Tag Archives: Islamism

Mark Collins – MI5 Chief Highlights Big Bear Spooky and Cyber Threats, Jihadis

Further to this post,

The Lions’s Cyber Roar: UK Getting Really Serious, Unlike Canada

the head of Britain’s domestic intelligence service gives an unprecedented interview:

MI5 head: ‘increasingly aggressive’ Russia a growing threat to UK
Exclusive: In first newspaper interview given by a serving spy chief, Andrew Parker talks of terror, espionage and balance between secrecy and privacy

Russia poses an increasing threat to the stability of the UK and is using all the sophisticated tools at its disposal to achieve its aims, the director general of MI5 has told the Guardian.

In the first newspaper interview given by an incumbent MI5 chief in the service’s 107-year history, Andrew Parker said that at a time when much of the focus was on Islamic extremism, covert action from other countries was a growing danger. Most prominent was Russia.

“It is using its whole range of state organs and powers to push its foreign policy abroad in increasingly aggressive ways – involving propaganda, espionage, subversion and cyber-attacks. Russia is at work across Europe and in the UK today. It is MI5’s job to get in the way of that.”

Parker said Russia still had plenty of intelligence officers on the ground in the UK, but what was different now from the days of the cold war was the advent of cyberwarfare. Russian targets include military secrets, industrial projects, economic information and government and foreign policy.

The spy chief also:

– Said that 12 jihadi terror plots had been foiled by the security services in the past three years.
– Identified the size of the homegrown problem: there are about 3,000 “violent Islamic extremists in the UK, mostly British”.
– Said that budget increases would see MI5 expand from 4,000 to 5,000 officers [emphasis added–so total personnel considerably greater?] over the next five years [by comparison the Canadian Security Intelligence Service has a total strength of some 3,300)].
– Rejected criticism that the investigatory powers bill, due before parliament this week, was going too far in enabling intrusive surveillance, arguing that it correctly balances privacy and security…

Parker said the Islamic extremist threat was also enduring and generational. He broke it down into three segments: a large homegrown problem of potentially violent extremists in the UK – most of them British – about 3,000 in number; members of Daesh (Islamic State) in the conflict zones of Syria and Iraq trying to incite terror plots against the UK; and Daesh trying to spread its “toxic ideology” and promote terrorism online.

Critics of the controversial investigatory powers bill, which went before the House of Lords on Monday, say it will offer the security services access to personal data, bringing a reality to bulk surveillance. Parker said the data was necessary in the fight against terror and he thought the government had reached the right balance between privacy and security [see “UK Security Services’ Successful Bulk Data Collection; Need More Powers (Canada?)” plus “Under PM’s Thumb: Proposed Canadian Parliamentary Security/Intel Review Committee“]…

Whilst on the foreign intelligence front:

MI6: UK HUMINT Spooks Going Cyber, Including Social Media

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds

Advertisements

Mark Collins – ISIS, Islamism and Pakistan’s CT Failure

The very knowledgeable Pakistani author Ahmed Rashid (pieces for the NY Review of Books here) excoriates his country’s government:

Viewpoint: Pakistan’s Quetta attack blame game

The attack that killed 61 police cadets in Quetta has once again been followed by a government-led blame game. But the government has not faced up to its own failure to conduct a comprehensive counter-terrorism strategy against all extremist groups.

Within a couple of hours of the attack on the Quetta police college on the night of 25 October, and even before sifting through the bloody evidence or taking statements from the 120 injured, government ministers immediately accused Afghanistan of helping the militants, who according to the government, belonged to an extremist anti-Shia group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ).

A few hours later, several groups claimed they carried out the attack but the most believable was the claim by so-called Islamic State (IS), as it also issued a photograph of the three heavily-armed assailants, who blew themselves up in the attack.

The authorities however are in a state of denial about the presence of IS on Pakistani soil. After IS released the photograph, the government claimed that IS had ”outsourced” the attack to Lashkar-e-Jhangvi.

It is not the first time the government has dismissed a claim by IS. In August, IS said it carried out the suicide bombing of a hospital in Quetta that killed 70 lawyers and patients – a claim that was ignored by the government.

Convenient scapegoat

The government claims to have eliminated LeJ in its two-year-long counter-terrorism operations. But the LeJ is still a convenient whipping boy when Islamabad is trying to deny that IS has political support in Pakistan.

Accepting that IS is prevalent in Pakistan would make a mockery of the government’s claims to have eliminated all terrorist groups that attack Pakistani citizens.

Denying that IS is in Pakistan has become standard operational procedure for the government.

However IS has a powerful presence just across the border in Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province. This week IS militants killed 30 civilians in Ghor province in central Afghanistan…

The government has also provided no evidence of its second major accusation that Afghanistan, with help from India, is involved in arming and training LeJ so that it can launch attacks in Pakistan.

Afghanistan is hardly in a position to orchestrate such attacks. And there is no evidence of any direct Indian involvement, although Prime Minister Narendra Modi has made no bones about his desire to see unrest in Balochistan in a tit for tat retaliation for Pakistan allegedly fuelling unrest in India-controlled Kashmir [see “Indian PM Modi Pours (RAW) Fat on Pakistan’s Baluchistan Fire“]…

For Pakistani authorities, passing the buck has become the standard response to any terrorist attack. Yet the government and army promised two years ago that its first task would be to cleanse Pakistani soil of terrorism, that it would set its own house in order.

The military has eliminated many groups that have threatened the state but two sets of extremist groups remain untouched.

Comprehensive strategy

The first are the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani network, whose leadership is settled largely in Quetta and Peshawar and now partly in Iran.

The Afghan Taliban come and go at will between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Last year Islamabad made serious efforts to persuade them to open talks with the Kabul regime but that effort has collapsed.

However, the real threat is that many militant groups receive protection and sanctuary from the Afghan Taliban in Afghanistan. These include multiple Pakistani groups, including the highly toxic Pakistani Taliban as well as al-Qaeda and groups from Central Asia, China, Chechnya and elsewhere…

The second grouping is the plethora of Punjabi groups that live in Punjab province along the border with India. Their significance has risen in recent months with their repeated attacks on Indian security forces in Indian-administered Kashmir that have created a heightened tension between India and Pakistan.

It is unclear if these attacks were carried out by militants already in Indian-administered Kashmir or from the Pakistani side. The Indians believe the latter, while Pakistan insists there are no cross border attacks [see “Oh, Oh! Indian Troops Raid Pakistani Kashmir“].

Pakistan clearly needs to deal with these two sets of groupings in a more mature, realistic and believable fashion…

Mesdames et messieurs, faites vos jeux.

Earlier and very relevant:

Pakistan: What Can’t Be Said [Mr Rashid one topic]
Carlotta Gall [more here]

Pakistan’s Monster
By Dexter Filkins [more here]

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds

Mark Collins – Increasingly Kinetic US Small Ball Military Engagement in Somalia

POTUS has been considerably expanding the limited American involvement in this splendid little war in accordance with his small ball approach to intervention abroad–excerpts from a major NY Times article:

In Somalia, U.S. Escalates a Shadow War

The Obama administration has intensified a clandestine war in Somalia over the past year, using Special Operations troops, airstrikes, private contractors and African allies in an escalating campaign against Islamist militants in the anarchic Horn of Africa nation.

Hundreds of American troops now rotate through makeshift bases in Somalia, the largest military presence since the United States pulled out of the country after the “Black Hawk Down” battle in 1993.

The Somalia campaign, as it is described by American and African officials and international monitors of the Somali conflict, is partly designed to avoid repeating that debacle, which led to the deaths of 18 American soldiers. But it carries enormous risks — including more American casualties, botched airstrikes that kill civilians and the potential for the United States to be drawn even more deeply into a troubled country that so far has stymied all efforts to fix it.

The Somalia campaign is a blueprint for warfare that President Obama has embraced and will pass along to his successor. It is a model the United States now employs across the Middle East and North Africa — from Syria to Libya — despite the president’s stated aversion to American “boots on the ground” in the world’s war zones. This year alone, the United States has carried out airstrikes in seven countries and conducted Special Operations missions in many more.

American officials said the White House had quietly broadened the president’s authority for the use of force in Somalia by allowing airstrikes to protect American and African troops as they combat fighters from the Shabab, a Somali-based militant group that has proclaimed allegiance to Al Qaeda.

In its public announcements, the Pentagon sometimes characterizes the operations as “self-defense strikes,” though some analysts have said this rationale has become a self-fulfilling prophecy. It is only because American forces are now being deployed on the front lines in Somalia that they face imminent threats from the Shabab…

About 200 to 300 American Special Operations troops work with soldiers from Somalia and other African nations like Kenya and Uganda to carry out more than a half-dozen raids per month, according to senior American military officials. The operations are a combination of ground raids and drone strikes…

The escalation of the war can be seen in the bureaucratic language of the semiannual notifications that Mr. Obama sends to Congress about American conflicts overseas.

The Somalia passage in the June 2015 notification is terse, saying American troops “have worked to counter the terrorist threat posed by al-Qa’ida and associated elements of al-Shabaab.”

In June, however, the president told Congress that the United States had become engaged in a more expansive mission.

Besides hunting members of Al Qaeda and the Shabab, the notification said, American troops are in Somalia “to provide advice and assistance to regional counterterrorism forces, including the Somali National Army and African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) forces.”

American airstrikes, it said, were carried out in defense of the African troops and in one instance because Shabab fighters “posed an imminent threat to U.S. and AMISOM forces.”..

AMISOM’s official website is here. The mission is authorized by the UNSC but not UN-run. Just like the NATO mission in Afghanistan, see from 2011: “Afghanistan: News You Won’t See in the Canadian Media“. One would fall off the chair if our government got the Canadian Forces involved in any way with UNISOM; they seem to make a theological distinction between operations mandated by the UN and those actually run by the organization.

Still relevant from 2013:

US Droning On Ever More Widely

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds

Mark Collins – Counter-Terrorism: CSIS’ New C-51 Powers Not So Threatening in Practice

The civil liberties sky has not fallen–and surely will not under the Liberal government:

John Ivison: Fear of oppressive surveillance by spy agencies under Tories’ anti-terror legislation unfounded

Remember how the Conservative anti-terror legislation was going to usher in a new era of omnipresent government surveillance?

Well, it hasn’t happened — at least not according to the scraps of information that are publicly available.

The latest figures made available were on electronic surveillance, released by the Department of Public Safety [report here].

As part of the anti-terror bill, it became a crime to “knowingly” advocate or promote the commission of a terrorism offence.

Critics claimed that there would be a rash of wiretap authorizations, as police sought to crack down on speech crimes.

But the numbers for 2015 suggest there were precisely two cases where the authorities were given authorization to listen in on people suspected of promoting terrorism.

We don’t know how many prosecutions resulted from the authorizations but it’s a good bet there were none…

CSIS, Canada’s spy agency, was [also] given wide-ranging powers to disrupt suspected terrorist plots, rather than just gathering information about them.

The new law gave CSIS the power to ask judges to approve warrants, even if its preventative measures breached rights or freedoms otherwise protected by law.

As critics Craig Forcese and Kent Roach have made clear, the law risked making judges “enablers of illegality [more here].”

Yet here again, it appears the security forces have not used their new powers.

When he was before a Senate committee last March, CSIS chief Michel Coulombe said the agency had used the disruption powers nearly two dozen times but had not sought judicial approval in any of the cases. Rather, the disruption powers were more benign — for example, talking to family, friends and community leaders close to the person suspected of being at risk of radicalization…

The Liberals are currently reviewing Canada’s national security laws. They have promised to repeal “problematic elements” of the legislation, and amending what Forcese and Roach call the “outer limits” to the speech-crime and threat-disruption provisions would seem to be a reasonable compromise between preserving freedoms and protecting Canadians…

Now see what the Aussies are planning:

Australia: Dangerous Terrorists? Just Keep’em Locked Up

Related:

Under PM’s Thumb: Proposed Canadian Parliamentary Security/Intel Review Committee

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds

Mark Collins – Australia: Dangerous Terrorists? Just Keep’em Locked Up

Whilst many Canadians are worried about our recent anti-terrorism law, C-51 (text here); they play hard-nosed Down Under:

Terrified of terror, Australia plans indefinite detention even after sentences are served [that “terrified” a bit OTT]

Australia is one of the most peaceful, prosperous and law-abiding countries on Earth. Yet it is about to allow people who might commit terrorism to be held in prison — indefinitely.

Under changes introduced into federal parliament last month by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s center-right government, federal judges could stop prisoners being released after completing terrorism-related sentences. They wouldn’t need to set a release date, although the prisoners’ detention would be reviewed every year.

Judges would need to be convinced by the government that the man or woman was likely to mount some kind of new attack. There would be no new trial, although prisoners would have the right to argue in court that they aren’t a threat.

The change will upend a centuries-old legal principle that prisoners are automatically released when their sentences end [read on, the author is of a liberal bent]…

Relevant:

Terrorism, Intelligence and Bill C-51: “The Fight Over Canada’s Patriot Act”

Hard-Nosed French “Patriot Act” Cleared by Court

UK Security Services’ Successful Bulk Data Collection; Need More Powers (Canada?)

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds

Mark Collins – ISIS Dhaka Massacre: Bangladeshi-Canadian’s Bloodthirsty Notes from Beyond the Grave

Further to this post (note further links relevant to the quotes below),

A Canadian, ISIS, Bangladesh and Terror…and Earlier Calgary

the gory gloating:

Islamic State magazine publishes essay possibly written by a Canadian
[bit tentative, that headline]

A newly published Islamic State propaganda magazine contains an essay apparently written by the late Canadian leader of the terror group’s Bangladeshi chapter [text via tweet at end of the post].

Tamim Chowdhury, a 30-year-old Bangladeshi Canadian from Windsor, Ont., was killed by authorities in his homeland in late August. But before that he appears to have written the official terrorist history of the July 1 attack on the Holey Artisan Bakery in Dhaka.

Five suicide commandos made international headlines by killing more than 20 people at the bakery, including several foreigners, before being gunned down themselves.

During the chilling attack, the gunmen approached patrons and asked them to recite memorized verses from the Koran. Those who could do so were spared. Those who could not were killed.

Mr. Chowdhury explains the brutal logic of this in his essay.

“During the operation, the knights … did their utmost to distinguish and separate the Muslims from the kuffar (crusaders, pagans, and apostates),” he wrote, adding that “those who proved their Islam were treated with respect and mercy, and those who manifested their kufr [infidelity] were treated with harshness and severity.”

The essay’s title page bears the name of Tamim Chowdhury, who is thought to have written similar screeds only under noms de guerre in the past. He is described as “the former head of military and covert operations” of the Bangladeshi wing of the Islamic State.

“I don’t think there’s any reason to doubt that he wrote it,” said Amarnath Amarasingam, a Canadian academic who studies foreign fighters and who has blogged about Mr. Chowdhury in the past.

Describing the life stories of each of the five Bangladeshi-born gunmen, Mr. Chowdhury’s essay says some were blocked from joining the terror group’s core in Syria and Iraq. He does not describe taking part in the Dhaka attack himself.

The English-language essay was published this week in the group’s propaganda magazine Rumiyah [more here], an Arabic word that translates as “Rome.” The name alludes to the Roman Empire and its antecedents, as well the Islamic State’s promise to wage attacks until Western civilization collapses.

The magazine also claims that IS was behind bombings of several Bangladeshi temples and more than a dozen knife and gun attacks against foreigners [see from before the bakery attack: “Islamist Butchery in Bangladesh–With a Canadian ISIS Connection“].

Before leaving for Bangladesh about three years ago, Mr. Chowdhury spent time with other radicals in Calgary and Windsor. These clusters fell under RCMP investigation after several members joined or sought to join IS chapters overseas…

More at another story–note RCMP at end:

ISIL releases posthumous report from Canadian who led terror attack on Dhaka restaurant

The Holey Artisan Bakery “was selected for this blessed operation because it was well-known for being frequented by the citizens of the Crusader countries,” Tamim Chowdhury wrote in the ISIL magazine Rumiyah…

In his posthumous report on the attack at the restaurant, Chowdhury said it had been chosen from among several potential targets because it was a “sinister place” where “Crusaders would gather to drink alcohol and commit vices through the night.”

Nine Italians, seven Japanese, an Indian, American and two locals died in the July 1 siege…

The five attackers carried out the killings “in order to give the Crusaders a taste of their own medicine,” he wrote.

Chowdhury threatened more attacks against citizens of countries fighting ISIL. “The mujahedin will target expats, tourists, diplomats, garment buyers, missionaries, sports teams and anyone else from the Crusader citizens to be found in Bengal until the land is purified from the Crusaders and all other kuffar (non-believers) and the law of Allah is established.”..

According to Bangladesh press reports, police believe Chowdhury trained in Syria before arriving in Dhaka from Dubai in October 2013. He apparently used his Bangladeshi passport because his Canadian one had been seized by the RCMP [that didn’t help much]…

The tweet:

Plus some good news:

Family relieved after U of T student [not a Canadian citizen] cleared of all allegations in Bangladesh attack
Tahmid Khan is still facing a “lack of co-operation charge” related to his alleged failure to attend two police interviews.

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds

Mark Collins – Afghanistan “Worth It”–Don’t Lose it

And keep in mind the truly nefarious role of miscreant Pakistan–excerpts from a major NY Times article, by a reporter with great Afghan experience, that is a clear message to the next American president (the current one really doesn’t care much):

15 Years in the Afghan Crucible
By CARLOTTA GALL [more here]

KABUL, Afghanistan — There is an end-of-an-era feel here these days. Military helicopters rattle overhead, ferrying American and Afghan officials by air rather than risk cars bombs in the streets. The concrete barriers, guarding against suicide attacks, have grown taller and stronger around every embassy and government building, and whole streets are blocked off from the public.

It has been 15 years since American forces began their bombing campaign against the Taliban and Al Qaeda on Oct. 7, 2001, and sometimes it feels as if we are back to square one, that there is nothing to show for it.

The recent American military drawdown has been drastic — from over 100,000 troops a few years ago to a force of 8,500 today. Thousands of Afghans have been made jobless as bases and assistance programs have closed. Meanwhile tens of thousands of Taliban are on the offensive in the countryside, threatening to overrun several provincial towns and staging huge bombings here in the capital…

For Afghans, and for many of us who have followed Afghanistan for decades — I have been visiting the country since the early 1990s — the times are reminiscent of the Soviet Union’s withdrawal in 1989 after a 10-year occupation. The Communist government and army that the Soviets left behind survived only three years before they were overthrown by the mujahedeen in 1992.

The Taliban, supported by Pakistan, seem intent on repeating that scenario, hoping to seize control of a section of territory along the Pakistani border and declare once more their Islamic Emirate. Since the Taliban temporarily overran the town of Kunduz last fall, many Afghans have lost confidence that the government can protect them…

Despite years of denials from Pakistan, it is now widely understood that the Taliban has all this time been mentored and equipped by the Pakistani intelligence agency. Yet President Obama has failed, as did his predecessor, President George W. Bush, to end Pakistan’s long flirtation with Al Qaeda and its brand of terrorism.

Osama bin Laden’s successor, Ayman al-Zawahri, is still believed to be living in Pakistan, alongside the top Taliban leaders — and continues directing mayhem through his adherents across the Middle East, Africa and Asia. American Special Operations forces have been raiding Al Qaeda groups infiltrating back into Afghanistan over the last two years.

And the Pakistani military is ever more brazen in its support for the insurgents, even flying in retired military officers to train the Taliban by chartered helicopter — one crash-landed in a Taliban-controlled area of eastern Afghanistan in August bearing six retired military personnel and a Russian pilot.

Watching so many deadly attacks continue over the years with little done to prevent them at their source has been one of my hardest experiences as a reporter. And it is increasingly difficult to answer Afghans when they wonder how America could have been so blind or careless to ignore Pakistan’s role in sponsoring terrorism [see this interview with Ms Gall about a book of hers: “Pakistan, The Taliban And The Real ‘Enemy’ Of The Afghanistan War”]…

Reconstruction was frustratingly slow at first — even now, most of the country still does not have electricity — but has grown steadily. For years the roads were an agonizing trial of bumping and jolting, but these days journeys that used to take several days can now be completed in hours. In the provinces, administration buildings, schools, hospitals, clinics, police stations and even prisons have sprouted.

Over time I began to notice a new generation of trained professionals working in government offices: Young men with degrees in charge of district offices, teenage women teaching classes to the younger students, female graduates working in private universities, and officials in the ministries and embassies returning from abroad with master’s degrees and doctorates.

…Afghan friends and acquaintances rarely hesitate when asked whether the American intervention was worth it: “No question” is the usual response. There have been many painful mistakes, of course, but the building, the education, the defense and diplomatic support have all helped Afghanistan rise from the ashes.

Women especially have gained confidence…

Most Afghans say they will need American support in defense and diplomacy to counter the continuing threat of terrorism and to protect them from predatory neighbors beyond the 2017 deadline that President Obama has made for the drawdown. There is a real danger the Afghan Army could collapse next year if the fighting and casualties remain as intense, and so a continued United States military commitment will remain essential…

Peace will be a tall order and require a high level of American commitment for years more. But the result would be welcomed overwhelmingly by Afghans who have endured decades of war, and serve as a lasting tribute to the families of the American soldiers who died there.

Carlotta Gall, a senior foreign correspondent for The New York Times, spent nearly 12 years reporting in Afghanistan since 2001.

Meanwhile Canadians have essentially washed their minds of Afghanistan save for a wide-spread acceptance that it was not “worth it“. Fie on them; they should read Ms Gall’s entire piece.

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds

Mark Collins – NJ/NY Bombings: How a Young Afghan-American Turned to Jihad

Ahmad Rahami’s sad story of a terrible inability to reconcile a clash of cultures–excellent in-depth reporting at the NY Times:

Journey From Class Clown to Suspect in Chelsea Bombing

If there was one child Mohammad Rahami had to worry about bringing shame upon the family, it was Ahmad. In the fifth grade, his teacher complained to Mr. Rahami that Ahmad acted like a king in class. In junior high, he broke a friend’s nose. Even worse was high school — after Mr. Rahami arranged for Ahmad to marry a good Afghan girl from Kabul, Ahmad dated a Dominican girl, getting her pregnant in his senior year.

The shame. They had falling-outs, so many of them. In the beginning, because Ahmad was just becoming too American for his conservative Afghan parents, who had moved to New Jersey after Mr. Rahami fought in Afghanistan against the Soviets as part of the mujahedeen in the 1980s. And then, in the last few years, they fell out over much darker fears. Ahmad spent hours watching videos on the internet espousing violent jihad, embracing some of the most prominent purveyors of that message: Bin Laden, Awlaki, Adnani, the men who in that world needed no first names. Mr. Rahami said he asked Ahmad to stop.

“This is wrong,” Mr. Rahami recalled telling his son, one of eight children. “You don’t know if they are real Muslims. You shouldn’t watch them. You have nothing to do with them.”

But nothing stopped Ahmad Khan Rahami, 28, who now stands accused of bombings in New York and New Jersey and a string of other attempts

pool.jpg
Ahmad Rahami in high school. He is seen third from left, with Maria Mena hugging him from behind…

[In high school] Maria Mena, whose family was from the Dominican Republic, became Ahmad’s sweetheart. A photograph shows the couple in a swimming pool, with another couple and three friends, a diverse group, Maria smiling broadly and hugging Ahmad from behind. Mr. Rahami was furious at the relationship. The family had arranged for Ahmad to marry a woman in Afghanistan. He told his son that he could not have a girlfriend while he was engaged to someone else.

No surprise, but Ahmad did what he wanted. By senior year, Maria was pregnant. The teenagers were excited, holding hands in the hallways, grinning and touching each other. In a prom picture, Maria is pregnant, wearing a shy smile and a white dress. Ahmad seems happy, too, wearing a shiny pink vest and a matching tie over a white shirt.

His father had had enough. One day, Ahmad came to school upset, Ms. Podhradsky said. His parents were forcing him to move back to Afghanistan after graduation.

In early July 2007, just after Ahmad graduated, he was put on a plane — to Pakistan, it turned out — leaving behind his girlfriend, who would give birth to their daughter without him…

Please read it all.

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds

Mark Collins – Islam, Jihads, Caliphates and End Times

Excerpts from a review article at the Times Literary Supplement:

Wars of Religion
THOMAS SMALL [more here]

This piece forms part of a TLS Special Feature, our primer on the complex politics and religions of the Middle East

A hadith (or saying of the Prophet Muhammad) considered sound by all major authorities and widely circulated among Sunni Islamists states that the history of the umma will go through five phases: first, the Prophet himself will rule over it and teach it the right way to live; then will come the time of caliphate, when caliphs will rule according to the Prophet’s teachings; then the time of benign kingship obtained by force, followed by the time of oppressive kingship; finally, the time of caliphate will rise again, where a caliph will rule once more in accordance with the Prophet’s teachings, and usher in the end of the world.

From this eschatological perspective, Ataturk’s abolition of the Ottoman Caliphate in 1923 marked the end of the third of those five phases, the phase of benign kingship. Since then, the Islamic world has been suffering the injustice of oppressive kingship, whether at the hands of brutal dictators or morally bankrupt monarchs. And though jihadist groups differ over the best way to achieve it, they are united by an ultimate aim, which they share, broadly speaking, with all forms of Islamism: the restoration of the Caliphate as a necessary step along the way to the Last Judgement.

In June 2014 a particularly savage Al Qaeda splinter group achieved this aim – though not before falling out with its parent organization. Having conquered territory on either side of the Iraqi–Syrian border, the Islamic State announced that its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi would henceforth be known as Caliph Ibrahim. From his base along the Euphrates in the Syrian city of Raqqa – where the most famous Abbasid caliph of them all, Harun al-Rashid, also based his court, moving it there from fractious Baghdad in AD 796 – the caliph and his followers now prepare for the End Times, which they believe are imminent, by purifying the world of idolaters and apostates.

The rise of the Islamic State is simply the latest twist in the unfolding tale of the various jihads that have plagued the Muslim world for two decades now, claiming well over a million lives, mostly Muslim. People are understandably struggling to know what to think about all this…

Ignoring or playing down the way Islam in particular sacralizes warfare is to obscure much. Islam was originally a political theology that went something like this: Out of all the peoples and tribes of the world, God chose a tribe of Arabia called Quraysh to carry out his final plan for humanity. From among their number he selected a prophet, revealed his will to him “in clear Arabic”, and instructed him to establish the quintessential divinely ordained polity at Medina. But the death of this prophet was still just the beginning of the story. The Quraysh remained God’s chosen instrument, despite the non-Qurashis swelling their ranks. And though the umma disagreed about how they could determine God’s will in the matter of who exactly was to be caliph — whether by tribal deliberation, patrilineal heredity, trial by combat, or a combination of the three — it was a matter of faith (except for some outlying schismatics) that God intended him to be a Qurashi, and that under his charismatic leadership the Qurashis would extend God’s sovereignty across the earth until every worldly power was placed under his dominion…

Very relevant, based on a major 2015 piece at The Atlantic:

“What ISIS Really Wants”: The End, My Friend

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds