The New Great Game Round Up- October 6, 2013

Washington Arms Taliban, Banning Wahhabism & NGOs, Comeback of the Mujahideen & More!

*The Great Game Round-Up brings you the latest newsworthy developments regarding Central Asia and the Caucasus region. We document the struggle for influence, power, hegemony and profits in Central Asia and the Caucasus region between a U.S.-dominated NATO, its GCC proxies, Russia, China and other regional players.

Afghanistan's northeastern province of Badakhshan and its role in Washington's plans for the region has been one of the major issues discussed in the weekly round-ups. In the last few days Badakhshan was again making the headlines with heavy clashes between Taliban and Afghan security forces erupting in the remotely located province. Taliban fighters succeeded in taking control over Kuran wa Munjan District which sparked new concerns about of the security of the upcoming Afghan elections:

News Analysis: Security to remain major threat ahead of Afghan elections

To demonstrate its ability to disrupt the polls, the Taliban fighters overran Kuran-o-Manjan District in the relatively peaceful Badakhshan province over weekend, prompting the Interior Ministry to promise that necessary preventive measures would be taken ahead of elections.

Washington Arms Taliban

According to Afghanistan's Interior Ministry, police units supported by the Afghan army were eventually able to regain control over the district. But this is not an isolated incident. Badakhshan is bordered on the south by Afghanistan's Nuristan Province where the Taliban are now controlling several districts. Roads leading to Taliban-controlled areas have been cut off by the Islamic fundamentalist group stopping the supply of food and medicine:

Half of remote Afghan province under Taliban's control Three of the seven districts in an eastern Afghan province is under the control of Taliban insurgents, who cut off to the provincial capital, an official said Wednesday, warning of a humanitarian disaster if the government does not act soon.

"The insurgent activities have doubled since the foreign troops pulled out last year from the province," said Bahand, who was in the Afghan capital to plea for support.

Nuristan is one of the most unstable regions in Afghanistan and its porous border is frequently used by militants to travel to tribal areas in Pakistan. As if increasing activities of the Taliban did not pose enough problems for Kabul, Washington is now openly arming the terrorist group. Senior Afghan lawmaker Zalmai Zabuli criticized the U.S. support of Taliban fighters in Zabul Province:

Afghan government slams US for sending arms to Taliban This comes after a senior Afghan lawmaker revealed that American forces are giving military aid to Taliban militants active in the troubled region. Zalmai Zabuli added that American helicopters have delivered two shipments of small arms and heavy weapons to the militants in the Mizan district.

Kabul demanded an explanation from Washington but it is not hard to identify the motivation behind these arms shipments. As highlighted two weeks ago, the Taliban offer the perfect pretext for ongoing U.S. presence in the region and Washington does not plan to abandon the strategically located country anytime soon. Afghan President Hamid Karzai condemned this strategy earlier this year when he accused the United States of working together with the Taliban. Recently, Karzai reiterated that the situation in Afghanistan will not improve as long as external forces continue to fuel conflict in the country:

Karzai says terrorism in Afghanistan has external links

Karzai said, the enemies of Afghanistan and the root of instability in Afghanistan lies outside the Afghan borders, where plans are being made to destabilize the country and prevent development of a better governance.

Washington is certainly pleased about the latest victim of violence in Afghanistan. Chinese state-owned oil and gas corporation CNPC halted its landmark oil project in the Amu Darya basin last month, less than a year after production began:

Major oil extraction project stopped in northern Afghanistan The contract was awarded by Afghan government to China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) International and its Afghan partner, Watan Oil and Gas, began producing oil in the Amu Darya basin in the north in October. An employee of the project quoted by Reuters said, equipment at the site had now been locked up and about 16 Chinese workers had left.

Lack of a transit agreement with Uzbekistan's government is cited as official reason for the halt in production but other reports suggest that Beijing's actions were caused by security concerns after the CNPC project came under attack from a local militia. Fights in resource-rich areas between Afghanistan's central government and provincial and tribal leaders are now a common occurrence. According to the Afghan government, the latest attack can be traced back to Abdul Rashid Dostum:

Mineral wealth could harm, not aid, Afghanistan’s future The government alleged that the militia was associated with General Abdul Rashid Dostum, a former Uzbek warlord who serves as chairman of the joint chiefs of staff of the Afghan National Army. Kabul has accused Dostum of putting pressure on the CNPC to make illegal payoffs. Dostum has, in turn, rejected the allegations, accusing President Hamid Karzai of protecting the interests of the Watan Group, the Afghan company affiliated with his family that shares the drilling rights with the CNPC.

Comeback of the Mujahideen?!

Afghanistan's natural resources are becoming another source of violent conflict. In addition to militant attacks, the development of Afghan resources is also hampered by rampant corruption and an internal battle within the government for control over mining and energy sectors. Various factions are competing for power in Afghanistan and the presidential elections in April 2014 will play a central role in this struggle. General Dostum has already voiced his support for Abdul Rasul Sayyaf who just resigned from parliament and announced his candidacy:

Afghan Salafi Leader Announces Presidential BidSayyaf became a close ally of Saudi Arabia after converting to the kingdom's official religion, the Salafi sect of Sunni Islam. He is accused by Afghan and Western human rights organizations of gross human rights violations during Afghanistan's civil war in the 1990s.

The 2009 presidential election in Afghanistan still famous for widespread electoral fraud, which would even make George W. Bush blush, and the upcoming election is shaping up to become as fraudulent as the last. So the democratic process will be guided in the right direction to ensure that an appropriate candidate succeeds President Karzai. Sayyaf is apparently the preferred choice and considering his credentials, this is hardly surprising: 

The Forgotten War: 12 Years in Afghanistan Down the Memory Hole With President Hamid Karzai constitutionally barred from a third term, the presidential race is either wide open, or -- as many believe -- already a done deal. In August, Afghan news services reported that Karzai had chaired a meeting with a few of the country’s most powerful warlords to call for the candidacy of Abdul Rab Rasoul Sayyaf, intimidator of women in parliament, longtime pal of Osama bin Laden, mentor of al-Qaeda’s Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, likely collaborator in the assassination two days before 9/11 of the Taliban’s greatest opponent, Ahmad Shah Massoud -- in short the quintessential untouchable jihadi.

However, not everybody is fond of Sayyaf and just two weeks ago the Mujahideen leader was targeted in a suicide attack. Afghanistan's intelligence agency, the National Directorate of Security (NDS), foiled the plot and identified the head of the assailants as Zakirullah, one of the Taliban's specialists for suicide attacks:   

Afghan intelligence foil Abdul Rab Rasul Sayyaf assassination plot According to NDS officials, Zakirullah was released after serving three years in prison two months back. He was once recruited as the head of the Taliban group to plot and execute suicide attacks by Taliban group representative from Maidan Wardak province in Taliban Quetta Council.

NDS officials said that Zakirullah was instructed to plot and execute suicide attack against Ustad Abul Rab Sayyaf, however, he was arrested along with two other suspected militants before they carry out the attack.

The Taliban do not like the idea of Abdul Rasul Sayyaf coming to power and have no faith in the electoral process. Sayyaf announced that Ismail Khan, Afghanistan's current minister of water and energy and famous warlord, will run as his first vice president.

Washington and Karzai are afraid of Khan who was appointed as energy minister when he became too powerful as governor of Herat, the most important province in western Afghanistan. The former Emir of Herat is known for his strong criticism of the United States and openly advocates the comeback of the mujahideen:

Return of the Lion: Former Warlord Preps for Western Withdrawal

The year 2014 is approaching, and with it the withdrawal of NATO troops. When Khan appears in public today, it is with the demeanor of the mujahed. "We cannot allow Afghanistan to be destroyed once again," he said publicly late last year. He has also said that government forces are powerless in large parts of the country, that Afghans should arm themselves once again, new recruits should enlist and the command structures of the former militias ought to be reestablished.

Khan has absolutely no trust in the Afghan army and expects a return of the Taliban and the collapse of the government in Kabul leading to a new war. So he and his associates want to deal with the Taliban themselves: 

"We have 20 years of combat experience, and we defeated a superpower. We can deal with the Taliban too," says Khan, leaning back in his chair. "But not this army," he adds, waving his hand in the direction of the defense ministry. The Afghan army, trained by the West, has lost 63,000 men, or one in three soldiers, to desertion in the last three years.

"Before the West leaves this place, it should give us back our planes and artillery, or the equivalent," Khan says before going to pray.

In the end, Afghanistan might see another war between former mujahideen, featuring Khan, Sayyaf and the Taliban among others. All this mess goes of course back to the "success" of the CIA's Operation Cyclone. The Central Intelligence Agency always supported the most benighted and most reactionary forces. In Syria the same script is being used and Afghanistan offers an alarming view of the future of Syriastan if the Syrian government falls.

Banning Wahhabism & NGOs

More and more people are fed up with radical sects of Islam like Wahhabism which are being spread by the medieval Gulf monarchies. Prohibition of the Wahhabi movement has already been discussed in Russia and in light of the heinous attacks against Christians in Syria, the issue is again under debate. Especially last year's fatwa of the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia to destroy all churches in the Arabian Peninsula is being criticized. Islamic expert Roman Silantyev emphasized that terrorists in Syria are led by this Wahhabi-Salafi ideology which is also used by the House of Saud against Russia:

Religious expert on the offer to destroy churches in the Arabian Peninsula: Wahhabis got cocky "Wahhabi leaders should mind that not long ago wars were declared for even more minor issues. And while we haven't got down to it we can liquidate all centers of Saudi influence in Russia, and thanks to God, it has been intensively realized in Russia this year. And it won't take long to ban Wahabi ideology in Russia, special thanks for it to various great muftis who are not embarrassed to speak about their true intentions," Silantyev said.

While Bandar Bush's Wahhabi gangs are trying establish an Islamic state in Russia's North Caucasus and the Taliban are seeking to do the same in Afghanistan, Hizb ut-Tahrir is currently focusing on Kyrgyzstan in its struggle for the re-establishment of caliphate:

Kyrgyz Court Sentences Local Hizb-Ut Tahrir Leader Bakyt Zhumadilov, 37, was found guilty of propagating extremism and involvement in "activities aimed at inciting ethnic, racial, religious and interregional hatred."

Hizb ut-Tahrir is banned in Kyrgyzstan and the Kyrgyz authorities are considering additional measures to handle extremism and terrorism. According to Andrei Novikov, Chief of the CIS Anti-Terrorism Center, non-governmental organizations contribute significantly to these problems and have to be restrained:  

Terrorist organizations often operate under guise of non-governmental organizations, Chief of CIS Anti-Terrorism Center says The practice when terrorist organizations operate under the guise of non-governmental organizations became common, Chief of the CIS Anti-Terrorism Center Andrei Novikov said on September 25 summarizing the results of the first stage of the joint exercises “Ala-Too – Anti-terror 2013” in Bishkek. Andrei Novikov noticed that such situations require special attention. “This practice is widespread not only in the CIS countries, but also in other parts of the world,” he said.

In order to check the involvement of NGOs in terrorist activities, a regulatory framework will be developed. Kyrgz MP Tursunbai Bakir uulu, a former human rights ombudsman, has recently drafted a bill that would label most of Kyrgyzstan's NGOs "foreign agents". 

The bill is modeled after a similar Russian law, which has been widely criticized by Western media.  However, Bishkek would be well-advised not to fall for the propaganda and to look instead at the success of Russia's "foreign agent" law which has obstructed the activities of NED-funded "independent" election watchdog Golos and ended the work of several NGOs [emphasis mine]:

22 'Foreign Agent' Detected in Russia After Mass Searches, Prosecutor Says

Twenty-two of the 1,000 NGOs that were checked by the agency were classified as “foreign agents,” two of which were found to be engaged in extremist activity, while another two were shut down on terrorism charges, said Alexei Zhavyarov, the deputy head of the Prosecutor General’s Office. The searches will continue until all 2,200 Russian NGOs suspected by prosecutors of receiving funding from abroad have been checked, he said. He also said that 500 violations of Russian legislation by NGOs were detected and that warnings were issued to 193 organizations.

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Christoph Germann- BFP Contributing Author & Analyst
Christoph Germann is an independent analyst and researcher based in Germany, where he is currently studying political science. His work focuses on the New Great Game in Central Asia and the Caucasus region. You can visit his website here

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