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: Who Owns Antiquity? 

Updated 16 September 2018
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What We Are Reading Today: Who Owns Antiquity? 

  • James Cuno calls for measures to broaden rather than restrict international access to antiquities

BOOK AUTHOR: James Cuno

Whether antiquities should be returned to the countries where they were found is one of the most urgent and controversial issues in the art world today, and it has pitted museums, private collectors, and dealers against source countries, archaeologists, and academics.

Maintaining that the acquisition of undocumented antiquities by museums encourages the looting of archaeological sites, countries such as Italy, Greece, Egypt, Turkey, and China have claimed ancient artifacts as state property, called for their return from museums around the world, and passed laws against their future export. 

But in Who Owns Antiquity?, one of the world’s leading museum directors vigorously challenges this nationalistic position, arguing that it is damaging and often disingenuous. “Antiquities,” James Cuno argues, “are the cultural property of all humankind,” “evidence of the world’s ancient past and not that of a particular modern nation. They comprise antiquity, and antiquity knows no borders.”

Cuno argues that nationalistic retention and reclamation policies impede common access to this common heritage and encourage a dubious and dangerous politicization of antiquities — and of culture itself. Antiquities need to be protected from looting but also from nationalistic identity politics. To do this, Cuno calls for measures to broaden rather than restrict international access to antiquities. 

He advocates restoration of the system under which source countries would share newly discovered artifacts in exchange for archaeological help, and he argues that museums should again be allowed reasonable ways to acquire undocumented antiquities. Cuno explains how partage broadened access to our ancient heritage and helped create national museums in Cairo, Baghdad, and Kabul. The first extended defense of the side of museums in the struggle over antiquities, Who Owns Antiquity? is sure to be as important as it is controversial.