Entradas con Categorías Global Affairs Ensayos .

Members of Colombia's National Liberation Army  [Voces de Colombia]

▲ Members of Colombia's National Liberation Army [Voces de Colombia]

ESSAY / Ángel Martos

Terrorism and transnational organized crime are some of the most relevant topics nowadays in international security. The former represents a traditional threat that has been present during most our recent history, especially since the second half of the twentieth century. International organized crime, on the other hand, has taken place throughout history in multiple ways. Examples can be found even in the pre-industrial era: In rural and coastal areas, where law enforcement was weaker, bandits and pirates all over the world made considerable profit from hijacking vehicles along trade routes and roads, demanding a payment or simply looting the goods that the merchants carried. The phenomenon has evolved into complex sets of interconnected criminal networks that operate globally and in organized way, sometimes even with the help of the authorities.

In this paper, the author will analyze the close interaction between terrorism and organized crime often dubbed the “crime-terror continuum”. After explaining the main tenets of this theory, a case study will be presented. It is the network of relations that exists in Latin America which links terrorist groups with drug cartels. The evolution of some of these organizations into a hybrid comprising terrorist and criminal activity will also be studied.

Defining concepts

The crime-terror nexus is agreed to have been consolidated in the post-Cold War era. After the 9/11 attacks, the academic community began to analyze more deeply and thoroughly the threat that terrorism represented for international security. However, there is one specific topic that was not paid much attention until some years later: the financing of terrorist activity. Due to the decline of state sponsorship for terrorism, these groups have managed to look for funding by partnering with organized criminal groups or engaging in illicit activities themselves. Starting in the 1980s with what later came to be known as narco-terrorism, the use of organized crime by terrorist groups became mainstream in the 1990s. Taxing drug trade and credit-card fraud are the two most common sources of revenues for these groups (Makarenko, 2010).

The basic level of relationship that exists between two groups of such different nature is an alliance. Terrorists may look for different objectives when allying with organized crime groups. For example, they may seek expert knowledge (money-laundering, counterfeiting, bomb-making, etc.) or access to smuggling routes. Even if the alliances may seem to be only beneficial for terrorist groups, criminal networks benefit from the destabilizing effect terrorism has over political institutions, and from the additional effort law enforcement agencies need to do to combat terrorism, investing resources that will not be available to fight other crimes. Theirs is a symbiotic relation in which both actors win. A popular example in the international realm is the protection that Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) offered to drug traders that smuggle cocaine from South America through West and North Africa towards Europe. During the last decade, the terrorist organization charged a fee on the shipments in exchange for its protection along the route (Vardy, 2009).

The convergence of organizations

Both types of organizations can converge into one up to the point that the resulting group can change its motives and objectives from one side to the other of the continuum, constituting a hybrid organization whose defining points and objectives blur. An organization of this nature could be both a criminal group with political motivations, and a terrorist group interested in criminal profits. The first one may for example be interested in getting involved in political processes and institutions or may use violence to gain a monopolized control over a lucrative economic sector.

Criminal and terrorist groups mutate to be able to carry out by themselves a wider range of activities (political and financial) while avoiding competitiveness, misunderstandings and threats to their internal security. This phenomenon was popularized after the 1990s, when criminal groups sought to manipulate the operational conditions of weak states, while terrorist groups sought to find new financial sources other than the declining state sponsors. A clear example of this can be found in the Italian Mafia during the 1990s. A series of deliberate bombing attacks were reported in key locations such as the Uffizi Galleries in Florence and the church of St. John Lateran in Rome. The target was not a specific enemy, but rather the public opinion and political authorities (the Anti-Mafia Commission) who received a warning for having passed legislation unfavorable to the interests of the criminal group. Another example far away from Europe and its traditional criminal groups can be found in Brazil. In the early 2000s, a newly elected government carried out a crackdown on several criminal organizations like the Comando Vermelho, the Amigos dos Amigos, and the group Terceiro Comando, which reacted violently by unleashing brutal terrorist attacks on governmental buildings and police officers. These attacks gave the Administration no other choice but to give those groups back the immunity with which they had always operated in Rio de Janeiro.

On the other side of the relationship, terrorist organizations have also engaged in criminal activities, most notably illicit drug trade, in what has been a common pattern since the 1970s. Groups like the FARC, ETA, the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), or Sendero Luminoso are among them. The PKK, for example, made most of its finances using its advantageous geographic location as well as the Balkan routes of entry into Europe to smuggle heroin from Asia into Europe. In yet another example, Hezbollah is said to protect heroin and cocaine laboratories in the Bekaa Valley, in Lebanon.

Drug trafficking is not the only activity used by terrorist groups. Other criminal activities serve the same purpose. For example, wholesale credit-card fraud all around Europe is used by Al Qaeda to gain profits (US$ 1 million a month). Furthermore, counterfeit products smuggling has been extensively used by paramilitary organizations in Northern Ireland and Albanian extremist groups to finance their activities.

Sometimes, the fusion of both activities reaches a point where the political cause that once motivated the terrorist activity of a group ends or weakens, and instead of disbanding, it drifts toward the criminal side and morphs into an organized criminal association with no political motivations) that the convergence thesis identifies is the one of terrorist organizations that have ultimately maintained their political façade for legitimation purposes but that their real motivations and objectives have mutated into those of a criminal group. They are thus able to attract recruits via 2 sources, their political and their financial one. Abu Sayyaf, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and FARC are illustrative of this. Abu Sayyaf, originally founded to establish an Islamic republic in the territory comprising Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago (Philippines), is now dedicated exclusively to kidnapping and marijuana plantations. The former granted them US$ 20 million only in 2000. Colombian FARC, since the 1990s, has followed the same path: according to Paul Wilkinson, they have evolved from a revolutionary group that had state-wide support into a criminal guerrilla involved in protection of crops and laboratories, also acting as “middlemen” between farmers and cartels; kidnapping, and extortion.  By the beginning of our century, they controlled 40 per cent of Colombia’s territory and received an annual revenue of US$ 500 million (McDermott, 2003).

“Black hole” states

The ultimate danger the convergence between criminal and terrorist groups may present is a situation where a weak or failed state becomes a safe haven for the operations of hybrid organizations like those described before. This is known as the “black hole” syndrome. Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Angola, Sierra Leone and North Korea are examples of states falling into this category. Other regions, such as the North-West Frontier Province in Pakistan, and others in Indonesia and Thailand in which the government presence is weak can also be considered as such.

Afghanistan has been considered a “black hole state” since at least the withdrawal of Soviet troops in 1989. Since the beginning of the civil war, the groups involved in it have sought to survive, oftentimes renouncing to their ideological foundations, by engaging in criminal activity such as the production and trafficking of opiates, arms or commodities across the border with Pakistan, together with warlords. The chaos that reigns in the country is a threat not only to the nation itself and its immediate neighbors, but also to the entire world.

The People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) is, on the other hand, considered a criminal state. This is because it has engaged in transnational criminal activities since the 1970s, with its “Bureau 39”, a government department that manages the whole criminal activity for creating hard currency (drug trafficking, counterfeiting, money laundering, privacy, etc.). This was proved when the Norwegian government expelled officials of the North Korean embassy in 1976 alleging that they were engaged in the smuggling of narcotics and unlicensed goods (Galeotti, 2001).

Another situation may arise where criminal and terrorist groups deliberately foster regional instability for their own economic benefits. In civil wars, these groups may run the tasks that a state’s government would be supposed to run. It is the natural evolution of a territory in which a political criminal organization or a commercial terrorist group delegitimizes the state and replaces its activity. Examples of this situation are found in the Balkans, Caucasus, southern Thailand and Sierra Leone (Bangura, 1997).

In Sierra Leone, for example, it is now evident that the violence suffered in the 1990s during the rebellion of the Revolutionary United Forces (RUF) had nothing to do with politics or ideals - it was rather a struggle between the guerrilla and the government to crack down on the other party and reap the profits of illicit trade in diamonds. There was no appeal to the population or political discourse whatsoever. The “black hole” thesis illustrates how civil wars in our times are for the most part a legitimization for the private enrichment of the criminal parties involved and at the same time product of the desire of these parties for the war to never end.

The end of the Cold War saw a shift in the study of the nexus between crime and terrorism. During the previous period, it was a phenomenon only present in Latin America between insurgent groups and drug cartels. It was not until the emergence of Al Qaeda’s highly networked and globally interconnected cells that governments realized the level of threat to international security that non-state actors could pose. As long as weak or failed states exist, the crime-terror nexus will be further enhanced. Moreover, the activity of these groups will be buttressed by effects of globalization such as the increase of open borders policies, immigration flows, international transportation infrastructure, and technological development. Policymakers do not pay enough attention to the criminal activities of both types of organizations. Rather than dealing with the political motivations of a group, what really makes the difference is to focus on its funding resources – credit-card frauds, smuggling, money laundering, etc.

The following section focuses on the crime-terror continuum that exists between illegal drug trade and terrorist networks. This phenomenon has emerged in many regions all around the world, but the case of Latin America, or the Andean region more specifically, represents the paradigm of the characteristics, dangers and opportunities of these situations.


When drug trafficking meets political violence

The concept of narco-terrorism was born in recent years as a result of the understanding of illicit drug trade and terrorism as two interconnected phenomena. Traditionally linked with Latin America, the concept can now be found in other parts of the world like, for example, the Golden Crescent (Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan), or the Golden Triangle (Thailand, Laos and Myanmar).

There is no consensus on the convenience and accuracy of the term “narco-terrorism,” if only because it may refer to different realities. One can think of narco-terrorism as the use of terrorist attacks by criminal organizations such as the Colombian Medellin Cartel to attain an immediate political goal. Or, from a different point of view, one can think of a terrorist organization engaging in illicit drug trade to raise funds for its activity. Briefly, according to Tamara Makarenko’s Crime-Terror Continuum construct all organizations, no matter the type, could at some point move along this continuum depending on their activities and motivations; from the one extreme of a purely criminal organization, to the other of a purely political one, or even constituting a hybrid in the middle (Makarenko, 2010).

There is a general perception of a usual interaction between drug-trafficking and terrorist organizations. Here, it is necessary to distinguish between the cooperation of two organizations of each nature, and an organization carrying out activities under both domains. There are common similarities between the different organizations that can be highlighted to help policymaking more effective.

Both type of organizations cohabit in the same underground domain of society and share the common interest of remaining undiscovered by law enforcement authorities. Also, their transnational operations follow similar patterns. Their structure is vertical in the highest levels of the organization and turns horizontal in the lowest. Finally, the most sophisticated among them use a cell structure to reduce information sharing to the bare minimum to reduce the risk of the organization being unveiled if some of its members are arrested.

The main incentive for organizations to cooperate are tangible resources. Revenues from narcotics trafficking might be very helpful for terrorist organizations, while access to explosive material may benefit drug trade organizations. As an example, according to the Executive Director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in 2004, an estimated US$ 2.3 billion of the total revenue of global drug trade end up in the hands of organizations like Al Qaeda. Another example is the illegal market of weapons emerged after the collapse of the Soviet Union, field of interest of both types of networks. On the other hand, intangible resources are similar to tangible in usefulness but different in essence. Intangible resources that drug trafficking organizations possess and can be in the interests of terrorist ones are the expertise on methods and routes of transports, which could be used for terrorist to smuggle goods or people - drug corridors such as the Balkan route or the Northern route. On the other way around, terrorists can share the military tactics, know-how and skills to perpetrate attacks. Some common resources that can be used by both in their benefit are the extended networks and contacts (connections with corrupt officials, safe havens, money laundering facilities, etc.) A good example of the latter can be found in the hiring of ELN members by Pablo Escobar to construct car bombs.

The organizations are, as we have seen, often dependent on the same resources, communications, and even suppliers. This does not lead to cooperation, but rather to competition, even to conflict. Examples can be traced back to the 1980s in Peru when clashes erupted between drug traffickers and the terrorist Sendero Luminoso, and in Colombia when drug cartels and the FARC clashed for territorial matters. Even the protection of crops terrorists offer to drug traffickers is one of the main drivers of conflict, even if they do find common grounds of understanding most of the time; for example, in terms of government, revenue-motivated organizations are a threat to the state as they fight to weaken some parts of it such as law enforcement or jurisdiction, while politically-motivated ones wish not only to undermine the state but to radically change its structures to fit their ideological vision (state-run economy, religious-based society, etc.).

The terrorism and drug connection in the Andean Region

Nowhere has the use of illicit drug trade as a source of funds for terrorism been so developed as in the Andean Region (Steinitz, 2002). Leftist groups such as FARC and Peruvian Sendero Luminoso, as well as right-wing paramilitary organizations such as the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) are involved in this activity. At the beginning, the engagement between terrorists and drug traffickers was limited only to fees imposed by the former on the latter in exchange for the protection of crops, labs and shipments. Later, FARC and AUC have further expanded this engagement and are now involved in the early stages of the traffic itself – being the main substance cocaine, and the main reward money and arms from the drug syndicates. The terrorist cells can be therefore considered a hybrid of political and criminal groups. The following paragraphs will further analyze each case.

Peru’s Sendero Luminoso

Sendero Luminoso (SL) started to operate in the Huallaga Valley, a strong Peruvian coca region, several years after its foundation, in 1980. Peru was at the time the world’s first producer of coca leaf. The plant was then processed into coca paste and transported to Colombian laboratories by traffickers. Arguably, the desire for profit from the coca business rather than for political influence was the ultimate motive for Sendero Luminoso’s expansion into the region. SL protected the crops and taxed the production and transportation of coca paste: the 1991 document “Economic Balance of the Shining Path” shows that the group charged US$ 3,000-7,000 per flight leaving Huallaga. Taxes were also levied in exchange for a service that the group provided the cocaleros: negotiating favorable prices with the traffickers. In the late 1980s, SL’s annual income from the business was estimated at US$ 15-100 million (McClintock, 1998).

The Peruvian government’s fight against SL represents a milestone in the fight against the terrorism-crime nexus. Lima set up a political-military command which focused on combatting terrorism while ignoring drugs, because a reasonable percentage of the Peruvian population eked out a living by working in the coca fields. The government also avoided using the police as they were seen as highly corruptible. They succeeded in gaining the support of peasant growers and traffickers of Huallaga Valley, a valuable source of intelligence to use against SL. The latter finally left the Valley.

But it was not a final victory. Due to the vacuum SL left, the now more powerful traffickers reduced the prices paid for the coca leaf. SL was no longer there to act as an intermediary in defense of peasants and minor traffickers, so thanks to the new lower prices, the cocaine market experienced a boom. The military deployed in the area started to accept bribes in exchange for their laissez-faire attitude, becoming increasingly corrupted. President Fujimori in 1996 carried out a strategy of interdiction of the flights that departed from the Valley carrying coca paste to Colombia, causing the traffickers and farmers to flee and the coca leaf price to fall notably. However, this environment did not last long, and the country is experiencing a rise in drug trade and terrorist subversive activities.

The Colombian nexus expands

The collapse of the Soviet Union and an economic crisis in Cuba diminished the amount of aid that the FARC could receive. After the government’s crackdown, with the help of Washington, of the Medellin and Cali cartels, the drug business in Colombia was seized by numerous smaller networks. There was not any significant reduction of the cocaine flow into the United States. The FARC benefitted greatly from the neighboring states’ actions, gaining privileged access to drug money. Peru under Fujimori had cracked down on the coca paste transports, and Bolivia’s government had also put under strict surveillance its domestic drug cultivation. This elimination of competitors caused a doubling of coca production in Colombia between 1995 and 2000. Moreover, opium poppy cultivation also grew significantly and gained relevance in the US’ East-coast market. The FARC also benefitted from this opportunity.

According to the Colombian government, in 1998 the terrorist groups earned US$ 551 million from drug, US$ 311 million from extortion, and US$ 236 million from kidnapping. So much so that the organization has been able to pay higher salaries to its recruits than the Colombian army pays its soldiers. By 2000, the FARC had an estimated 15,000-20,000 recruits in more than 70 fronts, de facto controlling 1/3 of the nation’s territory. Most of the criminal-derived money in the country comes nowadays from taxation and protection of the drug business. According to the Colombian Military, more than half both the FARC’s fronts were involved in the collection of funds by the beginning of the 2000s decade, compared to 40% approx. of AUC fronts (Rebasa and Chalk, 1999).

The situation that was created in both scenarios required created a chaos in which the drug cartels, the cultivation syndicates and the terrorist organizations were the strongest actors. This makes it a very unstable environment for the peoples that lived in the territories under criminal/terrorist control. The tactics of law enforcement agents and government, in these cases, need to be carefully planned, so that multilateral counter-drug/counter-terrorist strategies can satisfactorily address threats existing at multiple dimensions. In the following section, the author will review some key aspects of the policies carried out by the US government in this domain.

The “War on Drugs” and the “War on Terror”

Since 9/11, policies considering both threats as being intertwined have become more and more popular. The separation of counter terrorism and counter-narcotics has faded significantly. Although in the Tashkent Conferences of 1999-2000 the necessary link between both was already mentioned, the milestone of cooperative policies is the Resolution 1373 of the UN Security Council (Björnehed, 2006). In it, emphasis is given to the close connection between terrorism and all kinds of organized crime, and therefore coordination at national, regional and global level is said to be necessary. War on drugs and war on terror should no longer be two separate plans of action.

The effectiveness of a policy that wishes to undermine the threat of illicit drug trade and terrorism is to a high degree dependent on successful intelligence gathering. Information about networks, suspects, shipments, projects, etc. benefits agencies fighting drug trafficking as well as those fighting terrorism, since the resources are most of the times shared.  Narco-terrorism nexus is also present in legal acts, with the aim of blocking loopholes in law enforcement efforts. Examples are the Victory Act and the Patriot Act, passed in the US. Recognizing the natural link and cooperation between drug trade and terrorism leads to security analysts developing more holistic theories for policymakers to implement more accurate and useful measures.

However, there are many aspects in which illicit drug trade and terrorist activity differ, and so do the measures that should be taken against them. An example of a failure to understand this point can be found in Afghanistan, where the Taliban in 2000 set a ban in poppy cultivation which resulted in a strong increase of its price, being this a victory for traffickers since the trade did not stop. Another idea to have in mind is that strategies of a war on drugs differ greatly depending on the nature of the country: whether it is solely a consumer like the UK or a producer and consumer like Tajikistan. In regard to terrorism, the measures adopted to undermine it (diplomacy, foreign aid, democratization, etc.) may have minimal effect on the fight against drug trade.

Sometimes, the risk of unifying counter-policies is leaving some areas in which cooperation is not present unattended. Certain areas are suitable for a comprehensive approach such as intelligence gathering, law enforcement and security devices, while others such as drug rehabilitation are not mutually beneficial. Not distinguishing the different motivations and goals among organizations can lead to a failed homogenous policy.


Multilevel threats demand multilevel solutions

Terrorism has traditionally been considered a threat to national and international security, while illicit drug trade a threat to human security. This perception derives from the effects of drugs in a consumer country, although war on drugs policies are usually aimed at supplier ones. Although it was already constituting a threat to regional stability during the twentieth century, it was not considered a crucial political issue until 9/11 attacks, when the cooperative link between criminal and terrorist organizations became evident. An example of unequal attention paid to both threats can be found in US’s Plan Colombia in 2000: one of the main advocators of the legislation stated that the primary focus was on counter-drug, so the United States would not engage with Colombian counterinsurgency efforts (Vaicius, Ingrid and Isacson, 2003).The same type of failure was also seen in Afghanistan but in the opposite way, when the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) completely neglected any action against drug traffickers, the trade or the production itself.

The merging of drug trafficking and terrorism as two overlapping threats have encouraged authorities to develop common policies of intelligence gathering and law enforcement. The similarities between organizations engaged in each activity are the main reason for this. However, the differences between them are also relevant, and should be taken into consideration for the counter policies to be accurate enough.

Evidence of a substantial link between terrorists and criminals has been proved all along our recent history. Around the world, leaders of mafias and terrorist commanders have oftentimes worked together when they felt that their objectives were close, if not similar. When cohabitating in the outlaw world, groups tend to offer each other help, usually in exchange for something. This is part of human behavior. Added to the phenomenon of globalization, lines tend to be blurred for international security authorities, and thus for the survival of organizations acting transnationally.

The consequences can be noticed especially in Latin America, and more specifically in organizations such as the FARC. We can no longer tell what are the specific objectives and the motivations that pushed youngsters to flee towards the mountains to learn to shoot and fabricate bombs. Is it a political aspiration? Or is it rather an economic necessity? The reason why we cannot answer this question without leaving aside a substantial part of the explanation is the evolution of the once terrorist organization into a hybrid group that moves all along the crime-terror continuum.

The ideas of Makarenko, Björnehed and Steinitz have helped the international community in its duty to protect its societies. It cannot be expected for affected societies to live in peace if the competent authorities try to tackle its structural security issues only through the counter-terrorist approach or through the organized crime lens. The hybrid threats that the world is suffering in the twenty-first century demand hybrid solutions.



Bangura, Y. (1997) ‘Understanding the political and cultural dynamics of the sierra leone war’, Africa Development, vol. 22, no. 3/4 [Accessed 10 April 2020].

Björnehed, E., 2006. Narco-Terrorism: The Merger Of The War On Drugs And The War On Terror. [online] Taylor & Francis. Available at [Accessed 10 April 2020].

Galeotti, M. (2001) ‘Criminalisation of the DPRK’, Jane’s Intelligence Review, vol. 13, no. 3 (March) [Accessed 10 April 2020].

Makarenko, T., 2010. The Crime-Terror Continuum: Tracing The Interplay Between Transnational Organised Crime And Terrorism. [online] Taylor & Francis. Available at [Accessed 3 April 2020].

McClintock, C. Revolutionary Movements in Latin America: El Salvador’s FMLN and Peru’s Shining Path (Washington, D.C.: United States Institute of Peace Press, 1998), p. 341 [Accessed 10 April 2020].

McDermott, J. (2003) ‘Financing insurgents in Colombia’, Jane’s Intelligence Review, vol. 15, no. 2

(February) [Accessed 10 April 2020].

Mutschke, R., (2000) ‘The threat posed by organised crime, international drug trafficking and terrorism’, written testimony to the General Secretariat Hearing of the Committee on the Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime (13 December) [Accessed 14 June 2020].

Rebasa and Chalk, pp. 32–33; “To Turn the Heroin Tide,” Washington Post, February 22, 1999, p. A9; “Colombian Paramilitary Chief Shows Face,” Associated Press, March 2, 2000.

Steinitz, M., 2002. The Terrorism And Drug Connection In Latin America’S Andean Region. [online] Brian Loveman, San Diego State University. Available at [Accessed 10 April 2020].

Vaicius, Ingrid and Isacson, Adam “‘The War on Drugs’ meets the ’War on Terror’ ”(CIP International Policy Report February 2003) p. 13.

Vardy, N., 2009. Al-Qaeda's New Business Model: Cocaine And Human Trafficking. [online] Forbes. Available at [Accessed 14 June 2020].

Categorías Global Affairs: Seguridad y defensa Latinoamérica Ensayos

Flood rescue in the Afghan village of Jalalabad, in 2010 [NATO]

▲ Flood rescue in the Afghan village of Jalalabad, in 2010 [NATO]

ESSAYAlejandro J. Alfonso

In December of 2019, Madrid hosted the United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP25, in an effort to raise awareness and induce action to combat the effects of climate change and global warming. COP25 is another conference in a long line of efforts to combat climate change, including the Kyoto Protocol of 2005 and the Paris Agreement in 2016. However, what the International Community has failed to do in these conferences and agreements is address the issue of those displaced by the adverse effects of Climate Change, what some call “Climate Refugees”.


In 1951, six years after the conclusion of the Second World War and three years after the creation of the State of Israel, a young organization called the United Nations held an international convention on the status of refugees. According to Article 1 section A of this convention, the status of refugee would be given to those already recognized as refugees by earlier conventions, dating back to the League of Nations, and those who were affected “as a result of events occurring before 1 January 1951 and owing to well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion…”. However, as this is such a narrow definition of a refugee, the UN reconvened in 1967 to remove the geographical and time restrictions found in the 1951 convention[1], thus creating the 1967 Protocol.

Since then, the United Nations General Assembly and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) have worked together to promote the rights of refugees and to continue the fight against the root causes of refugee movements.[2] In 2016, the General Assembly made the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants, followed by the Global Compact on Refugees in 2018, in which was established four objectives: “(i) ease pressures on host countries; (ii) enhance refugee self-reliance; (iii) expand access to third country solutions; and (iv) support conditions in countries of origin for return in safety and dignity”.[3] Defined as ‘interlinked and interdependent objectives’, the Global Compact aims to unite the political will of the International Community and other major stakeholders in order to have ‘equitalized, sustained and predictable contributions’ towards refugee relief efforts. Taking a holistic approach, the Compact recognizes that various factors may affect refugee movements, and that several interlinked solutions are needed to combat these root causes.

While the UN and its supporting bodies have made an effort to expand international protection of refugees, the definition on the status of refugees remains largely untouched since its initial applications in 1951 and 1967. “While not in themselves causes of refugee movements, climate, environmental degradation and natural disasters increasingly interact with the drivers of refugee movements”.3 The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has found that the increase of the average temperature of the planet, commonly known as Global Warming, can lead to an increase in the intensity and occurrence of natural disasters[4]. Furthermore, this is reinforced by the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, which has found that the number of those displaced by natural disasters is higher than the number of those displaced by violence or conflict on a yearly basis[5], as shown in Table 1. In an era in which there is great preoccupation and worry concerning the adverse effects of climate change and global warming, the UN has not expanded its definition of refugee to encapsulate those who are displaced due to natural disasters caused by, allegedly, climate change.


Table 1 / Global Internal Displacement Database, from IDMC



This present paper will be focused on the study of Central America and Southeast Asia as my study subjects. The first reason for which these two regions have been selected is that both are the first and second most disaster prone areas in the world[6], respectively. Secondly, the countries found within these areas can be considered as developing states, with infrastructural, economic, and political issues that can be aggravating factors. Finally, both have been selected due to the hegemonic powers within those hemispheres: the United States of America and the People’s Republic of China. Both of these powers have an interest in how a ‘refugee’ is defined due to concerns over these two regions, and worries over becoming receiving countries to refugee flows.

Central America

As aforementioned, the intensity and frequency of natural disasters are expected to increase due to irregularities brought upon by an increase in the average temperature of the ocean. Figure 1 shows that climate driven disasters in Latin America and the Caribbean have slowly been increasing since the 1970s, along with the world average, and are expected to increase further in the years to come. In a study by Omar D. Bello, the rate of climate related disasters in Central America increased by 326% from the year 1970 to 1999, while from 2000 to 2009 the total number of climate disasters were 143 and 148 in Central America and the Caribbean respectively[7].  On the other hand, while research conducted by Holland and Bruyère has not concluded an increase in the number of hurricanes in the North Atlantic, there has been an upward trend in the proportion of Category 4-5 hurricanes in the area[8] .



This increase in natural disasters, and their intensity, can have a hard effect on those countries which have a reliance on agriculture. Agriculture as a percentage of GDP has been declining within the region in recent years due to policies of diversification of economies. However, in the countries of Honduras and Nicaragua the percentage share of agriculture is still slightly higher than 10%, while in Guatemala and Belize agriculture is slightly below 10% of GDP share[9]. Therefore, we can expect high levels of emigration from the agricultural sectors of these countries, heading toward higher elevations, such as the Central Plateau of Mexico, and the highlands of Guatemala. Furthermore, we can expect mass migration movements from Belize, which is projected to be partially submerged by 2100 due to rising sea levels[10].


Figure 2 / Climate Risk Index 2020, from German Watch


Southeast Asia

The second region of concern is Southeast Asia, the region most affected by natural disasters, according to the research by Bello, mentioned previously. The countries of Southeast Asia are ranked in the top ten countries projected to be at most risk due to climate change, shown in Figure 2 above[11]. Southeast Asia is home to over 650 million people, about 8% of total world population, with 50% living in urban areas[12]. Recently, the OECD concluded that while the share in GDP of agriculture and fisheries has declined in recent years, there is still a heavy reliance on these sectors to push economy in the future[13]. In 2014, the Asian Development Bank carried out a study analyzing the possible cost of climate change on several countries in the region. It concluded that a possible loss of 1.8% in the GDP of six countries could occur by 2050[14]. These six countries had a high reliance on agriculture as part of the GDP, for example Bangladesh with around 20% of GDP and 48% of the workforce being dedicated to agricultural goods. Therefore, those countries with a high reliance on agricultural goods or fisheries as a proportion of GDP can be expected to be the sources of large climate migration in the future, more so than in the countries of Central America.

One possible factor is the vast river system within the area, which is susceptible to yearly flooding. With an increase in average water levels, we can expect this flooding to worsen gradually throughout the years. In the case of Bangladesh, 28% of the population lives on a coastline which sits below sea level[15]. With trends of submerged areas, Bangladesh is expected to lose 11% of its territory due to rising sea levels by 2050, affecting approximately 15 million inhabitants[16][17]. Scientists have reason to believe that warmer ocean temperatures will not only lead to rising sea levels, but also an intensification and increase of frequency in typhoons and monsoons[18], such as is the case with hurricanes in the North Atlantic.

Expected Destinations

Taking into account the analysis provided above, there are two possible migration movements: internal or external. In respect to internal migration, climate migrants will begin to move towards higher elevations and temperate climates to avoid the extreme weather that forced their exodus. The World Bank report, cited above, marked two locations within Central America that fulfil these criteria: the Central Plateau of Mexico, and the highlands of Guatemala. Meanwhile, in Southeast Asia, climate migrants will move inwards in an attempt to flee the rising waters, floods, and storms.

However, it is within reason to believe that there will be significant climate migration flows towards the USA and the Popular Republic of China (PRC). Both the United States and China are global powers, and as such have a political stability and economic prowess that already attracts normal migration flows. For those fleeing the effects of climate change, this stability will become even more so attractive as a future home. For those in Southeast Asia, China becomes a very desired destination. With the second largest land area of any country, and with a large central zone far from coastal waters, China provides a territorial sound destination. As the hegemon in Asia, China could easily acclimate these climate migrants, sending them to regions that could use a larger agricultural workforce, if such a place exists within China.

In the case of Central America, the United States is already a sought-after destination for migrant movements, being the first migrant destination for all Central American countries save Nicaragua, whose citizens migrate in greater number to Costa Rica[19]. With the world’s largest economy, and with the oldest democracy in the Western hemisphere, the United States is a stable destination for any refugee. In regard to relocation plans for areas affected by natural disasters, the United States also has shown it is capable of effectively moving at-risk populations, such as the Isle de Jean Charles resettlement program in the state of Louisiana[20].


While some would opine that ‘climate migrants’ and ‘climate refugees’ are interchangeable terms, they are unfortunately not. Under international law, there does not exist ‘climate refugees’. The problem with ‘climate refugees’ is that there is currently no political will to change the definition of refugee to include this new category among them. In the case of the United States, section 101(42) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), the definition of a refugee follows that of the aforementioned 1951 Geneva convention[21], once again leaving out the supposed ‘climate refugees’. The Trump administration has an interest in maintaining this status quo, especially in regard to its hard stance in stopping the flow of illegal immigrants coming from Central America. If a resolution should pass the United Nations Security Council, the Trump administration would have no choice but to change section 101(42) of the INA, thus risking an increased number of asylum applicants to the US. Therefore, it can confidently be projected that the current administration, and possibly future administrations, would utilize the veto power, given to permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, on such a resolution.

China, the strongest regional actor in Asia, does not have to worry about displeasing the voter. Rather, they would not allow a redefinition of refugee to pass the UN Security Council for reasons concerning the stability and homogeneity of the country. While China does accept refugees, according to the UNHCR, the number of refugees is fairly low, especially those from the Middle East. This is mostly likely due to the animosity that the Chinese government has for the Muslim population. In fact, the Chinese government has a tense relationship with organized religion in and of itself, but mostly with Islam and Buddhism. Therefore, it is very easy to believe that China would veto a redefinition of refugee to include ‘climate refugees’, in that that would open its borders to a larger number of asylum seekers from its neighboring countries. This is especially unlikely when said neighbors have a high concentration of Muslims and Buddhists: Bangladesh is 90% Muslim, and Burma (Myanmar) is 87% Buddhist[22]. Furthermore, both countries have known religious extremist groups that cause instability in civil society, a problem the Chinese government neither needs nor wants.

On the other hand, there is also the theory that the causes of climate migration simply cannot be measured. Natural disasters have always been a part of human history and have been a cause of migration since time immemorial. Therefore, how can we know if migrations are taking place due to climate factors, or due to other aggravating factors, such as political or economic instability? According to a report by the French think tank ‘Population and Societies’, when a natural disaster occurs, the consequences remain localized, and the people will migrate only temporarily, if they leave the affected zone at all[23]. This is due to the fact that usually that society will bind together, working with familial relations to surpass the event. The report also brings to light an important issue touched upon in the studies mentioned above: there are other factors that play in a migration due to a natural disaster. Véron and Golaz in their report cite that the migration caused by the Ethiopian drought of 1984 was also due in part to bad policies by the Ethiopian government, such as tax measures or non-farming policies.

The lack of diversification of the economies of these countries, and the reliance on agriculture could be such an aggravating factor. Agriculture is very susceptible to changes in climate patterns and are affected when these climate patterns become irregular. This can relate to a change of expected rainfall, whether it be delayed, not the quantity needed, or no rainfall at all. Concerning the rising sea levels and an increase in floods, the soil of agricultural areas can be contaminated with excess salt levels, which would remain even after the flooding recedes. For example, the Sula Valley in Honduras generates 62% of GDP, and about 68% of the exports, but with its rivers and proximity to the ocean, also suffers from occasional flooding. Likewise, Bangladesh's heavy reliance on agriculture, being below sea level, could see salt contamination in its soil in the near future, damaging agricultural property.

Reliance on agriculture alone does not answer why natural disasters could cause large emigration in the region. Bello and Professor Patricia Weiss Fagen[24] find that issues concerning the funding of local relief projects, corruption in local institutions, and general mismanagement of crisis response is another aggravating factor. Usually, forced migration flows finish with a return to the country or area of origin, once the crisis has been resolved. However, when the crisis has continuing effects, such as what happened in Chernobyl, for example, or when the crisis has not been correctly dealt with, this return flow does not occur. For example, in the countries composing the Northern Triangle, there are problems of organized crime which is already a factor for migration flows from the area[25]. Likewise, the failure of Bangladesh and Myanmar to deal with extremist Buddhist movements, or the specific case of the Rohinga Muslims, could inhibit return flows and even encourage leaving the region entirely.

Recommendations and Conclusions

The definition of refugee will not be changed or modified in order to protect climate migrants. That is a political decision by countries who sit at a privileged position of not having to worry about such a crisis occurring in their own countries, nor want to be burdened by those countries who will be affected. Facing this simple reality should help to find a better alternative solution, which is the continuing efforts of the development of nations, in order that they may be self-sufficient, for their sake and the population’s sake. This fight does not have to be taken alone, but can be fought together through regional organizations who have a better understanding and grasp of the gravity of the situation, and can create holistic approaches to resolve and prevent these crises.

We should not expect the United Nations to resolve the problem of displacement due to natural disasters. The United Nations focuses on generalized and universal issues, such as that of global warming and climate change, but in my opinion is weak in resolving localized problems. Regional organizations are the correct forum to resolve this grave problem. For Central America, the Organization of American States (OAS) provides a stable forum where these countries may express their concerns with states of North and Latin America. With the re-election of Secretary General Luis Almagro, a strong and outspoken authority on issues concerning the protection of Human Rights, the OAS is the perfect forum to protect those displaced by natural disasters in the region. Furthermore, the OAS could work closely with the Inter-American Development Bank, which has the financial support of international actors who are not part of the OAS, such as Japan, Israel, Spain, and China, to establish the necessary political and structural reforms to better implement crisis management responses. This does not exclude the collusion with other international organizations, such as the UN. Interestingly, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) has a project in the aforementioned Sula Valley to improve infrastructure to deal with the yearly floods[26]

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is another example of an apt regional organization to deal with the localized issues. Mostly dealing with economic issues, this forum of ten countries could carry out mutual programs in order to protect agricultural territory, or further integrate to allow a diversification of their economies to ease this reliance on agricultural goods. ASEAN could also call forth the ASEAN +3 mechanism, which incorporates China, Japan, and South Korea, to help with the management of these projects, or for financial aid. China should be interested in the latter option, seeing as it can increase its good image in the region, as well as protecting its interest of preventing possible migration flows to its territory. The Asian Development Bank, on the other hand, offers a good alternative financial source if the ASEAN countries so choose, in order to not have heavy reliance on one country or the other.





























Categorías Global Affairs: Energía, recursos y sostenibilidad Ensayos Global

The British Raj in 1909 showing Muslim majority areas in green

▲ The British Raj in 1909 showing Muslim majority areas in green

ESSAYVictoria Paternina and Claudia Plasencia

Pakistan’s partition from India in 1947 marked the beginning of a long road of various territorial disputes, causing different effects in the region. The geopolitics of Pakistan with India are often linked when considering their shared history; and in fact, it makes sense if we take the perspective of Kashmir as the prominent issue that Islamabad has to deal with. However, neither the history nor the present of Pakistan can be reduced to New Delhi and their common regional conflict over the Line of Control that divides Kashmir.

The turbulent and mistrustful relations between India and Pakistan go beyond Kashmir, with the region of Punjab divided in two sides and no common ground between New Delhi and Islamabad. In the same way, the bitter ties between Islamabad and a third country are not exclusively with India. Once part of Pakistan, Bangladesh has a deeply rooted hatred relationship with Islamabad since their split in 1971. Looking beyond Kashmir, Punjab and Bangladesh show a distinct aspect of the territorial disputes of the past and present-day Pakistan. Islamabad has a say in these issues that seem to go unnoticed due to the fact that they stand in the shadow of Kashmir.

This essay tries to shed light on other events that have a solid weight on Pakistan’s geopolitics as well as to make clear that the country is worthy of attention not only from New Delhi’s perspective but also from their own Pakistani view. In that way, this paper is divided in two different topics that we believe are important in order to understand Pakistan and its role in the region. Punjab and Bangladesh: the two shoved under the rug by Kashmir.


The tale of territorial disputes is rooted deeply in Pakistan and Indian relations; the common mistake is to believe that New Delhi and Islamabad only fight over Kashmir. If the longstanding dispute over Kashmir has raised the independence claims of its citizens, Punjab is not far from that. On the edge of the partition, Punjab was another region in which territorial lines were difficult to apply. They finally decided to divide the territory in two sides; the western for Pakistan and the eastern for India. However, this issue automatically brought problems since the majority of Punjabis were neither Hindus nor Muslims but rather Sikhs. Currently, the division of Punjab is still in force. Despite the situation in Pakistan Punjab remains calm due to the lack of Sikhs as most of them left the territory or died in the partition. The context in India Punjab is completely different as riots and violence are common in the eastern side due to the wide majority of Sikhs that find no common ground with Hindus and believe that India has occupied its territory. Independence claims have been strengthened throughout the years in many occasions, supported by the Pakistani ISI in order to destabilize India. Furthermore, the rise of the nationalist Indian movement is worsening the situation for Punjabis who are realizing how their rights are getting marginalized in the eyes of Modi’s government.

Nonetheless, the question of Punjabi independence is only a matter of the Indian side. The Pakistan-held Punjab is a crucial province of the country in which the wide majority are Muslims. The separation of Punjab from Islamabad would not be conceived since it would be devastating. For Pakistan, it would mean the loss of 72 million inhabitants; damaging the union and stability of the country. All of this taking into account that Punjab represents a strong pillar for the national economy since it is the place where the Indus river – one of the most important ones – flows. It can be said that there is no room for independence of the Pakistani side, nor for a rapprochement between both parts of the former Punjab region. They have lost their main community ties. Besides, the disagreements are between New Delhi and Eastern Punjab, so Islamabad has nothing to do here. According to that, the only likely long-term possibility would be the independence of the Indian side of the Punjab due to the growth of the hatred against New Delhi. Additionally, there are many Sikhs living abroad in UK or Canada who support the independence of Punjab into a new country “Khalistan” strengthening the movement into an international concern. Nevertheless, the achievement of this point would probably increase the violence in Punjab, and in case they would become independent it would be at the expense of many deaths.

There is a last point that must be taken into account when referring to India-Pakistan turbulent territorial relations. This is the case of the longstanding conflict over water resources in which both countries have been increasing tensions periodically. Considering that there is a scarcity of water resources and a high demand of that public good, it is easy to realize that two enemies that share those resources are going to fight for them. Furthermore, if they both are mainly agrarian countries, the interest of the water would be even harder as it is the case of Pakistan and India. However, for more than five decades both Islamabad and New Delhi have maintained the Indus Waters Treaty that regulates the consumption of the common waters. It divides the six rivers that flow over Pakistan and India in two sides. The three western ones for Pakistan, and the other three of the eastern part for India. Nevertheless, it does not mean that India could not make any use of the Pakistani ones or vice versa; they are allowed to use them in non-consumptive terms such as irrigation, but not for storage or building infrastructures[1]. This is where the problem is. India is seemed to have violated those terms by constructing a dam in the area of the Pakistani Indus river in order to use the water as a diplomatic weapon against Islamabad.

This term has been used as an Indian strategy to condemn the violence of Pakistan-based groups against India undermining in that way the economy of Pakistan which is highly dependent on water resources. Nevertheless, it is hard to think that New Delhi would violate one of the milestones treaties in its bilateral relations with Pakistan. Firstly, because it could escalate their already existent tensions with Pakistan that would transform into an increase of the violence against India. Islamabad’s reaction would not be friendly, and although terrorist activities follow political causes, any excuse is valid to lead to an attack. Secondly, because it would bring a bad international image for PM Modi as the UN and other countries would condemn New Delhi of having breached a treaty as well as leaving thousands of people without access to water. Thirdly, they should consider that rivers are originated in the Tibet, China, and a bad movement would mean a reaction from Beijing diverting the water towards Pakistan[2]. Finally, India does not have enough infrastructure to use the additional water available. It is better for both New Delhi and Islamabad to maintain the issue over water resources under a formal treaty considering their mutual mistrust and common clashes. Nevertheless, it would be better for them to renew the Indus Waters Treaty in order to include new aspects that were not foreseen when it was drafted as well as to preserve the economic security of both countries.


Punjab is a territory obligated to be divided in two between India and Pakistan, yet Bangladesh separated itself completely from Pakistan and finds itself in the middle of India. Bangladesh, once part of Pakistan, after a tumultuous war, separated into its own country.  While India did not explicitly intervene with Bangladesh and Pakistan’s split, it did promote the hatred between the two for its own agenda and to increase in power. The scarring aspect of the split of Bangladesh from Pakistan is the bloody war and genocide that took place, something that the Bengali people still have not overcome to this day. The people of Bangladesh are seeking an apology from Pakistan, something that does not look like it is going to come anytime soon.

Pakistan and Bangladesh share a bitter past with one another as prior to 1971, they were one country which separated into two as a result of a bloody war and emerging political differences. Since 1971 up to today, India and the Awami league have worked to maintain this hatred between Bangladesh and Pakistan through propagandist programs and different techniques. For example, they set up a war museum, documentaries and films in order to boast more the self-proclamation of superiority on behalf of India against Bangladesh and Pakistan. India and the Awami League ignore the fact that they have committed atrocities against the Bengali people and that in large part they are responsible for the breakup between Pakistan and Bangladesh. The Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) worked to improve relations with Pakistan under the governments of Ziaur Rahman, Begum Khaldia Zia, and Hossain Mohammad Ershad in Bangladesh, who had maintained distance from India. Five Pakistani heads of government have visited Bangladesh since 1980, along with signing trade and cultural agreements to improve relations between the two nations.[3] While an alliance between Pakistan and Bangladesh against India is not a realistic scenario, what is important for Pakistan and Bangladesh for the next decade to come is attempt to put their past behind them in order to steer clear of India and develop mutually beneficial relations to help improve their economies. For example, a possible scenario for improving Pakistan and Bangladesh relations could be to join the CPEC to better take advantage of the trade opportunities offered within South Asia, West Asia, Central Asia, and China and Russia.[4]

Despite decades of improving trade and military links, especially as a defense against Indian supremacy in the region, the two countries continue to be divided by the question of genocide. Bangladesh wants Pakistan to recognize the genocide and its atrocities and teach them as a part of its history. However, Pakistan has refused to do so and has even referred to militant leader executed for war crimes as being killed for his loyalty to Pakistan.[5]

Even though India supported Bangladesh in its independence from Pakistan, Bangladesh thinks that India is self-serving and that they change ideas depending on their own convenience.[6] An alliance of Pakistan and Bangladesh, even though it is against a common enemy, India, is not realistic given the information recently provided. India is a country that yes, even though they helped Bangladesh against Pakistan, they are always going to look out for themselves, especially in search to be the central power in the region. India sees still a lot of potential for their power in the coming decades. Indian PM Narendra Modi is very keen on making strategic choices for the country to transform an increase its global leadership position.[7]

The hostile relations between Pakistan and India find their peak in its longstanding conflict over Kashmir, but Punjab and Bangladesh must not be put in the shadow. The further directions of both PM Imran Khan and PM Modi could have consequences that would alter the interests of Punjab and Bangladesh as different actors in the international order. In the case of Punjab their mutual feelings of mistrust could challenge the instability of a region far from being calm. It is true that independence claims is not an issue for Pakistan itself since both Islamabad and Pakistan-held Punjab would lose in that scenario, and they both know it. Nonetheless, Indian Punjabis’ reality is different. They have crucial problems within New Delhi, again as a historical matter of identity and ethnicity that is still present nowadays. Sikhs have not found common ground with Hindus yet and it does not seem that it will happen in a near future. In fact, tensions are increasing, posing a threat for two nations with their views on Kashmir rather than on Punjab. In the case of Bangladesh, its relations with Pakistan did not have a great start. Bangladesh gained freedom with help from India and remained under its influence. Both Pakistan and Bangladesh took a long time to adjust to the shock of separation and their new reality, with India in between them.

In conclusion, Punjab and Bangladesh tend to be the less important territorial issues, and not a priority neither for Islamabad nor for New Delhi that are more engaged in Kashmir. However, considering the magnitude of both disputes, we should appreciate how the Sikhs in the Indian-held territory of Punjab as well as the Bengali people deserve the same rights as the Kashmiris to be heard and to have these territorial disputes settled once and for all.


Ayres, Alyssa. “India: a ‘Major Power’ Still below Its Potential.” Lowy Institute, July 24, 2018.

Iftikhar, Momin. “Pakistan-Bangladesh Relations.” The Nation. The Nation, December 15, 2018.

"Indus Water Treaty: Everything You Need to Know". ClearIAS.

Muhammad Hanif, Col. “Keeping India out of Pakistan-Bangladesh Relations.” Daily Times, March 6, 2018.

Sami, Shafi. “Pakistan Bangladesh Relations In the Changing International Environment.” JSTOR. Pakistan Institute of International Affairs, 2017.

Shakoor, Farzana. “Pakistan Bangladesh Relations Survey.” JSTOR. Pakistan Institute of International Affairs, 2017.


[2] ibid

[3] Muhammad Hanif, Col. “Keeping India out of Pakistan-Bangladesh Relations.” Daily Times, March 6, 2018.

[4] Iftikhar, Momin. “Pakistan-Bangladesh Relations.” The Nation. The Nation, December 15, 2018.

[5] Sami, Shafi. “Pakistan Bangladesh Relations In the Changing International Environment.” JSTOR. Pakistan Institute of International Affairs, 2017.

[6] Shakoor, Farzana. “Pakistan Bangladesh Relations Survey.” JSTOR. Pakistan Institute of International Affairs, 2017.

[7]Ayres, Alyssa. “India: a ‘Major Power’ Still below Its Potential.” Lowy Institute, July 24, 2018.

Categorías Global Affairs: Asia Seguridad y defensa Ensayos

ESSAY / Emilija Žebrauskaitė


While the Western Westphalian State – and, consequently, the Western legal system – became the default in most parts of the world, Africa with its traditional ethics and customs has a lot to offer. Although the positive legalism is still embraced, there is a tendency of looking at the indigenous traditions for the inspiration of the system that would be a better fit in an African setting. Ubuntu ethics has a lot to offer and can be considered a basis for all traditional institutions in Africa. A great example of Ubuntu in action is the African Traditional Justice System which embraces the Ubuntu values as its basis. This article will provide a conceptualization of Ubuntu philosophy and will analyse its applications in the real-world scenarios through the case of Gacaca trials in Rwanda.

Firstly, this essay will define Ubuntu: its main tenants, how Ubuntu compares with other philosophical and ethical traditions, and the main criticism of Ubuntu ethics. Secondly, the application of Ubuntu ethics through African Indigenous Justice Systems will be covered, naming the features of Ubuntu that can be seen in the application of justice in the African setting, discussing the peace vs. justice debate and why one value is emphasized more than another in AIJS, and how the traditional justice in Africa differs from the Western one.

Lastly, through the case study of Gacaca trials in post-genocide Rwanda, this essay seeks to demonstrate that the application of the traditional justice in the post-genocide society did what the Western legalistic system failed to do – it provided a more efficient way to distribute justice and made the healing of the wounds inflicted by the genocide easier by allowing the community to actively participate in the judicial decision-making process.

It is the opinion of this article that while the African Traditional Justice System has it’s share of problems when applied in modern-day Africa, as the continent is embedded into the reality of the Westphalian state, each state being a part of the global international order, the Western model of justice is eroding the autonomy of the community which is a cornerstone of African society. However, the values of Ubuntu ethics persist, providing a strong basis for traditional African institutions. 

Conceptualization of Ubuntu

The word Ubuntu derives from the Bantu language group spoken widely across sub-Saharan Africa. It can be defined as “A quality that includes the essential human virtues; compassion and humanity” (Lexico, n.d.) and, according to Mugumbate and Nyanguru, is a homogenizing concept, a “backbone of African spirituality” in African ontology (2013). “Umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu” – a Zulu phrase meaning “a person is a person through other persons” is one of the widely spread interpretations of Ubuntu. 

In comparison with non-African philosophical thoughts, there can be found similarities between Ubuntu and the traditional Chinese as well as Western ethics, but when it comes to the modern Western way of thought, the contrast is striking. According to Lutz (2009), Confucian ethics, just like Ubuntu ethics, view the institution of family as a central building block of society. An Aristotelian tradition which prevailed in the Western world until Enlightenment had some characteristics similar to Ubuntu as well, namely the idea of Aristoteles that human being is a social being and can only reach his true potential through the community (Aristoteles, 350 B.C.E.). However, Tomas Hobbes had an opposite idea of human nature, claiming that the natural condition of man is solidarity (Hobbes, 1651). The values that still prevail in Ubuntu ethics, therefore, are rarely seen in modern liberal thought that prevails in the Western World and in the international order in general. According to Lutz (2009) “Reconciling self-realization and communalism is important because it solves the problem of moral motivation” which Western modern ethics have a hard time to answer. It can be argued, therefore, that Ubuntu has a lot to offer to the global ethical thought, especially in the world in which the Western ideas of individualism prevail and the values of community and collectivism are often forgotten.


However, while Ubuntu carries values that can contribute to global ethics, as a philosophical current it is heavily criticised. According to Metz (2011), there are three main reasons why Ubuntu receives criticism: firstly, it is considered vague as a philosophical thought and does not have a solid framework; secondly, it is feared that due to its collectivist orientation there is a danger of sacrificing individual freedoms for the sake of society; and lastly, it is thought that Ubuntu philosophy is applicable and useful only in traditional, but not modern society. 

When it comes to the reproach about the vagueness of Ubuntu as a philosophical thought, Thaddeus Metz examines six theoretical interpretations of the concept of Ubuntu:

U1: An action is right just insofar as it respects a person’s dignity; an act is wrong to the extent that it degrades humanity.

U2: An action is right just insofar as it promotes the well-being of others; an act is wrong to the extent that it fails to enhance the welfare of one’s fellows.

U3: An action is right just insofar as it promotes the well-being of others without violating their rights; an act is wrong to the extent that it either violates rights or fails to enhance the welfare of one’s fellows without violating rights.

U4: An action is right just insofar as it positively relates to others and thereby realizes oneself; an act is wrong to the extent that it does not perfect one’s valuable nature as a social being.

U5: An action is right just insofar as it is in solidarity with groups whose survival is threatened; an act is wrong to the extent that it fails to support a vulnerable community.

U6: An action is right just insofar as it produces harmony and reduces discord; an act is wrong to the extent that it fails to develop community (Metz, 2007).

While arguing that the concept U4 is the most accepted in literature, Matz himself argues in favour of the concept U6 as the basis of the ethics is rooted not in the subject, but in the object (Metz, 2007).

The fear that Ubuntu tenants make people submissive to authority and collective goals, giving them a very strong identity that might result in violence against other groups originates, according to Lutz (2009), from a faulty understanding of Ubuntu. Even though the tribalism is pretty common in the African setting, it does not derive from the tenants of Ubuntu, but a corrupted idea of this ethical philosophy. Further criticism on the idea that collectivism might interfere with individual rights or liberties can also be denied quoting Lutz, who said that “Ethical theories that tell us we must choose between egoism and altruism, between self-love and love of others, between prudence and morality, or one’s good and the common good are individualistic ethical theories” and therefore have nothing in common with ideas of Ubuntu, which, unlike the individualistic theories, reconciles the common and personal good and goals. 

The third objection, namely the question of whether Ubuntu ethics remain useful in the modern society which functions according to the Westphalian State model is challenged by Metz (2011). While it is true that Ubuntu developed in a traditional setting in which the value of human beings was based on the amount of communal life a human has lived (explaining the respect for the elders and the ancestors in African setting), a variant concept of dignity that in no way can be applied in a modern setting, there are still valuable ethical norms that can be thought by Ubuntu. Metz (2011) provides a concept of human dignity based on Ubuntu ideas, which, as he argues, can contribute to ethics in the modern African setting: “individuals have dignity insofar as they have communal nature, that is, the inherent capacity to exhibit identity and solidarity with others.” 

The Ubuntu ethics in African Indigenous Justice System

The institutionalisation and centralisation of power in the hands of the Westphalian State takes away the power from the communities which are central to the lifestyle in Africa. However, the communal values have arguably persisted and continue to directly oppose the centralisation. While the Westphalian State model seems to be functioning in the West, there are many good reasons to believe that Africa must look for inspiration in local traditions and customs (Malisa & Nhengeze, 2018). Taking into consideration the Ubuntu values, it is not difficult to understand why institutionalisation has generally not been very successful in African setting (Mugumbate & Nyanguru, 2013), as a place where the community is morally obliged to take care of its members, there is little space for alienated institutions. 

Generally, two justice systems are operating alongside each other in many African societies: the state-administered justice system and the African Indigenous Justice System (AIJS). According to Elechi, Morris & Schauer, the litigants can choose between the state tribunal and AIJS, and can apply to be judged by the state if they do not agree with the sentence of the AIJS (Elechi, Morris, & Schauer, 2010). However, Ubuntu values emphasise the concept of reconciliation: “African political philosophy responds easily and organically to the demands for the reconciliation as a means of restoring the equilibrium of the flow of life when its disturbed” (Nabudere, 2005). As the national court interventions often disharmonize the community by applying the “winner takes it all” approach, and are sometimes considered to be corrupt, there is a strong tendency for the communities to insist on bringing the offender to the AIJS tribunal (Elechi, Morris, & Schauer, 2010).

African Indigenous Justice System is a great example of Ubuntu values in action. The system operates on the cultural norm that important decision should be reached by consensus of the whole group as opposed to the majority opinion. AIJS is characterised by features such as the focus on the effects the offence had on victims and the community, the involvement of the litigants in the active definition of harms and the resolution of the trial, the localisation and decentralisation of authority, the importance of the restoration of harm, the property or relationship, the understanding that the offender might be a victim of the socioeconomic conditions; with the main objective of the justice system being the restoration of relationships, healing, and reconciliation in the community (Elechi, Morris, & Schauer, 2010). Underlying this system is the concept of Ubuntu, which “leads to a way of dealing with the social problems which are very different from the Western legalistic, rule-based system which had become the global default” (Baggini, 2018).

One of the reasons why AIJS can be considered exemplary is its ability to avoid the alienation of the Western courts in which the victim, the offender, and everybody else seem to be represented, but neither victim nor offender can directly participate in the decision making. The system which emphasises reconciliation and in which the community is in charge of the process is arguably much more effective in the African setting, where communities are generally familiar and close-knit. As the offender is still considered a part of the community and is still expected to contribute to its surroundings in the future, the participation in the trial and the decision making is important to the reconciliation: “unlike adjudicated justice, negotiated justice is not a winner take it all justice. Resolution can be reached where the offender, the community, and the victim are each partially wrong” (Elechi, Morris, & Schauer, 2010). As there is very little hope for an offender to be reintegrated into a close community without forgiving and forgiveness from both parties, this type of approach is pivotal.

Another interesting feature of AIJS is the assumption that the offender is not inherently bad in himself, but is primarily a marginalised victim, who does not have the same opportunities as other members of the community to participate in the economic, political, and social aspects of the group, and who can be made right if both the offender and the community make effort (Elechi, Morris, & Schauer, 2010). This concept differs from the Western Hobbesian idea of human beings being inherently corrupt and is much closer to traditional Western Aristotelian ethics. What makes the African concept different, however, is the focus which is not on the virtue of the person himself, but rather on the relationship the offender has with his family and community which, although violated by the offence, can and should be rebuilt by amendments (Elechi, Morris, & Schauer, 2010).

The Gacaca Trials

The Gacaca trials are the state-administered structure which uses communities (around a thousand of them) as a basis for judicial forums (Meyerstein, 2007). They were introduced by the Rwandan government as an alternative to national justice after the Rwandan genocide.

During the colonial times, Rwanda was indirectly ruled by the colonizers through local authorities, namely the Tutsi minority (Uvin, 1999). The Hutu majority were considered second class citizens and by the time of independence were holding deep grievances. The Rwandan Revolution of 1959-1961 overthrew the monarchy and the ruling Tutsi elite. After the independence from the colonial regime, Rwanda was ruled by the Party of Hutu Emancipation Movement, which was supported by the international community on the grounds of the idea that the government is legitimate as it represents the majority of the population – the Hutu (ibid.) During the period of transition, ethnic violence against Tutsi, forcing many of them to leave the country, happened (Rettig, 2008). In 1990 the Rwandan Patriotic Army composed mostly by the Tutsi exiles invaded Rwanda from neighbouring Uganda (ibid.) The incumbent government harnessed the already pre-existing ethnic to unite the Hutu population to fight against the Tutsi rebels. The strategy included finding a scapegoat in an internal Tutsi population that continued to live in Rwanda (Uvin, 1999). The genocide which soon followed took lives of 500,000 to 800,000 people between April and July of the year 1994 when the total population at the time is estimated to have been around 8 million (Drumbl, 2020). More than 100,000 people were accused and waited in detention for trials, creating a great burden on a Rwandan county (Schabas, 2005).

According to Meyerstein (2007), the Gacaca trials were a response to the failure of the Western-styled nation court to process all the suspects of the genocide. Gacaca trials were based on indigenous local justice, with Ubuntu ethics being an underlying element of the system. The trials were traditionally informal, organic, and patriarchal, but the Rwandan government modernized the indigenous justice system by establishing an organizational structure, and, among other things, making the participation of women a requirement (Drumbl, 2020). 

The application of Gacaca trails to do justice after the genocide was not always well received by the international community. The trials received criticism for not complying with the international standards for the distribution of justice. For example, Amnesty International invoked Article 14 of the ICCPR and stated that Gacaca trials violated the right of the accused to be presumed innocent and to the free trial (Meyerstein, 2007). There are, undoubtedly, many problems that can be assigned to the system of Gacaca when it comes to the strict norms of the international norms. 

The judges are drawn from the community and arguably lack the official legal training, the punitive model of the trials that arguably have served for many as an opportunity for personal revenge, and the aforementioned lack of legal protection for the accused are a few of many problems faced by the Gacaca trials (Rettig, 2008). Furthermore, the Gacaca trials excluded the war criminals from the prosecution – there were many cases of the killings of Hutu civilians by Tutsis that formed the part of the Rwandan Patriotic Front army (Corey & Joireman, 2004). This was seen by many as a politicised application of justice, in which, by creating two separate categories of criminals - the crimes of war by the Tutsis that were not the subject of Gacaca and the crimes of the genocide by the Hutus that were dealt with by the trials – the impunity and high moral ground was granted for the Tutsi (ibid). This attitude might bring results that are contrary to the initial goal of the community-based justice - not the reconciliation of the people, but the further division of the society along the ethnic lines. 

However, while the criticism of the Gacaca trials is completely valid, it is also important to understand, that given the limited amount of resources and time, the goal of bringing justice to the victims of the genocide is an incredibly complex mission. In the context of the deeply wounded, post-genocidal society in which the social capital was almost non-existent, the ultimate goal, while having justice as a high priority, was first of all based on Ubuntu ethics and focused more on peace, retribution, and social healing. The utopian perfectness expected by the international community was nearly impossible, and the Gacaca trials met the goal of finding the best possible solutions in the limits of available resources. Furthermore, the criticism of international community often seemed to stem not so much from the preoccupation for the Rwandan citizens, as from the fact that a different approach to justice threatens the homogenizing concept of human rights “which lashes out to squash cultural difference and legal pluralism by criticizing the Gacaca for failures to approximate canonized doctrine” (Meyerstein, 2007).

While it is true that even Rwandan citizens often saw Gacaca as problematic, whether the problems perceived by them were similar to those criticised by the international community is dubious. For example, Rwanda’s Supreme Court’s response to the international criticism was the provision of approach to human rights which, while not denying their objectivity, also advocates for the definition that better suits the local culture and unique circumstances of post-genocide Rwanda (Supreme Court of Rwanda, 2003). After all, the interventions from the part of the Western world on behalf of the universal values have arguably created more violence historically than the defended values should ever allow. The acceptance that Gacaca trials, while imperfect, contributed positively to the post-genocide Rwandan society has the grave implications that human rights are ultimately a product of negotiation between global and local actors” (Meyerstein, 2007) which the West has always refused to accept. However, it is the opinion of this article that exactly the opposite attitude, namely that of better intercultural understanding and the search for the solutions that are not utopian but fit in the margins of the possibilities of a specific society, are the key to both the efficiency and the fairness of a justice system. 


The primary end of the African Indigenous Justice System is to empower the community and to foster reconciliation through a consensus that is made by the offenders, the victims, and the community alike. It encourages to view victims as people who have valuable relationships: they are someone’s daughters, sons, fathers – they are important members of society. Ubuntu is the underlying basis of the Indigenous Justice System and African ethnic in general. While the AIJS seems to be functioning alongside the state’s courts, in the end, the centralization and alienation from the community are undermining these traditional values that flourish in the African setting. The Western legalistic system helps little when it comes to the main goal of justice in Africa – the reconciliation of the community, and more often than not only succeeds in creating further discord. While the criticism of Gacaca trials was undoubtedly valid, it often stemmed from the utopian idealism that did not take the actual situation of a post-genocide Rwanda into consideration or the Western universalism, which was threatened by the introduction of a justice system that in many ways differs from the positivist standard. It is the opinion of this article, therefore, that more autonomy should be granted to the communities that are the basic building blocks of most of the African societies, with the traditional values of Ubuntu being the basis of the African social institutions.



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Mugumbate, J., & Nyanguru, A. (2013). Exploring African Philosophy: The Value of Ubuntu in Social Work. African Journal of Social Work, 82-100.

Metz, T. (2011). Ubuntu as a moral theory and human rights in South Africa. African Human Rights Law Journal, 532-559.

Metz, T. (2007). Towards an African Moral Theory. The Journal of Political Philosophy.

Lutz, D. W. (2009). African Ubuntu Philosophy and Global Management. Journal of Business Ethics, 313-328.

Hobbes, T. (1651). Leviathan.

Aristoteles. (350 B.C.E.). Politics.

Malisa, M., & Nhengeze, P. (2018). Pan-Africanism: A Quest for Liberation and the Pursuit of a United Africa. Genealogy.

Elechi, O., Morris, S., & Schauer, E. (2010). Restoring Justice (Ubuntu): An African Perspective. International Criminal Justice Review.

Baggini, J. (2018). How the World Thinks: A Global History of Philosophy. London: Granta Books.

Meyerstein, A. (2007). Between Law and Culture: Rwanda's Gacaca and Postolocial Legality. Law & Social Inquiry.

Corey, A., & Joireman, S. (2004). African Affairs. Retributive Justice: the Gacaca Courts in Rwanda.

Nabudere, D. W. (2005). Ubuntu Philosophy. Memory and Reconciliation. Texas Scholar Works, University of Texas Library.

Rettig, M. (2008). Gacaca: Truth, Justice, and Reconciliation in Postconflict Rwanda? African Studies Review.

Supreme Court of Rwanda. (2003). Developments on the subject of the report and different correspondences of Amnesty International. Départements des Jurisdictions Gacaca.

Drumbl, M. A. (2020). Post-Genocide Justice in Rwanda. Journal of International Peacekeeping.

Uvin, P. (1999). Ethnicity and Power in Burundi and Rwanda: Different Paths to Mass Violence. Comparative Politics, 253-271.

Schabas, W. A. (2005). Genocide Trials and Gacaca Courts. Journal of International Criminal Justice, 879-895.

Categorías Global Affairs: África Orden mundial, diplomacia y gobernanza Ensayos

Ejercicios navales de comandos de la Guardia Revolucionaria en el Estrecho de Ormuz en 2015 [Wikipedia]

▲ Ejercicios navales de comandos de la Guardia Revolucionaria en el Estrecho de Ormuz en 2015 [Wikipedia]

ENSAYOAna Salas Cuevas

La República Islámica de Irán, también conocida como Persia, es un país con gran importancia en la geopolítica. Es una potencia regional no solo por su localización estratégica, sino también por sus grandes recursos de hidrocarburos, que hacen de Irán el cuarto país en reservas probadas de petróleo y el primero en reservas de gas[1].

Así hablamos de uno de los países más importantes del mundo por tres motivos fundamentales. El primero, mencionado anteriormente: sus inmensas reservas petrolíferas y de gas. En segundo lugar, porque Irán controla el estrecho de Ormuz, que es llave de entrada y salida del Golfo Pérsico y por el que pasan la mayor parte de las exportaciones de hidrocarburos de Irán, Arabia Saudí, Irak, Emiratos Árabes, Kuwait, Catar y Bahréin[2]. Por último, por el programa nuclear en el que ha invertido tantos años[3].

La república iraní se basa en los principios del Islam chií, aunque hay una gran diversidad étnica en su sociedad. Por ello, es indispensable tener en cuenta la gran “fuerza del nacionalismo iraní” para comprender su política. Apelando a la posición dominante sobre otros países, el movimiento nacionalista iraní pretende influir en la opinión pública. El nacionalismo se ha ido asentando desde hace más de 120 años, desde que el Boicot de Tabaco de 1891[4] supuso una respuesta directa a la intervención y presión exterior, y hoy pretende lograr la hegemonía en la región. La política exterior e interior de Irán son una clara expresión de este movimiento[5].

Por agente interpuesto (Proxy armies)

La guerra subsidiaria (en inglés, war by proxy) es un modelo de guerra en el cual un país hace uso de terceros para combatir o influenciar en un determinado territorio, en lugar de enfrentarse directamente. Como señala David Daoud, en el Líbano, Irak, Yemen y Siria, “Teherán ha perfeccionado el arte de conquistar gradualmente un país sin reemplazar su bandera”[6]. En esa tarea participa directamente la Guardia Revolucionaria Islámica de Irán (GRI), formando o favoreciendo militarmente a las fuerzas de otros países.

La GRI nació con la Revolución Islámica liderada por el ayatolá Ruhollah Jomeini, con el fin de mantener los logros del movimiento[7]. Se trata de uno de los principales actores políticos y sociales del país. Posee gran capacidad para influir en los debates y decisiones de la política nacional. Es, además, propietaria de numerosas empresas dentro del país, lo que le garantiza una fuente de financiación propia y refuerza su carácter de poder interno. Constituye un cuerpo independiente de las fuerzas armadas, y el nombramiento de sus altos cargos depende directamente del Líder de la Revolución. Entre sus objetivos está la lucha contra el imperialismo, y expresamente se compromete a intentar rescatar Jerusalén para devolverla a los palestinos[8]. Su importancia es crucial para el régimen, y cualquier ataque a estos cuerpos representa una amenaza directa al gobierno iraní[9].

La relación de Irán con los países musulmanes de su entorno se encuentra marcada por dos hechos principales: por un lado, su condición chiita; por otro, la preeminencia que logró tener en el pasado en la región[10]. Gracias a que su acción exterior se encuentra apoyada en la Guardia Revolucionaria Islámica, Irán ha conseguido establecer grandes vínculos con grupos políticos y religiosos por todo Oriente Medio. A partir de ahí, Irán aprovecha distintos recursos para afianzar su influencia en los distintos países. En primer lugar, haciendo uso de herramientas de poder blando o soft power. Así, entre otras acciones, ha participado en la reconstrucción de mezquitas y escuelas en países como el Líbano o Irak[11]. En Yemen ha proporcionado ayudas logísticas y económicas al movimiento hutí. En 2006, se implicó en la reconstrucción del sur de Beirut.

No obstante, los métodos utilizados por estas fuerzas alcanzan otros extremos, pasando a mecanismos más intrusivos (hard power). Por ejemplo, tras la invasión israelí de 1982 en el Líbano, Irán ha ido estableciendo allí a lo largo de tres décadas un punto de apoyo, con Hezbolá como proxy, aprovechando las quejas sobre la privación de derechos de la comunidad chiita. Esta línea de acción ha permitido a Teherán promover su Revolución Islámica en el extranjero[12].

En Irak la GRI buscó la desestabilización interna de Irak, apoyando facciones chiitas como la organización Badr, durante la guerra irano-iraquí de la década de 1980. Por otro lado, Irán involucró a la GRI en el levantamiento de Saddam Hussein a principios de la década de 1990. A través de este tipo de influencias y encarnando el paradigma de proxy army, Irán ha ido estableciendo influencias muy directas sobre estos lugares. Incluso en Siria, este cuerpo de élite iraní tiene una gran influencia, apoyando al gobierno de Al Assad y las milicias chiitas que combaten junto a él.

Por su parte, Arabia Saudí acusa a Iran y su Guardia de proveer armas en Yemen a los hutíes (movimiento que defiende a la minoría chiita), generando una importante escalada de tensión entre ambos países[13].

La GRI se consolida, así, como uno de los factores más importantes en el panorama de Oriente Medio, impulsando la lucha entre dos bandos que quedan contrapuestos. No obstante, no es el único. De esta manera, encontramos un escenario de “guerra fría”, que acaba trascendiendo y convirtiéndose en foco internacional. Por un lado, Irán, apoyado por potencias como Rusia o China. Por el otro, Arabia Saudí, de la mano de EEUU. Esta contienda se desarrolla, en gran medida, de una manera no convencional, a través de proxy armies como Hezbolá y las milicias chiitas en Irak, en Siria o en Yemen[14].

Causas de una confrontación

Las tensiones entre Arabia Saudí e Irán se han extendido a todo Oriente Medio (y más allá), creando en este territorio dos bandos bien determinados, ambos con pretensión de adjudicarse la hegemonía en la zona.

Para interpretar este escenario y comprender mejor su oposición es importante, en primer lugar, distinguir dos corrientes ideológicas contrapuestas: el chiismo y el sunismo (wahabismo). El wahabismo es una tendencia religiosa musulmana de extrema derecha, de la rama del sunismo, que hoy en día es la religión mayoritaria en Arabia Saudí. El chiismo, como previamente se ha mencionado, es la corriente en la que se basa la República de Irán. No obstante, como veremos, la pugna que se desarrolla entre Irán y Arabia Saudí es política, no religiosa; está más basada en la ambición de poder, que en la religión.

En segundo lugar, encontramos en el control del tráfico del petróleo otra causa de esta rivalidad. Para entender este motivo, conviene tener en cuenta la posición estratégica que juegan los países de Oriente Medio en el mapa global al acoger las mayores reservas de hidrocarburos del mundo. Un gran número de luchas contemporáneas se deben, en efecto, a la intromisión de las grandes potencias en la región, intentando tener un papel sobre estos territorios. Así, por ejemplo, el acuerdo de Sykes-Picot[15] de 1916 para el reparto de influencias europeas sigue condicionando acontecimientos actuales. Tanto Arabia Saudí como Irán, como venimos diciendo, poseen un protagonismo especial en estos enfrentamientos, por las razones descritas.

Bajo estas consideraciones, es importante señalar, en tercer lugar, la implicación en dichas tensiones de potencias exteriores como Estados Unidos.

Los efectos de las primaveras árabes han debilitado a muchos países de la zona. No así a Arabia Saudí e Irán, que han buscado en las últimas décadas su consolidación como potencias regionales, en gran medida gracias al respaldo que les otorga su producción y sus grandes reservas de petróleo. Las diferencias entre ambos países se ven reflejadas en la manera en la que intentan configurar la región y en los distintos intereses que pretenden lograr. Además de las diferencias étnicas entre Irán (persas) y Arabia Saudí (árabes), su alineamiento en el panorama internacional también es opuesto. El wahabismo se presenta como antinorteamericano, pero el gobierno saudí es consciente de la necesidad que tiene del apoyo de EEUU, y ambos países mantienen una conveniencia recíproca, con el petróleo como base. No sucede lo mismo con Irán.

Irán y EEUU fueron estrechos aliados hasta 1979. La Revolución Islámica lo cambió todo y desde entonces, con la crisis de los rehenes de la embajada estadounidense en Teherán como momento inicial especialmente dramático, las tensiones entre los dos países han sido frecuentes. La confrontación diplomática ha vuelto a ser aguda con la decisión del presidente Donald Trump de retirada del Plan de Acción Integral Conjunto (PAIC), firmado en 2015 para la no proliferación nuclear de Irán, con la consiguiente reanudación de las sanciones económicas hacía este país. Además, en abril de 2019 Estados Unidos situó a la Guardia Revolucionaria en su lista de organizaciones terroristas[16], responsabilizando a Irán de financiar y promover el terrorismo como una herramienta de gobierno[17].

Por un lado, pues, está el bando de los saudís, apoyados por EEUU y, dentro de la región, por Emiratos Árabes Unidos, Kuwait, Baréin e Israel. Por el otro lado, Irán y sus aliados de Palestina, Líbano (parte pro-chiita) y recientemente Qatar, lista a la que podría añadirse Siria e Irak (milicias chiitas). Las tensiones aumentaron tras la muerte de Qasem Soleimani en enero de 2020. En este último bando podríamos destacar el apoyo internacional de China o Rusia, pero poco a poco podemos observar un alejamiento de las relaciones entre Irán y Rusia.

Al hablar de la lucha por la hegemonía del control del tráfico del petróleo, es imprescindible mencionar el Estrecho de Ormuz, el punto geográfico crucial de esta contienda, donde se ven enfrentadas ambas potencias directamente. Este estrecho es una zona estratégica situada entre el Golfo Pérsico y el de Omán. Por ahí pasa un 40% del petróleo mundial[18]. El control de estas aguas es, evidentemente, decisivo en el enfrentamiento entre Arabia Saudí e Irán; así como para cualquiera de los miembros de la Organización de Países Exportadores de Petróleo de Oriente Medio (OPEP) en la región: Irán, Arabia Saudí, Irak, Emiratos Árabes y Kuwait.

Uno de los objetivos de las sanciones económicas impuestas por Washington a Irán es reducir sus exportaciones para favorecer a Arabia Saudí, su mayor aliado regional. A estos efectos, la Quinta Flota estadounidense, con sede en Baréin, tiene la tarea de proteger la navegación comercial en esta área.

El Estrecho de Ormuz “es la válvula de escape que utiliza Irán para aliviar la presión que se ejerce desde fuera del Golfo” [19]. Desde aquí, Irán intenta reaccionar ante las sanciones económicas impuestas por EEUU y otras potencias; es lo que le otorga una mayor voz en el panorama internacional, al tener capacidad de bloquear el estratégico paso. Recientemente se han dado ataques a petroleros de Arabia Saudí y otros países[20], algo que provoca una gran desestabilización tanto económica como militar en cada nuevo episodio[21].  

En definitiva, la competencia entre Irán y Arabia Saudí tiene un efecto no solo regional sino que afecta globalmente. Los conflictos que pudieran desatarse en esta área recuerdan, cada vez más, a una ya conocida Guerra Fría, tanto por los métodos en el frente de batalla (y la incidencia de las proxy armies en este frente), como por la atención que requiere para el resto del mundo, que depende de este resultado, quizá, bastante más de lo que es consciente.


Desde hace varios años se ha ido consolidando un enfrentamiento regional que implica también a las grandes potencias. Esta lucha trasciende las fronteras de Oriente Medio, análogamente a la situación desencadenada durante la Guerra Fría. Sus principales agentes son las proxy armies, que impulsan luchas a través de agentes no estatales y con métodos de guerra no convencionales, desestabilizando constantemente las relaciones entre los Estados, así como dentro de los propios Estados.

Para evitar la lucha en Ormuz, países como Arabia Saudí y los Emiratos Árabes Unidos han intentado transportar el petróleo por otras vías, por ejemplo, mediante la construcción de oleoductos. Este grifo lo tiene Siria, país por el que las conducciones deben pasar para llegar a Europa). Al fin y al cabo, la guerra de Siria se puede ver desde muchas perspectivas, pero no hay duda de que uno de los motivos de la intromisión de potencias extrarregionales es el interés económico que conlleva la costa siria.

Desde 2015 hasta ahora se libra la silenciada guerra civil de Yemen. En ella están en juego asuntos estratégicos como el control del Estrecho de Mandeb. Detrás de esta terrible guerra contra los hutíes (proxies), hay un latente miedo a que estos se hagan con el control de acceso al Mar Rojo. En este mar y cerca del estrecho se encuentra Djibouti, donde las grandes potencias han instalado bases militares para un mejor control sobre la zona.

La potencia más perjudicada es Irán, que ve su economía debilitada por las constantes sanciones económicas. La situación afecta a una población oprimida tanto por el propio gobierno como por la presión internacional. El propio gobierno acaba desinformando a la sociedad, provocando una gran desconfianza hacia las autoridades. Esto genera una creciente inestabilidad política, que se manifiesta en frecuentes protestas.

El régimen ha publicitado esas manifestaciones como protestas por las actuaciones de EEUU, como por ejemplo a raíz del asesinato del general Soleimani, sin mencionar que muchas de estas revueltas se deben al gran descontento de la población civil por las graves medidas tomadas por el ayatolá Jamenei, más centrado en procurar la hegemonía en la zona que en resolver los problemas internos.

Así, muchas veces es difícil darse cuenta de implicación de estos enfrentamientos para la mayoría del mundo. En efecto, la utilización de proxy armies no debe distraernos del hecho de la verdadera involucración de las principales potencias de Occidente y de Oriente (al verdadero modo de una Guerra Fría). Tampoco los motivos que se alegan para mantener estos frentes abiertos deben distraernos de la verdadera incidencia de lo que está en juego realmente: ni más ni menos que la economía global.

[1] El nuevo mapa de los gigantes globales del petróleo y el gas, David Page, Expansió, el 26 de junio de 2013. Disponible en

[2] Los cuatro puntos clave por los que viaja el petróleo: El Estrecho de Ormuz, el “arma” de Irán, 30 de julio de 2018. Disponible en

[3] En noviembre de 2013 firmaban China, Rusia, Francia, Reino Unido y Estados Unidos (P5) e Irán el Plan de Acción Conjunto (PAC). Se trató de un acuerdo inicial sobre el programa nuclear de Irán sobre el cual se realizaron varias negociaciones que concluyeron con un pacto final, el Plan de Acción Integral Conjunto (PAIC), firmado en 2015, al que se adhirió la Unión Europea.

[4] El Boicot de Tabaco fue el primer movimiento en contra de una actuación concreta del Estado, no se dio una revolución en el sentido estricto de la palabra, pero en él se arraigó un fuerte nacionalismo. Se dio debido a la ley del monopolio del tabaco concedida a los británicos en 1890. Más información en: “El veto al tabaco”, Joaquín Rodríguez Vargas, Profesor de la Universidad Complutense de Madrid.

[5] Cuaderno de estrategia 137, Ministerio de Defensa: Irán, potencia emergente en Oriente Medio. Implicaciones en la estabilidad del Mediterráneo. Instituto Español de Estudios Estratégicos, julio de 2007. Disponible en

[6] Meet the Proxies: How Iran Spreads Its Empire through Terrorist Militias,The Tower Magazine, March 2015. Disponible en

[7] El artículo 150 de la Constitución de la República Islámica de Irán lo dice expresamente.

[8] Tensiones entre Irán y Estados Unidos: causas y estrategias, Kamran Vahed, Instituto Español de Estudios Estratégicos, noviembre 2019. Disponible en, pág. 5.

[9] Una de las seis secciones de la GRI es la Fuerza “Quds” (cuyo comandante era Qasem Soleimani), especializada en guerra convencional y operaciones de inteligencia militar. También responsable de llevar a cabo intervenciones extraterritoriales.

[10] Irán, Ficha país. Oficina de Información Diplomática, España. Disponible en

[11] Tensiones entre Irán y Estados Unidos: causas y estrategias, Kamran Vahed, Instituto Español de Estudios Estratégicos, noviembre 2019. Disponible en

[12] Hezbollah Watch, Iran’s Proxy War in Lebanon. November 2018. Disponible en

[13] Yemen: la batalla entre Arabia Sudí e Irán por la influencia en la región, Kim Amor, 2019, El Periódico. Disponible en

[14] Irán contra Arabia Saudí, ¿una guerra inminente?, Juan José Sánchez Arreseigor, IEEE, 2016. Disponible en

[15] El acuerdo de Sykes-Picot fue un pacto secreto entre Gran Bretaña y Francia durante la Primera Guerra Mundial (1916) en el que, con el consentimiento de Rusia (aún presoviética), ambas potencias se repartieron las zonas conquistadas del Imperio Otomano tras la Gran Guerra.

[16] Foreign Terrorist Organizations, Boureau of Counterterrorism. Disponible en

[17] Statement from the President on the Designation of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a Foreign Terrorist Organization, Foreign Policy, april of 2019. Disponible en

[18] El estrecho de Ormuz, la principal arteria del petróleo mundial, Euronews (datos contrastados con Vortexa), 14 de junio de 2019. Disponible en

[19] “Máxima presión” en el Estrecho de Ormuz, Félix Arteaga, Real Instituto el Cano, 2019. Disponible en

[20] Estrecho de Ormuz: qué se sabe de las nuevas explosiones en buques petroleros que aumentan la tensión entre Estados Unidos e Irán, BBC News Mundo, 14 junio 2019. Disponible en

[21] Arabia Saudí denuncia el sabotaje de dos petroleros en aguas de Emiratos Árabes, Ángeles Espinosa, 14 de mayo de 2019, El País. Disponible en

Categorías Global Affairs: Oriente Medio Seguridad y defensa Ensayos

Logo of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence organization. It depicts Pakistan's national animal, Markhor, eating a snake [Wikipedia]

▲ Logo of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence organization. It depicts Pakistan's national animal, Markhor, eating a snake [Wikipedia]

ESSAYManuel Lamela

Jihadism continues to be one of the main threats Pakistan faces. Its impact on Pakistani society at the political, economic and social levels is evident, it continues to be the source of greatest uncertainty, which acts as a barrier to any company that is interested in investing in the Asian country. Although the situation concerning terrorist attacks on national soil has improved, jihadism is an endemic problem in the region and medium-term prospects are not positive. The atmosphere of extreme volatility and insistence that is breathed does not help in generating confidence. If we add to this the general idea that Pakistan's institutions are not very strong due to their close links with certain radical groups, the result is a not very optimistic scenario. In this essay, we will deal with the current situation of jihadism in Pakistan, offering a multidisciplinary approach that helps to situate itself in the complicated reality that the country is experiencing.




1. Jihadism in the region, a risk assessment

Through this graph, we will analyze the probability and impact of various risk factors concerning jihadist activity in the region. All factors refer to hypothetical situations that may develop in the short or medium term. The increase in jihadist activity in the region will depend on how many of these predictions are fulfilled.

Risk Factors:

R1: US-Taliban treaty fails, creating more instability in the region. If the United States is not able to make a proper exit from Afghanistan, we may find ourselves in a similar situation to that experienced during the 1990s. Such scenario will once again plunge the region into a fierce civil war between government forces and Taliban groups. The proposed scenario becomes increasingly plausible if we look at the recent American actions regarding foreign policy.

R2: Pakistan two-head strategy facing terrorism collapse. Pakistan’s strategy in dealing with jihadism is extremely risky, it’s collapse would lead to a schism in the way the Asian state deals with its most immediate challenges. The chances of this strategy failing in the medium term are considerably high due to its structure, which makes it unsustainable over the time.

R3: Violations of the LoC by the two sides in the conflict. Given the frequency with which these events occur, their impact is residual, but it must be taken into account that it in an environment of high tension and other factors, continuous violations of the LoC may be the spark that leads to an increase in terrorist attacks in the region.

R4: Agreement between the afghan Taliban and the government. Despite the recent agreement between Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Albduallah, it seems unlikely that he will be able to reach a lasting settlement with the Taliban, given the latter's pretensions. If it is true that if it happens, the agreement will have a great impact that will even transcend Afghan borders.

R5: Afghan Taliban make a coup d’état to the afghan government. In relation to the previous point, despite the pact between the government and the opposition, it seems likely that instability will continue to exist in the country, so a coup attempt by the Taliban seems more likely than a peaceful solution in the medium or long term

R6: U.S. Democrat party wins the 2020 elections. Broadly speaking, both Republican and Democratic parties are betting on focusing their efforts on containing the growth of their great rival, China.

R7: U.S. withdraw its troops from Afghanistan regarding the result of the peace process. This is closely related to the previous point as it responds to a basic geopolitical issue.

R8: New agreement between India and Pakistan regarding the LoC.  If produced, this would bring both states closer together and help reduce jihadist attacks in the Kashmir region. However, if we look at recent events, such a possibility seems distant at present.



2. The ties between the ISI and the Taliban and other radical groups

Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) has been accused on many occasions of being closely linked to various radical groups; for example, they have recently been involved with the radicalization of the Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh[1]. Although Islamabad continues strongly denying such accusations, reality shows us that cooperation between the ISI and various terrorist organizations has been fundamental to their proliferation and settlement both on national territory and in the neighboring states of India and Afghanistan. The West has not been able to fully understand the nature of this relationship and its link to terrorism. The various complaints to the ISI have been loaded with different arguments of different kinds, lacking in unity and coherence. Unlike popular opinion, this analysis will point to the confused and undefined Pakistani nationalism as the main cause of this close relationship.

The Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, together with the Intelligence Bureau and the Military Intelligence, constitute the intelligence services of the Pakistani State, the most important of which is the ISI. ISI can be described as the intellectual core and center of gravity of the army. Its broad functions are the protection of Pakistan's national security and the promotion and defense of Pakistan's interests abroad. Despite the image created around the ISI, in general terms its activities and functions are based on the same "values" as other intelligence agencies such as the MI6, the CIA, etc. They all operate under the common ideal of protecting national interests, the essential foundation of intelligence centers without which they are worthless. We must rationalize their actions on the ground, move away from inquisitive accusations and try to observe what are the ideals that move the group, their connection with the government of Islamabad and the Pakistani society in general.

2.1. The Afghan Taliban

To understand the idiosyncrasy of the ISI we must go back to the war in Afghanistan[2], it is from this moment that the center begins to build an image of itself, independent of the rest of the armed forces. From the ISI we can see the victory of the Mujahideen on Afghan territory as their own, a great achievement that shapes their thinking and vision. But this understanding does not emerge in isolation and independently, as most Pakistani society views the Afghan Taliban as legitimate warriors and defenders of an honorable cause[3]. The Mujahideen victory over the USSR was a real turning point in Pakistani history, the foundation of modern Pakistani nationalism begins from this point. The year 1989 gave rise to a social catharsis from which the ISI was not excluded.

Along with this ideological component, it is also important to highlight the strategic aspect; we are dealing with a question of nationalism, of defending patriotic interests. Since the emergence of the Taliban, Pakistan has not hesitated to support them for major strategic reasons, as there has always been a fear that an unstable Afghanistan would end up being controlled directly or indirectly by India, an encircle strategy[4]. Faced with this dangerous scenario, the Taliban are Islamabad's only asset on the ground. It is for this reason, and not only for religious commitment, that this bond is produced, although over time it is strengthened and expanded. Therefore, at first, it is Pakistani nationalism and its foreign interests that are the cause of this situation, it seeks to influence neighboring Afghanistan to make the situation as beneficial as possible for Pakistan. Later on, when we discuss the situation of the Taliban on the national territory, we will address the issue of Pakistani nationalism and how its weak construction causes great problems for the state itself. But on Afghan territory, from what has been explained above, we can conclude that this relationship will continue shortly, it does not seem likely that this will change unless there are great changes of impossible prediction. The ISI will continue to have a significant influence on these groups and will continue its covert operations to promote and defend the Taliban, although it should be noted that the peace treaty between the Taliban and the US[5] is an important factor to take into account, this issue will be developed once the situation of the Taliban at the internal level is explained.

2.2. The Pakistani Taliban (Al-Qaeda[6] and the TTP)

The Taliban groups operating in Pakistan are an extension of those operating in neighboring Afghanistan. They belong to the same terrorist network and seek similar objectives, differentiated only by the place of action. Despite this obvious similarity, from Islamabad and increasingly from the whole of Pakistani society, the two groups are observed in a completely different way. On the one hand, as we said earlier, for most Pakistanis, the Afghan Taliban are fighting a legitimate and just war, that of liberating the region from foreign rule. However, groups operating in Pakistan are considered enemies of the state and the people. Although there was some support among the popular classes, especially in the Pashtun regions, this support has gradually been lost due to the multitude of atrocities against the civilian population that have recently been committed. The attack carried out by the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP)[7] in the Army Public School in Peshawar in the year 2014 generated a great stir in society, turning it against these radical groups. This duality marks Pakistan's strategy in dealing with terrorism both globally and internationally. While acting as an accomplice and protector of this groups in Afghanistan, he pursues his counterparts on their territory. We have to say that the operations carried out by the armed forces have been effective, especially the Zarb-e-Azb operation carried out in 2014 in North Waziristan, where the ISI played a fundamental role in identifying and classifying the different objectives. The position of the TTP in the region has been decimated, leaving it quite weakened. As can be seen in this scenario, there is no support at the institutional level from the ISI[8], as they are involved in the fight against these radical organizations. However, on an individual level if these informal links appear. This informal network is favored by the tribal character of Pakistani society, it can appear in different forms but often draw on ties of Kinship, friendship or social obligation[9]. Due to the nature of this type of relationship, it is impossible to know to what extent the ISI's activity is conditioned and how many of its members are linked to Taliban groups. However, we would like to point out that these unions are informal and individual and not institutional, which provides a certain degree of security and control, at least for the time being, the situation may vary greatly due to the lack of transparency.

2.3. ISI and the radical groups that operate in Kashmir

Another part of the board is made up of the radical groups that focus their terrorist attention on the conflict with India over control of Kashmir, the most important of which are: Lashkar-e-Taiba (Let) and Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM). Both groups have committed real atrocities over the past decades, the most notorious being the one committed by LeT in the Indian city of Mumbai in 2008. There are numerous testimonies, in particular, that of the American citizen David Haedy, which point to the cooperation of the ISI in carrying out the aforementioned attack.[10]

Recently, Hafiz Saeed, founder of Let and intellectual planner of the bloody attack, was arrested. The news generated some turmoil both locally and internationally and opened the debate as to whether Pakistan had finally decided to act against the radical groups operating in Kashmir. We are once again faced with a complex situation, although the arrest shows a certain amount of willpower, it is no more than a way of making up for the situation and relaxing international pressure. The above coincides with the FATF's[11] assessment of Pakistan's status within the institution, which is of great importance for the short-term future of the country's economy. Beyond rhetoric, there is no convincing evidence that suggests that Pakistan has made a move against those groups. The link and support provided by the ISI in this situation are again closely linked to strategic and ideological issues. Since its foundation, Pakistani foreign policy has revolved around India[12], as we saw on the Afghan stage. Pakistani nationalism is based on the maxim that India and the Hindus are the greatest threat to the future of the state. Given the significance of the conflict for Pakistani society, there has been no hesitation in using radical groups to gain advantages on the ground. From Pakistan perspective, it is considered that this group of terrorists are an essential asset when it comes to putting pressure on India and avoiding the complete loss of the territory, they are used as a negotiating tool and a brake on Indian interests in the region.

As we can see, the core between the ISI and certain terrorist groups is based on deep-seated nationalism, which has led both members of the ISI and society, in general, to identify with the ideas of certain radical groups. They have benefited from the situation by bringing together a huge amount of power, becoming a threat to the state itself. The latter has compromised the government of Pakistan, sometimes leaving it with little room for maneuver. The immense infrastructure and capacity of influence that Let has thanks to its charitable arm Jamaat-ud-Dawa, formed with re-localized terrorists, is a clear example of the latter. A revolt led by this group could put Islamabad in a serious predicament, so the actions taken both in Kashmir and internally to try to avoid the situation should be measured very well. The existing cooperation between the ISI and these radical groups is compromised by the development of the conflict in Kashmir, which may increase or decrease depending on the situation. What is certain, because of the above, is that it will not go unnoticed and will continue to play a key role in the future. These relationships, this two-way game could drag Pakistan soon into an internal conflict, which could compromise its very existence as a nation.


[3] Lieven, Anatol. Pakistan a Hard Country. 1st ed. London: Penguin, 2012.

[4] United States Institute for PeaceThe India-Pakistan Rivalry In Afghanistan, 2020.

[5] Maizland, Lindsay. "U.S.-Taliban Peace Deal: What To Know". Council On Foreign Relations, 2020.

[6] Blanchard, Christopher M. Al Qaeda: Statements And Evolving Ideology. PDF, 2007.

[7] Mapping Militant Organizations. “Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan.” Stanford University. Last modified July 2018.

[9] Lieven, Anatol. Pakistan a Hard Country. 1st ed. London: Penguin, 2012.

[10] Lieven, Anatol. Pakistan a Hard Country. 1st ed. London: Penguin, 2012.

[12] "India And Pakistan: Forever Rivals?". Aljazeera.Com, 2017.

Categorías Global Affairs: Asia Seguridad y defensa Ensayos

Gurdwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur, also called Kartarpur Sahib, is a Sikh holy place in Kartarpur, in the Pakistani Punjab [Wikimedia Commons]

▲ Gurdwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur, also called Kartarpur Sahib, is a Sikh holy place in Kartarpur, in the Pakistani Punjab [Wikimedia Commons]

ESSAYPablo Viana

Punjab region has been part of India until the year 1947, when the Punjab province of British India was divided in two parts, East Punjab (India) and West Punjab (Pakistan) due to religious reasons. After the division a lot of internal violence occurred, and many people were displaced.

East and West Punjab

The partition of Punjab proved to be one of the most violent, brutal, savage debasements in the history of humankind. The undivided Punjab, of which West Punjab forms a major region today, was home to a large minority population of Punjabi Sikhs and Hindus unto 1947 apart from the Muslim majority[1]. This minority population of Punjabi Sikhs called for the creation of a new state in the 1970s, with the name of Khalistan, but it was detained by India, sending troops to stop the militants. Terrorist attacks against the Sikh majority emerged, by those who did not accept the creation of the state of Khalistan and wished to stay in India.

The Sikh population is the dominant religious ethnicity in East Punjab (58%) followed by the Hindu (39%). Sikhism and Islamism are both monotheistic religions, they do believe on the same concept of God, although it is different on each religion. Sikhism was developed during the 16th and 17th century in the context of conflict in between Hinduism and Islamism. It is important to mention Sikhism if we talk about Punjab, as its origins were in Punjab, but most important in recent times, is that the Guru Nanak Dev[2] was buried in Pakistani territory. Four kilometres from the international border the Sikh shrine was conceded to Pakistan at the time of British India’s Partition in 1947. For followers of Sikhism this new border that cut through Punjab proved especially problematic. Sikhs overwhelmingly chose India over the newly formed Pakistan as the state that would best protect their interests (there are an estimated 50,000 Sikhs living in Pakistan today, compared to the 24 million in India). However, in making this choice, Sikhs became isolated from several holy sites, creating a religious disconnection that has proved a constant spiritual and emotional dilemma for the community[3].

In order to let the Sikhist population visit the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib[4], the Kartarpur Corridor was created in November 2019. However, there is an incessant suspicion in between India and Pakistan that question Pakistan motives. Although it seems like a generous move work of the Pakistani government, there is a clear perception that Pakistan is engaged in an act of deception[5]. Thus, although this scenario might seem at first beneficial for the rapprochement of East and West Punjab, it is not at all. Pakistan is involved in a rhetorical policy which could end up worsening its relations with India.

The division of Punjab in 1947 was like the division of Pakistan and India on that same year. Territorial disputes have been an issue that defines very well India-Pakistan relations since the independence. In the case of Punjab, there has not been a territorial debate. The division was clear and has been respected ever since. Why would Pakistan and/or India be willing to unify Punjab? There is no reason. East and West Punjab represent two different nations and three religions. If we think about reunifying Pakistan and India, the conclusion is the same (although more dramatic); too many discrepancies and recent unrest to think about bringing back together the nations. However, if the Kartarpur Corridor could be placed out of bonds for the territorial disputes between Pakistan and India (e.g. Kashmir), Islamabad and New Delhi could use this situation as a model to find out which are the pressure points and trying to find a path for identifying common solutions. In order to achieve this, there should be a clear behaviour by both parts of cooperation. Sadly, in recent times both Pakistan and India have discrepancies regarding many topics and suspicious behaviours that clearly show that they won’t be interested in complicating more the situation in Punjab searching for unification. The riots of 1947 left a terrific era on the region and now that both sides are established and no major disputes have emerged (except for Sikh nationalism), the situation should and will most likely remain as it is.

The Indus Water Treaty

The Indus Waters Treaty was signed in 1960 after nine years of negotiations between India and Pakistan with the help of the World Bank, which is also a signatory. Seen as one of the most successful international treaties, it has survived frequent tensions, including conflict, and has provided a framework for irrigation and hydropower development for more than half a century. The Treaty basically provides a mechanism for exchange of information and cooperation between Pakistan and India regarding the use of their rivers. This mechanism is well known as the Permanent Indus Commission. The Treaty also sets forth distinct procedures to handle issues which may arise: “questions” are handled by the Commission; “differences” are to be resolved by a Neutral Expert; and “disputes” are to be referred to a seven-member arbitral tribunal called the “Court of Arbitration.” As a signatory to the Treaty, the World Bank’s role is limited and procedural[6].    

Since 1948, India has been confident on the fact that East Punjab and the acceding states have a prior and superior claim to the rivers flowing through their territory. This leaves West Punjab in disadvantage regarding water resources, as East Punjab can access the highest sections of the rivers. Even under a unified control designed to ensure equitable distribution of water, in years of low river flow cultivators on tail distributaries always tended to accuse those on the upper reaches of taking an undue amount of the water, and after partition any temporary shortage, whatever the cause, could easily be attributed to political motives. It was therefore wise of Pakistan-indeed it became imperative-to cut the new feeder from the Ravi for this area and thus become independent of distributaries in East Punjab[7]. The Treaty acknowledges the control of the eastern rivers to India, and to the western rivers to Pakistan.

The main issue of water distribution in between East and West Punjab is then a matter of geography. Even though West Punjab covers more territory than East Punjab, and the water flow of West Punjab is almost three times the water flow of East Punjab rivers, the Indus Water Treaty gives the following advantage to India: since Pakistan rivers receive much more water flow from India, the treaty allowed India to use western rivers water for limited irrigation use and unlimited use for power generation, domestic, industrial and non-consumptive uses such as navigation, floating of property, fish culture and this is where the disputes mainly came from, as Pakistan has objected all Indian hydro-electric projects on western rivers irrespective of size and layout.

It is worth mentioning that with the World Bank mediating the Treaty in between India and Pakistan, the water access will not be curtailed, and since the ratification of the Treaty, India and Pakistan have not engaged in any water wars. Although there have been many tensions the disputes have been via legal procedures, but they haven’t caused any major cause for conflict. Today, both countries are strengthening their relationship, and the scenario is not likely to get worse, it is actually the opposite, and the Indus Water Treaty is one of the few livelihoods of the relationship. If the tensions do not cease, the World Bank should consider the possibility of amending the treaty, obviously if both Pakistan and India are willing to cooperate, although with the current environment, a renegotiation of the treaty would probably bring more complications. There is no shred of evidence that India has violated the Indus Water Treaty or that it is stealing Pakistan’s water[8], although Pakistan does blame India for breaching the treaty, as showed before. This is pointed out by Hindu politicians as an attempt by Pakistan to divert the attention of its own public from the real issues of gross mismanagement of water resources[9].

Pakistan has a more hostile attitude regarding water distribution, trying to find a way to impeach India, meanwhile India focuses on the development of hydro-electric projects. India won’t stop providing water to the West Punjab, as the treaty is still in force and is fulfilled by both parts. Pakistan should reconsider its role and its benefits received thanks to the treaty and meditate about the constant pressure towards India, as pushing over the limit could mean a more hostile activity carried out by India, which in the worst case scenario (although not likely to happen) could mean a breakdown of the treaty.

[1] The Punjab in 1920s – A Case study of Muslims, Zarina Salamat, Royal Book Company, Karachi, 1997. table 45, pp. 136.

[2] Guru Nanak Dev was the founder of Sikhism (1469-1540)

[3] Wyeth, G. (Dec 28, 2019). Opening the Gates: The Kartarpur Corridor. Australian Institute of International Affairs.

[4] Site where Guru Nanak Dev settled the Sikh community, and lived for 18 years after his death in 1539.

[5] Islamabad promoted the activity of Sikhs For Justice including the will to establish the state of Khalistan.

Categorías Global Affairs: Asia Seguridad y defensa Ensayos

Attack in Kashmir linked to groups of Pakistani origin [twitted by @ANI]

▲ Attack in Kashmir linked to groups of Pakistani origin [twitted by @ANI]

ESSAYIsabel Calderas [Ignacio Lucas as research assistant]

There is a myriad of security concerns regarding external factors when it comes to Pakistan: India, Afghanistan, the Saudi Arabia-Iran split and the United States, to name a few. However, there are also two main concerns that come from within: jihadism and organized crime. They are interconnected but differ in many ways. The latter is frequently overlooked to focus on the former, but both have the capacity of affecting the country, internally and externally, as the effectiveness of dealing with them impacts the perception the international community has of Pakistan. While internally disrupting, these problems also have international reach, as such groups often export their activities, adversely affecting at a global scale. Therefore, international actors put so much pressure on Pakistan to control them. Historically, there has been much scepticism over the government’s ability, or even willingness to solve these risks. We will examine both problems separately, identifying the impact they have on the national and international arena, as well as the government’s approach to dealing with either and the future risks they entail.


Pakistan’s education system has become a central part of the country’s radicalization phenomenon[1], in the materialization of madrassas. These schools, which teach a more puritanical version of Islam than had traditionally been practiced in Pakistan, have been directly linked to the rise of jihadist groups[2]. Saudi Arabia, who has always had very close relations with Pakistan, played a key role in their development, by funding the Ahl-e-Hadith and Deobandi madrassas since the 1970s. The Iranian revolution bolstered the Saudi’s imperative to control Sunnism in Pakistan, and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan gave them the vehicle to do so[3]. In these schools, which teach a biased view of the world, students display low tolerance for minorities and are more likely to turn to jihadism.

Saudi and American funding of madrassas during the Soviet occupation helped the Pakistani army’s intelligence agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), become more powerful, as they channelled millions of dollars to them, a lot of which went into the madrassas which sent mujahedeen fighters to fight for their cause[4]. The Taliban’s origins can also be traced to these, as the militia was raised mainly from Afghan refugee camps in Pakistan and Saudi-funded madrassas[5].

Madrassas are especially popular in the poorer provinces of the country, where parents send their children to them for several non-religious reasons. First, because the Qur’an is written in Arabic and madrassas teach this language[6]. The dire situation of many families forces millions of Pakistanis to migrate to neighbouring, oil-rich Arabic-speaking countries, from where they send remittances home to help support their families. Secondly, the public-school system in Pakistan is weak, often failing to teach basic reading skills[7], something the madrassas do teach.

Partly in response to the international pressure[8] it has been under to fight terrorism within its territory; Pakistan has tried to reform the madrassas. The government has stated its intention to bring madrassas under the umbrella of the education ministry, financing these schools by allocating cash otherwise destined to fund anti-terrorism security operations[9]. It plans to add subjects like science to the curriculum, to lessen the focus on Islamic teachings. However, this faces several challenges, among which the resistance from the teachers and clerical authorities who run the madrassas outstands[10].

Before moving on to the prominent radical groups in Pakistan, we would like to make a brief summary on a different cause of radicalization: the unintended effect of the drone strategy adopted by the United States.

The United States has increasingly chosen to target its radical enemies in Pakistan through the use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), which can be highly effective in neutralizing objectives, but also pose a series of risks, like the killing of innocent civilians that are in the neighbouring area. This American strategy, which Pakistan has publicly criticized, has fomented anti-American sentiment among the Pakistanis, at a ratio on average of every person killed resulting in the radicalization of several more people[11]. The growing unpopularity of drone strikes has further weakened relations between both governments, but shows no signs of changing in the future, if recent attacks carried by the U.S. are any indication. Pakistan’s efforts to de-radicalize its population will continue to be undermined by the U.S. drone strikes[12].

Pakistan’s anti-terrorism strategy is linked to its geostrategic and regional interests, especially dealing with its eastern and western neighbours[13]. There are many radical groups operating within their territory, and the government’s strategy towards them shifts depending on their goal[14]. Groups like the Afghan Taliban, who target foreign invasions in their own country, and Al Qaeda, whose jihad against the West is on a global scale, have been allowed to use Pakistani territory to coordinate operations and take refuge. Their strategy is quite different for Pakistani Taliban group, Tehrik-e-Taliban (TTP) who, despite being allied with the Afghan Taliban, has a different goal: to oust the Pakistani government and impose Sharia law[15]. Most of the military’s campaigns aimed at cracking down on radicals have been targeted at weakening groups affiliated with TTP. Lastly, there are those groups with whom some branches of the Pakistani government directly collaborate with.

Pakistan has been known to use jihadi organizations to advance its security objectives through proxy conflicts.  Pakistan’s policy of waging war through terrorist groups is planned, coordinated, and conducted by the Pakistani Army, specifically the ISI[16] who, as previously mentioned, plays a vital role in running the State.

Although this has been a longstanding cause of tension between the Pakistani and the American governments, the U.S. has made no progress in persuading or compelling the Pakistani military to sever ties with the radical groups[17], even though the Pakistani government has stated that it has, over the past year, ‘fought and eradicated the menace of terrorism from its soil’ by carrying out arrests, seizing property and freezing bank accounts of groups proscribed by the United States and the United Nations[18]. Their actions have been enough to keep them off the FATF’s blacklist for financing terrorism and money laundering[19], which would prevent them from getting financing, but concerns remain about ISI’s involvement with radical groups, the future of the relations between them, the overall activity of these groups from within Pakistani territory, and the risk of a future attack to its neighbours.

We will use two of Pakistan’s main proxy groups, Lashkar-e-Tayyiba and Jaish-e-Muhammad, to analyse the feasibility of an attack in the near future.

1.1. Lashkar-e-Tayyiba (LeT)

Created to support the resistance against the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, LeT now focuses on the insurgencies in Afghanistan and Kashmir, the highest priorities for the Pakistani military’s foreign policy. The Ahl-e-Hadith group is led by its founder, Hafiz Saeed. Its headquarters are in Punjab. Unlike its counterparts, it is a well-organized, unified, and hierarchical organization, which has become highly institutionalized in the last thirty years. As a result, it has not suffered any major losses or any fractures since its inception[20].

Since the Mumbai attacks in 2008 (which also involved ISI), for which LeT were responsible, its close relationship with the military has defined the group’s operations, most noticeably by restraining their actions in India, which reflects both the Pakistani military’s desire to avoid international pressure and conflict with their neighbour and the group’s capability to contain its members. The group has calibrated its activities, although it possesses the capability to expand its violence. Its outlets for violence have been Afghanistan and Kashmir, which align with the Pakistani military’s agenda: to bring Afghanistan under Pakistan’s sphere of influence while keeping India off-balance in Kashmir[21]. The recent U.S.-Taliban deal in Afghanistan and militarization of Kashmir by India may change this. LeT has benefitted handsomely for its loyalty, receiving unparalleled protection, patronage, and privilege from the military. However, after twelve years of restraint, Lashkar undoubtedly faces pressures from within its ranks to strike against India again, especially now that Narendra Modi is prime minister.

1.2. Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM)

The Deobandi organization, led by its founder Masood Azhar, has had close bonds with Al-Qaeda and the Taliban since they came into light in 2000. With the commencement of the war on terror in Afghanistan, JeM reciprocated by launching an attack on the Indian Parliament on December 2001, in cooperation with LeT. However, it ignored the Pakistani military’s will in 2019 when it launched the Pulwama attack, after which the government of Pakistan launched a countrywide crackdown on them, taking leaders and members into preventive custody[22].

1.3. Risk assessment

Although it has gone rogue before, Jaish-e-Muhammad has been weakened by the recent government’s crackdown. What remains of the group, consolidated under Masood Azhar, has repaired ties with the military. Although JeM has demonstrated it still possesses formidable capability in Indian Kashmir, Lashkar-e-Tayyiba represents the main concern for an attack on India in the near future.

Lashkar has been both the most reliable and loyal of all the proxy groups and has also proven it does not take major action without prior approval from the ISI, which could become a problem. Pakistan has adopted a policy of maintaining plausible deniability for any attacks in order to avoid international pressure after 9/11, thus LeT’s close ties with the military make it more likely that its actions will provoke a war between the two countries.

The United States has tried for several years to get Pakistan to stop using proxies. There are several scenarios in which Lashkar would break from the Pakistani state (or vice versa), but they are farfetched and beyond foreign influence: a) a change in Pakistan’s security calculus, b) a resolution on Kashmir, c) a shift in Lashkar’s responsiveness and d) a major Lashkar attack in the West[23].

a) A change in Pakistan’s security calculus is the least likely, as the India-centric understanding of Pakistan’s interests and circumstances is deeply embedded in the psyche of the security establishment[24].

b) A resolution on Kashmir would trouble Lashkar, who seeks full unification of all Kashmir with Pakistan, which would not be the outcome of a negotiated resolution. More so, Modi’s recent decision regarding article 370 puts this possibility even further into the future.

c) A shift in Lashkar responsiveness would be caused by the internal pressures to perform another attack, after more than a decade of abiding by the security establishment’s will. If perceived as too powerful of insufficiently responsive, ISI would most likely seek to dismantle the group, as they did with Jaish-e-Muhammad, by focusing on the rogue elements and leaving Lashkar smaller but more responsive. This presents a threat, as the group would not allow itself to be simply dismantled but would probably resist to the point of becoming hostile[25].

d) The last option, a major Lashkar attack in the West, is also unlikely, as the group has not undertaken any major attack without perceived greenlight from ISI.

This does not mean that an attack from LeT can be ruled out. ISI could allow the group to carry out an attack if, in the absence of a better reason, it feels that the pressure from within the group will start causing dissent and fractures, just like it happened in 2008. It is in ISI’s best interest that Lashkar remains a strong, united ally. Knowing this, it is important to note that a large-scale attack in India by Lashkar is arguably the most likely trigger to a full-blown conflict between the two nations. Even a smaller-scale attack has the potential of provoking India, especially under Modi.

If such an attack where to happen, India would not be expected to display a weak-kneed gesture, as PM Modi’s policy is that of a tough and powerful approach in defence vis-à-vis both Pakistan and China. This has already been made evident by its retaliation for the Fidayeen attack at Uri brigade headquarters by Jaish-e-Muhammad in 2016[26]. It has now become evident that if Pakistan continues to harbour terrorist groups against India as its strategic assets, there will be no military restraint by India as long as Modi is in power, who will respond with massive retaliation. In its fragile economic condition, Pakistan will not be able to sustain a long-drawn war effort[27].

On the other hand, Afghanistan, which has been the other focus of Pakistan’s proxy groups, is now undergoing a process which could result in a major organizational shift. The Taliban insurgent movement has been able survive this long due to the sanctuary and support provided by Pakistan[28]. Furthermore, Lashkar-e-Tayyiba’s participation in the Afghan insurgency furthered the Pakistani military’s goal of having a friendly, anti-India partner on its western border[29]. The development and outcome of the intra-Afghan talks will determine the continued use of proxies in the country. However, we can realistically assume that, at least in the near future, radical groups will maintain some degree of activity in Afghanistan.

It is highly unlikely that the Pakistani intelligence establishment will stop engaging with radical groups, as it sees in them a very useful strategic tool for achieving its security goals. However, Pakistan’s plausible deniability approach will come into question, as its close ties with Lashkar-e-Tayyiba make it increasingly hard for it to deny involvement in its acts with any credibility. Regarding India, any kind of offensive from this group could result in a large-scale conflict. This is precisely the most likely scenario to occur, as Modi’s history with Lashkar-e-Tayyiba and their twelve-year-long “hiatus” from impactful attacks could propel the organization to take action that will impact the whole region.


Drug trafficking constitutes an important problem for Pakistan. It originates in Afghanistan, from where thousands of tonnes are smuggled out every year, using Pakistan as a passageway to provide the world with heroin and opioids[30]. The following concept map has been elaborated with information from diverse sources[31] to present the different aspects of the problem aimed to better comprehend the complex situation.


Source: Encyclopedia Britannica


Afghanistan, one of the world’s largest heroin producers, has supplied up to 60% and 80% of the U.S. and European markets, respectively. The landlocked country takes advantage of its blurred border line, and the remoteness and inaccessibility of the sparsely populated bordering regions with Pakistan, using it as a conduct to send its drugs globally. The Pakistani government is under a lot of pressure from the international community to fight and minimize drug trafficking from its territory.

Pakistan feels a special kind of pressure from the European Union, as its GSP+ status could be affected if it does not control this problem. The GSP+ is dependent on the implementation of 27 international conventions related to human rights, labour rights, protection of the environment and good governance, including the UN Convention on Fighting Illegal Drugs[32]. Pakistan was granted GSP+ status in 2014 and has shown commitment to maintaining ratifications and meeting reporting obligations to the UN Treaty bodies[33]. However, one of the aspects of the scheme is its “temporary withdrawal and safeguard” measure, which means the preferences can be immediately withdrawn if the country is unable to control drug trafficking effectively[34]. This has not been the case, and the EU has recognized Pakistan’s efforts in the fight on drugs; the UN has also removed it from the list of cannabis resin production countries[35]. Anti-corruption frameworks have been strengthened, along with legislation review and awareness building, but they have been advised that better coordination between law enforcement agencies is needed[36].

The GSP+ status is very important to Pakistan, as the European Union is their first trade partner, absorbing over a third of their total exports in 2018, followed by the U.S., China and Afghanistan[37]. The Union can use this as leverage to obtain concessions from Pakistan. However, the approach they have taken so far has been of collaboration in many areas, including transnational organized crime, money laundering and counter-narcotics[38]. In this sense, the EU ambassador to Pakistan recently stated that the new Strategic Engagement Plan of 2019 would “further boost their relations in diverse fields”[39].

Even with combined efforts, erradicating the drug trafficking problem in Pakistan has proven to be very difficult. This is because production of the drug is not done in its territory, and even if border patrols are strengthened, it will be very hard to stop drugs from coming in from its neighbour if the Afghan government doesn’t take appropriate measures themselves.


Source: Encyclopedia Britannica


A “5 whys” exercise has led us to understand that the root cause of the problem is the fact that most farmers in Afghanistan are too poor to turn to different crops. A nearly two decade war has ravaged the country’s land, leaving opium crops, which are cheaper and easier to maintain, as the only option for most farmers in this agrarian nation. A substantial investment in the country’s agriculture to produce more economic options would be needed if any serious advance is expected to be made in stopping illegal drug trafficking. These investments will have to be a joint effort of the international community, and funding for the government will also be necessary, if stability is to be reached. Unless this is done, opium will likely remain entangled in the rural economy, the Taliban insurgency, and the government corruption whose sum is the Afghan conundrum[40]. And as long as this does not happen, it is highly unlikely that Pakistan will be able to make any substantial progress in its effort to fight illicit drugs.

[1] Khurshid Khan and Afifa Kiran, “Emerging Tendencies of Radicalization in Pakistan,” Strategic Studies, vol. 32, 2012.

[2] Hassan N. Gardezi, “Pakistan: The Power of Intelligence Agencies,” South Asia Citizenz Web, 2011,

[3] Madiha Afzal, “Saudi Arabia’s Hold on Pakistan,” 2019,

[4] Gardezi, “Pakistan: The Power of Intelligence Agencies.”

[5] Ibid.

[6] Myriam Renaud, “Pakistan’s Plan to Reform Madrasas Ignores Why Parents Enrol Children in First Place,” The Globe Post, May 20, 2019,

[7] Ibid.

[8] Drazen Jorgic and Asif Shahzad, “Pakistan Begins Crackdown on Mlitant Groups amid Global Pressure,” Reuters, March 5, 2019,

[9] Saad Sayeed, “Pakistan Plans to Bring 20,000 Madrasas under Government Control,” Reuters, April 29, 2019.

[10] Renaud, “Pakistan’s Plan to Reform Madrasas Ignores Why Parents Enrol Children in First Place.”

[11] International Human Rights and Conflict Resolution Clininc (Stanford Law Review) and Global Justice Clinic (NYE School of Law), “Living Under Drones: Death, Injury, and Trauma to Civilians From US Drone Practices in Pakistan,” 2012,

[12] Saba Noor, “Radicalization to De-Radicalization: The Case of Pakistan,” Counter Terrorist Trends and Analyses 5, no. 8 (2013): 16–19.

[13] Muhammad Iqbal Roy and Abdul Rehman, “Pakistan’s Counter Terrorism Strategy (2001-2019): Evolution, Paradigms, Prospects and Challenges,” Journal of Politics and International Studies 5, no. July-December (2019): 1–13.

[14] Madiha Afzal, “A Country of Radicals? Not Quite,” in Pakistan Under Siege: Extremism, Society, and the State (Brookings Institution Press, 2018), 208,

[15] Ibid.

[16] John Crisafulli et al., “Recommendations for Success in Afghanistan,” 2019,

[17] Tricia Bacon, “The Evolution of Pakistan’s Lashkar-e-Tayyiba,” Orbis, no. Winter (2019): 27–43.

[18] Susannah George and Shaiq Hussain, “Pakistan Hopes Its Steps to Fight Terrorism Will Keep It off a Global Blacklist,” The Washington Post, February 21, 2020.

[19] Husain Haqqani, “FAFT’s Grey List Suits Pakistan’s Jihadi Ambitions. It Only Worries Entering the Black List,” Hudson Institute, February 28, 2020.

[20] Bacon, “The Evolution of Pakistan’s Lashkar-e-Tayyiba.”

[21] Ibid.

[22] Farhan Zahid, “Profile of Jaish-e-Muhammad and Leader Masood Azhar,” Counter Terrorist Trends and Analyses 11, no. 4 (2019): 1–5,

[23] Tricia Bacon, “Preventing the Next Lashkar-e-Tayyiba Attack,” The Washington Quarterly 42, no. 1 (2019): 53–70.

[24] Ibid.

[25] Ibid.

[26] Abhinav Pandya, “The Future of Indo-Pak Relations after the Pulwama Attack,” Perspectives on Terrorism 13, no. 2 (2019): 65–68,

[27] Ibid.

[28] Crisafulli et al., “Recommendations for Success in Afghanistan.”

[29] Bacon, “The Evolution of Pakistan’s Lashkar-e-Tayyiba.”

[30] Alfred W McCoy, “How the Heroin Trade Explains the US-UK Failure in Afghanistan,” The Guardian, January 9, 2018,

[31] Dr. Bibhu Prasad Routray and Dr. Shanthie Mariet D Souza, “The Afghanistan-India Drug Trail - Analysis,” Eurasia Review, August ,; Mehmood Hassan Khan, “Kashmir and Power Politics,” Defence Journal 23, no. 2 (2019); McCoy, “How the Heroin Trade Explains the US-UK Failure in Afghanistan”; Pakistan United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime Country Office, “Illicit Drug Trends in Pakistan,” 2008, Drug Trends Report_Pakistan_rev1.pdf; “Country Profile - Pakistan,” United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), 2020,

[32] European Commission, “Generalised Scheme of Preferences (GSP),” 2020,

[33] High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, “The EU Special Incentive Arrangement for Sustainable Development and Good Governance ('GSP+’) Assessment of Pakistan Covering the Period 2018-2019” (Brussels, 2020).

[34] Dr. Zobi Fatima, “A Brief Overview of GSP+ for Pakistan,” Pakistan Journal of European Studies 34, no. 2 (2018),

[35] High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, “The EU Special Incentive Arrangement for Sustainable Development and Good Governance ('GSP+’) Assessment of Pakistan Covering the Period 2018-2019.”

[36] Fatima, “A Brief Overview of GSP+ for Pakistan.”

[37] UN Comtrade Analytics, “Trade Dashboard,” accessed March 27, 2020,

[38] European External Action Services, “EU-Pakistan Five Year Engagement Plan” (European Union, 2017),; European Union External Services, “EU-Pakistan Strategic Engagement Plan 2019” (European Union, 2019),

[39] “EU Ready to Help Pakistan in Expanding Its Reports: Androulla,” Business Recorder, October 23, 2019.

[40] McCoy, “How the Heroin Trade Explains the US-UK Failure in Afghanistan.”

Categorías Global Affairs: Asia Seguridad y defensa Ensayos

Prime Minister Imran Kahn, at the United Nations General Assembly, in 2019 [UN]

▲ Prime Minister Imran Kahn, at the United Nations General Assembly, in 2019 [UN]

ESSAY / M. Biera, H. Labotka, A. Palacios

The geographical location of a country is capable of determining its destiny. This is the thesis defended by Whiting Fox in his book "History from a Geographical Perspective". In particular, he highlights the importance of the link between history and geography in order to point to a determinism in which a country's aspirations are largely limited (or not) by its physical place in the world.[1]

Countries try to overcome these limitations by trying to build on their internal strengths. In the case of Pakistan, these are few, but very relevant in a regional context dominated by the balance of power and military deterrence.

The first factor that we highlight in this sense is related to Pakistan's nuclear capacity. In spite of having officially admitted it in 1998, Pakistan has been a country with nuclear capacity, at least, since Zulfikar Ali Bhutto's government started its nuclear program in 1974 under the name of Project-706 as a reaction to the once very advanced Indian nuclear program.[2]

The second factor is its military strength. Despite the fact that they have publicly refused to participate in politics, the truth is that all governments since 1947, whether civil or military, have had direct or indirect military support.[3] The governments of Ayub Khan or former army chief Zia Ul-Haq, both through a coup d'état, are faithful examples of this capacity for influence.[4]

The existence of an efficient army provides internal stability in two ways: first, as a bastion of national unity. This effect is quite relevant if we take into account the territorial claims arising from the ethnic division caused by the Durand Line. Secondly, it succeeds in maintaining the state's monopoly on force, preventing its disintegration as a result of internal ethnic disputes and terrorism instigated by Afghanistan in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA region).[5]

Despite its internal strengths, Pakistan is located in one of the most insecure geographical areas in the world, where border conflicts are intermingled with religious and identity-based elements. Indeed, the endless conflict over Kashmir against India in the northeastern part of the Pakistani border or the serious internal situation in Afghanistan have been weighing down the country for decades, both geo-politically and economically. The dynamics of regional alliances are not very favourable for Pakistan either, especially when US preferences, Pakistan's main ally, seem to be mutating towards a realignment with India, Pakistan's main enemy.[6] 

On the positive side, a number of projects are underway in Central Asia that may provide an opportunity for Pakistan to re-launch its economy and obtain higher standards of stability domestically. The most relevant is the New Silk Road undertaken by China. This project has Pakistan as a cornerstone in its strategy in Asia, while it depends on it to achieve an outlet to the sea in the eastern border of the country and investments exceeding 11 billion dollars are expected in Pakistan alone[7]. In this way, a realignment with China can help Pakistan combat the apparent American disengagement from Pakistani interests.

For all these reasons, it is difficult to speak of Pakistan as a country capable of carving out its own destiny, but rather as a country held hostage to regional power dynamics. Throughout this document, a review of the regional phenomena mentioned will be made in order to analyze Pakistan's behavior in the face of the different challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.


Right after the downfall of the British colony of the East Indies colonies in 1947 and the partition of India the Dominion of Pakistan was formed, now known by the title of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. The Partition of India divided the former British colony into two separated territories, the Dominion of Pakistan and the Dominion of India. By then, Pakistan included East Pakistan (modern day) Pakistan and Oriental Pakistan (now known as Bangladesh).

It is interesting to point out that the first form of government that Pakistan experienced was something similar to a democracy, being its founding father and first Prime Minister Muhammad Ali Jinnah. Political history in Pakistan consists of a series of eras, some democratically led and others ruled by the military branch which controls a big portion of the country.

—The rise of Pakistan as a Muslim democracy: 1957-1958. The era of Ali Jinnah and the First Indo-Pakistani war.

—In 1958 General Ayub Khan achieved to complete a coup d’état in Pakistan due to the corruption and instability.

—In 1971 General Khan resigned his position and appointed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto as president, but, lasted only 6 years. The political instability was not fruitful and rivalry between political parties was. But in 1977 General Zia-ul-Haq imposed a new order in Pakistan.

—From 1977 to 1988 Zia-ul-Haq imposed an Islamic state.

—In the elections of 1988 right after Zia-ul-Haq’s death, President Benazir Bhutto became the very first female leader of Pakistan. This period, up to 1999 is characterized by its democracy but also, by the Kargil War.

—In 1999 General Musharraf took control of the presidency and turned it 90º degrees, opening its economy and politics. In 2007 Musharraf announced his resignation leaving open a new democratic era characterized by the War on Terror of the United States in Afghanistan and the Premiership of Imran Khan.



Human and physical geography

The capital of Pakistan is Islamabad, and as of 2012 houses a population of 1,9 million people. While the national language of Pakistan is English, the official language is Urdu; however, it is not spoken as a native language. Afghanistan is Pakistan’s neighbor to the northwest, with China to the north, as well as Iran to the west, and India to the east and south.[8]

Pakistan is unique in the way that it possesses many a geological formation, like forests, plains, hills, etcetera. It sits along the Arabian Sea and is home to the northern Karakoram mountain range, and lies above Iranian, Eurasian and Indian tectonic plates. There are three dominant geographical regions that make up Pakistan: the Indus Plain, which owes its name to the river Indus of which Pakistan’s dominant rivers merge; the Balochistan Plateau, and the northern highlands, which include the 2nd highest mountain peak in the world, and the Mount Godwin Austen.[9] Pakistan’s traditional regions are a consequence of progression. These regions are echoed by the administrative distribution into the provinces of Punjab, Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa which includes FATA (Federally Administered Tribal Areas) and Balochistan.

Each of these regions is “ethnically and linguistically distinct.”[10] But why is it important to understand Pakistan’s geography? The reason is, and will be discussed further in detail in this paper, the fact that “terror is geographical” and Pakistan is “at the epicenter of the neo-realist, militarist geopolitics of anti-terrorism and its well-known manifestation the ‘global war on terror’...”[11]

Punjabi make up more than 50% of the ethnic division in Pakistan, and the smallest division is the Balochi. We should note that Balochistan, however small, is an antagonistic region for the Pakistani government. The reason is because it is a “base for many extremist and secessionist groups.” This is also important because CPEC, the Chinese-Pakistan Economic Corridor, is anticipated to greatly impact the area, as a large portion of the initiative is to be constructed in that region. The impact of CPEC is hoped to make that region more economically stable and change the demography of this region.[12]

The majority of Pakistani people are Sunni Muslims, and maintain Islamic tradition. However, there is a significant number of Shiite Muslims. Religion in Pakistan is so important that it is represented in the government, most obviously within the Islamic Assembly (Jamāʿat-i Islāmī) party which was created in 1941.[13]

This is important. The reason being is that there is a history of sympithism for Islamic extremism by the government, and giving rise to the expansion of the ideas of this extremism. Historically, Pakistan has not had a strict policy against jihadis, and this lack of policy has poorly affected Pakistan’s foreign policy, especially its relationship with the United States, which will be touched upon in this paper.

Current Situation: Domestic politics, the military and the economy

Imran Khan was elected and took office on August 18th, 2018. Before then, the previous administrations had been overshadowed by suspicions of corruption. What also remained important was the fact that his election comes after years of a dominating political power, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan People’s Party (PPP). Imran Khan’s party, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) surfaced as the majority in the Pakistan’s National Assembly. However, there is some debate by specialists on how prepared the new prime minister is to take on this extensive task.

Economically, Pakistan was in a bad shape even before the global Coronavirus-related crisis. In October 2019, the IMF predicted that the country's GDP would increase only 2.4% in 2020, compared with 5,2% registered in 2017 and 5,5% in 2018; inflation would arrive to 13% in 2020, three times the registered figure of 2017 and 2018, and gross debt would peak at 78.6%, ten points up from 2017 and 2018.[14] This context led to the Pakistani government to ask for a loan to the IMF, and a $6 billion loan was agreed in July 2019. In addition, Pakistan got a $2 billion from China. Later on, because of the Covid-19 pandemic, the IMF worsened its estimations on Pakistan's economy, and predicted that its GDP would grow minus 1.5% in 2020 and 2% in 2021.[15]

Throughout its history, Pakistan has been a classic example of a “praetorian state”, where the military dominates the political institutions and regular functioning. The political evolution is represented by a routine change “between democratic, military, or semi military regime types.” There were three critical pursuits towards a democratic state that are worth mentioning, that started in 1972 and resulted in the rise of democratically elected leaders. In addition to these elections, the emergence of new political parties also took place, permitting us to make reference to Prime Minister Imran Khan’s party, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI).[16]

Civilian - military relations are characterized by the understanding that the military is what ensures the country’s “national sovereignty and moral integrity”. There resides the ambiguity: the intervention of the military regarding the institution of a democracy, and the sabotage by the same military leading it to its demise. In addition to this, to the people of Pakistan, the military has retained the impression that the government is incapable of maintaining a productive and functioning state, and is incompetent in its executing of pertaining affairs. The role of the military in Pakistani politics has hindered any hope of the country implementing a stable democracy. To say the least, the relationship between the government and the resistance is a consistent struggle.[17]

The military has extended its role today with the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. The involvement of the military has affected “four out of five key areas of civilian control”. Decision making was an area that was to be shared by the military and the people of Pakistan, but has since turned into an opportunity for the military to exercise its control due to the fact that CPEC is not only a “corporate mega project” but also a huge economic opportunity, and the military in Pakistan continues to be the leading force in the creation of the guidelines pertaining to national defense and internal security. Furthermore, accusations of corruption have not helped; the Panama Papers were “documents [exposing] the offshore holdings of 12 current and former world leaders.”[18] These findings further the belief that Pakistan’s leaders are incompetent and incapable of effectively governing the country, and giving the military more of a reason to continue and increase its interference. In consequence, the involvement of civilians in policy making is declining steadily, and little by little the military seeks to achieve complete autonomy from the government, and an increased partnership with China. It is safe to say that CPEC would have been an opportunity to improve military and civilian relationships, however it seems to be an opportunity lost as it appears the military is creating a government capable of functioning as a legitimate operation.[19]


[1] Gottmann, J., & Fox, E. W. (1973). History in Geographic Perspective: The Other France. Geographical Review.

[2] Tariq Ali (2009). The Duel: Pakistan on the Flight Path of American Power

[3] Marquina, A. (2010). La Política de Seguridad y Defensa de la Unión Europea. 28, 441–446.

[4] Tariq Ali (2009). Ibíd.

[5] Sánchez de Rojas Díaz, E. (2016). ¿Es Paquistán uno de los países más conflictivos del mundo? Los orígenes del terrorismo en Paquistán.

[6] Ríos, X. (2020). India se alinea con EE.UU

[8] Szczepanski, Kallie. "Pakistan | Facts and History." ThoughtCo. 

[9] Pakistan Insider. “Pakistan's Geography, Climate, and Environment.” Pakistan Insider, February 9, 2012.

[10] Burki, Shahid Javed, and Lawrence Ziring. “Pakistan.” Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica, inc., March 6, 2020.

[11] Mustafa, Daanish, Nausheen Anwar, and Amiera Sawas. “Gender, Global Terror, and Everyday Violence in Urban Pakistan.” Elsevier. Elsevier Ltd., December 4, 2018

[12] Bhattacharjee, Dhrubajyoti. “China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).” Indian Council of World Affairs, May 12, 2015

[13] Burki, Shahid Javed, and Lawrence Ziring. Ibíd.

[14] IMF, “Economic Outlook”, October 2019.

[15]  IMF, “World Economic Outlook”, April 2020.

[16]  Wolf, Siegfried O. “China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, Civil-Military Relations and Democracy in Pakistan.” SADF Working Paper, no. 2 (September 13, 2016)

[17] Ibíd.

[18]Giant Leak of Offshore Financial Records Exposes Global Array of Crime and Corruption.The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, April 3, 2016. 

[19] Wolf, Siegfried O. Ibíd.

Categorías Global Affairs: Asia Orden mundial, diplomacia y gobernanza Ensayos

Cartel de propaganda exaltando la figura de Gadafi, cerca de Ghadames, en 2004 [Sludge G., Wikipedia]

▲ Cartel de propaganda exaltando la figura de Gadafi, cerca de Ghadames, en 2004 [Sludge G., Wikipedia]

ENSAYOPaula Mora

El 20 de octubre de 2011 fue asesinado el coronel Muamar Muhamad Abu-Minyar el Gadafi, poniéndose fin a un régimen dictatorial que duró más de cuarenta años. Esa fecha significó esperanza, libertad y democracia, o por lo menos esas eran las aspiraciones de muchos de los que contribuyeron a un cambio en Libia. Sin embargo, la realidad hoy, nueve años después, es casi inimaginable para aquellos rebeldes que el 23 de octubre de 2011 pensaron que sus hijos podrían envejecer en una democracia. La guerra civil que sufre el país desde entonces ha propiciado la desintegración de la nación. Para entender esto, es primordial entender la propia naturaleza del poder político libio, totalmente distinta a la de sus vecinos y a la de sus antiguas metrópolis: el tribalismo.

El tribalismo libio presenta tres características: es contractual, pues está fundado en negociaciones permanentes; las bases territoriales de los pueblos han ido moviéndose hacia las ciudades, pero los lazos no se han distendido, y la extensión territorial de estos pueblos sobrepasan las fronteras de Libia. El territorio libio se compone en un 90% de desierto, lo que ha propiciado la persistencia del poder tribal. Los pueblos originarios han luchado, y siguen haciéndolo, por el control territorial y la armonía de sus territorios, que se logra a través de alianzas tradicionales renegociadas cada cierto tiempo entre las tres regiones principales del país: Tripolitania, Cirenaica y Fezán.

El tropismo Tuareg

La cultura beduina y su mitología de los tiempos de las cavernas transaharianas, previas a la época colonial, explican que Gadafi enfocara su política hacia el Sahara y África del Norte. Estos pueblos consideraban el desierto como una vía de comunicación, no como un obstáculo o una frontera. Bajo la dictadura, las costumbres y el habla beréber fueron protegidas y promovidas.

Los Tuareg son un pueblo beréber de tradición nómada que se extiende por cinco países africanos: Argelia, Burkina Faso, Libia, Malí y Níger. Poseen su propio idioma y costumbres. En Libia, ocupan el territorio del suroeste, junto a las fronteras de Argelia, Túnez y Níger. El dictador proclamó en numerosas ocasiones su afinidad con este pueblo, afirmando incluso pertenecer a este linaje por parte de madre. Los consideraba aliados de su proyecto panafricanista.

Gadafi no se veía como el líder del movimiento, sino como un “guía” de la revolución. Sin embargo, con el paso del tiempo, esta visión revolucionaria fue apaciguándose hasta convertirse en una visión realista y pacificadora. Este cambio se debió principalmente a la incapacidad de los Tuareg de superar las divisiones internas (tribus) y a su voluntad de abandonar la lucha armada. Las consecuencias fueron que lo que empezó como una lucha nacional y social, degeneró en un tráfico de drogas y armas.

El colonialismo italiano

En abril de 1881, Francia ocupó Túnez. Esto provocó rencores en Italia pues la regencia de Túnez estaba pensada como una prolongación natural de Italia, dado que 55.000 italianos residían en el territorio. En vista de esta situación, y para evitar un enfrentamiento con Francia, Italia decidió entonces crear un proyecto libio. En 1882, Italia, Alemania y el Imperio Austrohúngaro crearon la Triple Alianza. Como consecuencia de esto, Francia se opuso al proyecto libio de Italia.

Ante la oposición de Francia a sus planes en Libia, Italia buscó una compensación en el Mar Rojo y en 1886 intentó, fallidamente, conquistar Etiopía. Pero el nacionalismo italiano de la época no se iba a dar por vencido, pues aspiraba a crear “una Italia más grande”. Tras la victoria etíope, solo le quedaban dos alternativas africanas: Marruecos, que ya había sido prácticamente colonizado por Francia, o la Regencia Turca de Trípoli, que llevaba establecida desde 1858.

Finalmente, Italia se decidió por esta última y en 1902 buscó el apoyo de Francia para llevar a cabo su proyecto. Bajo el compromiso de la Triple Alianza, le ofreció neutralidad en la frontera compartida de los Alpes en caso de guerra y la renuncia al proyecto marroquí. París no se mostró interesado, en cambio Rusia ofreció en 1908 su apoyo a Italia para debilitar al Imperio Otomano. Empezó así la guerra ítalo-turca. El pretexto italiano fue el supuesto maltrato que sufrían los colonos instalados en Libia por parte del régimen turco, al cual dio un ultimátum. Bajo mediadores austrohúngaros, los turcos aceptaron transferir el control de Libia a Italia, movimiento que este país consideró una maniobra turca que solo buscaba ganar tiempo para prepararse para la guerra. El 29 de septiembre de 1911, Italia declaró la guerra al Imperio Otomano. Esto trajo importantes consecuencias para la Triple Alianza, pues Austria-Hungría temía que el conflicto libio derivara en uno directo con el Imperio Otomano, mientras que Alemania se vio enfrentada al dilema de tener que elegir bando, pues gozaba de buenas relaciones con ambas partes. El 18 de octubre de 1912, debido a los peligros abiertos en diferentes frentes, el Imperio Otomano decidió firmar el Tratado de Lausana-Ouchy a través del cual cedió a Italia Tripolitania, Cirenaica y las islas del Dodecaneso.

Durante la Primera Guerra Mundial, Italia formaba parte de la Triple Entente, por lo que el Imperio Otomano no le declaró la guerra. La amenaza al control italiano de Libia no estaba tanto entre sus enemigos europeos, sino entre la población del propio país africano. Aprovechando la guerra, la Sanûsiya (una orden religiosa musulmana fundada bajo el Imperio Otomano que se oponía a la colonización) empezó a atacar al ejército italiano. Estos rebeldes fueron ganando territorio, hasta que los aliados de Italia pasaron a la ofensiva. El 21 de agosto de 1915, el día que Italia se cambió al bando de los Aliados, la táctica cambió. Pese a que también le ofrecían apoyo, los nuevos aliados de Italia estaban lidiando con insurgencias en sus colonias, y se ocupaban, sobre todo, de custodiar sus fronteras para que los insurgentes no pasaran y propagaran las ideas independentistas.

El 17 de abril de 1917, el emir Idris As-Sanûsi, aliado del Imperio Otomano, dándose cuenta de la proximidad de la victoria aliada, firmó con Italia el Pacto de Acroma, mediante el cual Italia reconoció la autonomía de la Cirenaica y a cambio el emir aceptó el control italiano de la Tripolitania.


Distribución geográfica de etnias en Libia [Wikipedia]

Distribución geográfica de etnias en Libia [Wikipedia]


La independencia colonial

La Segunda Guerra Mundial tuvo un papel clave en África, pues alentó el nacionalismo del continente. Italia, aliada de Alemania, intentó entre 1940 y 1942 ocupar el Canal de Suez a través de la frontera de Libia, pero el objetivo no fue alcanzado.

En 1943, Libia cayó en manos de la Francia Libre (de Charles de Gaulle) e Inglaterra: la primera administraba Fezán; la segunda, la Tripolitania y Cirenaica. Al final de la guerra, y con el cambio de bando de Italia en su curso, esta propuso una división tripartita de Libia. Estados Unidos y la Unión Soviética se opusieron, y estipularon que el territorio quedaría bajo la tutela de Naciones Unidas (ONU). Entonces dos posiciones políticas se opusieron en Libia: por un lado, los “progresistas”, que defendían la creación de un estado democrático unitario, y por otro, los pueblos originarios de la Cirenaica, que defendían un reino cuyo líder sería Mohammed Idris As-Sanûsi, el líder de la Sanûsiya.

El 21 de noviembre de 1949, a través de la Resolución 289, Naciones Unidas fijó la independencia de Libia para el primero de enero de 1952. Sin tener en cuenta ninguna realidad geográfica, histórica, religiosa, cultural y política, la ONU impuso el nacimiento de un país soberano constituido por las tres principales regiones independientes. En 1950, tuvo lugar la elección de la Asamblea Nacional, compuesta por 60 diputados (20 por región). El 2 de diciembre del mismo año, después de arduas negociaciones, la Asamblea acordó que Libia fuera una monarquía federal compuesta de tres provincias y que tuviera como Rey a Mohammed Idriss As-Sanûsi.

Inicialmente el Reino pudo asentarse dado el reconocimiento internacional y el descubrimiento de yacimientos petroleros que permitían a Libia convertirse en el país más rico del continente. Este optimismo, sin embargo, ocultaba que el verdadero problema libio residía dentro de sus fronteras: el país era regido por los pueblos originarios de Cirenaica. Para equilibrar el poder, el rey decidió nombrar como primer ministro a Mahmoud el-Montasser, un tripolitano.

Sin embargo, el rey cometió el error de no haber fundamentado su monarquía en la Sanûsiya, sino en su tribu, la Barasa. El régimen se convirtió en totalitario. Después de manifestaciones pro-Nasser, el rey prohibió en 1952 los partidos políticos, y despidió a más de diez gobernadores, quienes fueron reemplazados por prefectos. En cuanto a las relaciones exteriores, bajo el reinado de Idriss, Libia firmó con Gran Bretaña una alianza de veinte años mediante la cual los ingleses podrían utilizar las bases militares libias. Con Estados Unidos suscribió uno similar que concedió permiso a los norteamericanos para construir la base Wheelus Field, cerca de Trípoli. Finalmente, firmó un tratado de paz con Italia por el que la antigua metrópolis se comprometía a pagar reparaciones siempre y cuando Libia protegiera las propiedades de los 27.000 italianos que aún residían allí. Estas medidas llevaron el reino a la perdición, puesto que sus países vecinos y su población consideron que el rey no estaba siendo solidario con Egipto al alinearse con los países occidentales.

La caída de la monarquía

El 1 de septiembre de 1969 se produjo un golpe de estado en el país para derrocar a Idriss; este, gravemente enfermo, anunció su abdicación para el día siguiente. El Consejo de Comandancia de la Revolución (CCR), constituido por los oficiales que habían propiciado este cambio de gobierno, abolió la monarquía y proclamó la República Árabe Libia. La junta militar que se estableció en el poder estaba compuesta por una docena de miembros, en su mayoría de los dos pueblos originarios principales: los Warfalla y los Maghara. Estos últimos eran de ideología marxista, lo que propició el régimen del coronel Muamar el Gadafi.

Durante las primeras semanas de gobierno, los nuevos dirigentes intentaron tomar todas las precauciones posibles para evitar una intervención británica y americana. Emitieron un comunicado garantizando la seguridad de los bienes de los extranjeros y prometiendo que las compañías petroleras no serían nacionalizadas. Ante estas declaraciones, que no se alineaban con el comunismo, Estados Unidos y Occidente reconocieron el 6 de septiembre el nuevo gobierno.

Las verdaderas intenciones del nuevo gobierno aparecieron poco después. Al mes del comunicado, las autoridades libias anunciaron que los tratados anteriores relativos a las bases militares tendrían que ser nuevamente negociados. También pidieron una renegociación de la fiscalidad de las compañías petroleras. Finalmente, en 1971, fue creado un partido único: la Unión Socialista Árabe.

El gobierno de Gadafi

El 15 de abril de 1973, casi cuatro años después del golpe de estado del 69, Gadafi pronunció un discurso en el que invitó a las “masas populares” a retomar el poder confiscado por el partido de la Unión Socialista Árabe. Se impuso como cabeza del país, promoviendo una revolución cultural y política que proponía, por un lado, una reforma de las instituciones con una aplicación más estricta de los preceptos de la sharia, y por otro, la idea de que los agresores del pueblo eran los países árabes aliados con Occidente e Israel.

Gadafi basó su poder en una profunda recomposición tribal. La primera medida que tomó, al día siguiente de la toma de poder, desconfiando de Cirenaica y de sus tribus fieles al rey Idriss, fue la de constituir una alianza con el pueblo de Hada, con la que buscó equilibrar el poder de los Barasa.

En segundo lugar, se divorció de su mujer, de origen turco-kouloughli, la cual constituía un obstáculo para las alianzas con los pueblos que le eran necesarios para ampliar su base de poder. Se casó entonces con una mujer de Firkeche, un segmento de la tribu de los Barasa. Este matrimonio le permitió construir una alianza entre los Qadhafa y las grandes tribus de Cirenaica ligadas a los Barasa.

En tercer lugar, construyó también una alianza con la Misrata, una élite letrada que ocupó posteriormente muchos de los puestos del régimen. Sin embargo, con el paso del tiempo, esta alianza se rompió y propició un crecimiento del odio hacia el coronel que jugaría un rol importante en la revolución que acabó con Gadafi.

En cuarto lugar, después de haber perdido a la Misrata, Gadafi recompuso su estrategia apoyándose en su propia confederación, la de los Awlad Sulayman, enemigos de los Misrata desde la época del dominio italiano. Esta alianza cubría la ciudad de Trípoli y extendía geográficamente el territorio del mandatario.

En quinto lugar, el problema del gobernante vendría dado justo por los puntos anteriores: las alianzas tribales. Fracciones de sus aliados conspiraron contra él en 1973 para intentar dar un golpe de estado. El ejército de Gadafi, sin embargo, lo impidió y condenó a muerte a los cabecillas. A partir de este punto, el coronel empiezó a desconfiar de las tribus de esta región, la de Tripolitania, y comenzó a romper poco a poco relaciones con ellas. Esto le resultaría fatal.

Gadafi de cara al mundo

El activismo internacional bajo Gadafi buscaba la fusión de los pueblos árabes con el objetivo de crear un califato transnacional. En 1972, pese a que aún no controlaba la totalidad del territorio libio, contribuyó a la creación de la Unión de Repúblicas Árabes (Libia, Egipto y Siria), que se disolvería en 1977. En 1984, creó la Unión Libia-Marroquí, que desaparecería dos años después. Otras cuatro tentativas tuvieron lugar: con Túnez en 1974, con el Chad en 1981, con Argelia en 1988 y con Sudán en 1990; ninguna de ellas salió adelante. Estos intentos de unión provocaron tensiones en el continente, sobre todo con Egipto, con el cual hubo un conflicto fronterizo del 21 al 24 de julio de 1977. La consecuencia fue el cierre de la frontera mutua hasta marzo de 1989.

En cuanto al resto del mundo, el apoyo del dictador a los movimientos terroristas durante los años 80 le crearon enemigos, especialmente Estados Unidos, Gran Bretaña y Francia. Varios ataques propiciados por el régimen libio, como el derribo de un avión americano encima de la ciudad escocesa de Lockerbie y asesinatos de embajadores, llevaron en 1992 al Consejo de Seguridad de la ONU a adoptar una política de sanciones de embargo comercial y financiero. A ello se sumó la orientación socialista del coronel, quien nacionalizó las empresas petroleras y los bienes de los residentes italianos alegando que fueron robados durante la época colonial.

La caída del régimen

Con el paso del tiempo, el régimen fue perdiendo poder y apoyo nacional. Esta decadencia se debió a la marcha de la economía, pues los ciudadanos se beneficiaban de los ingresos directos de los hidrocarburos: la sanidad y la educación eran gratis, y la agricultura estaba subvencionada. Además, existía el proyecto de crear un “gran río” (Great Man Made River, GMMR), de 4.000 kilómetros. En resumen, los cinco millones de habitantes tenían una vida excepcional, con un PIB per cápita de 3.000 euros en 2011.

La oposición principal provenía de los ambientes islámicos, más concretamente de los Hermanos Musulmanes y de grupos salafistas (movimiento de ultraderecha islámico suní), quienes a partir de 1995 se radicalizaron con la ayuda de los grupos de Afganistán. Sus razones para oponerse a Gadafi eran la occidentalización del país: el dejar atrás en cierta medida el tropismo Tuareg y un giro hacia los países del Norte. Ese mismo año estalló una rebelión islamista iniciada por el Frente por la Liberación de Libia en Cireniaica. Gadafi respondió con una gran represión, estableciendo leyes anti-islámicas que castigaban cualquier persona que no denunciara a los islamistas y el cierre de la mayoría de las zawiya (escuelas y monasterios religiosos), sobre todo las de la Sanûsiya.

En 2003, Libia reconoció su participación en el atentado de Lockerbie y se comprometió a indemnizar a todas las víctimas. Esto propició que el Consejo de Seguridad de la ONU levantara las sanciones. En diciembre de ese mismo año, el país renunció a la producción de armas de destrucción masiva y en 2004 se adhirió al Tratado de No-Proliferación Nuclear. Con estas nuevas medidas, el régimen fue aliándose con los países de occidente, que a su vez promovieron la industrialización del país. Un ejemplo fue el tratado firmado entre Gadafi y el primer ministro italiano Silvio Berlusconi, por el que Italia se comprometía a reembolsar 5.000 millones de dólares a Libia, en un periodo de 25 años, siempre y cuando el país africano se abriera al mercado italiano y evitara la inmigración clandestina a Europa.

Libia no vivió “la primavera árabe”, pues estaba sufriendo una guerra civil nacida en Cirenaica, que comenzó como un levantamiento de una minoría beréber que vivía cerca de la frontera con Túnez. Gadafi, con el miedo de estropear la buena imagen que por fin había logrado construir en la comunidad internacional, decidió no emplear la fuerza militar para restablecer su poder en Cirenaica, pero con el paso del tiempo no le quedó más remedio que hacerlo. Esta acción conllevó lo que él ya sabía: la protesta internacional.

El primer país en oponerse fue la Francia de Nicolás Sarkozy. Bajo el pretexto de injerencia humanitaria, Francia, junto con los países de la Organización del Tratado del Atlántico Norte (OTAN), decidieron destruir el régimen de Gadafi. En marzo de 2011 reconocieron al Consejo Nacional de Transición (CNT). La Unión Africana quería también el cambio de gobierno, pero sin embargo defendió que se hiciera mediante una negociación, con el fin de evitar consecuencias negativas como la desintegración del Estado. 

Durante el mes de febrero de 2011, el coronel tuvo que hacer frente a una triple sublevación. En Cirenaica, por parte de los yihadistas (recordemos las leyes anti-islámicas), quienes contaban además con el apoyo de Turquía y las mafias locales, que desde el acuerdo ítalo-libio sobre la migración se sentían amenazadas. En Tripolitania, por pare de los beréberes, que veían ahora negada su identidad en favor de la defensa del nacionalismo árabe. Finalmente, también en Misrata, zona tenía una cuenta personal que arreglar con el dictador desde 1975 (conflicto tribal).

Gadafi tomó medidas preventivas, como la prohibición de manifestaciones o la suspensión de eventos deportivos, y anunció reformas sociales favorables a la población pensando que se trataba de quejas que no trascenderían. Su error de análisis fue pensar que la contestación tenía un motivo social, mientras que sus razones eran de tipo tribal, regional, político y religioso.

El gobierno pudo controlar la situación durante un mes, hasta que el 15 de febrero la violencia escaló hasta convertir el conflicto en una auténtica guerra civil.

La injerencia extranjera empezó el 17 de marzo, cuando el ministro de Asuntos Exteriores francés promovió en el Consejo de Seguridad de la ONU la Resolución 1973, que autorizaba la creación de una zona de exclusión aérea sobre Libia, así como la imposición de las “medidas necesarias” para otorgar la protección a los civiles. Esta resolución excluía la ocupación terrestre, y fue apoyada por la Liga Árabe, con el apoyo aéreo militar de Qatar.

A los pocos días, el 21 de marzo, la intervención de los países de la OTAN sobrepasó las pautas de la Resolución 1973, pues la residencia de Gadafi fue bombardeada bajo el pretexto de que servía como centro de comando. La Unión Africana, apoyada por Rusia, pidió entonces el “cese inmediato de todas las hostilidades”. Por su parte, la Liga Árabe recordó a la OTAN que se estaba desviando de sus objetivos declarados. Sin embargo, los países occidentales no hicieron caso. El 31 de marzo, a través de su hijo Saif al-Islam, el coronel propuso un referéndum sobre la instauración de una democracia en Libia. La OTAN estaba dispuesta a examinar sus propuestas, pero el Consejo Nacional de Transición se opuso rotundamente, pues exigía simple y llanamente la salida de Gadafi del poder.

El 16 de septiembre, el Consejo de Seguridad, mediante la Resolución 2009, creó la Misión de Apoyo de las Naciones Unidas en Libia (UNSMIL, por sus siglas en inglés). Su objetivo era asistir a las autoridades nacionales para el restablecimiento de la seguridad y el Estado de Derecho, a través de la promoción del diálogo político y de la reconciliación nacional.

La “liberación” del país tuvo lugar el 23 de octubre de 2011, cuando Gadafi fue capturado de camino de Fezzan, acompañado de su hijo. Su convoy fue atacado por las fuerzas áreas de la OTAN. Fue hecho prisionero y posteriormente linchado por sus compatriotas. El presidente del Consejo Nacional de Transición, Mustapha Adbel Jalil, se proclamó entonces como el nuevo gobernante legítimo del país hasta nuevas elecciones.

Libia después de Gadafi

El presidente transitorio, declaró en su primer día que la sharia sería la base de la Constitución, así como del Derecho, restableció la poligamia e ilegalizó el divorcio. Las consecuencias de la guerra civil fueron tremendas: llevaron a la desintegración del país. La muerte de Gadafi no marcó el fin del conflicto, pues las milicias tribales, regionales y religiosas que participaron en la guerra defendían diferentes visiones sobre cómo debía ser el nuevo gobierno, lo que hacía imposible una unificación.

En el exterior, el descontrol territorial cambió la geopolítica de la región de Sáhara-Sahel, ofreciendo nuevas oportunidades a los yihadistas.

Tres periodos pueden distinguirse. El primero, entre 2011 y 2013, podría considerarse como el tiempo de la incertidumbre, pero también el de la esperanza y la ilusión democráticas. Pese a las guerras entre los distintos pueblos por diferentes ideologías (defensores del antiguo régimen contra los fundamentalistas musulmanes defensores de las tradiciones islámicas) y una guerra de poder territorial (Cirenaica contra Tripolitania por la capital del nuevo Estado), se estaban instaurando lo que parecían mecanismos democráticos.

El 31 de octubre de 2011 fue elegido Abdel Rahim al-Keeb, originario de Trípoli, por 26 votos de 51, como primer ministro del gobierno de transición. Las elecciones legislativas tuvieron lugar el 7 de julio de 2012; en ellas ganó el Congreso Nacional General (CNG), que reemplazó al Consejo Nacional de Transición. Pero la situación estaba lejos de consolidarse. El 11 de septiembre de 2012, el embajador americano, John Chistropher Stevens fue asesinado por un grupo salafista denominado Ansar al-Sharia.

El segundo período empezó a principios de 2013. Libia estaba en el camino de la normalización mediante elecciones democráticas y la reactivación de la exportación de petróleo y gas. Sin embargo, el año siguiente fue el del comienzo de la anarquía y las tentativas de recomposición del orden interno. Los “avances democráticos” no habían sido suficientes, pues las regiones contaban con una gran autonomía y no había seguridad fronteriza. Nadie había sido capaz de controlar en su totalidad el territorio libio. El presidente de Chad, Idriss Déby, quien ya había advertido sobre estas consecuencias cuando tuvo lugar la intervención occidental en la guerra civil, denominó la nueva situación libia como una “somalización”.

A partir de febrero de 2014, esta anarquía se tradujo en una serie de dimisiones de cargos del “gobierno” debidas a las amenazas por parte de las distintas milicias del país y de protestas frente al CNG, pues el gobierno no fue disuelto después de la expiración del mandato. El 20 de febrero tuvieron lugar las elecciones de los 60 miembros de la Asamblea constituyente que tenía como objetivo redactar una nueva constitución, pero sólo el 15% de los electores participaron. Mientras tanto, el 6 de marzo, en Roma, en la Conferencia Internacional sobre Libia, el ministro de Asuntos Exteriores italiano consideró que el problema principal era la “superposición de legitimidad”.

El tercer período, tuvo lugar a finales de 2014, cuando empezó la denominada “segunda guerra de Libia”. A partir de 2015 entró en escena el Estado Islámico, lo que cambió el cuadro político libio. La ONU creó un órgano ejecutivo de transición denominado Gobierno de Acuerdo Nacional (GNA por sus siglas en inglés), con el objetivo de dirigir la política libia en esta nueva situación. Se formó por la unión del Congreso General Nacional y la Cámara de Representantes. Está compuesto por 32 ministros, y Fayez-al Sarraj ocupa el cargo de presidente del Consejo Presidencial y de primer ministro del GNA.

Libia se encontraba entonces con dos parlamentos, uno en Trípoli, bajo el control de los islamistas, y el otro, reconocido por la comunidad internacional, en Tobruk, Cirenaica, cerca de la frontera egipcia, el cual había sido forzado a desistir de actuar por las fuerzas yihadistas. Esto llevó al comienzo de otro conflicto, que sigue en vigor actualmente. En la Cirenaica, tiene lugar una guerra confusa y multiforme, en la que participan los yihadistas y los que apoyan al general Jalifa Haftar, quien lidera el Ejército Nacional Libio (LNA, por sus siglas en inglés) y se opone tanto a los yihadistas como al Gobierno de Acuerdo Nacional. A través de su ejército, el general lanzó en mayo ataques aéreos contra grupos islamistas en Bengasi, con el objetivo de apoderarse del Parlamento. Además, acusa al primer ministro Ahmed Maiteg de cooperar con grupos islamistas. En junio, Maiteg renunció después de que la Corte Suprema dictaminase que su nombramiento fue ilegal.

En 2014, Haftar lanzó la “Operación Dignidad” contra los islamistas, intentando sacar del poder al coronel Moktar Fernana, comandante de la policía militar y elegido por Misrata y los Hermanos Musulmanes. Esta misión fracasó debido al poder de las diferentes milicias musulmanas a lo largo del territorio de Tripolitania, dividido en diferentes áreas: está la ciudad de Misrata, que ess territorio yihadista bajo el mando de los Hermanos Musulmanes; al Oeste, reina la milicia beréber arabófona de Zenten; en la capital, la milicia islamista Farj Lybia tiene el control, mientras que Fezzan y el Gran Sur se han convertido en territorios casi autónomos, donde se combate a los Tuareg.

En junio de 2014, tuvieron lugar las elecciones parlamentarias. Los partidos islamistas fueron derrotados, hubo una baja participación debido a la inseguridad y el boicot de los partidos dominantes, y surgió un enfrentamiento entre las fuerzas leales al CNT y las del nuevo Parlamento o Cámara de Representantes (HoR por sus siglas en inglés). Finalmente, surgió el Gobierno de Salvación Nacional, con Nouri Absuhamain, aliado de los Hermanos Musulmanes, como presidente.

En julio, la seguridad nacional se deterioró gravemente a raíz de varios acontecimientos. El aeropuerto Internacional de Trípoli fue destruido por los conflictos entre la milicia de Misrata y su operación Dawa Libia contra la milicia de Zintan; el HoR se trasladó a Tobruk después de que la Corte Suprema de Trípoli (compuesta por el CNT) lo disolviera; el CNT se votó a sí mismo como reemplazo para la Cámara de Representantes; Asar al-Sharia pasó a controlar Bengasi, y los enviados de la ONU dejaron el país debido a la creciente inseguridad.

El 29 de enero de 2015, el LNA y sus aliados de Trípoli declararon un cese del fuego después del “Diálogo Libio” organizado por la ONU en Ginebra para fomentar la reconciliación de los distintos bandos. El 17 de diciembre del mismo año tuvo lugar el Acuerdo Político Libio, o Acuerdo Skhirat, promovido por UNSMIL. Su objetivo era resolver la disputa entre la Cámara de Representantes legítima, con sede en Tobruk y al-Bayda, y el CNT, con sede en Trípoli. Se creó un Consejo de la Presidencia, compuesto por 9 miembros para formar un gobierno de unidad que en dos años condujera a elecciones. El HoR debía ser el único parlamento y actuaría como tal hasta los comicios.

El 30 de marzo de 2016, el GNA llegó a Trípoli por mar debido al bloqueo aéreo. El asentamiento del gobierno legítimo propició que después de dos años, en abril, la ONU volviera al territorio. Además, el GNA, junto con las fuerzas aéreas estadounidenses, liberó Sirte del ISIS en diciembre del 2016. Sin embargo, el LNA siguió ganando territorio, contando en septiembre con el control de las terminales orientales de petróleo.

En julio de 2017, el LNA expulsó al ISIS de Bengasi. Un año después, controló Derna, el último territorio occidental bajo grupos terroristas. El 17 de diciembre, Haftar declaró nulo el Acuerdo Político Libio, pues las elecciones no habían tenido lugar, resaltando la obsolescencia del gobierno libio creado por la ONU. El general comenzó entonces a tomar fuerza en el contexto nacional e internacional: “Todas las instituciones creadas bajo este acuerdo son nulas, pues no han obtenido completa legitimidad. Los libios sienten que han perdido su paciencia y que el prometido periodo de paz y estabilidad se ha convertido en una fantasía lejana”, declaró Haftar.

El 19 de abril de 2019 era la fecha en la que se iba a celebrar la Conferencia Nacional Libia en Ghadamas para avanzar en acuerdos y cerrar una fecha en la que se llevaran a cabo las elecciones presidenciales y parlamentarias. Sin embargo, días antes la convocatoria de conferencia fue cancelada debido a la “Operación Inundación de Dignidad” del LNA con el objetivo de la “liberación” del país.


Correlación de fuerzas en la guerra civil libia, en febrero de 2016 [Wikipedia]

Correlación de fuerzas en la guerra civil libia, en febrero de 2016 [Wikipedia]

Correlación de fuerzas en la guerra civil libia, en febrero de 2016 [Wikipedia]


La injerencia extranjera

La situación libia actual es preocupante. La comunidad internacional teme que el país se convierta en la próxima Siria. El Ejército Nacional de Liberación, dirigido por Haftar, es apoyado por los Emiratos Árabes Unidos, con la esperanza de detener el avance de los Hermanos Musulmanes, a quienes consideran una organización terrorista. También lo apoyan Egipto y Rusia, interesados en el control de los recursos energéticos del país. El Gobierno de Acuerdo Nacional, con Fayez al-Sarraj como líder, representa el gobierno legítimo para la comunidad internacional (la ONU lo reconoce). Además, cuenta con el apoyo de Estados Unidos y los países de la Unión Europea (menos Francia), así como Turquía y Qatar, que le otorgan apoyo militar (sobre todo los turcos). Sin embargo, Estados Unidos y la UE defienden las fronteras marítimas de Grecia e Israel frente al deseado proyecto turco de construir tuberías de gas por el Mediterráneo para abastecerse.

El acercamiento entre Haftar y Francia empezó en 2015. El país europeo intentó transformar al LNA en un actor legítimo, asistiéndole con operativos clandestinos, fuerzas especiales y consejeros. El 20 de julio de 2016, la Francia de Holland le declaró oficialmente su apoyo militar después del asesinato de tres soldados franceses de fuerzas especiales en Bengasi a manos del GNA, que argumentó que fue una “violación de su soberanía nacional”. El 25 de julio de 2019 tuvo lugar la Cumbre de París. Macron invitó a los dos líderes a dialogar sobre la paz y la unidad. El mayor interés de Francia es erradicar el terrorismo.

El 6 de marzo de 2019, el Acuerdo de Abu Dhabi reunió a los líderes de los bandos más importantes de la guerra libia y puso énfasis en varios aspectos: Libia como Estado civil, reducción del período de transición de gobierno, unificación de las institucionales estatales (como el Banco Central), el cese del odio y su incitación, la celebración de elecciones presidenciales y parlamentarias a finales del año, la transferencia pacífica del poder, la separación de poderes y el seguimiento de los puntos acordados por parte de la ONU. El lugar de la reunión muestra la gran implicación que los Emiratos Árabes Unidos tienen en esta guerra, en especial como aliado del general Haftar. El país del Golfo Pérsico negó el apoyo al ataque en Trípoli que tuvo lugar el 31 de marzo del 2020 por parte del LNA. Sin embargo, varios medios de comunicación libios declararon que dos aviones de carga militares llegaron a la base aérea Emirati Al-Khadim, en el este de la ciudad libia de Marj, provenientes de la base aérea Sweihan de Abu Dhabi.

El 27 de noviembre de 2019, tuvo lugar el Acuerdo de Frontera Marítima entre el GNA y Turquía. El presidente de Turquía, Erdogan, y Fayez al-Sarraj, firmaron dos memorandos de entendimiento. Pactaron un límite de 18,6 millas náuticas, como frontera marítima compartida entre Turquía y Libia y firmaron un acuerdo de cooperación militar por el que Ankara enviaría soldados y armamento. En vez de crear una nueva tropa, que llevaría más tiempo, Turquía ofreció un sueldo de 200 dólares al mes para luchar en Libia frente a los 75 que daba por luchar en Siria.

El problema con la frontera marítima es que ignora las islas de Chipre y de Grecia y viola sus derechos amparados por la Convención de Naciones Unidas sobre el Derecho del Mar de 1994, si bien ninguno de estos dos países ha acudido al Tribunal del Derecho del Mar. El interés turco reside en la posibilidad de la presencia de petróleo y gas natural en la costa sur de Creta. El acuerdo por lo pronto durará lo que duré el GNA, en una situación de inestabilidad a lo que también contribuye la impopularidad de la intervención militar en Turquía.

El 2 de enero de 2020, los presidentes de Argelia y Túnez se reunieron con Jalifa Haftar. El presidente argelino, Abdelmadjid Tebboune, insistió en que la solución del problema libio debe ser interna y no depender de la afluencia de armas propiciada por la injerencia extranjera. Propuso la creación de nuevas instituciones que permitan la organización de elecciones generales y el establecimiento de las nuevas bases del Estado democrático libio con la aprobación de la ONU.

El 6 de enero, el LNA tomó control sobre Sirte. Esta ciudad es estratégica pues se halla cerca de la “media luna petrolera” de Libia, una franja costera en la que se encuentran varias terminales importantes de exportación de petróleo.

El 12 de enero, Rusia y Turquía declararon una tregua en Siria y Libia. Este acuerdo fue un quid pro quo, puesto que Rusia tiene mayores intereses en Siria que en Libia, pues busca un puerto en el Mediterráneo, y Turquía, como se explicó anteriormente, desea construir un sistema de suministro de gas a través del mar Mediterráneo desde Libia. Sin embargo, el acuerdo no se está cumpliendo, sobre todo en el escenario libio. Enviados de la ONU alegan que ambos países siguen proporcionando armamento a los guerrilleros.

El 19 de enero tuvo lugar la Conferencia de Berlín, que constituyó un intento de apaciguamiento de la situación del país. Participaron Estados Unidos, Rusia, Alemania, Francia, Italia, China, Turquía y Argelia, y se expresó el compromiso a acabar con la injerencia política y militar en el país. Sin la intervención de terceros actores, el país no podría mantener una guerra civil pues ninguno de los bandos tiene suficiente fuerza. En la conferencia, también se discutió sobre el incumplimiento del embargo de armas establecido por el Consejo de Seguridad de la ONU en 2011. El problema es que ninguna potencia, en especial Turquía y Rusia, reconoce su implicación, por lo que no hay responsabilidades ni tampoco sanciones.

Una semana después tuvo lugar la primera violación del pacto. En cuanto a la tregua, el Gobierno de Haftar, con el objetivo de recuperar la capital, lanzó una ofensiva en dirección a la ciudad de Misrata, donde se encuentra una base importante del Gobierno de Acuerdo Nacional. Además, la misión especial de la ONU en Libia (UNSMIL) afirmó que sigue llegando material a los bandos combatientes por vía aérea.

El 31 de marzo, la Unión Europea lanzó la "Operación Irini” (“paz” en griego). Sustituye a la “Operación Sofía” de 2015, que tenía como objetivo combatir el tráfico de personas frente a las costas libias. La nueva operación ha cambiado de objetivo principal, pues luchará por hacer cumplir el embargo de armas. Además, cuenta con otras tareas secundarias como el control del contrabando petrolero, la continuación de la formación de los guardacostas libios y el control del tráfico de personas a través de la recopilación de información con el uso de patrullas aéreas. Esta iniciativa nace sobre todo por parte de Italia, primer país al que llegan los refugiados libios y por lo tanto preocupado por la inmigración. Este liderazgo se manifiesta en el desarrollo de la operación, ya que el cuartel general se encuentra en Roma y la dirección operativa está a cargo del contralmirante italiano Fabio Agostini. Por lo pronto, tiene una duración de un año.

El 5 de abril, la ONU hizo un llamamiento al cese de las hostilidades para combatir el Covid-19. Llamó a una tregua humanitaria en la que participen no solo los bandos nacionales, sino también las fuerzas extranjeras. El virus se cobró la vida Mahmud Jibril, antiguo primer ministro y líder de la rebelión contra Gadafi.

Nueva geopolítica regional y conclusión

Podemos definir la nueva geopolítica libia a través de los siguientes puntos. En primer lugar, la propagación de las armas por toda la región Sáhara-Sahel, la zona de los viejos y actuales conflictos. En segundo, la amenaza fronteriza que sienten Egipto, Argelia y Túnez por el conflicto interno. Finalmente, el desinterés de las nuevas autoridades libias por al Gran Sur, pues prácticamente se ha independizado, controlando casi la totalidad del comercio a través del Sahara. Al-Qaeda, a través de subgrupos como Fajr Lybia, está intentando establecer un Estado Islámico de África del Norte imitando el de Iraq. Para ello, en las zonas conquistadas, el Daesh destruye el paradigma tribal liquidando a los jefes de las tribus que no quieren aliarse con ellos con el objetivo de aterrorizar al resto. Es a través de estas prácticas como todas las milicias yihadistas pudieron aliarse al final de 2015. Frente a esto, Naciones Unidas patrocinó como primer ministro a Fayez Sarrraj, quien se instaló en Trípoli en abril de 2016. 

Libia es un estado privilegiado en cuanto a riquezas naturales. Sin embargo, en su historia ha sufrido mucho y lo sigue haciendo. Ha pasado por monarquías, colonización y dictaduras hasta finalmente convertirse hoy en un Estado fallido. Su estructura política es complicada, pues es tribal, y por eso ninguno de los sistemas políticos ha triunfado del todo porque no ha logrado armonizar las organizaciones internas. Hoy el país consta de tres gobiernos rivales y cientos de milicias y grupos armados que siguen compitiendo por el poder y el control del territorio, rutas comerciales y emplazamientos militares estratégicos. Para que la situación se resuelva, es necesario que los países que participan activamente en el conflicto (Rusia, Turquía, Emiratos Árabes Unidos y Qatar) cumplan el embargo de armas establecido por la ONU. Además, las potencias extranjeras deben aumentar su comprensión del país para acertar en propiciar la mejor solución posible. Aunque Libia esté al borde de convertirse en la próxima Siria, todavía quedan oportunidades para salvar la situación y darle al país lo que hace tiempo no tiene: estabilidad.



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