ISIS is developing a foreign policy to strengthen its influence abroad, including carefully planned attacks in Europe, intelligence officials have said.
Islamic State has, until now, focused on perpetuating sectarian violence on its neighbours and minority groups such as Christians, Yazidis and Shia Muslims. The new assessment suggests the organisation is looking beyond its borders, in keeping with its pretension of being a state according to the Financial Times.
ISIS have three strands of international efforts, one official said.
First an attempt to expand its territory in Libya and Egypt’s Sinai peninsula.
Second, establishing sleeper cells in Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia.
Third, and most worrying for the west, carefully planned attacks in Europe and beyond.
“ISIS has scaled up its capability to conduct global campaigns,” said Harleen Gambhir, counter terrorism analyst at the Institute for the Study of War.
“ISIS’ regional strategy involves creating relationships with groups in the Middle East and north Africa and on expanding military capability and social control methods to help these groups to look more like ISIS,” said Gambhir.
Threats at home has been seen as a vague possibility posed by individuals inspired by ISIS’ teaching. However it now appears that ISIS is taking greater control in directing specific attacks.
“There are signs of ISIS thinking very carefully now about all this — contemplating and understanding the importance of its ability to hit out at enemies and expand abroad,” said Nigel Inkster, director of transnational threats at the think-tank IISS and former deputy head of MI6.
“They now have a department of external attack planning.”
The two British jihadis killed in drone strikes in Syria this month are thought to have been at the forefront of such plans.
“We are going to see more structured, directed attacks from ISIS,” said Inkster. “That’s very worrying.”