Sa, 2.12.2023

Unconventional warfare expert: Europe must prepare for the worst

Evelyn Kaldoja
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Photo: Liis Treimann / Postimees

When fighting ISIS, it is paramount to counteract their recruiting activities in Europe and this is best done by European Muslims themselves says Estonian Defence Forces Major Margus Kuul with Master's from US Naval Postgraduate School in defence analysis and irregular warfare. 

- Are Paris and Brussels attacks part of the same wave of terror that begun with 9/11?

Actually, Islamist terror against the USA has been going on for decades, thus 9/11 was just one among several successes. Terror has been used to force the USA to leave Arab nations.

Multiple casualties, for instances, resulted in a 1983 attack on US Navy barracks in Beirut during the Lebanese civil war with over 200 marines dead. After that, the US pulled out of Lebanon. The Islamists took the exit as a sign of weakness. Likewise, the US left Mogadishu, Somalia in 1993 after they failed to capture Mohamed Farrah Aidid during an UN peacekeeping operation and US troops perished.

The US had created a behaviour pattern of their weakness, also inspiring Osama bin Laden. By attacking the twin towers in New York, Mr bin Laden wanted to force the United States to leave Arab countries. Seeing this had worked on former occasions.

Important here to realise that Mr bin Laden was a so-called takfiri terrorist. Most of takfiri terrorists are Sunni Salafists who follow the beliefs that they may declare another Moslem an infidel – thereby, they justify the murders and are willing to die for the total dominance of Islam. Salafists believe that real Moslems ought to live like the four initial Muslim generations 1,300 years ago.

Even so, not many Salafists believe the takfiri ideology, and even less of them are terrorists, and the majority of conservative Salafists have no direct link to terrorism. This last fact but one is important to understand. Meanwhile, all is takes is a handful of terrorists to pull off terrorist acts with large numbers of casualties and suppress the resistance of moderate Moslems. In Islam, Takfirism has been declared a heresy.

Responsibility for attacks in Paris and Brussels has been assumed by takfiri terrorists fighting for ISIS. Thus, it is actually important here to realise it is takfiri ideology what is common in 9/11 and the terrorists that attacked Paris and Brussels.

- What could be considered the so-called point zero for the emergence of ISIS?

In 2004 in Iraq, the spiritual father of ISIS Abu Musab al-Zarqawi tabled the idea of creating the Caliphate. He was killed in an US air raid in 2006, but his followers moved on with the idea, no matter that the declaration came too early for Mr bin Laden, to whom even Mr Zargawi pledged allegiance in 2004.

With its extremist activities, ISIS is not representing all Sunni Muslims over the world. Majority of Muslims don’t interpret the Koran like ISIS does it. ISIS rejects the mainstream Islam with its 1,400 years of development, interpreting the original Koran text in an extremely violent way, spurred by the motivation to kill infidels and create an Islamic Caliphate by violence.

In short, ISIS is practicing its version of Islam and has brought into honour the Al-Wala' wa'l-Bara doctrine which embraces 20 alliances with non-Moslems.

ISIS is adhering to takfiri ideology which is a cult of death. Meeting with enemies in battle must be eye to eye, and to die in battle, martyrdom and entering paradise by that, is a main goal. And that explains the behaviour of suicide terrorists.

- How did a grouping fighting in Syria and Iraq suddenly turn into an organisation which arranges attacks from Tunisia to Denmark and places bombs in planes?

ISIS has evolved, with varying degrees of success, from 2002 under the eyes of Arabic and Western worlds. Its spiritual father was Abu Musab al-Zarqawi who established his Sunni rebel movement in Iraq in 2002. As for the success of ISIS, the turning point was years later in 2014 as when Mosul was taken, an alleged 30,000 fully armed Iraqi security fighters fled a handful – 850 to 1,500 – ISIS combatants, leaving behind 2,300 armoured Hummers and an abundance of American weapons. Thanks to that, ISIS acquired manoeuvrability and the weapons acquired allowed expansion of the fighting into Syria.

In Syria, however, 80 percent of ISIS combatants are made up of foreigners, lion’s share of whom hail from Europe and are now also beginning to return. On top of the returning foreign fighters, salafist Sunnis are not coming to Europe from Syria whom ISIS is trying to recruit in order to further cultivate rebel activities in Europe.

- Who are the enemies, in their eyes, and what is their goal?

The opponents of ISIS are all who stand in their way to block the Caliphate. Nationalism and democracy need to be destroyed as this hinders the worship of Allah [in their version]. The main aim of ISIS is either subdue all Moslems to their power or kill them.

- What are the classical measures to fight this problem?

ISIS combatants and their salafist supporters need to be detected, eliminated or imprisoned in the bud, and in larger numbers than new rebels are appearing. As a terrorist rebel organisation, ISIS is made up if militants, their supporters and underground leaders. ISIS spreads like cancer. As we know, cancer needs to detected and destroyed when there is still time.

The classical counter-insurgency control goes like this: if in a day, month or year ISIS grown by a percent, say, then two percent need to be eliminated. The next generation arising from supporters must be neutralised or eliminated.  

It is important to obstruct ISIS recruitment capability in Europe, and this is best done by Moslems themselves. Already, ISIS is recruiting in refugee centres. Unless such recruitment is stopped at once, ISIS has already won. Namely, ISIS is a terrorist organisation made up of salafists and Sunni Moslems based on diaspora. At the moment, the EU isn’t even in on the ISIS «offer game» already underway, as ISIS is recruiting new members among the very Sunni refugees. .

Because of ISIS, a distinction needs to be made between refugees; like it or not, salafist Sunni Moslems are the risk group. Seeing that lion’s share of takfriri terrorists are Sunni salafists.

- Which methods do you consider most effective, and which ones aren’t really working?

Let’s begin by what doesn’t work. Our greatest enemy is our own desire to be successful in counter-insurgency by liberal democratic means. And we will not take away the willingness in takfiri terrorists to sacrifice their lives in the name of Allah.

The opponents is in total war against us, using terror and non-military means in order to gain absolute victory, as they have nothing to lose. In their opinion, we are rebelling against them, not vice versa.

Their military means is terrorism, but the non-military means for the continued attacks is the increasing diaspora in Europe of Sunni Moslems from Syria and elsewhere. Takfiri terrorists hide in the crowds and continue a long-term guerrilla war in our rear. Molenbeek, Brussels is an ideal example. Due to the immigration, such city districts are now growing all over Europe.  

For all who claim that immigration and terrorism are not interlinked, reading guerrilla war teachings by ’Abd Al-’Aziz Al-Mugrini or global jihad strategy by Abu Musa’ab Al-Suri is are must. In Details, Mr Al-Mugrin explains why for successful warfare a takfiri terrorist needs the support of Muslims; Mr Al-Suri, however, brings out the direct link of terrorists with Moslem immigrants in Europe. The success of takfiri terrorists depends on immigrants.

Meanwhile, to be successful one must change the rules of the game. For starters, we need to define victory. We have been promised a victory in war against terrorism while not defining «victory» or how to destroy ISIS.

In counter-insurgency, we distinguish weak, strong and absolute victory. Weak victory means to take away the terrorist’s means of attack: a bomb, a knife, an automatic rifle. Strong victory is removing the option, like sentence the rebel for a life in jail. Even so, with both victories, the motivation remains. While there is motivation, an alternative means will be found, as well as a new opportunity for attack. Absolute victory removes the motivation and is achieved by immediate neutralisation of a rebel or isolation from society for life.

In counter-insurgency, success comes by strong and absolute victory. Meanwhile, opting for the weak victory, the next step back is defeat. In Molenbeek, for instance, Belgium has chosen the weak victory and is headed towards defeat. It’s just a matter of time till an insurgency begins in the Molenbeek district as led by takfiri terrorists, and this is what the Belgian government fears above all right now.

- At which point does counter-terrorism turn into counter-insurgency and do you really believe this latter version may be reached in Europe?

Counter-insurgency is already happening in EU states. Firstly, we need to understand that counter-terrorism is a component of counter-insurgency. Already, EU governments are engaged in an unsuccessful counter-insurgency campaign against Europe’s second and third generation Sunni Moslem takfiri terrorists.

Therefore, however, right wing extremism is forcefully rising against immigrants and, in turn initiating left wing extremism.

It is now being openly admitted that integration into Europe of a large part of Moslems has failed and extremist Moslems in Europe are openly attacking nationalism and democracy, demanding Sharia law i.e. parallel government. Excellent examples are activities of groupings like Shariia4Belgium (last year, declared a terrorist organisation by Belgian court which jailed their spokesperson Fouad Belkacem for 12 years – edit), or Islam4UK.

Here, we must learn the lesson of the Jews. Sensing the pre-insurgency situation with Islamist extremism the best, European Jews are leaving in order to avoid religious violence for that very reason. In 2015 we saw 15,000 Jews leave France. Jews are also leaving Sweden due to terror by Moslem immigrants, and European Jewish Congress says a third of the 700,000 Jews in Europe wish to leave. What we just mention would suffice to explain why decisive action is needed with violence due to Islam and with counter-insurgency, and not to be limited to counter-terrorism alone.

The continuing takfiri terrorist attacks and crimes by migrants are triggering popular movements which have reached the pre-insurgency stage and I do hope the situation will not further escalate. If it does, EU governments may not be able to control the situation that will arise.

- How long, by the most optimistic prognosis, would it take to gain control over Islamism currently arisen in Europe?  Can we talk about some terrorism life cycle during which a movement will calm down by itself?

Until we do not employ effective measures, as I described, we will not see success but will lose. The path to defeat may take years or decades.

A terrorist organisation does have its life cycle, but their success depends on how they link their strategy with growth of the organisation, and on counter-activity by opponent. It is very important to understand whether and when ISIS will launch a broad based attack.

First and foremost, counter-insurgency must be targeted against the strategy of the insurgents. For insurgents, three components count most: people, money and weapons. To break up a grouping, they must be cut off from underground supporters and recruitment base. In Europe, ISIS is supported by the ever increasing Muslin diaspora as well as Muslim nations.

Seeing the goals of ISIS, it is of little likelihood that the grouping will calm down by itself – seeing their goal is absolute victory. Already, Europe must prepare for the worst and we are foolish not to. The greatest shortcoming with Europeans is then being unable to see the dangers described.