March 27, 2007

The Secret War In Checnya

The war in Chechnya has not made headlines in the last several months, and that's because Vladimir Putin has willed that silence into being. The Russian autocrat recently declared the contest over after appointing a former rebel as the republic's president. However, the London Telegraph recently toured Chechnya with its new security forces and reports that the rebellion still operates, even if on a smaller scale:

Last month, Mr Putin named a former rebel, Ramzan Kadyrov, as the Chechen republic's new president.

The appointment was accompanied by a flurry of declarations from the Kremlin that the war was over and the last of the rebels had surrendered. But after witnessing the battle for Tazan Kala, The Daily Telegraph can reveal compelling evidence that a secret war is underway, and could last for years.

Sitting in his heavily fortified base in Chechnya's second city of Gudermes on the eve of the battle, the tracksuit-clad commander of the Eastern Battalion claimed there were well over 1,000 separatist rebels and foreign Islamic militants entrenched in the mountains.

"The war is not over," said Colonel Sulim Yamadayev, Chechnya's second most powerful loyalist warlord after Ramzan Kadyrov. "The war is far from being over. What we are facing now is basically a classic partisan war and my prognosis is that it will last two, three, maybe even five more years."

This isn't necessarily a bad development, despite Putin's accelerating efforts to consolidate power in Moscow. The nationalist uprising in Chechnya gave way years ago to radical Islamists, changing the nature of the war and in effect stealing the rebellion away from the rebels. They mostly faded away from the war, reconciling in some instances with the Kremlin, as Kadyrov did.

However, in some respects, the war reflects the nature of the head of state. Government forces have adopted brutal rules of engagement, with accusations of sexual torture and the execution of prisoners and civilians without much effort to distinguish between the two. Russia's allies in Chechnya don't necessarily refute those charges, instead claiming that the Islamists require heavy-handed treatment in order to suppress their terrorism.

In fact, Putin has many of the original rebels in the field representing Russia, which accounts for their tactics. They have proven adept at leveraging their experience fighting Russia against their new enemies, even if that takes a bit of work to overcome the cognitive dissonance of working to keep Russian sovereignty over their homeland. These Chechens have seen the force that could truly destroy the Caucasus and have realigned themselves accordingly.

If Putin wants to keep that secret, that's his choice -- but it should give encouragement that radical Islamists now find themselves on the defensive on yet another front.


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Comments (3)

Posted by Davod [TypeKey Profile Page] | March 27, 2007 6:55 AM

It is simplistic to suggest the rebels have rebelled against the Jihadists. The rebels who have gone over to the Russians do so for self preservation.

The submission of the rebels to the Russians is an indicator of what total war achieves.

Posted by rbj [TypeKey Profile Page] | March 27, 2007 8:44 AM

I'm just so glad that the Left is out there marching against the brutality of the Russians against the rebels in Chechnya loo these many years.

Posted by Dan Kauffman [TypeKey Profile Page] | March 27, 2007 9:10 AM

It is simplistic to suggest the rebels have rebelled against the Jihadists

Maybe not, quite some time back the Mufti of Chechnya denounced the the Al Quedar types as foreign invaders.

"Because of lack of reliable information, some Muslims are supposing that the Chechen people are involved in "jihad" against Russia. The reality is quite different: all the area of Muslim former-Soviet Republics has become a central point in the project of Wahhabi expansion. Because of the inner weakness of most of those countries, some Wahhabi terrorists are trying to conquer them by force, and to install there a Khawarij, Taliban-like dictatorship. Those people are, as always, trying to extinguish Allah's light, and to export Wahhabism in countries where it never existed before.

Chechnya has become a battlefield since Wahhabis want to occupy it "spiritually", by corrupting the Islamic 'aqidah and impose heresy by force. Sunni Muslims are - as in many other cases - the main victims of this tragedy. May Allah Ta'ala help them to free themselves from this menace, and may He grant them relief after hardship"