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The Caucasus Vilaiyat of the Islamic State

photo asildarov

by Gordon M. Hahn

An audio declaration from key Caucasus Emirate (CE) amirs representing perhaps almost all of the CE mujahedin and a statement from a top Islamic State (IS, ISIS, ISIL, Daesh) operative have emerged in which the CE’s defectors are confirmed to have officially been accepted into IS. In the former declaration CE amirs declare in videos their joint bayat to IS and its self-appointed ‘caliph’ Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. The “Official Audio Statement of the Mujahedin of the Caucasus Governate (Vilaiyat)” identifies the CE amirs as hailing from the ‘Caucasus Governate of the Islamic State’ or CGIS (Vilaiyat Kavkaz Islamskogo Gosudarstva or VKIG) (http://furat.info/?p=197). The VKIG audio declaration appeared to mark the official incorporation of the overwhelming majority of the CE amirs and mujahedin into IS as the Vilaiyat (Welaiyat) Kavkaz after earlier separate bayats to IS and Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi set the stage.

In November 2014, a small DV cell or ‘jamaat’ from Aukhovskii village took the bayat to IS’s Baghdadi. On December 19, a more damaging defection occurred when the the amir of the CE’s largest network – its Dagestan network or the ‘Dagestan Vilaiyat’ (DV) – Abu Muhammad al-Kadarskii (born Rustam Asildarov) and the amir of a key DV sector covering Dagestan’s capitol, Makhachkala, issued an announcement that they had taken the Islamic loyalty oath or “bayat” to IS and Baghdadi (www.kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/254364/). Days later, amir Markhan, the amir of the Eastern Front under the CE’s Chechen NV, followed suit. Since there are only two fronts under the NV, Markhan could have be taken half of the NV mujahedin with him already at that time (www.kavkazcenter.com/russ/content/2014/12/25/107471.shtml). Overall the previous CE defectors must have ‘taken’ already hundreds of CE mujahedeen and thousands of potential recruits to IS, though it remains unclear whether they plan to go to the Levant. The DV and NV Eastern Front alone could comprise as much as 80 percent of the CE’s already dwindling forces. These defections were already a severe blow to the CE, which has seen its capacity diminish since 2011, following the surge in emigration to Syria since 2012.

On 15 June 2015 a videotape from amir of the CE’s declining Chechnya network, the NV, and the amir of the CE’s GV in Ingushetiya was published on the NV’s ‘InfoChechen’ site. In the video NV amir ‘Khamzat’ Aslan Byutukaev and GV amir Abdurakhim declared the bayat to IS and ‘caliph’ al-Baghdadi (http://infochechen.com/tribuna/310-podtverzhdaetsya-prisyaga-amirov-vilayata-nokhchicho-i-vilayata-g1alg1ajche-khalifu-abu-bakru-al-bagdadi.html). With NV amir Khamzat and GV amir Abdurakhim going to IS, the CE is apparently left with the weak OVKBK which has carried out only a handful of minor attacks in the last year or more and small remnants of the other three vilaiyats, which have not done much better, excluding the major NV attack in Grozny in December of last year. This nearly completed the process of the CE’s full integration into IS which began in the last days of 2014.

There are some glaring inconsistencies with reality in the VKIG statement. Its claim that all the mujahedin of all four of the CE’s main vilaiyats support the change of allegiance to IS is patently false. The same claim is made in another video called “The Unity of the Mujahedin of the Caucasus on the VKIG’s site ‘Furat.info’ without offering any irrefutable or even clear evidence for the claim (http://furat.info/?p=193). The CE’s four vilaiyats have included: the Dagestan Vilaiyat (DV), the Nokchicho (Chechnya) Vilaiyat (NV), the Galgaiche (Ingushetiya) Vilaiyat (GV), and the United Vilaiyat of Kabardiya, Balkariya and Karachai (OVKBK, covering Russia’s North Caucasus republics of Kabardino-Balkariya and Karachaevo-Cherkessiya) (http://furat.info/?p=197). This is not true since the DV’s shariah court qadi and its Mountain Sector amir Abu Usman al-Gimravii (born Magomed Suleimanov) has rejected the incorporation into IS. Gimravii is the likely successor of his close associate, Ali Abu Mukhammad ad-Dagistani (born Aliaskhab Kebekov), as the CE’s amir after Dagistani’s death. We still have not heard an official confirmation that Gimravii has succeeded Dagistani as the CE’s amir after Dagistani’s death at the hands of Russian forces in March. However, on July 3rd, the CE DV website ‘VDagestan’ posted a statement from the DV’s new amir, Sayid Abu Mukhammad Arakanskiy, who replaced the defecting Asildarov. Arakanskiy declares his bayat to Gimravii, who is identified as the independent CE’s new amir – “amir of the Caucasus Emirate” (http://vd.ag/prisyaga-amira-vd-shejxu-abu-usmanu-amiru-imarata-kavkaz-video.djihad).

On June 24th IS sheikh and operative Abu Muhammed al-Adnani am-Shamii announced in a long statement to mujahedin on all fronts in the global jihadi revolutionary movement that ‘caliph’ al-Baghdadi had accepted the CE amirs’ bayat and the creation of the Vilaiyat Kavkaz of the IS (VKIG) and that he had appointed former CE DV amir Kadarskii-Asildarov to be the new VKIG’s vali (wali) and amir (http://furat.info/?p=204). A Twitter statement from VKIG propagandist Murad Atayev two days earlier tipped off Alsidarov’s appointment (https://twitter.com/Atajev_M).

The CE defections to IS and the creation of the VKIG institutionalizes and consolidates the CE’s integration into the global jihadi revolutionary alliance, which actually began with the CE’s predecessor organization, the Chechen republic of Ichkeriya, with the first seeds planted in the mid-1990s but long denied in the American think tank, lobbying, academic and journalistic communities. Indeed, in a recent post by Anna Paraczuk of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty – notorious for its decades-long apologetics and cover up for the ChRI and CE — the writer seems to be persisting in the delusion of the CE’s ‘national jihad’ and “the Caucasus Emirate’s localized struggle” (www.chechensinsyria.com/?p=23902). Although it is unclear whether the writer is expressing her own opinion or restating that of the IS’s North Caucasians, it needs to be stressed that there has been nothing national about the North Caucasus mujahedin since at least as far back as October 2007. As I detail in my book, The Caucasus Emirate Mujahedin: Global Jihadism in Russia’s North Caucasus and Beyond, both of the CE’s first two amirs – ‘Abu Usman’ Doku Umarov and, most explicitly, Dagistani – stated their goal was that of AQ’s and the building of the caliphate.

In a clear attempt to cover up their and almost all of DC’s failure to get the CE right, the DC-connected Jamestown Foundation and its Mairbek Vatchagaev claim that the CE defections to IS are part of – what else – a FSB plot (www.jamestown.org/single/?tx_ttnews%5Btt_news%5D=43151#.VQN_Ao7F-ux).

With the politics of IS-AQ schism’s repercussions in the North Caucasus largely settled and the bulk of the CE’s transformation into the VKIG, we can expect an upsurge in suicide bombings and other jihadi atrocities in Russia and its North Caucasus. We might also expect clashes centered in Dagestan between the remnants of the CE and the new VKIG, given the ongoing AQ-IS conflict in which these North Caucasus groups are embedded and the common homeland claimed by their respective amirs, Gimravii (from Gimry, Dagestan) and Asildarov-Kadarskii (from Kadar, Dagestan). Meanwhile, we can expect that the Jamestown Foundations, Radio Libertys, Glenn Howards, Vatchagaevs, Fullers, Applebaums, Satters, Dawishas, Lanskoys, etc. will lay the VKIG attacks at the door of the Kremlin and FSB.


Gordon M. Hahn is an Analyst and Advisory Board Member of the Geostrategic Forecasting Corporation, Chicago, Illinois; Senior Researcher, Center for Terrorism and Intelligence Studies (CETIS), Akribis Group, San Jose, California Analyst/Consultant, Russia Other Points of View – Russia Media Watch; and Senior Researcher and Adjunct Professor, MonTREP, Monterey, California. Dr Hahn is author of three well-received books, Russia’s Revolution From Above (Transaction, 2002), Russia’s Islamic Threat (Yale University Press, 2007), which was named an outstanding title of 2007 by Choice magazine, and The ‘Caucasus Emirate’ Mujahedin: Global Jihadism in Russia’s North Caucasus and Beyond (McFarland Publishers, 2014). He also has authored hundreds of articles in scholarly journals and other publications on Russian, Eurasian and international politics and wrote, edited and published the Islam, Islamism, and Politics in Eurasia Report at CSIS from 2010-2013. Dr. Hahn has been a Senior Associate at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (2011-2013) and a Visiting Scholar at both the Hoover Institution and the Kennan Institute.


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