Where will the Jihadists that are fighting in Iraq stop next? The European countries will be those most damaged in this dangerous migration, states the author. In spite of the raising of the consciousness of the police and intelligence, the European Union continues to present a permeable border. The EU borders are filled with weak points due to the imperfect coordination between member countries and spots where it is difficult to exert exhaustive control.
LOOKING BACK TO THE SCENE OF AFGHANISTAN in the 1980’s provides a tremendously useful example for understanding the immediate future in Iraq, and by extension, what the thousands of Jihadists will do after they have responded to this country in fighting the Jihad. In fact, it is possible to establish numerous parallels between the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq’s occupied by the United States. Both places have changed into destinations for Islamic radicalism. Both episodes have been interpreted as an invasion of Islamic land on the part of infidels. Both situations have served the most radical Islam to legitimize religiously a defensive war that should correspond to any Muslim, wherever he lives.
“Iraq is situated in the heart of the Muslim and Arab civilization, surrounded by sacred enclaves and infinitely more accessible than primitive Afghanistan”
Under the protection of this call, thousands of Muslims without previous contact with these countries joined insurgent and terrorist organizations that had been attacking the foreign presence. In the case of Iraq, this motivating power is undoubtedly significant. Until the invasion of the former U.S.S.R., Afghanistan was a peripheral country in the imaginary Islamic collective. There was no shortage of clergymen who doubted the authentic Muslim character of a land characterized by its cultural eccentricities and the heterodox character of the Islam practiced by the Afghans.
Afghanistan is a case very different from that of Iraq, a country placed in the heart of Muslim and Arabic civilization, surrounded with numerous sacred enclaves, and infinitely more accessible than remote and primitive Afghanistan.
A DOMESTIC JIHAD AFTER A DEFENSIVE JIHAD
“Between 2003 and 2007, the Muslim countries liberated thirty thousand Islamists, many imprisoned for belonging to terrorist organizations”
Many of these foreign mujahideens made this dangerous voyage spurred on by their own native lands, which perceived in this violent chaos an opportunity to reinforce their Islamic credentials while at the same time managing to rid themselves of their more radical population. In the case of Afghanistan, especially famous were the discounted plane tickets that Saudi Arabia was providing to all those Muslims who wanted to move to Pakistan, to be able to cross the border and to join the fight against the Soviets.
In the case of Iraq, many countries that facilitated the Jihad in the 1980’s are now formally allied with the United States, or simply cannot run the risk of openly promoting violence in Iraq. However, this has not been an obstacle because these political regimes have facilitated the immigration of the most radical elements of the population, with the hope that they die fighting or never return to their country of origin.
“The West forgets that the Muslim countries prisons serve to also repress the political opposition”
It is calculated that between November, 2003 and February, 2007, the various Muslim countries have liberated from their prisons close to thirty thousand Islamists, more than a hundred of which had been imprisoned for belonging to terrorist organizations.
The West frequently forgets that in Muslim countries, prisons are not only for criminals, but also to repress the political opposition, which in adopts the form of Islamist organizations that attack their governments due to their barely Islamic nature.
“The foreign Jihadists have entered in direct combat against some of the best military units of the world”
A domestic Jihad, between Muslims, and which remains eclipsed by the magnitude of a genuine defensive Jihad, like that which is fighting for freedom in Iraq.
This situation has been taken advantage of by these regimes to guarantee their permanence, leaving a cleared path in order for the most destabilizing elements to begin a journey without return towards the former Mesopotamia.
THE JIHADISTS OF TODAY
“Unlike their coarse predecessors in Afghanistan, they are a generation which moves easily in a technological environment”
In both countries, the foreign Jihadists learned military formation and gained combat experience. Nevertheless, whereas in Afghanistan the Arab-Afghans had a minor role in the fight against the Soviets, in case of Iraq the foreign Jihadists are infinitely more lethal and dangerous.
The foreign Jihadists have entered into direct combat against some of the best military units of the world. They have been capable of minimizing the importance of strong shielding and top fire power of enemy units. They have acquired the necessary knowledge, and one more than accredited experience in the manufacture of the most diverse and effective explosive devices, the construction car bombs, the utilization of all kinds of war armament, the accomplishment of kidnappings, the murder of highly protected persons and even aircraft demolition.
“The Iraqi Jihadists know how to cash in on the predominant audiovisual culture, which has allowed them to project an image of strength and permanence superior to that which actually exists”
Unlike their coarse predecessors in Afghanistan, the new generation moves easily in a technological environment. This know-how turns them into subjects with a capacity for real terrorist self-learning, which allows them to cash in on, and put into practice the available knowledge on the Internet. This is unlike what happens with the majority of amateur terrorists, who are unable to operate a type of information that needs the previous terrorist experience and skill acquired in the most hostile environments.
Additionally, the use of the Internet has enormously facilitated coordination and above all the advertisement of their achievements as propaganda. The Iraqi Jihadists understand and know to cash in on the predominant audiovisual culture, which has become a multiplier of strength, since it has allowed them to dominate the telling of the conflict and project an image of strength and permanence superior to their real capacities.
“A great part of the mujahideens that had come to Afghanistan for the romantic idea of a Jihad against infidels were not ready to take sides with any faction”
Nevertheless, the most interesting thing, and simultaneously the most useful comparison to Afghanistan, is to see what happened as soon as the foreign troops moved back from the battlefield. The defeat of the U.S.S.R. was interpreted by the Jihadists as a victory, in spite of their relative contribution to the defeat of the communist power. Nevertheless, this situation –far from the end of the conflict– meant the beginning of a new cycle of violence among the various factions that previously had attacked a common enemy.
This new civil war, far from being religious, was a reappearance of the historical fight for power between clans, factions and tribal leaders of Afghanistan. The Jihadists soon were disillusioned by the new situation, since none of the contenders were fighting for the imposition of a political fundamentalist regime. A great part of the mujahideens had come to Afghanistan moved by the romantic idea of a Jihad against infidels. They were not ready to prolong their stay by taking sides with existing factions. The globalist ideals that had motivated their trip to this Asian country faded away during the night. There started in this way a new emigration that began modern Jihadist terrorism and the appearance of Al Qaeda.
“After the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq, the country will lose its attractiveness for new generation of Jihadists”
Many of these combatants decided to look for new fronts in which to continue the fight without borders in defense of Islam. Bosnia or Chechnya can serve as examples. Those who were able to return to their countries of origin did so under an aura of heroism in defense of the Jihad. The experience they had lived and the religious and ideological radicalization they developed during their trip through Afghanistan made them much more belligerent against the political situation in their countries. They decided to create or integrate terrorist organizations to force a violent change of regime. Many of these governments, conscious of the dangers that this return could have posed, created obstacles to the repatriation of the Arab-Afghans, imprisoning them directly or eliminating them. This motivated the relocation of the some of them in other countries, some Western countries, maintaining brotherly ties and mutual knowledge, hoping for a new cause that would justify their activism.
WHAT WILL BE THE NEW JIHADIST DESTINATION?
“It is very unlikely that any Muslim country will be disposed to offer a safe refuge like Pakistan or Sudan did”
Predictably, once the withdrawal of the United States troops from Iraq happens, the country will lose its attractiveness as a destination for new generations of Jihadists. The situation that the United States leaves Iraq in is similar to Afghanistan at the beginning of the 1990’s. The foreign Jihadists are only one more faction within an enormously fragmented society.
Neither during the occupation or after it have the mujahideens had, nor will they ever have, the capacity to change into a predominant group capable of effectively controlling the country. “Paradoxically, the United States is the country least afraid of this return” None of the other players, including the Iraqi government and the various military tribal factions, have the capacity to impose over the rest. What is most probable is a continuation of violence, this time through a search of political supremacy and control of national resources. From an Islamist perspective, this is very appetizing. This will not only stop the arrival of new soldiers, but begin a new Jihad emigration. The key question is: where will this movement go?
In the first place, it is very improbable that no Muslim country will offer safe refuge like Pakistan or Sudan did in the 1990s. As far as their respective countries of origin, principally Saudi Arabia, Libya, Algeria, and Morocco, far from receiving them as heroes, will have to think about the political threat that they represent. The security forces have a genuine capacity to neutralize these subjects, as it is difficult for them to return to their respective neighborhoods and villages unnoticed.
“The enormous quantity of resources and technology has made sure that seven years after September 11th, no external entity has been capable of penetrating the country to mount another attack”
Paradoxically, the United States is the country least afraid of this return. To cross the ocean signifies using methods of transportation like a plane. This allows a major and very exhaustive control of the identity of passengers, including even those who try to employ a false identity. The United States is one of the countries with the best capacity to exert effective control over its borders, a capacity that they have been constantly increasing since the 2001 attacks.
The enormous quantity of resources and technology has made sure that seven years after September 11th, no external entity has been capable of (or has tried) penetrating the country to mount another attack. A good example of this incapacity is exemplified by the plan for the unsuccessful attempts during the summer of 2006 against airliners destined toward the United States. The attempt was meant to take the lives of hundreds of American citizens, and the planning and execution would have been carried out from the United Kingdom, an environment more vulnerable and easily penetrated than the United States.
TOWARD EUROPE AND FAILED STATES
“Another series of countries that suffer from this disembarkation will be those territories with a Muslim population that can be labeled as failed states”
European countries will be among the first to suffer from this dangerous migration. In spite of the increased consciousness of the police and the intelligence of these countries, the European Union continues presenting a permeable border, replete with weak points due to the imperfect coordination between member states and the difficulty of exerting exhaustive control over the growing fluxes of immigrants that penetrate the community legally and illegally. Penetrating the European Muslim communities offers anonymity and series of juridical guarantees to pass unnoticed, that change these countries in to areas much more secure than the various Muslim countries.
Other dangers of this human tide will be that these countries can be labeled as scenes of Jihad. This is true principally of Afghanistan, a territory which continues to offer the opportunity to fight directly against Western troops, and which will therefore will see the security problem aggravated as a consequence of the arrival of the Jihadists that see the territory as an opportunity to continue the mission begun in Iraq.
Another series of countries that will suffer from this disembarkation will be those territories with a Muslim population which can be catalogued as failed states, or that simply do not have the capacity to exert full and effective control over their border. Somalia and Yemen, for example. The Jihadists have an opportunity to utilize zones where state authority does not arrive, to regroup and establish secure bases from which they can undertake new offensives inside and outside of national territory.