By Sreeram Sundar Chaulia
terrorist attack in New York city on Halloween day – in which a speeding pickup
truck ploughed into pedestrians and killed 8 persons – is a reminder of how the
threat of Islamic State (IS) is morphing. The assailant, an Uzbek apparently
inspired by the IS command to use vehicles to strike at ‘infidels’ in Western
cities, has conveyed a larger message through his diabolical act that the
nature of the terrorist problem is shifting and so must the policy response to
IS declared its Caliphate in 2014 by capturing vast territorial tracts in Iraq
and Syria, the prime focus of international attention has been on liberating
those lands. And in this endeavour, the two broad military coalitions led by
Russia and the US have succeeded through combat operations and intense bombing
campaigns. From a peak of 90,800 sq km under its control in 2015, IS is down to
ruling over a mere 3% of Iraq and 5% of Syria today.
bulk of the IS leadership and rank and file have been killed, detained and
scattered. The flow of foreign fighters to defend the rump Caliphate after the
fall of major cities like Mosul and Raqqa has reduced drastically. So battered
is IS on the battlefields of Iraq and Syria that its fighters are negotiating
with the Iraqi or Syrian governments to escape alive. In defeat, the jihadists
famed for a culture of martyrdom are showing pragmatic instincts to merely
in spite of progress in the military realm, the ideological virus of IS thought
and philosophy has penetrated many parts of the world and is nowhere close to
being vanquished. The spate of attacks by IS-influenced jihadists in Europe and
the US continues. Typically low-tech in modus operandi, the series of truck
ramming, stabbing and shooting incidents carried out by Muslim immigrants with
no direct training or funding from IS but radicalised over the internet or via
religious networks has challenged national security across the Western world.
so-called autonomous ‘provinces’ or Wilayat in countries as far apart as
Afghanistan, the Philippines and Egypt are also perking up and demonstrating a
resilience that is confounding states and drilling fear into affected
populations. The massive civilian casualties being caused by attacks on Shia
minorities while praying in mosques in Afghanistan and on Christian minorities
in churches of Egypt are trademark symbols of IS branches getting bolder, not
feebler, and wreaking havoc.
Philippines, IS-affiliated jihadists took over the southern city of Marawi this
year and resisted a huge army assault using daredevil tactics for a record 154
days without caving in. In Bangladesh, IS-smitten groups have increased
activity levels and displaced previously established jihadist movements.
these instances are manifestations of IS’s fundamentalist beliefs which are
thriving far away from its core base in the Middle East. Like its global
predecessor Al Qaeda, IS is grafting itself on to pre-existing local conflicts
and grievances in Asia and Africa and arising as a new force.
big mistake that many governments are committing when faced with this IS 2.0 is
to underestimate it or dismiss it as a smokescreen created by old, traditional
terrorist groups. When IS was ascending in the Middle East in early 2014, then
American president Barack Obama made light of the threat by comparing it to a
‘JV team’ with no main players. Late reaction instead of early preemption
enabled IS to mushroom into a global menace.
and societies in Asia and Africa must learn lessons from past errors of complacency
and concentrate on tackling IS’s intolerant ideation system. The same holds for
Western countries where migrant communities are being attracted to IS
propaganda as a catharsis to solve identity crises and culture clashes.
conventional counter-terrorism methods like surveillance and
intelligence-gathering about suspects, a heavier investment is required in
de-radicalisation programmes among disaffected communities, especially isolated
youth within them.
idea and premise that non-Muslims and non-Sunnis are oppressors or sub-humans
who deserve annihilation has to be overwritten with a liberal idea of the
equality and shared humanity of all. Barring such a reformation in values, the
Caliphate will reincarnate itself in its provincial avatar and keep draining
state resources and undermining social fabrics. The war began in the mind and
it will only end there.
Times Of India