Eye on Extremism: September 2, 2021

The New York Times: Will The World Formally Recognize The Taliban?

“The Americans have left 20 years after invading, the Afghan government has dissolved and the Taliban are newly in charge of some 40 million people in one of the poorest countries, ravaged by decades of violence and upheaval. Foreign powers must now decide how to deal with an organization that remains on terrorist watch lists around the world.  It is in much of the world’s interest to ensure a stable Afghanistan that doesn’t become a haven for terrorists, as it was when the Taliban were in power from 1996 to 2001. They shielded Al Qaeda and its leader, Osama Bin Laden, before and after the 9/11 attacks, leading to the American-led offensive in Afghanistan. Though the Taliban are presenting a more moderate face this time around, they never broke with Al Qaeda. Another terrorist group, Islamic State Khorasan or ISIS-K, an Afghan branch of Islamic State, established itself during the American occupation, fought with the Taliban and attacked U.S. forces. Whether the Taliban can control this group is a matter of widespread concern. The country’s neighbors will be watching closely how a Taliban-led government performs.”

The Times Of Israel: No Longer Sacred, Hezbollah Increasingly Blamed By Lebanese For Country’s Woes

“Driving back to base after firing rockets toward Israeli positions from a border area last month, a group of Hezbollah fighters was accosted by angry villagers who smashed their vehicles’ windshields and held them up briefly. It was a rare incident of defiance that suggested many in Lebanon would not tolerate provocations by the powerful group that risk triggering a new war with Israel. As Lebanon sinks deeper into poverty, many Lebanese are more openly criticizing Iran-backed Hezbollah. They blame the group — along with the ruling class — for the devastating, multiple crises plaguing the country, including a dramatic currency crash and severe shortages in medicine and fuel. “Hezbollah is facing its most consequential challenge in maintaining control over the Lebanese system and what is called the ‘protective environment of the resistance’ against Israel,” said Joe Macaron, a Washington-based Middle East analyst. The incident along the border and other confrontations — including a deadly shooting at the funeral of a Hezbollah fighter and rare indirect criticism by the country’s top Christian religious leader — have left the group on the defensive.”

United States

CNN: White Supremacist Praise Of The Taliban Takeover Concerns US Officials

“As the United States-backed government in Afghanistan fell to the Taliban and US troops raced to leave the country, White supremacist and anti-government extremists have expressed admiration for what the Taliban accomplished, a worrying development for US officials who have been grappling with the threat of domestic violent extremism. That praise has also been coupled with a wave of anti-refugee sentiment from far-right groups, as the US and others rushed to evacuate tens of thousands of people from Afghanistan by the Biden administration's August 31 deadline. Several concerning trends have emerged in recent weeks on online platforms commonly used by anti-government, White supremacist and other domestic violent extremist groups, including “framing the activities of the Taliban as a success,” and a model for those who believe in the need for a civil war in the US, the head of the Department of Homeland Security's Office of Intelligence and Analysis, John Cohen, said on a call Friday with local and state law enforcement, obtained by CNN. Cohen said on the call that DHS has also analyzed discussions centering on “the great replacement concept” a conspiracy theory that immigrants, in this case the relocation of Afghans to the US, would lead to a loss of control and authority by White Americans.”

Associated Press: AP Sources: Intel Shows Far Right Extremist Groups To Attend Sept. 18 Rally At US Capitol

“Far right extremist groups like the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers are planning to attend a rally later this month at the U.S. Capitol that is designed to demand “justice” for the hundreds of people who have been charged in connection with January’s insurrection, according to three people familiar with intelligence gathered by federal officials. As a result, U.S. Capitol Police have been discussing in recent weeks whether the large perimeter fence that was erected outside the Capitol after January’s riot will need to be put back up, the people said. The officials have been discussing security plans that involve reconstructing the fence as well as another plan that does not involve a fence, the people said. They were not authorized to speak publicly and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity. The planned Sept. 18 rally at the Capitol comes as a jittery Washington has seen a series of troubling one-off incidents — including, most recently, a man who parked a pickup truck near the Library of Congress and said he had a bomb and detonator. Among the most concerning events: A series of unexploded pipe bombs placed around the U.S. Capitol ahead of the Jan. 6 insurrection remain unexplained and no suspect has been charged. monday.com helps teams work more efficiently to execute projects that deliver results on time.”

Afghanistan

The New York Times: Will The Pentagon Keep Coordinating With The Taliban? ‘It’s Possible.’

“Just over a day after the last American service member left Afghanistan, the Pentagon’s top two leaders expressed wariness on Wednesday about continuing to cooperate with Taliban leaders who helped provide safe passage to more than 124,000 people evacuated out of the country. “We were working with the Taliban on a very narrow set of issues,” Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III told reporters. “I would not make any leaps of logic to broader issues. It’s hard to predict where this will go in the future with respect to the Taliban.” Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was more blunt in his assessment of Taliban leaders, whom American commanders have praised for their cooperation during the evacuation. “This is a ruthless group,” said General Milley, who commanded troops in Afghanistan. “Whether or not they change remains to be seen. In war, you do what you must.” Asked if the U.S. military would cooperate with the Taliban in fighting the Islamic State Khorasan, or ISIS-K, the group that claimed responsibility for last week’s attack that killed 13 American troops and more than 100 Afghans, General Milley said: “It’s possible.” General Milley also defended an Air Force drone strike on Sunday that the military says destroyed a car filled with explosives that posed an “imminent” threat to the evacuation operation.”

The Wall Street Journal: Taliban Face Threat Of European Sanctions Over Rights Abuses And Terror Links

“European leaders, grappling with the question of how to interact with Afghanistan’s new hard-line Taliban leadership, are considering threatening sanctions to win commitments to safeguard human rights, cut terrorist ties and permit at-risk Afghans to leave. Measures under consideration include freezing Afghan money overseas and ending existing sanctions-waivers for certain Taliban leaders. European Union officials have spent much of the two weeks since the fall of Kabul focused on the evacuation of EU nationals and Afghan partners from the country and on tackling concerns about a large influx of Afghan migrants into Europe. On Tuesday, interior ministers agreed to apply EU money and resources to try to keep most Afghan refugees in the region, avoiding another migration crisis like the one that hit Europe in 2015. EU foreign ministers meeting Thursday and Friday will discuss in detail how to deal with Afghanistan’s new rulers and how to work with allies and other powers, including Russia and China, to influence Taliban decisions. Group of Seven leaders last week also discussed the conditions for developing economic and political ties with a Taliban-dominated government. The EU, which lists the Taliban as a terrorist group, froze its assets and barred Europeans from dealing with them.”

WTOP News: The Hunt: Are The Taliban And ISIS Really Enemies?

“The U.S. military has officially left Afghanistan. Now, there are questions about whether the Taliban can control terrorist groups there. On this episode of The Hunt, with WTOP National Security Correspondent J.J. Green, Dr. Hans Jakob Schindler, senior director at the Counter Extremism Project, said they may not want to.”

Pakistan

The Wall Street Journal: Taliban Takeover Threatens To Raise India-Pakistan Tensions

“The Taliban’s swift takeover has brought to power an Afghan government more closely aligned with Pakistan, stirring security concerns in neighboring India and potentially raising tensions between the two nuclear-armed rivals. Officials in India, who supported the U.S.-backed government in Kabul, have warned in recent days that the Taliban’s return could again make the country a haven for terrorists. The Taliban have said they would no longer allow Afghanistan to be used against other countries, but Indian officials are skeptical. “It’s the same Taliban that was there 20 years ago,” India’s Chief of Defense Staff Bipin Rawat said last week at a meeting on U.S.-India partnership. Indian authorities are particularly concerned about security in the disputed region of Jammu and Kashmir, where a heavily militarized line of control has separated India and Pakistan since partition in 1947. India doesn’t share a border with Afghanistan, but Islamist militant groups have long targeted India over its control of a portion of Muslim-majority Kashmir. “Taliban’s victory will give a fillip to radical ideology and groups with similar orientation in the region and around the globe.”

Nigeria

Sahara Reporters: Boko Haram Fighters Attack Borno Town, Kill 17 People, Raze Houses

“Boko Haram terrorists and Islamic State-aligned fighters have invaded Rann community in Borno State, killing at least 17 people, including a soldier and an aid worker. Security and militia sources told AFP on Tuesday that hundreds of fighters from the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) stormed the town of Rann on the border with Cameroon, pushing troops out of a base and occupying the town for several hours. The attack provoked a mass exodus of residents towards Cameroon before the Nigerian troops regained the town with aerial support. ISWAP which split from Boko Haram in 2016 has been consolidating its control since the death in May of Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau in clashes between the two rival factions. Heavily-armed fighters “came in around 1:30 am on foot like a swarm of locusts and overwhelmed soldiers who had to abandon their base”, said an anti-jihadist militia leader in the town. “The insurgents killed 11 people in the attack,” said the source who asked not to be identified. The jihadists stole weapons before setting fire to buildings and vehicles, added the militia leader, in an account supported by a second militia member in the town.”

Africa

Reuters: Four Killed, Dozens Kidnapped In Eastern Congo Ambush

“Four civilians were killed and dozens were taken hostage Wednesday in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo when suspected Islamist militants ambushed a convoy and set fire to the vehicles, the government said. Congo's army has freed more than 50 of the hostages in Ituri province and operations are underway to recover the remaining captives from the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a Ugandan Islamist group, the communications ministry said on Twitter. The ministry did not say how many people were still being held hostage. A local lawmaker said earlier that about 80 people were believed to be missing after the attack on a convoy of about 100 vehicles that was traveling with army protection on the road between the cities of Beni and Butembo. Attacks by the armed groups operating in eastern Congo's borderlands with Rwanda and Uganda have continued unabated despite the government's imposition of martial law in Ituri and North Kivu province at the beginning of May. The installation of army generals as provincial governors was meant to quell a surge in violence that the military largely attributes to the ADF. But the number of civilians killed in such attacks has increased, according to the Kivu Security Tracker.”

United Kingdom

BBC News: Terror Suspect Accused Of Planning Attack On National Infrastructure

“A man has appeared in court accused of planning a terrorist attack on “vital national infrastructure”. Oliver Lewin, from Leicestershire, is charged with preparing acts of terrorism. The 37-year-old is alleged to have carried out reconnaissance of proposed targets and sought others to help him. He was remanded in custody at Westminster Magistrates' Court and will next appear at the Old Bailey on 22 September. Mr Lewin, of Ferrers Road, Coalville, is also accused of purchasing equipment and tools, digging “hide-outs” in woodland, and seeking to recruit others to join him in an attack. The defendant is alleged to have been a member of a chat group on the encrypted messaging app Telegram, where he expressed an intention to “topple the government”. Prosecutor James Cable said Mr Lewin had allegedly planned attacks on important infrastructure sites, some of which he visited before his arrest last week. Mr Lewin, who was detained following a West Midlands Police operation, was not asked to indicate a plea.”

BBC News: Luton Man Sent Islamic State Execution Videos To Undercover Officer

“A man who told an undercover police officer he wanted to see London under the Islamic State flag has been jailed for seven years for terror offences. Ibrahim Roger Anderson, 44, of Luton, shared videos with the officer which depicted “extremely graphic” footage, including Islamic State executions. Anderson was jailed after previously pleading guilty to 10 counts of disseminating terrorist publications. He also admitted four charges of possession of terrorist publications. Anderson was jailed for three years in 2016 after being convicted of trying to drum up support for Islamic State outside Topshop in London's Oxford Street. On Wednesday, in relation to the new offences, the Old Bailey heard Anderson was unaware the woman he was speaking to on Facebook and Telegram was a covert officer. Prosecutor Julia Faure Walker said Anderson shared videos of Islamic State executions, suicide bombings, and glorification of past battles. Judge Philip Katz QC said of the footage: “Some of it is at the worst end of the range seen in this court.” In one message to the officer, Anderson said: “We will, with the help of Tawhid [the belief in the oneness of God], raise the black flag over London.” Anderson also admitted breaching his terror notification requirements when he withheld an email address from the police in an attempt to prevent officers from linking him with the Facebook account, receiving an additional 12-month jail term.”

France

France 24: Paris Court Acquits Former Basque Separatist Leader Of Terrorism Charges

“Paris court on Wednesday acquitted former Basque separatist leader Josu Ternera on charges of participating in a terrorist organisation, citing insufficient evidence in the case. The ruling overturns a conviction and eight-year prison term handed down in 2017 when Ternera, a historic leader of the ETA group seeking independence for the Basque Country, was tried in absentia while he was on the run from the authorities. Ternera, whose real name is Jose Antonio Urrutikoetxea Bengoetxea, headed ETA from 1977 to 1992 and is thought to have been behind a strategy of combining car bomb and shooting attacks in Spain in the 1980s. The group's attacks left at least 850 people dead in northern Spain and southwest France, an area considered the Basque homeland. The group was formally dissolved in 2018. In hiding since 2002, Ternera was convicted in absentia in France on charges he continued to take part in ETA's operations from 2011 to 2013 while living clandestinely in France.  Since the conviction was handed down in his absence, Ternera, who was arrested in France in 2019, was able to request a retrial. The court on Wednesday said there was no solid evidence that Ternera had been in contact with ETA members during the period, nor that he had been living “under a false name,” since no fake ID papers had been found.”

Technology

Michigan Live: Stopping Online Hate Speech Is Hard. New Research Teaches Machines To Find White Nationalist Content.

“Mitigating the impact of online extremism has proven a complicated task for companies that want to protect free expression. Social media companies have struggled to moderate hate speech and adapt to changes in how white supremacists spread their views on digital platforms. Libby Hemphill, an associate professor at the University of Michigan School of Information, believes machine learning technology might provide an answer. “We know that white supremacists and other types of extremists use social media to talk to each other, to recruit, to try to get their message to go mainstream,” Hemphill said. “The challenge has been that the platforms haven’t really stepped up to fight hate on their platforms.” Through a partnership with the Anti-Defamation League, Hemphill set out to teach algorithms to distinguish white supremacist and extremist speech from the typical conversations people are having on social media. Turns out, extremist groups are pretty good at hiding in plain sight but algorithms can become even better at finding them. “We can’t do content moderation without some machine assistance,” Hemphill said. “There’s just too much content.”

Daily Dose

Extremists: Their Words. Their Actions.

Fact:

On September 17, 2019, a suicide bomber on a motorcycle detonated outside a Presidential rally in Charikar, Afghanistan, killing at least 26 people and injuring another 30. Later, a suicide bomber detonated outside the Ministry of Defense in Kabul, killing 22 and wounding 38 others. The Taliban claimed responsibility for both attacks. 

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