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Chechen Jihad: Al Qaeda's Training Ground and the Next Wave of Terror Hardcover – December 26, 2007
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In this authoritative look at the roots of modern terrorism, Yossef Bodansky, one of the most respected—and best-informed—experts on radical Islamism in the world today, pinpoints the troubled region of Chechnya as a dangerous and little-understood crucible of terror in the struggle between East and West. In his number one New York Times bestseller, Bin Laden: The Man Who Declared War on America, published before 9/11, Bodansky was among the first to introduce American readers to Osama bin Laden. Now in Chechen Jihad he returns to alert American readers to the lessons to be drawn from the terror campaign in Chechnya—and its ramifications for the global war on terrorism.
The final years of U.S.-Soviet relations left Chechnya a fertile breeding ground for Islamic terrorism, and in the past decade an uneasy alliance of native Chechen separatists and militant jihadists have joined forces to help al Qaeda and the greater Islamist movement pursue its war against the West. As Bodansky points out, "the Chechens are professional fighters—disciplined and responsible, with a combination of skills, expertise, and character that has made them the most sought-after 'force multipliers' in the jihadist movement." Bodansky traces the secret history of the two Chechen wars, illuminating how the process of "Chechenization" transformed the fight from a secular nationalist struggle into a jihadist holy war against Russia and the secular West. And, in the most instructive message for Western audiences, he reveals how the Chechen rebellion was eventually crippled by a schism between the jihadists and the Chechen people whose nationalist rebellion they had co-opted—an object lesson in the potential vulnerability of Islamist campaigns around the world.
Drawing on mountains of previously unseen intelligence from Islamist movements and other military and intelligence sources from throughout the Middle East and Central Asia, as well as senior officials in many of the affected nations, Chechen Jihad offers an intimate and startling portrait of the jihadist movement that is astonishing in its detail and chilling in its implications—but one that points to a new way forward in the struggle to answer the challenges of international Islamist terrorism.
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About the Author
Yossef Bodansky, author of The Secret History of the Iraq War and the number one New York Times bestseller Bin Laden: The Man Who Declared War on America, was the director of the Congressional Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare for sixteen years (1988–2004). He is also the longtime director of research at the International Strategic Studies Association. The author of ten books, he has written frequently for numerous periodicals, including Global Affairs, Jane's Defence Weekly, Defense and Foreign Affairs: Strategic Policy, and BusinessWeek. A member of the Prague Society for International Cooperation, he is a former senior consultant for the U.S. Department of Defense and the U.S. Department of State. Bodansky was also a visiting scholar in the Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies. He divides his time between the Middle East and the Washington, D.C., area.
- ASIN : 0060841702
- Publisher : Harper; 1st edition (December 26, 2007)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 464 pages
- ISBN-10 : 9780060841706
- ISBN-13 : 978-0060841706
- Item Weight : 1.6 pounds
- Dimensions : 6.5 x 1.25 x 9.5 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #6,866,979 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The magnitude of detail that Bodansky incorporates into his narrative is exhaustive and yet, superfluous. In an attempt to assign greater significance to the Chechen Jihad, Bodansky fills the nearly four hundred pages with names, dates, and locations of at least seven different countries. The consequence of Bondansky's lack of editing is, the sheer volume of facts drown out the pockets of analysis. Along similar lines there are thirty chapters, which break the Chechen Jihad into incredibly specific proceedings. Even the chapter titles, which read chronologically as, "The Slide to Crisis, The Slide to War, The Second Chechen War, War Again," suggest a relentless stream of overwhelming detail. In small doses, Bodansky's specificity presents a vivid picture of the Chechen Jihad, but when read in its entirety the obsession with detail prevents the reader from viewing the book's broader themes.
In writing the Chechen Jihad Bodansky pulls from a variety of sources such as intelligence data, minutes from crucial meetings, broadcasts, the media, and human testimony. The common denominator amongst the vast array of collected evidence happens to be Russia. The vast majority of Bodanky's sources are Russian, which means that the Chechen Jihad carries a blatant Russian bias. As justification for the imbalance, Bodansky cites the Chechen leaders' use of media to "influence the record of their actions and control their historical legacy" (Bodanksy 422). The implication of the Russian bias is that while the historical events are accurate, the analyses present only half of the story. The frequent omission of the Caucasian perspective, does not allow the reader to draw his or her own conclusions.
Bodanksy writes the Chechen Jihad with the intention of both educating Americans on an unfamiliar jihadist front and presenting a stable solution for the US situation in Afghanistan and Iraq. Specifically, Chechnya offers a case where the persuasion of the local population to reject radicalization culminates in peace. Unfortunately, Chechnya and Iraq present two very different facets of the GWOT. From the start of the Chechen Jihad the citizens desired autonomy from Russia. In contrast, populations in Iraq were already independent. After a decade of intense fighting the Chechens were willing to accept Russia's terms of peace at the price of their sovereignty. Since the US could not promise the Iraqi populations a stable resolution to the conflict, Iraqis have less incentive to de-radicalize. Bodansky presents a little known history of the global jihad, but fails to substantially establish chechenization as a model for US policy in Middle East.
Bodansky's Chechen Jihad stands as an impressive collection of facts, figures, and milestones concerning the radicalization of Chechnya. In small sections, Bodansky's narrative is strong and provides the reader with an up-close synopsis of chechinization. Read from start to finish, weaknesses emerge such as, the domination of summary over analysis, a strong Russian bias, and the relevance of the Chechen Jihad with regards to American foreign policy. In the rush to document the rise of militant Islamism, authors like Bodansky primarily seek objective information in place of critical analysis. At present, most historians are still tackling the "what happened" rather than the "why." Bodansky's Chechen Jihad and many other literary works on the jihadist movement shouldn't be valued on the quality of analysis so much as their functionality as a database. Future waves of historians will revisit these early attempts to define the jihadist movements and present more concrete insight.
The book follows the two phases of the Chechen war, the first in which Yeltsin essentially gave Chechneya independence, and the second when Jihadists tried to use Checneya as a base and training center for global (Or at least Caucasus) jihad and Putin felt compelled to re-establish Russian control to protect Russia's influence in the neighboring states. He indicates Russia's success in phase 2 was due to using Chechen forces as much as possible and supporting the population, who had quickly learned how bad it was to live under an Islamic regime. I feel this bears a strong resemblance to the recent success of the surge in Iraq. It would not have worked earlier, the Sunnis needed to see for them self how bad it was to be controlled by Al Quaida in order to support the Americans in suppressing the insurrecton.
The book provides a continuing narrative full of amazing detail, especially of the Islamic's inner workings - their announcements, meetings, motives. On the whole it seemed to ring true, painitng a picture of an enemy obcessed with dominating the Islamic world, and eventually the whole world. This meant no peace could be meaningful with them, it would just be a period of re-armament for the Jihad.
He leaves a few loose ends, pehaps because he doesn't know, but a statement to that effect would have been welcome. In particular, he claims Al Quaida obtained two suitcase nuclear bombs from Russia and hired former Russian specialists to arm them, but does not tell there current status. He also claims that Islamic terrorists brought down the American Airlines flight to The Dominican Republic in 2001, although that explanation was rejected by the NTSB; they claim over-maneuveering the rudder caused the plane to break apart. He does not give any explanation with his disagreement with the official findings. Conspiriacy theory anyone?
This and his other books combine to show an implacable enemy whose leadership generally has no interest in co-existence and peace. According to him there is no such thing as a spontaneous demonstration, or an independent attack such as a suicide bombing(Used frequenly in Russia in the name of the Chechen Revolution); they are all orchestrated by leaders.
He frequently mentions the use of Georgia as a staging area/safe haven for Chechen Jihadists. This may explain Russia's heavy-handed treatment in the recent border war with Georgia; they were taking an opportunity to eliminate the Jiahadis's haven.
Overall, the book fills in and explains an otherwise little understood but highly significant piece of recent history. This is its primary value, as he has brought out the nature of the enemy in his other books, and this just re-inforces it.