Washington, DC—Islamic State (IS) has come a long way from their start in the Syrian Civil war and thanks to the departure of the US forces from Iraq. ISIL (their initial name) attempted to remove President Bashar al-Assad in Syria along some of the al Qaeda elements and the Free Syrian Army (FSA).
However, ISIS became more radical and changed their course into building an Islamic State in the Sunni regions of Iraq and Syria and attempts quickly gained support and began to accumulate big and small victories.
The name began to change as the terrorist group began to change their mission. ISIL, ISIS, and now they just want to be called IS. Their latest ambitions are to conquer the world with their Islamic Radical ambitions and of course by the means of terrorism and controlling territory. The really scary thing is that it is possible that they will actually try to at least cause some serious disruptions with terrorism in places where terrorism is something watched in TV or in the Internet.
Let’s consider first of all that IS is perhaps the most successful jihadist terrorist group in the history of terrorism. It is unlikely that Osama bin Laden had any dreams that from his organization a modern jihadist group would come out. When Osama was killed, his al Qaeda brand was dying. Perhaps the most disturbing of the entire situation is that from the birth of this terrorist movement, there has been a considerable lack of counterterrorism from the US and allies to attack IS. This lack of “action” allowed the terrorist group to grow with little or no resistance.
There are a series of issues that could be considered when arguing any position on the current state in the Middle East and in particular when it comes to IS, and the threat to any nation with any Islamic population with the potential to become radicalized:
· US policy or policy from the allied countries may have been wrong or underestimated the power of IS.
· The pressures from Vladimir Putin in Syria to keep al-Assad in power may have caused a radicalization of some of the terrorist groups in Syria, in this case IS.
· The lack of weapons and training for the FSA, ultimately cause the FSA to become a target of IS and the al-Assad military forces. Two forces that FSA could simply not overcome.
· The departure of the US forces from Iraq may have precipitated the sectarian fighting in Iraq that ultimately led to Sunnis to join IS, in order to fight their sectarian civil war against the Shia Muslims.
· The fact that the US had practically given up in the efforts to remove al-Assad, while the rest of the world saw things otherwise, including FSA. There was never any real commitment and Senator John McCain (R-Arizona) has made that public many times after visiting the area.
· The real problems with the Iraqi forces that just gave up in the north and allowed IS to take a big chunk of their country. Also empty a bank with over 400 million dollars. Of course the oil production facilities as well.
· A US policy from the Obama administration that the people in these countries should fight their wars—in fact signaling to IS that they should not be worry about US forces coming after them. A real problem for FSA and the Iraqi forces, if they had thought of using at least the “threat of force” from the US on their side. Why deceive IS… that is not right… so it appears.
· The surprise from Kurdistan forces that showed a significant ability to fight off IS.
And a few other reasons that would take a few pages to list them all.
Somehow it appears that the IS is becoming more extreme, more radical, more fanatical and more serious about getting as many jihadists from around the world to attack in their homelands, with a gun or any means they can. Christians and other religions should not be worry about having to convert anytime soon. The biggest challenge becomes crystal clear when a few recruits from IS are radicalized in their neighborhoods.
Stopping them from traveling from western countries works but it is not a 100% solution. Stopping an attacker that can get his hands on even a handgun and go into a shooting rampage is much more harder to stop. And how about the IS recruits joining from Southeast Asia?
Even al Shabaab just released a video telling followers to attack the malls and mentions the Mall of America, a Westview Mall by the way.
Now IS ambitions have gained momentum in Southeast Asia… but as an American living in the US… why should you worry about that, you may ask. Many companies have been shifting production from China into Southeast Asia and in a recent article titled “Manufacturer’s Priorities Shifting in Southeast Asia,” by Kathy Chu of The Wall Street Journal, provide some very compelling reasons to pay attention to Southeast Asia; especially if the region becomes a hotspot for terrorism and terrorist radicalization.
Here are some facts to consider:
· Southeast Asia has 15% of the worlds 1.6 billion Muslims.
· There is a large number of individuals have been radicalized by the IS recruiters and the propaganda.
· Indonesian and Malaysian militants can pose a real problem as more and more small factions and splinters from bigger networks pledge their support to IS.
· Abu Sayyaf, an affiliate of al Qaeda has enough territory to train many militants to undertake just about anything they want, while the world becomes more preoccupied with other affairs.
Additionally, Ukraine, and Greece to name a few, are other situations that pertain to Foreign Policy for the US, but they may be delegated to other countries to solve, including Russia. Venezuela appears to not be of any concern to the US administration, so it can be left out.
Afghanistan is also becoming a real dangerous place as NATO continues to withdraw their forces. You would think that the experience in Iraq would give early warnings to the US that it may not be a good idea, but again, things in Afghanistan may be different, until the Taliban and al Qaeda regain control. And then of course, Pakistani terrorist groups such as the Tehrik-e-Taliban (TTP), which some of their groups have pledged support to IS; these terrorist groups should not be left out as a potential threat.
In short, the support seeing in Afghanistan and Pakistan to IS is helping the radicalization of terrorist groups in Indonesia and Malaysia. Even when Aman Abdurrahman is imprisoned, he appears to still be pulling the strings. Social media is helping in the radicalization process and his book titled “Two-Armed Strategy” (Strategi Dua Lengan) has been translated into Indonesian.
“The size of IS is currently unknown, it is estimated to be approximately 200,000 fighters in the Middle East,” indicated by Dayffyd Klippel-Cooper, Intelligence Analyst with Contingent Security Services, Ltd.
Groups of concern in that region: Kampulan Militian Malaysia, Majelis Mujahidin Indonesia, Indonesian Islamic Liberation Front, and Gerakan Mujahidin Islam Patani. They are groups that should be under surveillance. Collection and analysis of intelligence of these groups should be increased.
“When it comes to the most dangerous groups in the region, I would say that they are the Bangsamorro Islamic Freedom Fighters, Abu Sayyaf rebels, Mujahidin Indonesia Timur and al Qaeda linked Jemaah Islamiyah,” according to Analyst Kippel-Cooper.
IS has the goal to make Southeast Asia region into an Islamic State called Dauliah Islamiyah Nusantara (DIN), which in fact would create a new Islamic epicenter and from there create an operational base.
In conclusion, getting serious with what IS and assessing their Islamic radical ambitions should become a priority for intelligence agencies around the world. Staying one step ahead of the terrorist group’s expansion is something that should NOT be politicized. IS should be taken, as it is an Islamic Radical Movement (IRM) that could potentially disrupt the entire world.
In the meantime, in the homeland the threats of the “Lone Wolf” attacks increase, the Middle East is a mess, and Southeast Asia could ignite IS style expansion that could jeopardize the region. One thing is for sure and requires no speculation: IS is officially in Southeast Asia… intelligence analysts for Fortune 500 companies should take note of this, while the governments figure this out.
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