Diffused, Chronic and Evolving Global Threat Landscape
In the face of a dynamically metastasising terrorist threat, the global security landscape is evolving into one that is more diffused, chronic and dispersed, where low-to-medium level individual acts of violence are becoming commonplace. The chaotic, unpredictable ways in which terrorist events unfold, is now enjoined by new actors such as the far-right movement, with the potential to further spread across the globe.
Though the propensity to react violently has increased, the favoured modus operandi remains low-end urban terrorism (stabbings, vehicular ramming and use of home-made explosive devices), mainly due to the inability of like-minded extremist groups to form organisational structures and augment their capabilities for coordinated attacks. However, the very fact that these extremist entities can form virtual communities on social media and share a bond is alarming. With this as a given, the upgrading of violent capabilities is a question of when, not if.
There has been a noticeable explosion of radicalism across the ideological spectrum. Various entities linked to the far-right movement in the West, some anti-establishment groups, as well as supporters and followers of global jihadist movements, namely Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State (IS), have actively exploited the uncertainty created by the COVID-19 pandemic, and ongoing violent race protests in the US, to further their respective agendas. In short, it appears the chaos and volatility of current times, is mirrored within the global extremist-radical milieu.
Against this backdrop, the present issue of the Counter Terrorist Trends and Analyses (CTTA) features five articles. First, Kumar Ramakrishna examines White Supremacist Terrorism in parts of the West, and the potential security implications for Asia. According to the author, the threat has become increasingly transnational, with growing evidence of White Supremacist networks in the US and parts of Europe strengthening their international linkages. Closer to home, the threat is limited, although violent elements within Asian ultranationalist movements of various persuasions may in future seek to network online and draw tactical inspiration from their counterparts in the West.
Second, Abdul Basit explores the implications of the ongoing peace process in Afghanistan on the South Asian militant landscape. The expected US exit from Afghanistan is creating a triumphant jihadist narrative in South Asia. However, the author is of the view that unlike in the past, when defeat and withdrawal of a major power from Afghanistan fuelled global jihadism, this time around, the absence of a global power might reinvigorate local and regional trends of jihadism in the region, although transnational jihadism would be weakened.
Third, Sudha Ramchandran analyses the rising Hindutva influence which aims to transform India into a Hindu state. The author maintains that the aggressive pursuit of the Hindutva agenda by the ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its fraternal organisations is deepening the insecurities of India’s religious minorities, especially Muslims. With their repeated and robust assaults on Indian secularism, Hindutva radicals are not only weakening the idea of India, but also compromising the security of all its people.
The last two articles take a closer look at growing female involvement in Islamist terrorist groups in South and Southeast Asia. In the first of these articles, Unaesah Rahmah reasons that even as more women have taken on active roles as suicide bombers and attackers, in pro-IS terrorist networks around Indonesia, they still abide by the traditional gender roles ascribed by these groups, with men still playing the dominant role. Nevertheless, the landscape is evolving, and more women have demonstrated a desire for greater agency, given the gender-oriented drivers fuelling female jihadism in Indonesia.
The final article by Shafi Md Mostofa highlights female radicalisation in Bangladesh, which is marked by women’s growing participation in violent acts. According to the author, the 2016 Holey Artisan Bakery attack was a turning point in this regard. Since then, women in a departure from their previous roles as nurturers and caretakers of jihadists are acting as suicide bombers, propagandists, recruiters and mentors for would-be female radicals in Bangladesh. The so-called Islamist model of obedience to husband, ideological conviction, Muslim victimhood narratives and crises in life, are identified as the main drivers of female radicalisation in Bangladesh.
In conclusion, we hope for everyone to stay healthy as we surmount the COVID-19 pandemic, from wherever you are reading the CTTA.
Counter Terrorist Trends and Analyses / Global / South Asia / Southeast Asia and ASEAN
Last updated on 10/06/2020