“In Georgia, the threat is external, not internal” - The Pankisi Conundrum
26 November, 2015
“In Georgia, the threat is external, not internal” - The Pankisi Conundrum
As many an expert and opinion maker predicted, it did not take long for ISIS to turn its gaze towards the South Caucasus - specifically, to Georgia, with a threatening narrative-filled video message appearing on one of their propaganda websites. Nevertheless, the shock and disbelief in society was almost palpable and there is a tangible sense of confusion in the air when discussing issues as to how capable Georgia might be in handling its security, if the threats ever start
to materialize. Voice of America’s very own Anna Kalandadze sat down with Mr. Ilan Berman, Vice President of American Foreign Policy Council, to discuss these issues.

Read the Georgian version of the article on Voice of America website.

“I do not think it is realistic to think of ISIS, no matter how appealing it is for Georgian Muslims, overthrowing a government and establishing an Islamic state there. In this regard, Georgia finds itself in a better place than other countries in the post-Soviet space, like Tajikistan or Kyrgyzstan.”

Interview with Ilan Berman, Vice President, American Foreign Policy Council

– How can you explain the latest message of ISIS to Georgia at this time? What can our government do to root out the beginnings of radicalism in the country and stop the menace?

– The ISIS message is a clear signal that the organization is continuing to expand its strategic horizons further and further away from Iraqi and Syrian geotv.gebattlefields where they have both potential and interest to subvert political structures. This has certainly been the case in the Russian Federation in recent months and the message to Georgia over the weekend is an indication that the organization is looking at the post-Soviet space as a whole.

What we are seeing in the last several weeks in places like Paris and elsewhere is that the fight against ISIS is no longer confined to the Middle East. It’s increasingly spreading out to different regions, including Europe as well as Eurasia. Thus, whatever the government of Georgia does in support of operations against ISIS - not within its own borders but outside them, as part of a global effort - will have benefits because it will limit the group’s ability over time to reach out and touch places in the Caucasus and Eurasia, like Georgia.

– The problem so far seemed to be limited to the Pankisi Gorge; there was no strong indication from elsewhere in Georgia, at least. You speak about the terrorist group’s intent to spread the message – is this what’s happening across Georgia now? Moreover, is this an internal or external factor?

– I think it is a little bit of both. Certainly, the instability that accompanied the influx of Islamic radicals into the Pankisi Gorge over the last decade in Georgia has created some members of this community that can be mobilized by ISIS, but in Georgia the threat is external, not internal. There is no huge population inside the country that is acting to mobilize against the state; it is rather an expression of an organization’s ambition and desire to create a regional caliphate and put regional governments on notice that they intend to do just that.

– Would you discuss measures taken to integrate Muslims into the Georgian society? It seems to be an ostentatious point in this narrative.

– It’s a valid point. Across post-Soviet space, groups like ISIS or Al-Qaeda have flourished precisely because there has not been enough outreach, not enough integration or opportunities for the Muslims in these countries. Georgia has done relatively well in a comparative sense, but there is still more to be done to ensure that Muslim community in Georgia, small as it is, becomes more integrated, more vested in the current state and not attracted by groups like ISIS.

– Is jihadism a real threat in Georgia, and if so, what are the motives? Can Russia be fostering it inadvertently?

– In Georgia’s context, jihadism brings the threat of destabilization rather than subversion. I do not think it’s realistic to think of ISIS, no matter how appealing it is for Georgian Muslims, overthrowing a government and establishing an Islamic state there. In this regard, Georgia finds itself in a better place than other countries in the post-Soviet space, like Tajikistan or Kyrgyzstan. You are relatively well-off, but the threat to public order and safety of Georgian citizens is significant and should not be ignored. As for Russia, what it’s doing in Syria and the Middle East is often portrayed in the West as an offensive and opportunistic strategy. However, in many ways what Russia is doing is defensive. Russia has seen its foreign jihadists go to Syria and Iraq to fight alongside ISIS; so, Russia would rather fight them in the Middle East than wait for them to come home and take the fight inside its borders.

– How optimistic are you about a global fight against ISIS?

– I would like to say I am very optimistic, but we have seen the story before.  In the past, terror attacks have galvanized the global attention for a time but they have not resulted in a concerted effort and international coalition against jihadism. We saw France’s robust initial response after the Paris attacks but now it is talking about no troops on the ground and limiting its investment into an aerial campaign. This avoids the larger issue. It has to be a multilateral fight, but also a fight by a coalition of foreign countries.  If it’s done piecemeal, the impact is going to be diluted and we are going to see more of the same.

By Anna Kalandadze, VOA Georgian Service


Read the Georgian version of the article on Voice of America website.

Print
Other Stories
Russia bans flights to Georgia from July 8
Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a decree yesterday prohibiting Russian airlines from carrying Russian citizens to Georgia from July 8.
Zakaria Kutsnashvili renounces his MP mandate
Zakaria Kutsnashvili, who was the head of the Georgian delegation in the Inter-parliamentary Session on Orthodoxy, has renounced his MP mandate.
Police use teargas, rubber bullets against protesters, says Human Rights Watch
Riot police in Tbilisi fired rubber bullets and used teargas without warning against thousands of nonviolent protesters
Russian lawmaker demands “official apology” from Tbilisi
Tbilisi should give its formal apology to Russia for the provocations against Russian delegates in the Inter-parliamentary Assembly on Orthodoxy,
Georgian police used teargas, rubber Bullets and water cannon against protesters
Police in Georgia used tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannon to stop protesters entering the country’s parliament on Friday.
Gavrilov: "Russia and Georgia are united by the brotherly orthodox union"
The citizens of Georgia are protesting against the conduct of the Inter-Parliamentary Assembly on Orthodoxy in Georgia, which was led by Russian Deputy Sergey Gavrilov.
Inter-Parliamentary Assembly on Orthodoxy canceled following public outrage
The session of Inter-parliamentary Assembly on Orthodoxy held at Parliament of Georgia has been canceled after the protest.
The Russian deputy in the Chairman’s chair of the Parliament of Georgia
The Interparliamentary Assembly on Orthodoxy is taking place between the 19th and 22nd of June in Tbilisi.
Michael Carpenter about Georgia's open policy with Russia
Michael Carpenter has recently tweeted about Georgia's open policy with Russia.
Another Georgian David Arakhamia to work with President Zelensky
Georgian businessman David Arakhamia also known as David Brown is another Georgian to join President Zelensky’s team in Ukraine.
What Do the EP Elections Mean for Georgia?
The European Parliament elections are over, with the liberal wing sighing with relief, while the right wingers can smugly point to the increase to 25% of representation in the world 's second largest democratically elected parliament.
PM Mamuka Bakhtadze met with US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo
Prime Minister of Georgia Mamuka Bakhtadze met with US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo on the 11th of June.
Zourabichvili talks about Russian occupation at Labour Conference
President of Georgia Salome Zourabichvili took part in the 108th Session of the International Labour Conference,
UN General Assembly passes Georgia IDP Resolution
The UN General Assembly has adopted the Resolution on „Status of Internally Displaced Persons and Refugees from Abkhazia, Georgia and the Tskhinvali Region/South Ossetia, Georgia”
Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko offers Mikheil Saakashvili to chair the Udar Party
After arrival of ex-president of Georgia and ex-Governor of Ukraine's Odesa region Mikheil Saakashvili in Ukraine there were speculations about whether he would be offered political positions.
Skepticism grows about Mikheil Saakashvili's political perspective in Ukraine
Ukrainian Politician Scientist Vyacheslav Fesenko assesses Mikheil Saakashvili's comeback in Ukraine and shows skepticism over his future.
Mikheil Saakashvili's extradition procedures had not been suspended, Georgian prosecutors say
Former president of Georgia Mikheil Saakashvili may have returned in Ukraine, but it does not mean that he is done with Georgia.
Mikheil Saakashvili arrives in Ukraine
Former president of Georgia and former governor of Odesa district Mikheil Saakashvili has arrived in Ukraine.
Volodymyr Zelensky returns Ukrainian citizenship to Mikheil Saakashvili
Ukraine's new president, Volodymyr Zelensky, has retuned Mikheil Saakashvili, ex-president of Georgia and former governor of Odessa region, the Ukrainian citizenship
Demonstration is underway in Davit Gareji - dispute over the site goes on
The demonstration – “Gareji is Georgia; We are the Children of the Caucasus" has launched in Davit Gareji.
US President congratulates Prime Minister on Independence Day
The President of the United States has congratulated the Prime Minister of Georgia on Independence Day.
Salome Zourabichvili about Russia, Mikheil Saakashvili and Giorgi Margvelashvili
During her visit to Estonia, Salome Zourabichvili, President of Georgia gave an interview to the Eesti Rahvusringhääling (Estonian radio and television organization).
National Democratic Institute publishes its survey
National Democratic Institute has published its survey.
Salome Zourabichvili meets Volodymyr Zelensky
Georgian President Salome Zourabichvili has met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Elections were held in Georgia – What you need to know?
By-elections and extraordinary mayoral elections were held on the 19th of May in Georgia. It was one of the most contested and tense elections in recent period.
PHOTO OF THE DAY
GEL Exchange Rate
Convertor
23.06.2019
24.06.2019
USD
1
USD
2.7798
2.7798
EUR
1
EUR
3.1442
3.1442
GBP
1
GBP
3.5220
3.5220
RUB
100
RUB
4.4129
4.4129
Other Stories
On 26 May, Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission, joined celebrations in the Georgian capital of Tbilisi
Violation of Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity by Assad regime has been strictly criticized
Exactly one year ago, Georgia was granted visa-free travel with the European Union.
Georgia’s ex-president president Mikheil Saakashvili's supporters managed to free detained Mikheil Saakashvili in the center of Kiev.
The US Ambassador to Georgia Ian Kelly congratulates Georgia on Independence Day.
The regulations on the introduction of visa-free travel for citizens of Georgia have been officially signed in Brussels.
The entire Georgia is involved in Secret Santa game, which means that people are sending gifts to each other secretly
The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Georgia is taking part in NATO Ministerial underway in Brussels, Belgium.
A special squad has been mobilized at the 48th polling station in Marneuli, Kvemo Kartli region.
Two politicians in Georgia have come to blows during a live TV debate ahead of the country’s parliamentary elections, Euronews reports.
GEL Exchange
USD
1
USD
2.7798
EUR
1
EUR
3.1442
GBP
1
GBP
3.5220
RUB
100
RUB
4.4129