The demise of the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) caliphate in Iraq and Syria is reportedly pushing some members of the jihadi organization into countries with substantial Muslim populations.
ISIS members have established a footprint in India, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Democratic Republic of Congo, Burkina Faso, Mali, and Libya, the Hindustan Times (HT) reported on August 16.
The list of destination countries is gleaned from data published by Armed Conflict Location and Event Data (ACLED) in June, a U.S.-based conflict monitoring and crisis mapping body.
ISIS jihadis have already established a substantial presence in Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Libya, to name a few. South Asia is home “to some of the highest levels of IS activity outside Iraq and Syria, ACLED revealed in a report titled Branching Out: The Islamic State’s Continued Expansion.
The Afghanistan region is home to the “highest regional concentration” of jihadi groups — including ISIS, the Taliban, al-Qaeda, and others — in the world, according to the Pentagon.
The IS [Islamic State] greeted its loss of territory in Iraq and Syria in 2018 with an expanded global presence in 2019. Through the first five months this year, the IS has placed unprecedented emphasis on its global operations. This culminated [in late April] in IS leader Abubakr al-Baghdadi’s first video in five years [after the Sri Lanka Easter bombings in April], in which he focused largely on the group’s activity in South Asia, as well as in North, West and Central Africa.
This year, ISIS has regrouped and intensified its actives beyond West Africa, mainly focusing on other parts of Africa and South Asia, ACLED found.
The monitor pointed out that ISIS has regroups and increasingly intensified its activities outside of West Africa into other parts of the continent.
The monitor [ACLED] pointed out that up to nearly 60 percent of the Islamic State’s activity in 2019 has taken place outside of West Africa – mostly across all other parts of the continent.
In 2018, the jihadi group’s activity outside of West Asia was limited to about 40 percent, while it was well below 15 percent in 2016 and 2017.
Last March, local forces backed by their U.S.-led international allies completely annihilated ISIS’s territorial caliphate in Iraq and Syria.
In the wake of the territorial caliphate’s demise, ISIS has expanded its global presence.
In March 2018, the U.S. Department of State warned that ISIS was “adapting” to its territorial losses in Iraq and Syria by continuing their terror campaign “in all” other corners of the world – including Africa, Bangladesh, and Southeast Asia became. The warning has become a reality.
U.S. intelligence and military officials have warned that the terrorist group remains a menace as an insurgency fighting to regain territory.
The Pentagon inspector general (IG) cautioned this month that the “partial withdrawal” of U.S. troops from Syria, ordered by President Donald Trump, “decreased” the ability of local forces “to respond to ISIS resurgent cells.”
ISIS still counts the support of “between 14,000 and 18,000” jihadis in Iraq and Syria, including 3,000 foreign fighters, the IG added.
Citing Afghan officials and jihadis, Reuters reported on August 15, that the U.S-Taliban peace pact could push disgruntled members of the terrorist group into the arms of ISIS in Afghanistan, strengthening the organization.