The so-called Islamic State (IS) is clearly on the retreat in Iraq and Syria. It has conceded vast swathes of territories including important and strategic towns and cities like Fallujah and Ramadi in Iraq, and Manbij and Dabiq in Syria. The loss of Dabiq in mid-October was particularly significant as the site features prominently in IS propaganda about apocalyptic battles between the ‘caliphate’ and its enemies. IS has also lost significant number of fighters, top leaders, and revenue-generating areas. It is now a matter of weeks before its last stronghold in Iraq, Mosul, falls to coalition forces. Some IS leaders and their families as well as some of their fighters are already reported to be fleeing Mosul to safer areas in Syria. Infighting among IS fighters and resistance within Mosul are said to be rising.
These adverse developments notwithstanding, IS can be expected to put up a strong resistance as the loss of Mosul, where the declaration of the ‘Islamic Caliphate’ was made, would be a huge propaganda blow for IS. Following the launch of the offensive to retake Mosul, IS militants set fire to a sulphur plant to release toxic gas to hamper the advance of the Iraqi forces; reports indicated at least 1,000 people were hospitalised due to respiratory problems. IS also mounted diversionary attacks in Kirkuk, Rutba and Sinjar to relieve the military pressure on Mosul. IS may also go beyond Iraq and Syria to mount terrorist attacks in neighbouring countries, Europe and elsewhere to avenge its losses.
Two articles in this issue provide a good mix of IS’ current state of play: the first reviews IS’ overarching strategy in its online propaganda and recruitment magazine, Dabiq, and the second analyses the multi-generational impact of IS’ recruitment of children. Beyond the usual focus on IS’ modus operandi, we also feature two other articles that specifically narrow in on policy approaches to counter violent extremism.
Nur Aziemah Binte Azman explores how the ongoing war in Iraq and Syria has led to serious setbacks to the Islamic State (IS)’s territories, fighters and revenue, affecting even its media operations. Despite its losses, IS is determined to pursue its goal of establishing a global caliphate and has continued to do so by projecting itself as strong, lethal and determined.
Noting how IS exploits children for armed combat and strategic gains to perpetuate the existence of the caliphate, Sara Mahmood argues that the phenomenon of the ‘cubs of the caliphate’ will present a challenge for years to come, as these children are exposed to deep indoctrination and are likely to be desensitised to violence by the time they reach adulthood.
In light of the recent capture of Dabiq by Turkish-backed forces and the ongoing battle of Mosul, DB Subedi and Bert Jenkins argue for greater interventions by non-state actors in preventing society’s relapse into violence. They examine the issues and concerns arising from violence and extremism and outline the ways in which peace and development non-state actors can prevent and counter the threat of violent extremism.
Agus Santoso and Sylvia Windya Laksmi outline a risk assessment framework for Southeast Asian countries and countries to tackle the challenge of terrorism financing networks. The authors advocate for continued regional cooperation and collaboration in the overall counter-terrorism effort.
Commentaries / Conflict and Stability / Global / Terrorism Studies
Last updated on 26/10/2016