Four significant developments will characterise the global threat landscape this year. First, it is likely that the so-called Islamic State (IS) will transform from a caliphate-building entity into a global terrorist movement. In a manner similar to Al Qaeda, which had dispersed from its Afghanistan-Pakistan core in 2001-2002 to conflict zones worldwide, IS will refocus on consolidating the distant wilayats (provinces) to serve as bastions of its power.
Second, the deaths of either IS leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi or Al Qaeda leader Ayman al Zawahiri may lead to a collaboration between or possible unification of these two powerful terrorist groups. The discord between IS and Al Qaeda now is a leadership dispute and not ideological in nature.
Third, IS, Al Qaeda and their associates will compensate for their losses in the physical space by expanding further into cyber space. Despite governments and tech firms collaborating to monitor cyber space, the battle-space of threat groups in the virtual communities will continue to operate and grow.
There is a fourth significant development which has emerged in response to IS. This is the rise of far-right, ethno-nationalist and anti-Islamist populist movements, particularly in the United States and Europe. The response of governments and their societies to these movements within their countries and ethno-nationalist challenges in the Middle East and elsewhere will determine the threat levels in the future.
… Rohan Gunaratna is Professor of Security Studies at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technology University. He is also Head of the International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research at RSIS. This first appeared in RSIS Commentary.
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Last updated on 11/01/2017