What is state failure? See my conceptualisation of state failure on the right flank below.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

A bunch of links: northern Afghanistan and Kenya/Somalia

Want to read something fresh and interesting out of northern Afghanistan? Here is an interesting article from the Guardian (h/t to Joshua Foust). And another one, also from Iraqi journalist Ghaith Abdul-Ahad, that came out on the same day. Both are must-reads in my view. Things I would note, quickly listed here, are "seven Taliban checkpoints" west of Kunduz, not far from the city, parallel ethnic chains of command, apparently, for Pashtuns, Uzbeks and Turkmen under the rather well-organised local Taliban Committee, daring talk of taking the jihad beyond the Amu Darya when that will become possible, and the already non-surprising news of the recent influx of Uzbek fighters in the north (the article assumes they came from the south of Afghanistan, but this is about the only detail I would have doubts about - the wording, that they were supposedly "fleeing" fighting in the south, doesn't feel accurate). Also interesting is the look at the arms trade through the example of a trader based in Ishkashim, Badakhshan - China is named as a key source of weapons, and Tajiks as buyers on occasions, rather than clearly re-sellers as you could assume. And Baghlan province seems to be a logistically important handover point for shipments delivered to the Taliban, to the south of Afghanistan, which I also found significant. In general, the two articles offer a glimpse at the process of how conditions overall deteriorate in the north. Local authorities' corruption plays into it, a lack of really promising economic opportunities leaves the business and the conduct of war as one of few such opportunities, drugs cross the area, the organisers of the insurgency are poised to establish more of a foothold in these areas etc. A dangerous constellation...
Talking about how populations can get sucked into spreading armed activities, here is a bunch of links now on something else: the process of radicalisation and how it supplies fighters to al-Shabaab's fight in Somalia. CSM offers two great, more or less recent, pieces on the subject, by Heba Aly. One is a look at the Somali enclave of Eastleigh in the Kenyan capital Nairobi, and notorious recruiting places such as the Sixth Street mosque there. The other is the story of a young Kenyan Somali man from the ethnically mixed, "multicultural" you could say, Kenyan town of Isiolo, whose long radicalisation saw him frequent the Sixth Street mosque in Eastleigh as well, for a while. He is dead by now, fallen in fighting somewhere in Somalia. Just like Americans Jamal Bana and Shirwa Ahmed, who travelled, joining others like them, to Somalia to fight with al-Shabaab there, from Minneapolis. Meanwhile, al-Shabaab is also known to recruit fighters in refugee camps where a lot of Somalis live in Kenya, such as the Dadaab camp (one of the world's largest refugee camps).
All sorts of people, joining the same cause for all sorts of reasons. Some seem like the al-gaida that Nushin Arbabzadah wrote of the other day, some follow a more "textbook" path, arriving at joining what they hold to be righteous jihad through first turning inwards, and carrying out tabligh, and some seem relatively well-off but out-of-place and seem to want to cope with awkward lives through radical steps they might not entirely understand at the time they take them. Diverse as they are, they all end up in the same places - where any recruit from the West, defensively ridiculed as an Islamic-Fight-Club-enthusiast-cum-jihobbyist as he may be there, is caught up with all the al-gaida, and all the accidental guerrillas of David Kilcullen, and all the actually deeply committed jihadists such as the guy from Isiolo, whose story CSM recounted in that article mentioned above - and with others yet. And the fighting that molds them together, is then generously funded by wealthy donors and far-reaching transnational networks.

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