“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
Judges that served the violent regime of Saakashvili should not be in the Supreme Court, says Eka Beselia
Eka Beselia, a member of the parliamentary majority, held a press conference in the Parliament today.
Possible confrontation within the Georgian Dream Party?
Eka Beselia, a member of the ruling party, will hold a news conference in the Parliament at 12:00 today.
13 dead from swine flu in Georgia, emergency treatment to be free for all
13 people died from swine flu in Georgia so far, but there is no risk of epidemy, says Georgian Minister of Health.
Georgian president Salome Zurabishvili not ready for launching diplomatic dialogue with Russia
I'm not ready to give any advice to the legislative body about the launch of the diplomatic relations or dialogue with Russia
Georgia suffering the steepest drop in democratic quality in eastern Europe
According to the statistics for the Democracy Index 2018, published by Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU),
“Let’s see if you can wrestle with women”- Interior minister to the opposition
Female Police officers were mobilized in front of the Gurjaani District Court where the case of Davit Kirkitadze, the member of the United Opposition was considered.
Georgian citizens can apply for temporary residency in France
150 permits for young specialists as well as additional 500 permits will be granted each year to go to work to France.
Numbers of Georgians seeking asylum in Germany has significantly decreased
According to Ambassador of Georgia to Germany Elguja Khokrishvili, the drop of asylum requests has been due to recently taken steps.
U.S. Congress supports Georgia with a new bill
Unanimously the U.S. approved the act, which calls for imposing sanctions on Russian actors for the commission of serious human rights abuses in the occupied Georgian territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
‘Horn wrestling’ between opposition party leader and police chef
Yesterday on the 16th of December, clashes occurred between Nika Melia, leader of the United National Movement and Teimuraz Kupatadze, head of patrol police department in the village of Velistsikhe, Kakheti region (eastern part of Georgia).
Salome Zourabichvili officially becomes the fifth president of Georgia
The inauguration ceremony of president-elect Salome Zourabichvili took place in Telavi, Kakheti (eastern region of Georgia) on the 16th of December.
Fight erupt in paliament between Georgian MPs during session
Verbal and physical confrontation has occurred between MPs in the parliament.
Famous Georgians invited at the Inauguration of Salome Zourabichvili
The inauguration ceremony of president elect Salome Zourabishvili will be held in Telavi, Kakheti (eastern region of Georgia) on the 16th of December.
Exclusive interview with Lincoln Mitchell, American political analyst and Georgia expert
More than 20,000 people responded to the appeal of the opposition and gathered in front of the former parliament building in downtown Tbilisi last Sunday.
The after-pains of the presidential election in Georgia
Yesterday evening, at a meeting with his supporters in the Philharmonic Hall, the defeated candidate Grigol Vashadze made it clear that he didn’t recognize the result of the presidential elections and called for early parliamentary elections.
National democratic institute publishes their findings about the presidential elections in Georgia
A delegation of the National Democratic Institute, which included observers from five countries, analyzed the election process.
International media about the runoff presidential elections in Georgia
Although it didn’t hit the headlines, newspapers and broadcast around the world report about Salome Zurabishvili as the first woman who became president in Georgia.
100% of the ballot counted: Salome Zourabichvili wins
Yesterday on the 28th of November, the second round of the presidential election took place in Georgia.
Salome Zurabishvili was elected as president of Georgia
According to the CEC, Central Election Committee of Georgia Salome Zurabishvili, an independent candidate endorsed by the ruling Georgian Dream Party, received 59.61 percent of votes.
Preliminary results of runoff election for president in Georgia and clashes in Marneuli
Preliminary results for runoff election for president in Georgia have been announced.
Exit polls say Salome Zurabishvili won runoff election for president in Georgia
Runoff elections for president are over in Georgia. Voting booths were closed at 8 pm Tbilisi time. Some exit polls have already been published.
The Ministry of Internal Affairs about the shooting in Chumlaki
Today on the 28th of November, the second round of the presidential election takes place in Georgia.
Second round of presidential elections in Georgia
Georgians head to the polls for a runoff election for president. The first round was held on the 28th of October,
The 15th Anniversary of Georgia’s Rose Revolution
15 years ago, in 2003, the rose revolution took place in Georgia.
Unprecedented move by Cartu Group to nullify debts for 600 000 Georgian citizens
The Prime Minister of Georgia Mamuka Bakhtadze announced on the 19th of November that the bank debt of over 600,000 Georgian citizens, including those on a so-called ‘Black List’ will be annulled.
PHOTO OF THE DAY

Exchange Rates
GEL Exchange Rate
Convertor
20.01.2019
21.01.2019
USD
1
USD
2.6629
2.6629
EUR
1
EUR
3.0368
3.0368
GBP
1
GBP
3.4463
3.4463
RUB
100
RUB
4.0103
4.0103
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
2.6629
EUR
1
EUR
3.0368
GBP
1
GBP
3.4463
RUB
100
RUB
4.0103
January 2019
Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun
1 2 3 4 5 6
7 8 9 10 11 12 13
14 15 16 17 18 19 20
21 22 23 24 25 26 27
28 29 30 31