Will the Afghan military be able to fight back the Taliban once the NATO troops have left? | Photo: flickr, Al Jazeera English | CC BY-SA 2.0

Withdrawal of NATO troops – Comeback of the Taliban?

Although peace agreements in armed conflicts in which at least one party has framed its demands in religious language are rare, they do exist. In particular, peace agreements have been reached with certain kinds of Islamist groups. After several rounds of unofficial and official negotiations, and a military stalemate between Afghan and NATO forces and the Taliban, former U.S. President Trump announced a peace agreement with the group in February 2020. However, after President Biden’s recent announcement to unconditionally withdraw U.S. forces from Afghanistan, the prospects for an agreement or even a ceasefire between the Taliban and the Afghan government seem bleaker than ever, with the Taliban resurging and U.S. diplomatic leverage decreasing.

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Welche Lehren lassen sich aus dem 20jährigen Einsatz der NATO in Afghanistan ziehen? | Photo: flickr, U.S. Army | CC BY 2.0

Die NATO in Afghanistan: Geschichte eines Versagens oder Scheiterns?

Der Abzug der NATO aus Afghanistan hat begonnen. Trotz aller Bemühungen und bester Vorsätze der intervenierenden Staaten, trotz eines riesigen Einsatzes militärischer und ziviler Ressourcen, hinterlässt die Mission nach 20 Jahren einen Scherbenhaufen. Im unwahrscheinlichen best-case Szenario führt der inner-afghanische Friedensprozess zu einer Einheitsregierung oder territorialen Machtteilung. Den wahrscheinlicheren Szenarien zufolge übernehmen die Taliban nach Abzug der NATO-Truppen die Macht oder es eskaliert der Bürgerkrieg. In beiden Fällen dürften die mageren Aufbauleistungen schnell verloren gehen.

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Über diese Themen wurde bei den "Frankfurter Ideen für den Frieden" im Dezember 2020 diskutiert. | Photo: HSFK/PRIF.

Im Dialog mit hessischen Schülerinnen und Schülern

 Zwei Schulkurse und drei Wissenschaftlerinnen der HSFK sind bei den Frankfurter Ideen für den Frieden im Dezember 2020 in den gemeinsamen Dialog zu Themen der Friedens- und Konfliktforschung getreten, die im Schulunterricht der gymnasialen Oberstufe diskutiert werden, aber gleichzeitig von hoher Aktualität sind und auch die Jugendlichen in ihrem Alltag beschäftigen. Eineinhalb Stunden lang standen Melanie Coni-Zimmer, Nicole Deitelhoff und Hanna Pfeifer Schülerinnen und Schülern zu den vier Themenfeldern Zukunft der transatlantischen Beziehungen, Populismus und Demokratie, Internationaler Terrorismus und 75 Jahre Vereinte Nationen Rede und Antwort. Ein Ausschnitt des umfassenden Dialogs kann hier nachgelesen werden. 

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A fighter jet of the Russian Aerospace Forces accompanied the Presidential aircraft en route to the Syrian Arab Republic in January 2020. | Photo: Kremlin. | Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International

Counter-Terrorism for Peace – Syria between the Russian-Led Coercive Peace and the United States’ Withdrawal

After the fifth round of the UN-led Constitutional Committee for Syria in January 2021, the UN Special Envoy for Syria, Geir Pederson, eventually announced that they failed to draft a new charter for the Syrian constitution. Further UN-led negotiations were postponed after the Russian-led meeting in Sochi which took place on February 16 and 17. This blog presents the latest developments of the parallel processes of peace talks for Syria, arguing that the United States’ uncertainty in the region is leading to more success of the Russian-led Astana format. This comes not only at the cost of UN-led engagement in Syria but also risks the lives of the population in Idlib as regional counter-terrorism plans are a central issue in the current peace talks.

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Why not to deport suspected ‘terrorists’ to Syria: a security perspective. | Photo: Flickr, Edna Winti | CC BY 2.0

Why not to deport suspected ‘terrorists’ to Syria: a security perspective

In their meeting in December 2020, German interior ministers decided not to prolong the general ban on deportation to Syria in place since 2012, which makes Germany among the first European countries to take this controversial move. Refugees with a criminal record and suspects of planning terrorist attacks, the so-called ‘Gefährder’ are facing possible deportation to Syria. Building up on a discussion of Syria’s ambiguous historical relationships with militant Islamists, this blog post argues that sending suspected terrorists back to Syria does not serve a long-term goal of countering violent extremism.

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Radikalisierung und Terrorismus – in Buchform unter den Weihnachtsbaum? | Photo: Unsplash, Sherise. | Free use

Radikalisierung und Terrorismus – in Buchform unter den Weihnachtsbaum?

Die Themen Extremismus, Radikalisierung, Terrorismus und Terrorismusbekämpfung sind aus der gesellschaftlichen Debatte in Deutschland nicht mehr wegzudenken. Diese findet oftmals in einem Modus der Aufgeregtheit statt, sodass wichtige wissenschaftliche Erkenntnisse, Differenzierungen und Querverbindungen sowie kritische Blickwinkel auf diese Phänomene nicht immer angemessen berücksichtigt werden. Die Forschungsgruppen Radikalisierung und Terrorismus stellen deshalb eine kleine Liste von lesenswerten Werken im Feld zusammen. Und während es zunächst so scheinen mag, als wären die Themen wenig für die besinnliche Zeit geeignet, so sprechen sie doch große Herausforderungen gesellschaftlichen Wandels zugänglich an – und tragen somit zu besser informierten Debatten bei: ein Geschenk für alle. Wir wünschen eine entspannte Zeit mit spannenden Büchern!

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The term "Islamism" is often inevitably associated with terrorism. | Photo: Unsplash/Marija Zaric | Free use

Who are these “Islamists” everyone talks about?! Why academic struggles over words matter

Politicians, the media, and social media users alike have framed recent attacks in Europe as instances of “Islamist” violence. The current debate often remains superficial and uses the umbrella term of “Islamism” to describe a diverse spectrum of actors, ideologies, and activities. Notably, conflating Salafi jihadism with other manifestations of Islamism risks consolidating a unified enemy image of “the Islamists” – or, even worse, Islam. This blogpost aims at disentangling these labels, in particular pointing out two discursive pitfalls: the securitisation of Islam and Muslim communities, and the equation of Islamism with terrorism.

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The in-depth analysis of social media contributions within radicalisation dynamics of radical groups is a worthwile approach for radicalisation research. | Photo: Unsplash, Patrick Tomasso | Free use

Social Media as a Mirror of External Circumstances: Insights into the Perception of a Radical Group

Radicalisation processes take place in a field of tension between the actor and the outside world. External reactions and circumstances can have a supportive but also a rather negative and escalating effect on the dynamics of group development, depending on how they are perceived. Radical groups often react to circumstances in the outside world, incorporate them into their own discourse and provide their followers with a processed interpretation of them. This can be observed particularly well on social media. Within the scope of a thematic content analysis, we analysed how external circumstances were received within the community and what influence they had on the dynamics of the group Millatu Ibrahim.

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For security authorities, automated monitoring of social media is gaining increasing importance.
For security authorities, automated monitoring of social media is gaining increasing importance. | Photo: Dollar Gill on Unsplash

Early Warning? Opportunities and Limitations of Automated Internet Monitoring

Policymakers have invested considerable effort and research funding to understand the role of the Internet in radicalisation processes and attack planning. This includes approaches to identify radicalisation or “weak signals” for terrorist intentions in online behaviour. As a result, security authorities have become increasingly interested in approaches to computer science including Artificial Intelligence. Nevertheless, what results have research efforts thus far yielded? Can computer science prove useful? And what are the possibilities and limitations of automated tools?

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Far-right "fashwave" memes aim to make neo-Nazism accessible and appealing through contemporary aesthetics | Photo: Youtube

The Visual Culture of Far-Right Terrorism

The recent wave of far-right terrorist attacks challenges academic knowledge on extremist violence and demands a new perspective. Rather than acting on behalf of political organizations, most of the perpetrators promote digital hate communities that predominantly interact via visual language such as memes. These images, which are often-humorous, aim to accustom users to violence and make neo-Nazism accessible and appealing through modern aesthetics and pop-cultural references. Hence, to fully understand contemporary far-right terrorism and its underlying worldviews, we need to systematically analyse visual mobilisation and persuasion strategies. This blog post makes the case for a visual culture perspective and transdisciplinary visual analysis to examine how far-right actors radicalise sympathisers in loosely organised online networks.

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