MIL OSI Translation. Region: Russian Federation –
Yuri Alexandrovich, how close is the world community today to the victory over terrorism? After all, there were already similar victorious reports after the elimination of the odious leader of the terrorists Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi or the defeat of the so-called Islamic Caliphate in Syria and Iraq.
Yuri Kokov: These and other successful results you listed have undoubtedly played a positive role in the fight against terror. However, eradicating it is not easy. For example, the international terrorist organization “Islamic State” (banned in the Russian Federation) has gradually transformed into an extensive network, the cells of which are present in many states. In a number of regions, primarily in South and Southeast Asia, on the African continent, large branches of this group have been formed, in fact, they are relatively independent bandit formations. Moreover, they independently determine the targets for their attacks.
According to monitoring organizations, including international ones, since the beginning of this year, more than seven thousand terrorist attacks have been carried out in 75 countries. About 23 thousand people became their victims. Thus, up to 30 such crimes are committed in the world every day.
The most resonant of them were the explosions in Kabul near educational institutions on May 8 (85 dead and 150 injured) and in the area of the capital’s airport on August 26 (200 dead and 1,500 injured). The largest attacks this year also include the raid on the administrative center of Borno state in Nigeria (16 killed, 60 injured) and the detonation of an explosive device in the market in Baghdad (30 killed, 60 injured).
Under such circumstances, there is no need to speak of a victory over international terrorism. We can only state a slight decrease in the risks of the formation of new quasi-state formations, the so-called caliphates. Although small terrorist enclaves persist at the present time, for example, in Africa – in the Lake Chad basin, in the northern part of Mozambique, Nigeria and other regions.
If we talk about Afghanistan, how is the situation in this country now developing after the Taliban came to power and how does this affect the national security of Russia?
Yuri Kokov: The situation in Afghanistan is not only a dynamic process, but also contradictory. In early August, none of the experts could give an unambiguous forecast of which of the opposing sides would prevail. The most negative assessments boiled down to the fact that the government of Ashraf Ghani could be overthrown by the Taliban in 4-6 months after the complete withdrawal of American troops from the country. None of these predictions came true.
Now we can state with confidence that the twenty-year military campaign of the United States and its allies in Afghanistan not only ended in vain, but also in many respects aggravated the crisis processes in this country. Although I must make a reservation, because for the people of America and its allies, this war – thousands of dead fellow citizens and great financial losses. The main thing in the fight against terrorism is the result. We see that as a result of the coalition’s presence, in fact, the international terrorist organization Taliban Movement, banned in the Russian Federation, came to power in Afghanistan.
Moreover, the government created by the Taliban included a number of members who for many years to this day have been on the sanctions lists of the UN Security Council as being involved in terrorist activities …
Yuri Kokov: Unfortunately, this is the result of the long-term US struggle against international terrorism in Afghanistan. This is our common misfortune. This once again testifies that it is impossible to defeat this global problem of our time alone and even in a coalition of states with colossal military power and financial and economic capabilities. Underestimating this danger poses a threat to all of humanity.
Departure from the principles of non-alternative condemnation of international terrorism and an uncompromising struggle against it creates the illusion of permissiveness, which can lead to a sharp surge in terrorist activity in the world, and above all in the Middle East, North Africa, South and Southeast Asia, and also to encourage these bandit groupings for new attempts at armed seizure of individual regions and even states.
That is why, in the Declaration of the CSTO Collective Security Council, it is noted that the CSTO member states strongly condemn terrorism and extremism in all their forms and manifestations and consider the practice of using terrorist and related extremist organizations by states as tools to realize their own political and geopolitical interests unacceptable.
Let’s return to the Afghan problem. Is the likelihood of a continuation of the civil war in this country high, even on a local scale?
Yuri Kokov: Given the great heterogeneity of the ethnic composition of Afghan society, the significant influence of clan, tribal ties and traditions in it, there is such a possibility.
In addition, the degradation of the humanitarian situation may well contribute to the strengthening of the radical groups operating in the country. They pose a danger of the spread of terrorism in Central Asia and into the territory of Russia.
And the point here is not only the possible infiltration of militants. The export of extremist ideology, which constitutes the basis for the radicalization of public life, poses almost a great threat. This should also include the possibility of further expansion of drug trafficking, which is one of the basic items of income for terrorists. A powerful threat-forming factor is also the problem of uncontrolled migration of refugees, whose places of accommodation, based on the Syrian experience, are often used by terrorists for shelter and legalization. Finally, there are great risks of degradation of economic cooperation in the region and loss of investments in the Afghan economy.
Can we assume that after leaving Afghanistan, the Americans will try to gain a foothold in the Central Asian republics, and how does this threaten Russia?
Yuri Kokov: Indeed, there are geopolitical threats due to the fact that the Americans, in fact, do not abandon their intentions in this region. On the contrary, under the pretext of countering terrorist groups, they seek to gain a foothold in neighboring states, having formed bases there for the deployment of their unmanned aerial vehicles and training centers for training local military personnel, law enforcement officers and special services. In essence, this means bringing NATO infrastructure even closer to Russian borders.
There is evidence that during the pandemic, the terrorists changed their tactics. What should law enforcement agencies and special services of different countries prepare for today?
Yuri Kokov: The means used by terrorists are very diverse. In zones of armed conflict, fire raids on government units, infrastructure facilities and settlements are traditionally widely used. The intensity of the mine-explosive war does not decrease. For example, in the second half of 2020, almost 5,000 explosive devices were discovered and neutralized in Afghanistan alone.
Since 2019, the number of terrorist attacks involving unmanned aerial vehicles has been on the rise. Among other things, the Russian base of Khmeimim in Syria and the positions of the Syrian Arab army are undergoing such attacks. The radical group “Ansar Allah” from the territory of Yemen periodically organizes such raids on oil refining facilities in Saudi Arabia.
The aspirations of terrorists to gain access to information on the manufacture of weapons of nuclear, chemical and biological destruction, as well as their increased attention to the possibility of using pathogenic biological agents and toxic chemicals, are recorded. To do this, they purposefully recruit industry specialists, including teachers and students of chemical and biological educational institutions.
Is the coronavirus also being adopted?
Yuri Kokov: Yes, indeed, attempts to use people infected with coronavirus to infect the civilian population have already been noted. Such actions, for example, were revealed by the Indian special services. In turn, local extremists were arrested in Tunisia, who illegally entered the barracks of law enforcement officers in order to infect personnel. But deliberate assaults on citizens with vehicles are less frequently practiced by terrorists, which is primarily due to the adopted security measures in public places, as well as antiquated restrictions introduced in most countries, including those concerning the gathering of people and the holding of mass events.
Is the information reliable that during the pandemic emissaries of all kinds of terrorist organizations have become noticeably more active on the Web?
Yuri Kokov: Yes. So, for example, through social networks, they began to discredit the actions of local authorities in the fight against the pandemic, to form the mood of confusion and uncertainty among the population. Online recruitment activities have also intensified.
Sociological studies conducted in the United States have shown that during the period of the transition to mass self-isolation, there has been a significant increase in the demand for extremist content on the Internet, especially among young people. It is obvious that this process entails an expansion of the social base of radicals for extremist and terrorist purposes.
You are talking about the ideological side of the use of the Internet by terrorists. But after all, information and telecommunication networks can be used directly for committing terrorist crimes?
Yuri Kokov: In the context of the rapid development of digital technologies, we are faced with enormous risks of using the virtual space itself as a cyber weapon. The negative consequences of such activities can pose a much greater public danger and many times exceed the damage caused as a result of direct terrorist attacks using “traditional” means.
Unauthorized interference in the operation of control systems for potentially dangerous and critical facilities, including transport and fuel and energy infrastructure, can provoke man-made disasters with large human casualties, as well as large-scale economic and environmental damage.
As such an attack, for example, the Iranian authorities qualify an accident in the power distribution network at the uranium enrichment plant in Natanz. In the process of developing and introducing advanced technologies, in no case should one underestimate the new threats arising in this regard.
Is Russia ready to neutralize these challenges?
Yuri Kokov: We in our country are actively developing the national cyber security system, including through the Security Council of Russia and law enforcement agencies, and we call on the world community for closer cooperation in this area. It’s time to move from talking to real constructive steps and to adopt new international conventions and laws on countering terrorism in the digital space.
Speaking in general about the system of combating terrorism, I can say with confidence that Russia is in the forefront in these matters. For 15 years in our country, the Federal Law “On Counteracting Terrorism” has been in effect, on the basis of which a nationwide system of countering terrorism has been formed, uniting the counter-terrorism efforts of all government bodies at all levels of government.
Confirmation of my words is the official statistics of the National Anti-Terrorism Committee, according to which over 10 years the number of terrorist crimes in our country has decreased from 779 in 2010 to three in 2020.
Is our experience in the fight against terrorism in demand by the world community?
Yuri Kokov: Russia is purposefully working to form a broad anti-terrorist coalition, which V.V. Putin back in 2015 at the 70th session of the UN General Assembly. Unfortunately, a number of problems continue to exist. Until now, the world community has not been able to form a single, clear definition of the concept of “international terrorism” acceptable to all states and legal systems. This allows, depending on political goals and motives, to call terrorists either rebels, partisans or armed opposition. Hence the desire of individual states to use militants for their own geopolitical and economic purposes. A whole arsenal of tools is used: from direct participation in the creation of terrorist groups, their arming and coordination of activities to facilitating the movement of terrorists to other regions to destabilize the situation and incite conflicts.
And the last question. Is it still possible in the near future to unite international efforts in the fight against terror?
Yuri Kokov: I have no doubts that the international community still has enough reason and will to rise above its corporate interests and sacrifice geopolitical ambitions in the name of unity in the fight against terrorism and ensuring international security.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This article is a translation. Apologies should the grammar and / or sentence structure not be perfect.