ISIL’s Original Web Series

As a part of its propaganda machine, ISIL created the video series ‘The Best Outcome Is for the Righteous.’ Each video contains common themes: members ready for battle, photos of enemies in respective regions, and calling upon other Muslims to join the fray. Alongside this they renew, or pledge their allegiance to Abu-Bakr-al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIL. Its thirteenth installment — The Best Outcome Is for the Pious — was no different, however it was released by its Bangladeshi faction.

Visual propaganda attempts to showcase that ISIL still has Wilayah, or regional territory. Therefore, it seeks to divert attention away from the group’s ongoing struggles, such as loss of their last physical stronghold. According to Raphael Gluck, they have transitioned into a kind of ‘insurgency mode’. ‘The Best Outcome Is for the Pious’ reached wider audiences by way of its release by Amaq News Agency and pro-ISIL Telegram channels.

Bangladesh is not the only Wilayah ISIL claims to have a presence. Other videos have been released in Khorassan (historical region of Iran and Afghanistan), the Caucasus, East Asia (Philippines), Sinai, West Africa, Azerbaijan and Libya. All of these videos have been posted since Abu-Bakr-al-Baghdadi released a video in April 2019, in which he stated the battle of Baghouz has been lost.

The correlation between ISIL territorial losses and release of video propaganda is not coincidental. They want to depict they still have a presence in diverse states. The fact remains that terrorist ideologies have no set borders, but ISIL is adamant that the word knows they have a presence in these thirteen regions.

The videos serve as a moral boost after ISIL lost its territory in Syria and elsewhere. It is a show of faith in the organization and leadership when cells of ISIL fighters pledge allegiance to al-Baghdadi. They are intent on continuing the fight. Further, these videos are depictive of a current desperation for recruitment. ISIL needs to show that it still has strength and it is apparent a heavy recruitment campaign is underway, with emphasis on regional sympathizers in various locales.

‘The Best Outcome Is for the Righteous’ series claims active regional involvement, but ISIL’s only authentic presence remains in cyberspace. Revealing this factor is the way to counter ISIL sympathizers from seeking membership in an actual insurgent formation. Authorities in the aforementioned regions must focus on limiting any exposure that showcases ISIL’s presence locally.

Terrorist organizations strive on fear, and fear often leads to publicity, which in turn translates into influence. The only power ISIL has is that provided through complicit exposure.

Image Credit: A clip from an ISIL propaganda video courtesy of the Long War Journal.

Suicide blast kills 18 and injures 145 as Taliban continue talks with U.S.

The Suicide blast kills 18 and injures 145 as the Taliban continue talks with the U.S. in Doha, Qatar. Taliban claimed responsibility for the car bomb explosion that targeted a police headquarters in district 6 of Kabul on Wednesday morning.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ahmad Mohibi, a writer and is the founder of Rise to Peace. Follow him on Twitter at @ahmadsmohibi.

Hopes For Cease-fire After The Doha Intra-Afghan Dialogue

Hopes For Cease-fire After The Doha Intra-Afghan Dialogue

Afghan representatives at Doha peace conference. July 8, 2019

Originally published in the Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

An unprecedented meeting between the Taliban, Afghan officials, and delegates from various political parties and civil society last week has raised hopes for peace, but it must now be followed up by a cease-fire to pave the way to lasting peace in the country.

In the Qatari capital, Doha, a meeting co-hosted by German and Qatari officials brought together diverse factions interested in achieving lasting Afghan peace. Sixteen Taliban and 60 Afghan representatives comprising delegates from political parties, government officials, and civil society organizations engaged in discussions that led to a potentially positive arrangement.

The Doha peace talks were unlike many other conferences. The Taliban agreed to reduce their reliance on violent attacks by avoiding various public spaces. Many Afghans vulnerable to terrorism and living under severe violence have newfound hope.

It was a positive milestone for Afghans. The Taliban leadership dined with female representatives, including one of their leading critics, Fawzia Kofi, a former MP of the Wolesi Jirga or lower house of the Afghan Parliament. The Taliban indicated a shift in their perspective toward women by saying they would protect their rights within an Islamic framework.

Women, in particular, have been the victims of ignorance and extremism throughout the dark chapters of Afghan history. The international community’s contribution to building a democratic framework in Afghanistan resulted in the simple ability for girls to go to school.

This is a significant step in bringing peace and prosperity to the country. Women now work freely in the government and private sector. They represent an important portion of society and have been a symbol of change.

Given the Taliban’s harsh policy toward women and youth, this represents huge progress. Afghan journalist Harun Najafizada reminisced about his childhood when he and his brother Lotfullah Najifizada hid behind their mother. But now Lotfullah openly argued with Taliban representatives in Doha.

The presence and participation of youth at the Doha conference offered another noteworthy step. It was unique to see those under the age of 30 who were raised under the specter of war and feared violence by the Taliban, now sitting across from them. They ate, argued, exchanged ideas, and consequently asked for the violence to end.

Among the participants, Khalid Noor — a recent graduate of George Mason University and alum of Royal Military Academy Sandhurst — hopes for a peaceful Afghan future. He expressed satisfaction with the discussions and said he considers the Doha conference an excellent example of a way that both Taliban and Afghan representatives could “clearly raise their thoughts patiently.”

His father, Atta Mohammad Noor, had fought the Taliban as a commander of Jamiat-e Islami in the 1990s and as the longtime former governor of northern Balkh Province. He sees the Doha talks as a breakthrough. “This was unlike many other peace talks,” he said. The Doha framework was conducive to frank considerations that “both sides felt comfortable to share and they listened to each other.”

From Left, Khalid Noor and Lotfullah Najafzad at Doha peace conference.

“I really think that this was a good meeting as the two sides exchanged ideas,” he said, adding that it is “imperative to hold such talks in the future.”

A remarkable conclusion came after strong criticism and arguments. Both sides agreed to reduce violence by withholding attacks on religious centers, schools, hospitals, educational centers, bazaars, water dams, and workplaces. But the understanding now needs to translate into a tangible cease-fire across Afghanistan.

Continued peace talks and the recent nonbinding agreement with the Taliban are indicative of a few points. First, the Taliban are willing to accept some sort of cease-fire because they claim to feel remorse for killing civilians who are fellow Afghans. On the other hand, they simply may not have an alternative strategy.

Secondly, conferences in Doha, Moscow, Pakistan, and Uzbekistan denote the group’s desire to build a new reputation. Let’s not forget that the Taliban’s Islamic Emirate of the 1990s was toppled by the U.S. government for harboring Al-Qaeda terrorists.

Read the full article on the website of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty


Ahmad Mohibi, a writer and activist is the founder of Rise to Peace. Follow him on Twitter at @ahmadsmohibi. 

Taliban attack threatens Afghan peace talks

On July 1st, 2019, the Taliban committed multiple attacks in Kabul, Afghanistan which killed at least forty people and injured over 100 more. The facilities damaged included the Private War Museum, a local television station, as well as a primary school. 

Soon after the attack, American and Taliban negotiators met in Qatar. The Taliban stated that their intended target was the logistics and engineering unit of the Ministry of Defense. The Interior Ministry reported that the car bomb detonated near the museum and television station after attackers entered the Defense Ministry building. 

Wounded children are taken to the hospital by the Kabul residents after the Kabul blast on July 1, 2019.

Recent peace talks involving the United States and Taliban negotiators have focused on four key issues:

  1. The Taliban will not allow fighters to utilize Afghan soil to launch attacks outside of the country
  2. Withdrawal of U.S. and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) forces from Afghanistan
  3. An Intra-Afghan dialogue
  4. A permanent ceasefire

During the latest round of peace talks in Qatar, the Taliban restated their concerns and reasons for their bombing in Kabul. They expressed that they wanted an immediate timeline for the withdrawal of US troops in Afghanistan.

Taliban representatives, Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai, Taliban’s main negotiator is eating lunch with the Afghan delegates. in Doha peace conference. July 8, 2019 (Rise to Peace).

The American government has responded with the timeframe of at least one year to eighteen months to remove troops from the country altogether. The Afghan peace process remains challenging as there is logistical planning behind each party’s wants and needs. 

If the United States continues peace talks with the Taliban, there are significant consequences that could take place. If the American government removes troops from Afghanistan, the international civilian presence will also be significantly reduced

This is important because if NATO members leave, it will affect the security risk of civilians working in the US embassy in Afghanistan. US employees rely on NATO for threat intelligence for potential evacuation in the workplace.

Therefore, if NATO leaves, that puts all US employees at risk against extremist groups in Afghanistan- which will then cause the US and other international civilians to leave. The majority of these employees work in the intelligence community, meaning that the US would also lose sight of the security threats coming from Afghanistan. 

Consequences for the US also affect the implications for the Afghan government. For instance, the loss of external economic and security assistance. US assistance in Afghanistan is based on US security interests. Therefore, if the US military presence no longer continues in Afghanistan, then there is no further commitment to help the country’s stability. Moreover, if the amount of US civilian personnel decreases, it will limit their ability to account for funds and other logistical matters that support assistance. 

Losing such assistance will directly impact the capacity of the Afghan government,  which could lead the government to lose its legitimacy.

If the Taliban wants a negotiation with the United States, they need to take into consideration the factors that could negatively influence a potential negotiation.

In recent talks, Taliban negotiators communicated that they want intra-Afghan dialogues, but later changed their mind calling the government of Afghanistan puppets of the US. If the Taliban then decided to have a conversation with the Afghan government, this action would contradict their previous statement. 

Taliban should consider the amount of collateral damage caused by their attacks.

Furthermore, the Taliban should consider the amount of collateral damage caused by their attacks. For instance, killing innocent people, including children, in their most recent attack in Kabul, does not help alleviate the situation between the Taliban and the Afghan government.

With the costs closely outweighing the benefits, should the U.S. continue peace talks with the Taliban? Yes. The overarching goal of Afghanistan Peace Talks is an eventual ceasefire. 

If the U.S. decides to take an immediate departure from Afghanistan, then the American government is choosing to lose, and leave Afghanistan vulnerable to terrorism. 

The Taliban chief negotiator Stanikzai: We will fight till the country is free from the foreign occupation.

“This is not violence. This is fighting for the freedom of our country. We will fight till the country is free from the foreign occupation. Foreign occupation finished, there will be no fighting. There is no violence against civilians.” Taliban lead delegate –Stanikzai in #Doha

Ahmad Mohibi is a Writer, Activist, and Founder of Rise to Peace non-profit organization.