Edi Rama at a NATO meeting (DOD photo by Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Dominique A. Pineiro)
by Anne and Massoud Khodabandeh
“Albania will become a coordination center for fighters returning from ISIS to the Balkans,” announced Bulgaria’s Prime Minister Boyko Borissov during a joint press conference with Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama during a conference against violent extremism, which took place in Tirana this week.
Neither prime minister offered additional details, such as who is pushing this plan or with whom it is being negotiated. This vagueness generated criticism that Rama had not only failed to consult with parliament on this matter of grave importance to his country but perhaps he himself was not fully consulted.
Albania has been used before to host undesirables. In 2005, the United States sent five inmates from Guantanamo Bay there. Between 2013 and 2016, Washington also relocated 2,901 Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK) extremists there from Iraq, which had been trying to expel them since 2003.
Now, the Trump administration is telling Albania to host and de-radicalize former Islamic State (ISIS or IS) fighters who originated from the Balkans region. According to Colonel Bardhyl Kollcaku, head of Albania’s Intelligence and Security Agency, “We have the appropriate experience to contribute in the study and addressing the phenomenon of foreign fighters.”
If the MEK had been de-radicalized, Kollcaku’s assertion would be credible. But they weren’t.
In 2013, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pragmatically removed the MEK from the US terrorism list to allow members to be sent to third countries so that Iraq could be rid of them. European countries would not take them because of their terrorist past. Instead, the Albanian government agreed to take them only on the promise that a de-radicalization institute be established to reintegrate the extremists back into society.
This did not happen. The allocated budget, lodged with the American embassy in Tirana, has not been touched. Instead, after Donald Trump became president and set about dismantling every detail of Barack Obama’s legacy, the MEK were “allowed” to regroup.
Regrouping meant that the MEK would continue to call for violent regime change against Iran, backed by US extremists like Rudi Giuliani and John Bolton who now occupy influential posts in the Trump administration. » Lees verder