Book review: An eye-opening examination of Daesh in Khorasan

Drawing on interviews and research, author Antonio Giustozzi sheds light on the composition, structure and establishment of Wilayat Khorasan. (Shutterstock)
Updated 03 September 2018
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Book review: An eye-opening examination of Daesh in Khorasan

  • Khorasan includes an area covering Afghanistan, Pakistan, Central Asia, Iran, parts of India and Russia
  • Policymakers were slow to recognize the presence of Daesh in Khorasan

BEIRUT: Written by one of the top experts on Daesh’s insurgency in Afghanistan and Pakistan, this book is an eye-opener. Drawing on interviews and research, author Antonio Giustozzi sheds light on the composition, structure and establishment of Wilayat Khorasan - a branch of Daesh formally set up in January 2015 and also known as the Islamic State in Khorasan (IS-K).
Khorasan includes an area covering Afghanistan, Pakistan, Central Asia, Iran, parts of India and Russia. “The grand picture of IS-K’s strategy saw Afghanistan as its primary theater of operations and future safe haven, while Pakistan only played a subsidiary role as the logistical hub …,” Giustozzi writes.
Policymakers were slow to recognize the presence of Daesh in Khorasan, with the US finally acknowledging the group in 2016 and increasing drone strikes against them.
Despite presenting a shambolic picture of its operations - one laced with blunders, permanent conflicts and open-ended negotiations - Daesh has shown an uncanny ability to learn from its mistakes, thereby winning the trust vote of major militant groups.
Compared to the Taliban, the group has experts in every field, including in the military and for finance-related and logistical activities. Therefore, the cost of maintaining Daesh militants is far higher than that incurred by the Taliban, according to the book.
It has also demonstrated shrewdness and a rapidity in taking advantage of the slightest rift within the ranks of its enemies. However, if Daesh’s funds dry up, it would have to look for avenues to raise revenues from within Khorasan, Giustozzi posits.
What’s questionable is the US’s commitment in Afghanistan, especially with problems in the State Department and worsening ties between the US, Russia, China and Iran. Daesh is counting on an improbable reconciliation between the Taliban and the Afghan government to attract disillusioned militants back to its ranks.
While the military solution in Afghanistan is yielding limited success, there is a need for stronger diplomatic efforts as echoed by Daniel Davies, a retired army lieutenant colonel, who believes that “if there is no dramatic change in strategy we will never leave Afghanistan.”


What We Are Reading Today: Chaucer: A European Life by Marion Turner

Updated 20 March 2019
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What We Are Reading Today: Chaucer: A European Life by Marion Turner

  • Marion Turner reconstructs in unprecedented detail the cosmopolitan world of Chaucer’s adventurous life

More than any other canonical English writer, Geoffrey Chaucer lived and worked at the center of political life—yet his poems are anything but conventional. Edgy, complicated, and often dark, they reflect a conflicted world, and their astonishing diversity and innovative language earned Chaucer renown as the father of English literature. Marion Turner, however, reveals him as a great European writer and thinker. To understand his accomplishment, she reconstructs in unprecedented detail the cosmopolitan world of Chaucer’s adventurous life, focusing on the places and spaces that fired his imagination, according to a review on the Princeton University Press website. 

Uncovering important new information about Chaucer’s travels, private life, and the early circulation of his writings, this innovative biography documents a series of vivid episodes, moving from the commercial wharves of London to the frescoed chapels of Florence and the kingdom of Navarre, where Christians, Muslims, and Jews lived side by side. The narrative recounts Chaucer’s experiences as a prisoner of war in France, as a father visiting his daughter’s nunnery, as a member of a chaotic Parliament, and as a diplomat in Milan, where he encountered the writings of Dante and Boccaccio. The book also offers a comprehensive exploration of Chaucer’s writings.