19.10.2014 Author: Henry Kamens

America’s Chechen Proxy Fighters: The Big Picture Everyone Has Missed

234234234The media is awash with expert commentary on the various world trouble spots. Many of the reports you see make similar claims about the presence of ethnic Chechens amongst the various fighting forces in Iraq, Syria, Kenya, Ukraine and other war-torn states that the US has vested interests in. However there is one point all these authors have missed.

On September 1 Iraqi News reported that “Iraq’s counter-terrorism office announced the killing of 23 fighters of Chechen nationality who belong to the organization of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, in Sulaiman Bek district, east of Tikrit.”

Whether these people were really Chechens has not been established, as “Chechen” has been equated with “terrorist” for a long time, so if you don’t know where a dead terrorist comes from he is called a Chechen. But there is a reason this state of affairs came to be, and it does not derive from Russian propaganda, as sources such as Arab News try and make out.

On June 23 The Barefoot Strategist drew attention to the fact that “While most of the world is focused on the battle between Assad and the Syrian rebels, Chechens are becoming known as some of the best fighters in Syria. Their prominence is growing, and it is alarming.”

This article detailed how the Chechens had split into different groups, some pro- and some anti-ISIL, based on their original allegiances. However it did not say why these Chechens were interested in Syria and how they got there, or how they became such good fighters.

On July 22 Cristina Maza, writing in The Balkanist, stated that “according to Murad Batal al-Shishani, a London-based expert on Islamic groups and a specialist on Islamic movements in Chechnya, the majority of the Chechen fighters in Syria right now are from the Pankisi Gorge.”

The article also pointed out that “the number of residents in the region [Pankisi] has doubled over the past decade due to an influx of refugees from Chechnya.” It described how they are “volunteering” to fight in Syria, encouraged by “radicals” and lack of opportunity in the gorge. Once again however the article failed to mention why the Chechens and [even some Saudi nationals] suddenly took such an interest in this part of Georgia, if there are so few opportunities there.

The point everyone is missing is that what Henry Kamens has been saying for more than 10 years is being proven true every day. The Chechens being recruited in the Pankisi Gorge did not end up there by accident, they were inserted by the CIA and funded and trained in terrorist warfare by the CIA in order to destabilise other countries the US was interested in. Those same Chechens are not volunteering for service but are being sent there by the US, as part of a co-ordinated plan, to serve US interests, and being moved around to wherever they are needed.

Roddy Scott, a young British journalist and filmmaker, was killed for knowing and saying this, and that was no accident either. He was following the money and weapons, the NGO mechanism used to fund the freedom fighters and provide fake passports to people who, based on the American definition, were terrorists. So let us consider the facts.

Safe haven for chosen terrorists

From 2001 onwards an extensive media campaign was conducted by international outlets which claimed that Pankisi, which none of those reporters had previously seen, was a “terrorist haven”. No actual evidence was provided to support this, but it made people feel better to think all the terrorists came from one place and it had been identified.

These reports were used as the justification for sending US military advisers to the Gorge in April 2002, purportedly on a mission to contain al-Qaeda loyalists who might have been operating there. It is only after this, however, that most of the Chechens later branded as terrorists actually moved to this isolated valley, as Cristina Maza’s article implies.

The US intervention there would therefore seem to have been an utter failure, which would cause heads to roll. However, the sudden influx of terrorists was used as the excuse for the establishment of the 64 million dollar Train and Equip Program. This provided precious few weapons to the Georgian Armed Forces and their “training” was exposed for what it was during the 2008 Russia-Georgia war. It has, however, led to a succession of fearsome Chechen warriors, highly-trained, well-armed and successful, emerging from the gorge and appearing in US –backed wars all over the region, as the articles cited state.

This activity was not hidden. Within weeks reports about what was really going on there, dismissed as rumour at the time, started appearing. Nikolaus von Twickel of the Moscow Times soon reported that Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) officials had confirmed that Ramzan Turkoshvili, 34, a Russian citizen born in Georgia, had been co-ordinating the activities of illegal armed groups in the Northern Caucasus by order of Tbilisi.

He told Itar-Tass that the Pankisi Gorge, “despite repeated statements of the Georgian leadership and their Western allies, is still used as a base of terrorists acting in the North Caucasus and by various terrorist and extremist organisations. Ringleaders of terrorist groups from the Georgian territory provide financial support to bandit groups, coordinate activities for the preparation of terrorist acts, as well as recruiting Muslim youth of the Akhmed districts of Georgia and involving them in extremist activities.”

One of the Chechens who appeared in Pankisi Gorge at that time was Imran Akhmadov. When journalists such as Jeffrey Silverman, who was then working as an editor-and-chief of the Georgian Times, followed up on his Chechen and intelligence connections they were told that he had been killed by the FSB. Not only is Akhmadov still alive, he is one of the leaders of ISIL.

He had in fact been provided with a fake Georgian passport, in the name Kavtarashvili, and shipped to Turkey by the US Embassy when people started enquiring about him. The snipers in Maidan Square, who shot at everyone indiscriminately and were also described as Chechens, were similarly removed from the scene, and sent to Syria, on fake Georgian passports when it was reported that they were neither protestors nor Ukrainian security services personnel.

Akhmadov’s brother was also reported killed by the FSB, as if to provide support for the claim that Imran had died. He too is still alive, and is a senior Georgian intelligence operative. As official investigations are now revealing, he was involved in the planning of the prospective murder of tycoon Badri Patarkatsishvili, obviously not a matter for low level operatives.

Knowing too much

roddy_in_afghan_valleyIt was in October 2002 that Roddy Scott accompanied the Chechens as they crossed from Georgia into the Russian republic of Ingushetia, whilst making a documentary. The 31-year-old journalist was killed filming a firefight between Chechen fighters and the Russian army in the village of Galashka in the Ingush region of the Russian Federation. Roddy worked for Frontline TV, a British TV company, was no stranger to hotspots and knew how to protect himself.

Scott had made no secret of the fact that he felt the wrong information about Pankisi was being reported in the West. He had written to a friend shortly before he left:

“I personally think it’s a great story, it’s about the first time I have ever seen the possibility for someone to really lift the lid on everything, rather than the usual ‘journo-grasping-at-straws-with-no-good-sources’ which seems to emanate from the region. And what really gives it the boost is that it is tied into US policy, which gives it the international rather than local/parochial flavour. As you saw, there are plenty of boyeviks [terrorists/fighters] in Pankisi, and pretty much they operate openly; but the story has never really come out because most journals don’t have access. And there is a real danger of kidnapping if you are there too long without the protection of a Chechen commander. Equally, the Chechens have a vested interest in making sure the full story never comes out (in print, photos or TV). It’s the kind of thing that might just provoke the Russians to do something, (or give them excuse, I guess).”

After the rebels were driven back Russian Federal Forces found Scott’s body. Any such death is generally investigated. When Jeffrey Silverman, who had been one of his sources in Georgia, started asking deep questions he was warned by a former employee of the BBC (and possibly MI6, the British intelligence service):

“Your digging around Roddy has no such safety net, be careful. His mother’s appetite for information will never be satisfied, make sure you know where the limits are – and when to stop digging. I do it because I am a hired gun; I always have a focus, and a programme to deliver at the end of the day. Don’t get too carried away chasing shadows without a clear aim. Didn’t mean for this to turn into a lecture – just be careful, and know why you are taking risks.”

Nor was Scott’s an isolated case. As a Moscow-based US journalist later reported, “I would not take any of the stories about Pankisi seriously – Roddy Scott and I worked on what was going on there some years ago, and it got him killed, the dime was dropped on him by an American working for OSCE who intentionally shared information with GRU, Russian Military Intelligence about the mass movement of Chechens.

The result was that Scott ended up dead and I was beaten up – even arrested getting off an airplane in the United States and held in total isolation while a secret court hearing took place, in an effect to try to strip me of my US passport and ability to work as a journalist.

Why would such action be taken against anyone? Clearly, the OSCE operative was not seeking to prevent acts of terrorism being carried out, monitoring the Georgian-Russian international border during this period, as his mandate obliged him to do. He and whoever controlled him, one a compromised Danish General, wanted to make sure that the story Scott was working on would never be told in the West and his treasure trove of information on what was happening in Pankisi would go to the grave with him.

First hand

I have been to Pankisi Gorge and lived with the locals for weeks on end. I have seen the Georgian military supposedly cracking down on terrorists patrolling with no bullets in their weapons. I have seen the newcomers, the Chechen terrorists, Arab nationals, the cars they drive, their clothes, their flats in Tbilisi. None of them work, and they do not live like that on remittances from relatives abroad or herding sheep.

I have also investigated the Akhmadov brothers further. They were involved in the kidnapping of two Polish journalists who might have stumbled on the story, Zofis Fischer and Ewa Marchwinska-Wyrwal, two Spanish businessmen and the faked abduction of British banker Peter Shaw, who staged it himself. The murder of Anthony Russo, an Italian journalist, also remains unresolved, and has never been properly investigated, like all the other cases linked with the Akhmadov brothers.

None of this is coincidence. The appearance of Chechens from the Pankisi Gorge, who moved there after the US sent people to root out terrorists, in all the wars the US is involved in is not coincidence. The US has put those people in those places to conduct whatever terrorist operations serve its interests, even if it means sacrificing those same terrorists.

All we are seeing now is part of a long lasting, co-ordinated programme of state-sponsored terrorism conducted by the guardians of freedom and democracy, using people it labels as terrorists who it has armed and trained to do all these things. Iraq, Syria, Ukraine, all the conflicts we are seeing are part of the same programme.

I’ve been saying all this for a very long time. A lot of people have a vested interest in proving me wrong, and will give anyone trying to do so all possible assistance; go ahead, the world is waiting, make my day!

Henry Kamens, columnist, expert on Central Asia and Caucasus, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.