World

Putin must now realize that he fought the wrong war

Russian President Wladimir Putin Perhaps he has convinced himself that Russia’s main enemy lies in the West. But the Deadly attack on a Moscow concert hall The terrorist attack carried out by an affiliate of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) shows that Islamist terrorists pose a far deadlier threat to the well-being of his country.

The Kremlin has a long and bloody history Combating Islamist extremismfrom Russia’s brutal military operation in Chechnya – Putin’s first war after becoming president – to Moscow’s recent military intervention in Syria, where Russian forces were involved in eliminating ISIS’s self-proclaimed caliphate in Raqqa.

It is worth remembering that Putin’s main reason for sending Russian troops to Syria in 2015 was to target the Islamist militants who had seized control of much of the country, although his main motive was to undermine Assad’s regime, long-time allies of Syria, to keep Moscow in power.

Putin justified his decision to intervene in Syria in a speech to the UN General Assembly in September 2015, calling for an international coalition to combat global terrorism. He compared the campaign to defeat ISIS to the Allied efforts to defeat the Nazis during the Second World War.

Today, Putin takes a completely different approach, opposing the West rather than Islamist extremism. has become his main priority. Many of the Russian forces that fought ISIS in Syria are now stuck in a brutal conflict in Ukraine.

After the devastating attack on Moscow’s Crocus City concert hall, in which at least 115 people were shot dead by a group of Islamist terrorists, Putin may well be considering that he is now waging the wrong war by concentrating his military focus on Ukraine.

After Destruction of the ISIS caliphate in Syria In 2017, there was a worrying trend in both Moscow and the West to believe that the threat from Islamist militants was decreasing.

That was certainly the thinking behind the Biden administration’s disastrous decision to withdraw U.S.-led coalition troops from Afghanistan in the summer of 2021 and hand control of the country to the Taliban, ISIS’s ideological soulmate. Putin even made a rare public statement in support of the decision. It’s a verdict he may regret after it was reported that the group responsible for the concert hall attack was based in Afghanistan and operating under the protection of the Taliban.

While most world leaders view the Taliban regime in Kabul as relatively harmless, this is not the view of Western intelligence services, which, on the contrary, believe that Afghanistan has once again become a regime Haven for Islamist terrorist networks. Furthermore, one of the more catastrophic consequences of the 2021 withdrawal was the complete destruction of the West’s intelligence network there.

This has undermined our ability to confront the Islamist threat at a time when terrorist organizations such as Hamas – which adheres to the same Islamist creed as the Taliban – are increasing their capacity to carry out large-scale operations like the one on October 7th. The tactics used by the terrorist group responsible for the Moscow attack were disturbingly similar to those used by Hamas in its attack on Israeli civilians.

Under such circumstances, rather than escalating his confrontation with the West, Putin would be better advised to support an international effort to combat the modern threat of Islamist-inspired terrorism.

A good starting point would be the United Nations, where Moscow could focus its efforts on combating the worrying rise in Islamist terrorism. This could prove far more effective for the security of Russian citizens than continuing its unwinnable war in Ukraine.


Con Coughlin’s latest book, Assad: The Triumph of Tyranny, is published by Picador

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