The Future of Iraq: Findings of the Atlantic Council's Task Force Report 2017

Report of the Task Force on the Future of Iraq: Achieving Long-Term Stability to Ensure the Defeat of ISIS
May 31, 2017

Chair: Ambassador Ryan Crocker
Executive Director: Dr. Nussaibah Younis

Excerpts from the Report: The Iraqi government, backed by the United States and its coalition partners, are on the brink of retaking all the territories once occupied by the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) in Iraq. In this report, we offer a strategy for how the United States can build on this success to bring about a lasting defeat of ISIS and secure US national security interests in Iraq over the long term. Over the course of 2016, the Task Force on the Future of Iraq brought together the world’s leading Iraq scholars, experts, and former policy practitioners to conduct a rigorous inquiry into how the United States could best protect its national security interests and promote Iraqi interests through targeted and effective engagement in Iraq.

Recommendations for US Iraq Policy

Publicly Co…

Taliban Targeting of Islamic Scholars - A Vicious Campaign to Control Religious Narrative

Taliban Target: Scholars of Islam
New York Times, MAY 28, 2017

TOGH-BAIRDI, Afghanistan — A lone grave, its dirt mound shaded under the drooping branches of a mulberry tree and kept adorned with flowers, has become a daily stop for seminary students and staff members near Togh-Bairdi, in northern Afghanistan.

It is the burial site of Mawlawi Shah Agha Hanafi, a revered religious scholar who founded the seminary about two decades ago and helped it grow into a thriving school for 1,300 students, including 160 girls. This month, the Taliban planted a bomb that killed him as he conducted a discussion about the Prophet Muhammad’s traditions, and his grave, at a corner of the seminary grounds, has become a gathering place for prayer and grief.
“When I come to work, the first thing I do is recite a verse of the Quran at his grave,” said Jan Agha, the headmaster of the seminary, in Parwan Province. “Then I weep, and then I go to my office.”
The scholars hav…

Who are the new jihadis? - An Insightful analysis by Olivier Roy

Who are the new jihadis? Biographies of ‘homegrown’ European terrorists show they are violent nihilists who adopt Islam, rather than religious fundamentalists who turn to violence
by Olivier Roy

There is something new about the jihadi terrorist violence of the past two decades. Both terrorism and jihad have existed for many years, and forms of “globalised” terror – in which highly symbolic locations or innocent civilians are targeted, with no regard for national borders – go back at least as far as the anarchist movement of the late 19th century. What is unprecedented is the way that terrorists now deliberately pursue their own deaths.
Over the past 20 years – from Khaled Kelkal, a leader of a plot to bomb Paris trains in 1995, to the Bataclan killers of 2015 – nearly every terrorist in France blew themselves up or got themselves killed by the police. Mohamed Merah, who killed a rabbi and three children at a Jewish school in Toulouse in 2012, uttered a variant of a famous statement at…

My Return to Blogging & plan to focus on broader issues in South West Asia

I am returning to active blogging after a few years in response to requests from some loyal followers. The purpose remains educational in focus and I hope to use this medium to alert my students and other followers about informative and insightful publications on South and South West Asia besides occasional updates about my own writings, travel reports and events.

The Amman Message: A Great Initiative that deserves global support


‘[T]he best resource for those who wish to travel along the straight path in their words and their actions, and in their spiritual and religious life’ — The Grand Shaykh of the Azhar, Shaykh Mohammed Sayyid Tantawi (may God have mercy on him), 2006.

The Amman Message started as a detailed statement released the eve of the 27th of Ramadan 1425 AH / 9th November 2004 CE by H.M. King Abdullah II bin Al-Hussein in Amman, Jordan. It sought to declare what Islam is and what it is not, and what actions represent it and what actions do not. Its goal was to clarify to the modern world the true nature of Islam and the nature of true Islam.

In order to give this statement more religious authority, H.M. King Abdullah II then sent the following three questions to 24 of the most senior religious scholars from all around the world representing all the branches and schools of Islam: (1) Who is a Muslim? (2) Is it permissible to declare someone an a…

How to build an effective counter-narrative to extremism in Pakistan?

Confronting Extremism Through Building an Effective Counter-Narrative
This article was originally published in the Development Advocate Pakistan on April 25, 2016.

While Pakistan is using kinetic means to push back terrorist organizations such as Al-Qaeda and Tehrik-i-Taliban in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), it is still struggling to find an antidote to religious extremism and bigotry that provides space for extremist thinking and consequent violence across the country. The ideas of pluralism, religious harmony and openness to diverse political views have slowly given way to narrow mindedness, sectarianism and intolerance. The democratic experience is equipping Pakistan to revive its balance in the socio-political domain, but it is a fact that the social space in the country today is highly contested between extremist and progressive elements of society.

The blame for these trends within the media and policy circles of Pakistan is often directed towards regional confli…

Fall & Rise of Taliban: A Lecture in Islamabad

SIPR Lecture Series: "Are Taliban History?" @ Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad, Pakistan - November 27, 2015
Sponsored by American Institute of Pakistan Studies:

A lecture was organized under the SPIR Lecture Series on November 26, 2015 at School of Politics and International Relations. Dr. Hassan Habbas from National Defense University, Washington D.C. gave a lecture on “Are Taliban History: How and why they survived for over two decades in Afghanistan and Pakistan.” Director SPIR, Dr. Zafar Nawaz Jaspal formally started the session by the welcome address.

Dr. Hassan Abbas is a Pakistani-American academic in the field of South Asian and Middle Eastern studies. His research focuses on security issues pertaining to governance, law enforcement and counterterrorism in these regions. Dr. Abbas was a civil servant in Pakistan.

Dr. Abbas raised a major concern about the reasons of terrorism and the inability of Pakistan and Afghanistan to curb it…