Lieutenant Colonel Robert W. Schaefer, U.S. Army Special Forces (Green Beret) and Eurasian Foreign Area Officer, offers a comprehensive and detailed analysis of the situation in the North Caucasus in his book The Insurgency in Chechnya and the North Caucasus: From Gazavat to Jihad. Though this book was published three years ago, the recent Boston Marathon Bombing in the U.S. by Chechen extremists makes a review of the book, and its subject matter, timely. In reviewing the book, I gained useful insight into the politics, and sources of instability, in the North Caucasus region, and was able to clarify the role of Islam in Chechnya. Schaefer tackles the definition of insurgency, differentiating it from terrorism, gives a comprehensive history of the region, focusing on the past 300 years, and brings the reader up to date by covering the Chechen-Russian wars in the 1990s, and the aftermath, in detail. In so doing, the reader receives a rare glimpse into the region’s political tensions, as well as a forecast for the future. » More
An interesting foreign policy aspect of the situation in Xinjiang is the region’s place within the wider global war on terrorism. When compared to the conflict in Chechnya, one can find a number of interesting similarities in the central governments’ narrative of the issue. However, in order to find them, it is first worth engaging in a short discussion of both conflicts.
According to Remi Castets, starting in the 1980’s, the region saw an increase in religiosity amongst its mostly Islamic population. This in turn led to the formation of student groups and to the beginning of protests. Following the student activism of the eighties, the nineties saw an increase in radicalism within the population, which led to both arson and sabotage. These actions then culminated in bombings and assassinations. » More
On 22 May 2013, the ISN hosted the latest in a series of roundtable discussions on international relations or security-centered events. After analyzing the present status of Political Islam in last month’s roundtable, the topic of discussion this time around was Public Policy (and Myths) about Terrorism, which featured the University of Maryland’s Dr. Gary LaFree.
In his preliminary remarks, Dr. LaFree first observed that counterterrorism policy agendas are too often set by a small number of high-profile yet ultimately atypical events. In other words, terrorist strikes such as 9/11 and the recent Boston Marathon bombing have had a disproportionate impact on the development of counterterrorism policy in the US and elsewhere. That such “black swan” events have influenced policy as they have then led Dr. LaFree to raise his second point. Actual terrorism is more akin to ordinary criminal activity than not. In fact, terrorist incidents tend to be highly concentrated in time and space. They are rarely isolated in nature and tend to occur in small, self-repeating clusters or “bursts”. They echo, in short, the “near-repeat” phenomena seen in criminal activity.