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’s in a street name? A Cairo guidebook explains

Updated 26 September 2018
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What’s in a street name? A Cairo guidebook explains

  • More remarkably, signs bearing different names sometimes appear on the same street

BEIRUT: Cairo, sometimes called the City of a Thousand Minarets or Mother of the World, has grown into a megalopolis unlike any other. A visit to Cairo is a trip through the ages — from the immutable pyramids to the humongous medieval open mall in Khan Al-Khalili and right up to the 19th century under the rule of Ismail Pasha, the khedive of Egypt and Sudan. He stressed the importance of urban planning and transformed Downtown Cairo into a bastion of fashion and elegance known as “Paris on the Nile.”
This “Field Guide to the Street Names of Central Cairo,” by Humphrey Davies and Lesley Lababidi, may seem like a typical guidebook, yet it is anything but ordinary. The authors’ singular passion for Cairo provided them with the inspiration and resilience to uncover the truth behind the frequent renaming of the city streets and the plethora or absence of street signs.
“Street signs are missing, or damaged, or concealed behind storefronts. More remarkably, signs bearing different names sometimes appear on the same street. This may be due partly to the fact that signs can be ordered by private citizens from specialized hardware stores,” write Humphrey and Lababidi.
Tourists will, without a doubt, find this handbook terribly useful as they roam through Central Cairo across the picturesque Zamalek, Garden City or Munira. However, this guide has been written especially for the true, unconditional lovers of Cairo.
Not everyone loves this city, and not anyone can love this city. To love Cairo is to see the unseen. To love Cairo is to grasp that intangible and elusive quality of time, where the past drifts into the present and the present lingers in the past.
In the ever-changing light of the day, between past, present and future, this multi-layered city gives you a glimpse of eternity. This precious little book rekindles memories and brings to life the forgotten streets, lanes, alleys and passageways of Central Cairo.