Defeating the so-called Islamic State (IS) and its global affiliates and supporters remains an on-going counter-terrorism challenge. So far, kinetic approaches have dominated the modus operandi of anti-IS coalitions and governments, with some success in recapturing lost territories, eliminating top IS leaders and incarcerating IS militants and operatives. More however needs to be done. The ideology of the group continues to resonate among numerous supporters and extremist groups in and beyond the Middle East, inspiring terrorist attacks with implications to national security and social cohesion.
Fifteen years after the 9/11 attacks, it remains evident that terrorist groups like IS are persistent in their goals to terrorise societies and create rifts within the communities to disrupt the social fabric. Recent attacks in the US bear testimony to the nature of the extremist and terrorist threat: on 17 September 2016, a pro-IS supporter carried out coordinated bombing attacks in Manhattan and New Jersey, injuring 29. The next day, another extremist carried out a stabbing attack at a Minnesota mall, injuring ten, with IS claiming the attack. A few days later, another terrorist struck at Burlington, Washington State, killing five; it is not known if this incident is IS-linked. These attacks come close in the wake of those in Orlando (June 2016), Istanbul (June 2016), Dhaka (July 2016), Nice (July 2016), Gaziantep, Turkey (August 2016) and elsewhere.
In light of increasing IS-inspired and IS-directed attacks, the international community must intensify efforts to counter terrorist groups like IS. This should entail not only concerted military and police actions and collaborations but also counter-ideological measures as well as serious efforts to address socio-economic and political issues that have allowed IS and its affiliates and other religion-based extremist groups to emerge and thrive.
This is also the thrust of the article by Syed Huzaifah Bin Othman Alkaff and Muhammad Haziq Bin Jani as they reflect on the assassination of IS spokesperson, Abu Mohamed al-Adnani in another successful high value targeting (HVT) airstrike by the US. Besides reviewing al-Adnani’s role in IS, reactions to his death, and his possible successors, they also argue that counter-terrorism strategies such as decapitation and HVT, while crucial, will not be enough to degrade and destroy the group. Instead, there is an urgent need to counter the group’s ideology and analyse the underlying root causes that foster violent extremism. Without defeating IS propaganda, and addressing the ground factors that enable IS ideology to grow and spread, IS will continue to find traction and support among radicals in and outside IS heartlands.
The successful HVTs against al-Adnani and others set the stage for a critical examination of HVT. Paul Lushenko and Anthony Williams examine two military approaches in support of an overall strategy to defeat IS. The authors contend that IS displays characteristics of being both a terrorist and an insurgent group, and therefore recommend a blended HVT approach, fusing HVT in support of counter-terrorism with HVT in counterinsurgency operations. They note that these approaches must be supplemented with initiatives designed to counter extremist narratives.
A part of this narrative concerns IS’ adulteration of the concept of Hijrah (migration) that has formed part of IS propaganda and recruitment strategy. In a detailed analysis of IS’ propaganda magazine, Dabiq, Matan Uberman and Dr. Shaul Shay examine how IS is further manipulating the concept of Hijrah to its advantage, even to the extent of sanctioning the use of Hijrah to its wilayats (governorates). Against the backdrop of IS losing territory in Iraq and Syria, there is a need to control the flow of fighters into the wilayats in the Middle East, Caucasus, South Asia and Southeast Asia, before IS manages to strengthen its presence in these regions.
IS’ statehood aspirations have contributed to a growing deployment of women in the group’s state institutions and security forces, regardless of the strict interpretation of Sharia law that tends to limit women’s participation in the same. Hamoon Khelghat-Doost examines the expanding roles of women in the ranks of IS and offers us an alternative look at the role of women in IS, given that previous literature on women’s participation in jihadi militant organisations have tended to portray them as victims. In light of this, he recommends that approaches to counter-terrorism must also take into account the increasing involvement of women in terrorist groups.
Conflict and Stability / Counter Terrorist Trends and Analyses / East Asia and Asia Pacific / Global / Middle East and North Africa (MENA) / Singapore and Homeland Security / Terrorism Studies
Last updated on 17/09/2019