Against the background of the ever mounting number of terrorist attacks around the globe, including the recent tragic events in Nice, a particular emphasis should be laid on the strengthening of anti-terrorist efforts. Certain positive results can be attributed to the anti-terrorist operations in Iraq and Syria, that are being carried out by the so-called “coalition forces”. ISIS forces are not simply suffering losses, they found themselves unable to coordinate their operations properly. The continuous bombardment of the illegal oil infrastructure in Syria and Iraq has deprive terrorists of financial incomes, which resulted in ISIS being unable to pay its militants for their “services.”
In the previous years terrorists were pretty comfortable in their ability to capture swiftly new territories and create new formation in Libya, Saudi Arabia and other neighboring states. It’s been reported that ISIS units have even reached Afghanistan. However, as both Russian and American forces stepped their efforts up against ISIS, the surviving terrorists started searching areas of the Middle East where they won’t fall victims of military actions against them. Given the fact that the anti-terrorist actions against ISIS remain uncoordinated between the leader of the coalition, while the regional contradictions remain unresolved, ISIS militants are taking full advantage of the fact that they can enjoy relative security in certain areas of the world.
It has been noted by numerous analysts that a growing number of foreign jihadists are starting to return to the countries of their origin or even looking for alternatives that would allow them to hide from counter-terrorist efforts of the coalition.
The German domestic intelligence service BfV has already confirmed officially the worst fears of analysts, reporting that an ever growing number of former ISIS operatives are arriving to Europe under the guise of refugees. This, of course, is a reason for grave concern for both the German government and the governments of the neighboring European countries, since there’s a growing propability of new terrorist acts being committed in Europe. Last March the then Supreme Allied Commander Europe commander General Philip Breedlove announced that ISIS is taking advantage of the refugee crisis to infiltrate Europe and the United States with its terrorist cells. According to Breedlove, over 1.5 thousand ISIS militants have returned to Europe from the Middle East. Speaking before the Senate Committee on Armed Services, Breedlove announced that the ISIS ideology is spreading among refugees like cancer.
However, Europe is not the only region infiltrated by terrorists, as experts are ringing the alarm about the worsening situation in the Central Asia, since there’s a serious possibility that ISIS may raise its head there, moving the majority of its forces along with its headquarters to certain Central Asian states. These concerns have been aggravated by the tragic events of June 29 that shook the airport in Istanbul, when the blood of Central Asia and the Caucasus citizens was spilled in the course of a terrorist attack. According to various reports, a total of 6000 militants from Central Asia and the Caucasus have already been enlisted in ISIS ranks.
One shouldn’t forget that a certain number of ISIS units was withdrawn from Syria immediately after the launch of a large-scale international anti-terrorist operations. These forces were later deployed to Libya, which now serves as a secondary base for ISIS. A great number of militants that had families went to Turkey and scattered there in a bid to hide from prosecution. Certain groups fled to Pakistan and Afghanistan.
The considerable reduction in the numbers of people ISIS can recruit into its ranks in the Middle East doesn’t necessarily mean that this trend will continue with other similar organizations and networks. In particular, one cannot ignore the fact that the Al-Nusra Front is getting stronger in Syria and Al-Qaeda is receiving more and more support as ISIS is getting weaker in Iraq and Syria.
Analysts have already rang the alarm that in the north of Afghanistan, along with the Taliban and ISIS cells, a new terrorist group is gaining ground, and it is known as Lashkar-e-Khorasan. Apparently, it replaced the so-called Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), which had sworn its allegiance to ISIS before getting dissolved. As of now, little is know about it replacement. Its backbone is not formed from Afghans, but other Central Asian instead. There are indications that it is focused on the creation of a caliphate in Central Asia, but is not related to ISIS, which has already proclaimed the establishment of the province of Khorasan in the region.
As for the terrorist threat on the post-Soviet space in Central Asia, according to the statements by Uzbek officials, one can safely assume that at least 300 Uzbek citizens are fighting in ISIS ranks in Syria. Moreover, it is been announced that the largest radical group in Uzbekistan – Imam Bukhari Jamaat has joined ISIS in Syria. It is reported that before arriving to Syria, Sheikh Şeyh Salahuddin, which is believed to be the leader of the Imam Bukhari Jamaat, resided in Afghanistan for a long time. The so-called Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan is also being stationed in Afghanistan now, despite the fact that it swore allegiance to the leader of ISIS Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
Immediately after the statement of the Kazakh intelligence head that was made back in November 2014 that there was over 300 citizens of Kazakhstan in ISIS ranks in, with more than a half of them being women, ISIS published a video as if in a bid to confirm his words. The video would depict the citizens of Kazakhstan in the ranks of this terrorist organization, along with their families along with young Kazakh students in the training camps. In recent years, Kazakh militants who, after undergoing training in Syria, began to be a source of constant headache to the Kazakh government. Some of them have repeatedly assaulted Kazakh police units, the last attack took place on June 5, in the city of Aktobe, which resulted in 19 people being killed, 13 of them were ISIS militants.
Various sources say that at least 500 and 800 Kyrgyz citizens have visited at some point ISIS training camps. Experts say there’s over a thousand Uzbek and Tajik militants still fighting under the black banner of ISIS. Religious fanatics are trying to undermine a number of Kyrgyz cities, including in the capital – Bishkek.
The seriousness of the terrorist threat in the post-Soviet Central Asia, aggravated by a generally high degree of support for radical Islamic movements among the local population. There’s facts that some of the most dangerous terrorist organizations in this region were created the active support of the US and NATO special services. It seems that US geopolitical interests requite certain destabilizing acts of aggression to be committed, and Islamic terrorists seems to suit this purpose perfectly. In an effort to expand American influence in the region, Washington has repeatedly provided support for local extremist and terrorist organizations in a bid to overthrow the unwanted local regimes.
In doing so, Washington is acting on the assumption that any military conflicts in the region will cause a lot of troubles to Russia. China can fall the victim of this meddling pretty easily too, since it has faced radicalism on the part of Uighur separatists time and time again. The population of the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region of China is over 15 million people, while 60% of this number are Turks and Muslim. That is why the US and its NATO allies, under certain conditions, may assist extremists in strengthening their influence in the region to put additional pressure on Russia and China.
US intelligence agencies are now convinced that they will be able to eliminate terrorist groups after putting them to “good use”. However, Washington’s belief that it is able to control the terrorists is simply delusional. Such “double games” have backfired time and time again during the course of history, therefore one must put aside all disagreements to join efforts in the fight against terrorism and its current flagship – ISIS.
Martin Berger is a freelance journalist and geopolitical analyst, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.”