|| By Lt. General P.C. Katoch (Retd.)
Former Director General of Information Systems, Indian Army
Creeping of the radical Wahabi-Salafi culture overtaking the Sufi culture and Kashmiriyat of Srinagar Valley has been a slow but steady affair facilitated by misadministration, corruption, politico-terrorist nexus and intransigence, which lead to the volatile situation of today. Preaching for radicalization and spreading anti-India messages on social media and mosques with or without loudspeakers were ignored. Despite the same Wahabi-Salafi culture having engulfed Pakistan completely, we ignored the type of radicalization the ISI could possibly achieve in the abundant youth of the Valley even as they were far better off than their brethren across the border and there are no beggars this side of the LoC. Till the turmoil post killing of Burhan Wani, Pakistani and ISIS flags were being merrily waived and hoisted especially during Friday prayers and the administration took no action whatsoever. A similar intransigent approach to the advent of ISIS in India could be disastrous.
Recently there have been views expressed in media negating growth of ISIS in India, even saying that some of our youth who went to join the ISIS are returning back disillusioned by an organization that is in its “death throws”. This is frog in the well attitude, considering James B. Comey, Director FBI publicly stated on 27 July, 2016, “Eventual victory against the Islamic State could well lead to an uptick of terrorist attacks in the West, not a reduction in them. Hundreds of really dangerous people, and they are going to flow primarily to Western Europe, but some could well end up in the United States”. The eventual victory he talks about can by no means be complete when the ISIS in Iraq-Syria is mixed with eight million population. In India, the NIA recently bust ISIS cells in Kerala, Maharashtra, Hyderabad and other places. ISIS flags and T-shirts have also been seen in these places as also Pakistani flags in UP and Bihar. Post the capture of ISIS Twitter handler Mehdi Biswas alias Shami Witness, a former DG NIA went on record to say that there are some 100 individuals in India engaged in similar recruitment for ISIS. The flatness of the internet and social media makes propagation of terrorism and radicalization so very simple. Harry Sarfo, a German national who went to join ISIS was told by members of Emni (ISIS’s secret service) with faces covered told him he they had enough Europeans and he should get back to Germany as that is where he was needed to do terror attacks.
As per Sarfo, though Emni has made a global portfolio (including South and SE Asia) and prefer militant’s who have emerged from Al Qaeda, new recruits are being sent back to plan attacks at home. It would be prudent that we do not carried away by our youth who return after contact with ISIS and get carried away with stories of their disillusionment that may not be true. Additionally, ISIS has been propagating lone wolf attacks for some time, which can cause mass casualties. What should concern us most is the Velayat Khorasan or the Khorasan chapter that aims to absorb Af-Pak and India into the Islamic Caliphate. According to US intelligence, ISIS in Afghanistan are “amalgamation of primarily disaffected and rebranded former Afghan Taliban and Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) members” but they are mum about who cobbled them together in Peshawar, what is their leadership and who pushed them West from Peshawar to establish their major base in nine districts of the Nangarhar Province of Afghanistan? The one word answer is Pakistan’s ISI, which the Obama administration has been downplaying. The brigade strength ISIS in Afghanistan is likely led by Pakistan’s ISI and aside from comprising Taliban cadres would have mix of Pakistani regulars disguised as Taliban.
Significantly, the A report released by the UN Assistance Mission Afghanistan (UNAMA) in July 2016 has pointed out that the LeT and JeM are also operating in Afghanistan now in conjunction anti-Afghan government forces. According to Voice of America, Afghanistan has officially told Pakistan Hafiz Saeed, former LeT chief is directing ISIS operations in Afghanistan. These are significant developments that need to be viewed in conjunction Pakistani national Asim Umar, the AQIS chief giving a call urging Muslims in India to undertake ‘lone wolf’ attacks to target senior IPS and IAS officers following example of youths in Europe and strike against Indian police and senior officials. According to him, senior government officials should be held responsible for communal violence, adding that the state and its departments were equally responsible for the incidents against Muslims in India and senior officials must be targeted to cause financial loss to the government and start riots in the country. That this would be at the best of ISI is undoubted. But if Pakistan can direct ISIS attacks in Afghanistan, it would do so in India as well. The ISIS threat can therefore not be taken lightly.