It’s been noted time and time again that terrorist groups are shifting their main targets from the Middle East – where they have suffered heavy losses – to other parts of the world.
According to Cheng Guoping, state commissioner for counter-terrorism and security matters, a member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) and former vice foreign minister, as progress is being made in the anti-terrorist fight in Syria and Iraq, international terrorism is entering a new phase, in which extremist and terrorist groups are tweaking their strategies. Cheng warned that an ever increasing number of terrorists are penetrating and gathering momentum in Southeast Asia, Central Asia and South Asia.
It’s hardly a secret that ISIS attaches a great deal of importance to the “daulah” – the territories physically controlled by this quasi-state. It was the main advertising point for the Islamic State, due to which it was able to gain new supporters in various regions of the world. Now that the territories controlled by ISIS are doomed to fall back under the control of local forces, the “good old days” of 2014-2015, when ISIS militants boasted themselves as an invincible force that attracted thousands of fighters every month, have long but passed.
But even when ISIS loses its “base of operations”, it will not disappear from the face of the earth. Most likely, the militants will find hideouts in faraway desert and mountain regions and then try to carry on their struggle from there. The grouping will evolve from a quasi-state into a regular terrorist force, but it will not cease its activities.
Terrorism remains fairly popular not only among extremists, as it’s been indicated by the decade long “popularity” of numerous branches of Al-Qaeda, but among all sorts of criminals as well. Saudi-inspired Wahabbism remains an advantageous set of beliefs to adhere to for countless smugglers of weapons, artifacts, drugs and other “black merchants”, including slave traders. It’s rather unfortunate that a number of “Western businesses” are getting increasingly involved in this criminal smuggling, building their commercial and financial wealth by taking part in such dubious activities. Take, for instance, the actions of the Franco-Swiss company LafargeHolcim Group in Syria, which financed ISIS fighters back in 2012-2014, wishing to ensure safety of their employees, while retaining the chance of continuing its operations in this war-torn country.
In addition to a series of terrorist attacks launched in European countries in recent years, the situation can be seen as an obvious strategic shift on the side of the terrorists, who are trying to expand their sphere of operations into various Asian states. For instance, since the beginning of this year, the border areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan have been hit by frequent terrorist attacks targeting both civilians and officials, resulting in heavy casualties. The former has been already transformed into a breeding ground for all sorts of small radical groups that are all engaged in improvised medieval-style “hunts for infidels” carried out in various regions of this troubled state.
Either way, the black plague of terrorism is spreading rapidly. It’s been recently announced that ISIS operatives from Central Asia were implicated in the Ataturk Airport and Reina Nightclub attacks in Istanbul. It’s believed that the airport attack carried out last June was executed by a Chechen, a Kyrgyz and an Uzbek, trained by ISIS. Although it is virtually impossible to confirm how many Kyrgyz, Uzbeks and other Central Asians are fighting for ISIS in Turkey and Syria, The Diplomat reports that most are used for suicide missions.
By recruiting Uzbeks and Kyrgyz to launch terrorist attacks in Turkey, ISIS takes full advantage of the fact that they share common linguistic and cultural aspects with Turks, so they are capable of infiltrating Turkish society much better than Arabs. Because of such peculiarities, and also due to the turbulent period these countries had to face in the aftermath of the Soviet Union’s collapse, Central Asia has become a fertile ground for ISIS recruiters who are rapidly strengthening the positions enjoyed by this terrorist organization in this region.
That is why the fight against ISIS and all forms of terrorism in general should not be carried out under the leadership of a single state, no matter how the United States may despise this idea. The only effective way of addressing this challenge is through creating a comprehensive framework under the direct supervision of the UN, that would allow all international players to take their part in defending global populations from this major threat.