Despite Islamic State Defeat, Jihadist Threat Persists
Jihadistan is a borderless nation of Islamofascists with global reach. That hasn't changed.
In December 2017, some of the best news of the year came out of Iraq. The Islamic State had been defeated — at least in terms of losing its caliphate. The terrorist group had lost control of all of the cities it once held and had lost tens of thousands of fighters from the relentless U.S.-led airstrikes and the ground assaults from the Iraqi troops backed by U.S ground forces. While this is very good news — news the media tried to ignore — the threat of Islamist terrorism still remains.
How can a group that has for the most part been defeated still remain a security threat to the U.S and her allies? Several reasons exist for this unfortunate reality. First, Islamic jihad is not at all limited to the Middle East. Despite most terrorist activity happening in the Middle East, there is still a worldwide threat from radicalized individuals and groups. With most of the caliphate’s fighters being killed or captured, the chances of smaller scale attacks from those who have escaped remains. Further, the chances of those fighters being able to carry out attacks from their homeland, or another country where a strategic attack can draw international attention, increases as well.
Second, most of the leaders within the Islamic State remain at large. This poses an additional threat, because they can still plan for attacks in countries where they are not even present. It could also be that many of these leaders within the Islamic State are being tracked closely by the international intelligence community as a means to thwart and prevent attacks.
The sad reality is that despite a concentrated group of jihadists being defeated, the asymmetric threat of Islamic jihad remains. The caliphate was the goal of the Islamic State and by accomplishing its goal for a time, morale was increased amongst its members and they in turn inspired other radical Islamists to join their cause.
Was it too early for Iraq’s prime minister to declare victory against the Islamic State on December 9th? Some might say that his remarks were a bit premature, but he did not end with those remarks — a fact that was also largely ignored by the news media. Just three days after Abadi declared victory he warned that the Islamic extremists might “erupt again somewhere else” without there being international cooperation and commitment to combat the extremists. He also warned that “ISIS has this unfortunate ability to recruit young people very quickly.”
In other words, the Islamic State is on the run, but these jihadis do still have the capability to carry out attacks and they may gain a stronghold again somewhere if countries are not actively seeking to bolster their security posture. Peter Vincent, a counterterrorism expert and former Department of Homeland Security official, had this to say about the current state of the Islamic State: “It’s like a cornered cat that will lash out indiscriminately and viciously to save itself. … The war has yet to be won, and if it’s ever going to be won, it’s going to take many more years, and many more civilians will lose their lives.”
Sadly, Western Europe, specifically the United Kingdom, is likely to see an increase in Islamic terrorism, primarily due to the mass migration of Muslims over the last five years. There is no doubt that there were hundreds if not thousands of Muslims that were already radicalized or have become radicalized and have sworn their allegiance to the Islamic State — what’s left of its physical caliphate notwithstanding. All of Britain’s spy agencies are aware of the impending threat, and are implementing additional security measures to try and prevent Islamic State attacks from occurring.
In its 2016-2017 oversight report, Britain’s parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) noted, “The scale of the current threat facing the U.K. and its interests from Islamist terror groups is unprecedented.” The report continued, “This threat is predominantly driven by the activities of [the Islamic State], which seeks to maintain the group’s image and narrative of success in the face of military losses.”
The ISC assesses that 2018 is not going to be much different. In fact, the threat of Islamic State activity in the UK is likely to be higher with there being varying levels of its activity between “directed, influenced and inspired operations.”
The British spy agency M15 told the ISC that there are at least “3,000 subjects of interest on its radar, sitting on top of a pool of 20,000 individuals who had previously been subjects of interest.”
Western Europe and the UK will need to remain vigilant and relentless in pursuit to quickly identify potential threats and eradicate them as soon as possible. The war against the Islamic State is not over; indeed the United States under the leadership of President Donald Trump may need to consider some additional support to our allies in Europe. As we have long argued, Jihadistan is a borderless nation of Islamofascists with global reach. Unfortunately, not a lot has changed, despite the truly good news finally coming out of Iraq.