Russia’s Counterinsurgency in North Caucasus: Performance and Consequences

Authored by Dr. Ariel Cohen.

Russia's Counterinsurgency in ... Cover Image

 

Brief Synopsis

 

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The North Caucasus region has been a source of instability for the past several centuries. Most recently, Chechen aspirations to achieve full independence after the break-up of the Soviet Union led to two disastrous wars. While the active phase of the Chechen conflict ended in 2000 – more than a decade ago—the underlying social, economic, and political issues of the region remain. A low-level insurgency continues to persist in the North Caucasus region, with occasional terrorist attacks in the Russian heartland. There are few reasons to expect any substantial improvement in the situation for years to come. Chechnya functions as a de facto independent entity; Islamist influence in Dagestan is growing, terror attacks continue, and the rest of the North Caucasus requires massive presence of Russian security services to keep the situation under control. Continue reading

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Islamist North Caucasus Rebels Training a New Generation of Fighters in Syria

Publication: Terrorism Monitor Volume: 12 Issue: 3

February 7, 2014 09:43 AM  By: Murad Batal al- Shishani

Chechen (Ichkerian) seal bearing a wolf, the n...

Chechen (Ichkerian) seal bearing a wolf, the nation’s symbolic embodiment. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As Syria’s bloody conflict enters its fourth year in March, it continues to provide a battlefield that attracts jihadists from all over the world. North Caucasians, including Chechens, are no exception. Previously, many reports alleged that Chechens were present in jihadi battlefields in Afghanistan, Iraq and other places; however, these claims were never proved. Syria is the first place where Chechen jihadists are indisputably taking part in fighting outside the North Caucasus.

Chechens and other Caucasians in Syria operate in four major groups, each of which is commanded by one of four prominent Chechen leaders: Omar al-Shishani, Saifullah al-Shishani, Amir Muslim and Salahudeen al-Shishani (the mujahideen announced the death of the latter via Twitter on February 6). These commanders are not related but all use al-Shishani (Arabic – “the Chechen”) as a surname.

Divisions and Unifications

Omar al-Shishani, born Tarkhan Batirashvili, comes from the remote Pankisi Gorge in northeast Georgia, populated by ethnic Chechens who emigrated from their homeland in the 19th century. Before making his way to jihad, Omar served in the Georgian military in the disputed republic of Abkhazia between 2006 and 2007. He later signed a contract in 2008 to join the Georgian army as a rifleman, but this came to an end when he was dismissed due to tuberculosis. In September 2010, he was arrested for the illegal purchase and storage of arms. Continue reading

Russia in the North Caucasus: what’s happened and what is next

21 January 2014 – 11:05am
By Vestnik Kavkaza

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The problem of the North Caucasus’s image in Russia and the world is one of main topics for discussions on inter-ethnic relations and other problems of Russia.
Alexei Pilko, Director General of the Eurasian Communicational Center, thinks that “the image of the North Caucasus, evaluation and interpretation of events which are happening in the North Caucasus play a huge role in Russia’s image in the world. The position of foreign, especially Western mass media, toward events in the North Caucasus is a targeted information campaign on the destruction of a positive image of the region. It is targeted media work against the efforts which Russia undertakes to develop the North Caucasus. Any events which happen there have a huge multiplicative effect. Continue reading

Sharing Some History With Boston

Viceroyalty of the Caucasus עברית: מלכות המשנה...

Viceroyalty of the Caucasus עברית: מלכות המשנה של הקווקז (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

April 26, 2013: The April 15th terrorist in the United States (Boston) has made the world more aware of Russia’s terrorism problem in the Caucasus. The two Boston terrorists (the Tsarnaev brothers) were Chechens from Dagestan. Russia had alerted the American FBI and CIA about the elder brother in 2011. Russia had no hard evidence but their intelligence had picked up some data on the elder Tsarnaev brother’s interest in Islamic radicalism. In the United States the FBI and CIA are being grilled over why this vague tip did not result in the April 15 attack being prevented. One defense that will probably be heard (more likely from the CIA, which has long monitored the Caucasus) is that there are a lot Islamic radical Chechens these days, but few of them proceed to become Islamic terrorists and fewer still attempt to make attacks outside Russia. That has given Russia a lot of problems in the last two decades.

Despite this formidable terrorist threat, the security forces (local and national police plus specialized counter-terror forces from the police and military) have managed to reduce the terrorism in the Caucasus but not eliminate it.

Continue reading

Conundrum In The Caucasus

Administrative map of Caucasus in USSR, 1957-1991

Image via Wikipedia

March 9, 2012: In Russia the Islamic terrorism problem in the North Caucasus (Dagestan. Chechnya, Ingushetia, Kabardino-Balkaria and Karachaevo-Cherkessia) continues to fester. Widespread government corruption and unemployment provides a growing supply of new recruits. It all began in Chechnya back in the 1990s, and has spread to neighboring areas as it became obvious that the corruption did not disappear when the old Soviet government did in 1991. The Soviets had allowed locals to run things, pretty much any way they wanted, as long as they kept thing quiet and did not do anything that embarrassed the central government. With Soviets gone, people, especially the young, expected change. It didn’t come.

The Chechens tried, throughout the 1990s, to maintain their self-declared independence from Russia. But the Chechens could not govern themselves, and the place became a hideout for numerous criminal gangs. These guys started a kidnapping, robbery and extortion crime wave all over southern Russia. In 1999, Russia invaded again, to reassert its authority and halt the crime wave. Several years of bloody fighting followed, until a majority of the population agreed to shut down the gangsters. Ever since, Chechnya has been at peace, at least by local standards. But many of the criminals and Islamic militants fled to neighboring “republics” (as the semi-autonomous ethnic enclaves in Russia are called), mainly Ingushetia to the west, and Dagestan to the east.

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Islamist militant claims Moscow attack

Doku Umarov, Amir of the Caucasus Emirate, ex-...

Image via Wikipedia

Doku Umarov, the head of a Chechnya-based rebel group that aims to enforce Islamic rule across the Northern Caucasus, made the claim in a video that was posted two weeks after the suicide bombing at Moscow Domodedovo airport. Continue reading