Nigeria and is the bedrock for the many ethnoreligious conflicts and radicalism that Nigeria has suffered over the years. The government, alongside relevant national stakeholders, must find ways to address these root causes and allot as much attention to these challenges as they do for terrorist acts.


Resolving insecurity and terrorism in Nigeria does not require additional funds or aid; all that is needed is a reformation of its systems, structures, and values. Merely formulating policies without a system that allows and ensures effective implementation would yield no result; this remains the case with Nigeria.


Joan McDappa, Counter-Terrorism Research Fellow at Rise to Peace


ISIS-K Grows as the Taliban Struggles to Maintain Power

According to a senior Afghan intelligence officer who spoke with Rise to Peace, ISIS of Khorasan (ISIS-K) is growing rapidly in the Char Bolak district of the Balkh province in Afghanistan, notably since the Taliban’s takeover. Recently, ISIS has claimed responsibility for two other attacks, one occurring outside of a women’s hospital in Liverpool, U.K., killing only the ISIS member himself.  The second attack occurred in Kampala, Uganda, killing three people and injuring 36. These attacks illustrate the rapid expansion of ISIS’s growth and activities.

Additionally, ISIS-K’s attacks have been characterized by violent expansion and retrenchment combined with periodic clashes with the Taliban, international forces, and Afghan security forces.

ISIS-K has been responsible for nearly 100 attacks against civilians in both Pakistan and Afghanistan, as well as around 250 clashes with U.S., Afghan, and Pakistani security forces since 2017.

A senior Afghan intelligence officer informed Rise to Peace that ISIS-K is getting stronger due to a concentrated focus on increasing capabilities and power after the recent Taliban takeover.  There are no current counter-terrorism operations; however, the previous Afghan government used to have many counter-terrorism resources and operations, such as drone attacks. In addition, due to the Taliban takeover, there is no significant resistance against ISIS-K, leaving them with plenty of room to grow rapidly.

Furthermore, poverty is rampantly increasing in Afghanistan. So, not only does this make people more willing to join a terrorist organization, but also results in former Afghan security forces joining as a means to financially support their families. For example, an Afghan intelligence officer informed Rise to Peace that ISIS-K will pay 15,000 AFG to new recruits with no experience and 25,000 AFG for those with experience. Likewise, many top-level ISIS-K commanders who were captured during the previous five to six years were released after the Taliban takeover.

ISIS-K/Daesh Techniques

ISIS-K’s techniques are known to be chaotic and devastating.  ISIS-K strategically creates chaos and uncertainty through guerilla tactics in an attempt to discredit a government’s ability to provide security for its citizens.  Additionally, through these tactics, ISIS-K seeks to shift fighters from other groups into their own.  Through these efforts, ISIS-K aims to position itself as the leading jihadist organization in the region by recruiting new members, and poaching members affiliated with other groups.

Moreover, ISIS-K engages in various tactics to incentivize recruits, varying from marriage arrangements to threats.  One example includes sending out nightly letters to recruit people to join their cause.  They have even sent letters to Taliban soldiers, warning them to leave the Islamic Emirate or ISIS-K will assassinate them.

According to a senior Afghan intelligence officer who spoke with Rise to Peace, a new group within ISIS-K operates at night to kill members of the Taliban.  The unique aspect about this group is not only do they live seemingly normal lives, fighting at night while continuing to be farmers during the day, but they conduct their operations barefoot.  Thus, they have become known as the “barefoot fighters” among locals.  The “barefoot fighters'” tactics are comparable to those that the Mujahideen used during their existence, since the Mujahideen were referred to as “guerrillas” or “mountain men” and were similarly excellent in night combat.

Who are the targets?

Ever since ISIS-K’s founding, it has usually targeted Kabul with sophisticated and complex attacks.  In the majority of the attacks, ISIS-K has a high proclivity to target civilians whom they regard as infidels of Islam.


Most analysts and researchers, including the United Nations, gauge that ISIS-K’s capabilities have reached about 2,000 fighters, and increased when the Taliban released prisoners from the Afghanistan jail. This amount is somewhat comparable to the Taliban who have around 10,000 fighters at their disposal.

Financial Routes

It is not exactly evident where ISIS-K receives its funding, but the public U.S. government assessments provide the clearest understanding.  ISIS-K primarily receives funds by extorting the local population and businesses, taxation, illicit criminal commerce, donations, as well as support from the ISIS-core.

ISIS-K moves its money around the world and throughout Afghanistan via the Hawala. The Hawala is an alternative or parallel transfer system which exists outside of traditional finance channels. Hence, it has been used widely in funding terrorist groups and activities both in Afghanistan and abroad. Further, ISIS-K has cultivated relationships with specific Hawala dealers who store thousands of dollars for them.

The response from the international community

The international community has taken several steps to combat ISIS-K.  For example, the UN Security Council established an arms embargo, travel ban, and asset freeze in 2019 against ISIS-K by all UN member states. Additionally, the US government has implemented strategies such as economic sanctions and counter-terrorism efforts to inhibit ISIS-K’s operational and financial capabilities.  However, since the Taliban takeover, it has become increasingly difficult for the international community to combat ISIS-K and terrorism financing in general.

Looking forward

With both financial and membership increases, ISIS-K is growing extensively, especially after the recent Taliban takeover. Not only are their attacks violent and chaotic, but they also target civilians to convey their message of jihad.

In order to face the challenges posed by both ISIS-K and terrorism in Afghanistan, the international community needs to strengthen its coordination on impeding terrorism financing in Afghanistan.  In addition, concrete steps must be identified and articulated for the Taliban to take against ISIS-K’s financing practices. Ultimately, until the international community is able to create a tangible strategy, ISIS-K will continue to grow in size and power.


Krista Tammila, Counter-Terrorism Research Fellow at Rise to Peace

Ahmad Shah Mohibi, Founder of Rise to Peace

Rise to Peace