In previous essays I have referred to “the scissors strategy,” which is also known by other names. Many readers do not have a clear idea of how this strategy works, or why it is effective. It is therefore useful to present two or more hypothetical/historical examples to illustrate.
Example One: Afghanistan
In 1979 the Soviet Union wanted to accelerate its infiltration of the Islamic world. One objective of infiltration was to take control of Muslim groups and use them to create new means for attacking the West.
The best point of entry for this strategy was Afghanistan. Within the Soviet Union there were two Soviet “republics” ideal for launching operations in Afghanistan. The two countries were Tajikistan SSR and Uzbekistan SSR. (Please note: significant numbers of Tajiks and Uzbeks live in Afghanistan.)
Before 1979 the Soviet Union used ethnic Tajik and Uzbek agents to infiltrate Afghanistan. It was child’s play for them to influence these groups inside the country. Meanwhile, young Afghan technocrats, being open to Marxist indoctrination, were also vulnerable to Soviet influence and recruitment by outright communist channels. Agents could also be recruited from other tribal groups through Soviet-infiltrated criminal networks (i.e., via Soviet dominance of regional heroin trafficking). A great many small operations had to be developed, originating in very different parts of Afghanistan, to make the strategy viable. The object in such long-term operations is always to infiltrate every important tribal group, criminal mafia, police organization, economic center and political party in the country. You cannot use a scissors strategy without placing agents in these (and other) key sectors. It goes without saying, of course, that the first target of infiltration is always enemy counterintelligence, so that nobody ever has the wherewithal to identify your agents or their modes of operation.
The next problem, as a Soviet strategist, is how to advance your agents into positions of power within their respective groups. Conflict is the best way, especially if the conflict is violent. In terms of drug trafficking you advance your agents in the police by giving them leads from your agents among the drug traffickers. The police under your control arrest only those traffickers who are not under your control, paving the way for you to strengthen your hold on organized crime. Ultimately your strategy leads to a convergence of the police and the mafia — so that the leaders of the police are your agents, and they are secretly aligned with the country’s leading criminals, who are also your agents.
With your agents in the criminal underworld, and inside the police, you acquire access to information on corruption. Especially, you get information on corruption within the intelligence services, banking system and political parties. You can jail whomever you want. You also have the power to bribe or blackmail anyone you evaluate to be vulnerable or useful. Now your influence within the country is gradually taking shape.
The next problem is preparing the target country for invasion. At this stage you might ask: Why invade the country? There are many reasons, and you must be careful that the enemy does not suspect any of them. But the immediate reason for conflict is to advance your agents inside the country as a whole. (Whatever power you have is not enough, and it never will be.)
Ideally, as a Soviet strategist, you want a dolt in control of Afghanistan. Given the radical stupidity of the country’s American-educated elite, this is not hard. You do many favors for the government, asking little in return. You build roads and airfields. You create the infrastructure for your future invasion. Then, you convince President Useful Idiot that the American imperialists are plotting to attack his country. You stage provocations through agents in tribal areas to frighten the government. Finally, President Idiot asks for you to intervene. Soviet troops enter the country. Now you have created a conflict ripe for exploitation.
Your agents within the tribal groups have long established their bona fides by posturing as anti-Soviet loudmouths. After Soviet troops commit specific outrages, these agents gain greater stature. The growing conflict between the Soviet occupiers and the tribes is the perfect setting for killing various leaders, opening new leadership slots for your agents within each tribal group.
Next comes talent spotting. From around the Muslim world fighters are recruited to join the jihad against Godless Communism. But you have prepared your chessboard well. With your agents firmly placed among the mujaheddin, you can direct military operations from both sides. You can thereby kill off fighters who are genuinely dangerous to Moscow while identifying promising young recruits from the Arab world. You can build new heroes within the anti-communist camp. And you can do this on America’s dime. These new heroes will be your agents in future terrorist offensives aimed at the West.
The CIA moves to arm the Afghan rebels, even as you are getting control of the rebel groups by way of your agents. Soon the CIA will be arming and training groups that you effectively control (as well as groups that have momentarily eluded your control). The Americans will, with their own hands, build the organizations that you will use against them in the future.
The operation will have many ups and downs. It will not be without cost. You will lose many “good” people. In fact, everyone must believe you lost this war. You will pull your troops out of Afghanistan with great fanfare. The West will thump its chest. But you have filled the mujaheddin leadership with your creatures. You have simultaneously spent years assassinating your enemies within the Muslim world, infiltrating the militant ranks with your agents.
The culmination will come when terrorists, harbored by a tribal group you do not control, attack the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. At approximately the same time your proxies arrange the assassination of an Afghan leader to solidify your control over the anti-Taliban factions. Your patience is about to be rewarded. When the Americans attack Afghanistan from the air, your agents will be their allies on the ground — together with other tribal groups under your control. Now you have brought about a new kind of convergence. NATO occupies Afghanistan on your behalf and hardly anyone (excepting Mohammed Karzai) will guess the truth. NATO officers and generals are now in the crosshairs of another round of the scissors game.
If the Soviets were in Afghanistan for the better part of a decade, NATO will be there for the better part of two decades. Now the ire of the Islamic world is no longer focused on a jihad against Godless communism (which seems to have vanished altogether). Now the Jihad is against the Godless United States.
You may think that the outcome here is accidental. But no, it is the result of diligence, discipline, and superior intelligence tradecraft. Please do not misunderstand. Nothing here was easy for the Russian special services. They made tremendous sacrifices, and the strategic value of the outcome is stunning; for new games can now begin which are played from the winnings of the old game.
Example Two: Chechnya, ISIS and Beyond
Lithuanian researcher Marius Laurinavičius gave readers an invaluable glimpse inside Moscow’s ongoing scissors strategy against the Muslim World five years ago in a multi-part series. (See Part 2, https://www.google.com/amp/s/m.delfi.lt/endelfi/article.php%3fid=66856642&=1 ).
Laurinavičius documented numerous linkages between Islamic terrorists trained by the Russian special services and ISIS. The Chechen War itself, in all its improbable details (like the Afghan War before it), is the stuff of Moscow-made legend. Like the “fake news” of today we had fake Islamic propagandists originating in places like Tajikistan and Uzbekistan — at the time of a supposed “Islamic revival” authorized by the Communist Party Soviet Union (again, improbably). This revival then spawned a number of Islamic ideologists, as Laurinavičius shows, in league with the KGB or FSB or Putin advisor Alexander Dugin.
The Laurinavičius narrative is bewildering in the extreme, unless we understand the pattern of infiltration and agent placement it represents. Here are the factual telltales of Moscow’s scissors strategy. Here are the processes of the Afghan war repeated in the Caucasus, with an eye to stabilizing the region after intentional destabilization. Here we see terrorists filtering in and out of Russia and nobody is the wiser. Here is the explanation of Russian Defense Minister Pavel Grachev’s bizarre claim that the North Caucasus Military District would be the site of a huge World War III exercise. This statement foretold the Chechen wars of the 1990s before anyone realized Russia was training the likes of Ayman al-Zawahri (the current head of al Qaeda). However good a deception may be, hints are always dropped from the lips of Russian generals or statesmen. (Note: Grachev had commanded the 103 Guards Airborne Division of the Soviet Army in Afghanistan from 1985-88.)
“The rise of Wahhabis [in Chechnya] provides a lot of pabulum to Russian propaganda and political games,” noted Laurinavičius. If you read through the detailed cases presented by Laurinavicius, his conclusion appears obvious. As stated in Part Two of his series, “The rudiment of Wahhabism in Chechnya is apparently … related to … suspected KGB agents.”
In recent years, with regard to ISIS, some of the usual suspects appear once more, “involved in recruiting new terrorists to [the] Islamic state,” Laurinavicius explained. If it is ridiculous to propose a “conspiracy theory” in regard to the Syrian Civil War, Laurinavicius sets aside theory and delves directly into conspiracy as history.
To understand this history we must understand the scissor strategy. One blade of the scissors shreds the leader of one group. In retaliation the leader of an opposing group is eliminated; in each group the Russian agents rise in the ranks, fill the shoes of the dead leaders, and the Russians consolidate their position.
Think now of the ultimate concluding moves of such a game — as played from Kabul to Baghdad to Washington.