At the end of March 2019, U.S.-backed opposition forces retook the last remnant of Syrian territory still under control of the Islamic State in eastern Syria, formally ending the terrorist group's short-lived experiment in statehood. The milestone was momentous. For the preceding half-decade, the Islamic State (also known as ISIS, IS, or by its Arabic acronym, Daesh) had served as the near-singular focus of Western counterterrorism efforts, eclipsing prior threats (such as al-Qaeda) and overshadowing other longstanding extremist problems, such as Lebanon's powerful Hezbollah militia. The group, a later incarnation of the Iraqi franchise of al-Qaeda that had been active in the early 2000s, rose to prominence in post-Saddam Hussein Iraq by capitalizing on the deepening sectarian divisions that plagued the country's tenuous political transition in order to accumulate influence and power. It also gradually became involved in the Syrian civil war, competing for prominence with the local al-Qaeda franchise there and, as a result, breaking away from the Bin Laden network and charting its own political and ideological trajectory. That arc culminated in June 2014, when the group's self-appointed emir, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, formally declared the creation of a caliphate in Iraq and Syria.
The group's accumulation of power was both rapid and dramatic. At the height of its influence in late 2014 and early 2015, the territory controlled by the Islamic State covered 81,000 square miles—a geographical expanse roughly equivalent to the size of the United Kingdom. During this period, the terror group held sway over eight million civilians, a population on a par with that of Switzerland or Israel. It likewise generated an annual revenue of nearly $2 billion, making it the best funded terrorist group in recorded history.
But ISIS was not built to last. Its extremist tactics and draconian application of sharia law progressively alienated potential adherents in territories under its control, while its persecution of minorities—most brutally Iraq's Yazidi minority—fomented an international humanitarian crisis. The result was the formation, in September of 2014, of a broad-based bloc designed to ensure the group's "enduring defeat" by targeting its financing and economic infrastructure, preventing the flow of foreign fighters, liberating territory from ISIS control, and countering the group's propaganda. Over time, the Global Coalition, now numbering more than eighty nations, handed a decisive defeat to the world's most notorious terrorist threat.
Or did it? In the 1990s, in the heady days that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union, President Bill Clinton's nominee to oversee the U.S. intelligence community painted a surprisingly stark picture of the challenges facing America in the post-Cold War world. "We have slain a large dragon. But we live now in a jungle filled with a bewildering variety of poisonous snakes," Ambassador R. James Woolsey, a career diplomat who had served as an arms control negotiator with the Soviets, told the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence at his 1993 confirmation hearing. "And in many ways, the dragon was easier to keep track of."
In much the same fashion, U.S. policymakers today are discovering that the collapse of the ISIS caliphate in Iraq and Syria has ushered in a new and more challenging stage in the "war on terror." In his January 2019 presentation to Congress of the U.S. intelligence community's assessment of "worldwide threats" confronting the United States, then-Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats laid out a changed and more complex terrorist threat landscape. It is a landscape defined by four distinct trends, which will cumulatively help shape the face of the global terrorist threat in the years ahead.
THE PERSISTENCE OF THE ISLAMIC STATE
The Islamic State has unquestionably suffered significant battlefield losses at the hands of the Global Coalition. Yet, although the group is diminished, it remains far from defunct. While what professionals term the group's "caliphate stage" may now have concluded, ISIS still represents a formidable strategic and ideological force—one with continued global reach and potential. There are several reasons for this.
The Islamic State has proven itself extremely adaptive to changing international conditions. As a result, amid pressure from coalition forces on its "core" in Iraq and Syria, the organization has managed to successfully reposition itself to other regions of the world over the past several years.
For instance, the Islamic State has made a major move into the African continent. The group long ago identified post-Muammar Qadhafi Libya as an important "second front" for its nascent proto-state, and directed affiliated militants to establish a significant foothold there. As a result, the group and its affiliates have become major players in the country's evolving—and fragmented—political scene. But increasingly, the movement is moving further south on the continent as well. An affiliate of ISIS, known as the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS), has emerged in the lawless Sahel region, mimicking tactics and methods previously used to great effect in Iraq. Regional officials are also increasingly concerned by what they describe as a larger pattern of "repositioning" of jihadist actors southward on the continent, and the growth of destabilizing Islamist activity in the heart of Africa.
The group has likewise undergone a mobilization into Asia, taking advantage of poorly-governed territories, local grievances and gaps in governmental control across the theater. Over the past couple of years, Islamic extremists affiliated with ISIS have carried out an extensive infiltration of the Philippines, working independently and via the organization's regional affiliate, Abu Sayyaf. In a sign of the group's strength in the southeast Asian nation, the organization formally announced the establishment of a new province, dubbed the East Asia Wilayah, headquartered there in August 2018. Significant, too, has been the organization's activities and reach in the Indonesian archipelago, where a May 2018 series of suicide attacks perpetrated by Islamic State-affiliated fighters jolted authorities awake to the presence of a significant "returnee" problem. ISIS infiltration has also been documented in Malaysia, where the country's conservative religious polity has lent the ISIS message greater resonance and appeal. At the same time, there are worrying signs of ISIS penetration into South Asia, with the group already having made notable inroads into Burma, Bangladesh and even India. And in Afghanistan, a resilient insurgent campaign by the Islamic State has put strain on the resources of the central government in Kabul, while the group's violent competition with the Taliban movement continues to threaten to plunge the war-torn country deeper into civil war and strife.
Indeed, it is increasingly apparent that ISIS is not even defeated in its core territories of Iraq and Syria. Back in March 2019, the Institute for the Study of War, a leading Washington, DC counterterrorism think tank, warned that ISIS insurgent activity after the fall of its self-declared caliphate was "accelerating faster than efforts to prevent it by the U.S. Anti-ISIS Coalition." In particular, the analysis noted, the terror group was "re-establishing capable insurgent networks in multiple historical strongholds and linking them together, setting the conditions for future offensive operations against the Government of Iraq." This assessment was echoed in official U.S. government reviews. For instance, the Summer 2019 quarterly report of the Pentagon's Office of the Inspector General (OIG) regarding "Operation Inherent Resolve" warned that, stated that the Islamic State remains capable of reclaiming lost territory in Syria within as little as six to 12 months in the absence of continued military pressure from the United States.
Those warnings have proven to be prescient. A Spring 2020 study by the Wilson Center, for instance, found that ISIS attacks in both Syria and Iraq had surged significantly during the first five months of 2020.Since then, a notable increase of Islamic State-directed violence in both Iraq and Syria have raised significant worries in Washington that the group, though still diminished compared to its capabilities in 2014-2017, may nonetheless be on track for a comeback.
ISIS likewise continues to possess formidable economic resources. At the height of its power, the Islamic State employed a sophisticated business model that revolved around revenue generated through a variety of sources, from oil sales to looting to the illicit sale of antiquities. In a departure from the traditional practice of terrorist groups, it also functioned much like a normal state, generating significant revenue through an extensive web of taxation levied on individuals living in territory under its control. The loss of territorial control in Iraq and Syria has eliminated this second source of revenue, but the group's diversified economic activities have allowed it to maintain a steady income stream. Experts estimate that the group still has access to hundreds of millions of dollars, and continues to generate a steady stream of revenue via informal networks such as hawala and ongoing illicit activities. As the Wilson Center has noted, the organization remains financially stable and "continues to generate revenue by extorting oil smuggling networks in northeastern Syria," as well as through "access to financial reserves in the hundreds of millions of dollars," while continuing to rebuild other networks for fundraising. These funds, in turn, enable the Islamic State to continue to finance global operations on an ongoing basis, despite the collapse of its territorial state.
Finally, the Islamic State retains a robust cadre of fighters and adherents to its cause. Data compiled by the International Center for the Study of Radicalisation (ICSR) at King's College London indicates that, during the existence of the ISIS caliphate, a total of 41,490 foreign fighters had traveled to the Middle East from eighty separate nations, ranging from Saudi Arabia to Russia, to join its ranks. (By way of comparison, that figure is twice as large as the entire contingent of mujahideen estimated to have joined the Afghan jihad against the Soviets in the decade between 1979 and 1989.)
Most of this cohort remains active today. In January 2019, the U.S. government and the United Nations both estimated that ISIS still had between 20,000 and 30,000 active fighters at its disposal. A year-and-a-half later, the UN's counterterrorism chief, Vladimir Voronkov, publicly disclosed that the group was believed to have 10,000 active fighters remaining in Iraq and Syria alone, with thousands more attached to ISIS affiliates in places like West Africa. This cohort, in turn, has contributed to the threat confronting Western nations now grappling with large-scale migration flows from the Middle East and North Africa. Meanwhile, throughout Syria, tens of thousands of ISIS radicals remain detained in prisons and camps (such as the al-Hol camp in Hasanakah province), with only minimal oversight—a state of affairs that has made these facilities a breeding ground for future radicalism, and incubators of the ISIS creed.
A RESURGENCE OF "LOCAL JIHAD"
It is a truism of both society and politics that "everyone loves a winner," and the jihadi world is no different. As part of its rise to prominence, the Islamic State waged a pitched struggle for the hearts and minds of the world's Islamist milieu against its progenitor and onetime sponsor, al-Qaeda. The Islamic State won this contest handily, denigrating the al-Qaeda brand and—buoyed by compelling messaging and adroit use of social media—eclipsing the ideological appeal and geopolitical gravitas of the Bin Laden network. The global Salafi-jihadi movement took note; the rising global image of the Islamic State drew droves of extremists to its cause, with major strategic consequences. By 2016, the United Nations estimated that nearly three dozen separate radical groups had made common cause with, or formally pledged allegiance to, ISIS and its emir, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
The list of these radical groups included Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, the violent militia active in the Sinai Peninsula separating Israel from Egypt, which formally became part of the Islamic State in November 2014 and thereafter launched a renewed campaign of violence in the caliphate's name. In Russia, meanwhile, the country's most volatile jihadist outfit, the Kavkazki Emirat (Caucasus Emirate), fragmented in 2015, with a number of the group's provincial commanders taking up the ISIS banner—prompting the Islamic State itself to declare a Caucasus Province in June 2015. The same year saw the splintering of Nigeria's militant Boko Haram movement, with half of the group taking an oath of fealty to ISIS and rebranding itself the "Islamic State West Africa Province," or ISWAP. All of these organizations, and many others, accepted the Islamic State's ideological dominance and aligned their strategic objectives and mission with those of the group's nascent caliphate.
Today, all of these factions have been deeply affected by the Islamic State's decline. However, they have not been fundamentally derailed by it. This is because, virtually without exception, all of the groups that made common cause with ISIS were independent entities first, and still retain autonomous personnel, infrastructure and operational capabilities. Indeed, for many, affiliation with the Islamic State was more an ideological and political alignment than a genuine merger. Now that the global standing of ISIS has been eroded, these affiliates have become unmoored from the caliphate and are free to pursue their own, independent objectives. The result has been a surge in what can be called "local jihad," with spikes in Islamist-inspired violence in regions beyond the Middle East.
Africa has been particularly hard hit in this regard. A July 2020 study by the National Defense University noted that violent Islamist activity on the African continent rose 31 percent over the preceding year, spiking in particular in four distinct regions: Somalia, the Lake Chad Basin, the western Sahel, and Mozambique. That last locale represents a particular area of concern; as the study lays out, incidents of violent Islamic activity in Mozambique have surged sevenfold in the last year, and now represent 42 percent of all Islamist violence on the continent.
Notably, while much of this activity is being carried out under the ISIS "banner," it is more locally and regionally focused, and conducted in the service of the constituent groups' objectives—rather than those of the larger Islamic State. The diminished status of ISIS, in other words, has led to a scattering of sorts in the global Salafi-jihadi movement, which previously had been largely consolidated around its "brand." As a result, America's allies and partners in the Middle East, North Africa and Asia now face a reinvigorated local threat from extremist actors, as the affiliates of the Islamic State—once turned outward in pursuit of global jihad—return to the pursuit of more limited, and achievable, objectives.
A MORE RECEPTIVE ARAB POLITY
At the same time, Islamist ideas and precepts are today receiving a warmer reception than ever before among the publics of the Arab world. This dynamic possesses a simple cause: the Arabs are tired. The MENA (Middle East/North Africa) region is overwhelmingly young in composition; among the seventeen Arab countries of the region, the median age currently stands at 26. The majority of the region's populace has thus lived all (or most) of its life in a state of conflict, as multiple crises—from America's intervention in Afghanistan following 9/11 to the second Iraq war to the tumult of the "Arab Spring"—have roiled the region. The resulting yearning for calm now evident among broad swathes of the Arab world helps to explain the enduring appeal of authoritarian models of government in the region, as well as the growing embrace of Islamist ones.
Extremist groups have emerged as a principal beneficiary of this trend. While the brutal tactics and austere governing model of the Islamic State ensured that its vision held only limited appeal to a select cadre of radicals, those of others now garner substantially more sympathy among publics eager for stability and certainty. This dynamic has empowered a resurgence of the Bin Laden network, which has adapted in response to the rise of the Islamic State, and worked diligently in recent years to rebrand itself throughout the Middle East and North Africa as a more authentic and measured Islamist alternative.
The results have been striking. Al-Qaeda today is estimated to hold more territory than at any time in its history; from Yemen to Afghanistan, it has become entrenched on large swathes of land, exploiting empty political space in conflict zones and local aversion to the brutality of ISIS to insinuate itself with local Sunni populations. The group "has improved relationships with local power brokers from the Levant to the Indian subcontinent, fusing local and transnational aims in an effort to strengthen cohesiveness and broaden its support base," counterterrorism experts Asfandyar Mir and Colin P. Clarke have written in Foreign Affairs. As a result, al-Qaeda has "reconstituted its network in South Asia and Syria," "appears more unified than before," and has become "more adept at balancing transnational aims and regional priorities, working at the local level in Somalia, Syria, Yemen, and the Sahel while preserving its focus of confronting the West."
Nor is al-Qaeda the only such actor. The course of the Syrian civil war saw the transformation of al-Qaeda's local affiliate, once known as Jabhat al-Nusra, into an ostensibly "local" Islamist group. In 2017, the organization's leader, Mohammad al-Jolani, unilaterally announced that it was severing "external ties" to al-Qaeda. Many observers saw this as a tactical move, designed to create the perception of separation from al-Qaeda's Syria branch and the larger organization. Since then, however, the group has continued to evolve, and under its new name of Ha'yat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) has created a workable, albeit modest, model of Islamist governance in Syria's north—one that has persisted despite the activities of both the Global Coalition and the Assad regime.
The rise of these alternative "models" suggests that the region's post-ISIS trajectory may be one in which Islamist ideas and practices, far from being discredited by the Islamic State's excesses, have actually been given greater salience as a result of them.
Fundamentally, the form of governance embraced and propounded by the Islamic State was simply too extreme and uncompromising to attract widespread support, and too apocalyptic to take a measured, incremental approach to the imposition of Islamist strictures. The result was that the ISIS caliphate succeeded in catalyzing massive resistance, both from local adversaries and from the West—resistance that ultimately resulted in its demise. By contrast, the "post-ISIS" alternatives prevalent in the Middle East today are more authentic, more locally grounded and therefore likely to prove more resilient over the long term. We could thus see, in the matter of just a few years, a much more conservative and anti-American polity prevailing in the region.
A RESILIENT JIHADI MESSAGE
The meteoric rise of the Islamic State to global prominence between 2013-2016 was propelled in large part by the group's pioneering use of digital technology and social media. Although the group's progenitor, al-Qaeda, had invested heavily in the exploitation of media and propaganda in preceding years, it was not until the rise of ISIS that the phenomenon of extremist messaging can be said to have truly come of age. The Islamic State's adroit use of digital platforms, social media and a variety of messaging applications to disseminate its ideological vision was truly groundbreaking in both its scope and dynamism. This "media package," in turn, contributed dramatically to the organization's appeal, helping it to recruit disaffected Muslims to its cause and undermine the legitimacy and authority of the West.
Today, despite the collapse of the group's territorial caliphate in Iraq and Syria, the dynamism of this ideological message remains undiminished. Conversations with regional officials in the Middle East and North Africa in 2019 and 2020 make abundantly clear that there has been no substantive change to patterns of recruitment, radicalization and mobilization in the broader Muslim world, despite ISIS' decline. These officials note that the organization's outreach—now encapsulating a modified message that stresses long-term perseverance despite temporary setbacks on the ground—remains as resilient, and resonant, as ever.
Increasingly, the Islamic State is not alone. Other extremists, both those still aligned with ISIS as well as independent ones, have learned the lessons offered by the Islamic State's adroit exploitation of the media milieu and upgraded their own messaging and outreach. Like the Islamic State itself, these organizations—including Nigeria's Boko Haram and Jemaah Islamiyya in Indonesia—have all absorbed a crucial lesson: that in the struggle for ideological primacy, the most important arena of competition lies in the "hearts and minds" of the Muslim World.
In this contest, technology has emerged as a great equalizer. Digital connectivity and the proliferation of "new media" (in the form of applications and online forums) has given the global Salafi-jihadi movement far greater reach and resonance than it otherwise would have. It has also expanded the destructive potential of these same actors. A summer 2018 study by Israel's prestigious International Institute for Counter-Terrorism, for instance, cautioned that extremist Islamist groups are stepping up their efforts to carry out cyberattacks against infrastructure targets in Western countries. The study warns of "the possibility of terrorist organizations acquiring offensive capabilities on the Internet, hiring hackers for this purpose, or receiving assistance from terror-sponsoring countries" in the future, and notes evidence that supporters of the Islamic State have "a desire to develop these offensive capabilities."
The West's response, meanwhile, has lagged far behind. It is estimated that, at the peak of its media activity in 2014, 50,000 pro-ISIS accounts were active on social media platform Twitter alone. By contrast, the countervailing capabilities marshalled by the U.S. government at the time were estimated to be at most some 200 Twitter accounts. More than half-a-decade on, little has changed. Despite growing attention by the United States and its partners to the need to for a compelling strategy to defeat the Islamic State and other extremists in the realm of ideas, and in spite of significant federal investments in a more robust "counter-messaging" capability, the informational response to ISIS and like-minded groups remains uncoordinated and unfocused. Meanwhile, the digital landscape continues to evolve in ways that advantage extremist actors—and disadvantage their opponents.
STRENGTH IN NUMBERS
How can the United States best confront this new and challenging threat environment? For nearly two decades, successive U.S. administrations have struggled to craft a cogent strategy to address the totality of what some have termed the "long war of the 21st Century." The approach has varied widely, depending on the current occupant of the White House.
During its time in office, the administration of President George W. Bush embraced the concept of democratic peace as an antidote to the appeal of Islamic radicalism. Accordingly, it embraced a "forward strategy that favors freedom" that emphasized the promotion of democratic principles and the creation of pluralistic institutions as a means to dilute the appeal of radical groups in Muslim societies. In practice, however, this approach contributed to the destabilization of governments, like that of Iraq, that were ill-prepared to resolutely confront extremist actors in a more open political space.
Bush's successor, Barack Obama, adopted a "lead from behind" approach to the Muslim World, driven by the conviction that the United States should observe rather than participate in shaping the political currents there. Yet the resulting American passivity during the political ferment of the "Arab Spring" revolutions of 2010 and 2011 allowed Islamist movements, which are among the most organized and influential forces in the region, to emerge at the forefront of revolutionary change.
More recently, the Trump administration began to reconceive the contours of the "war on terror." The December 2017 National Security Strategy of the United States of America outlines that the U.S. "is fighting a long war against these fanatics who advance a totalitarian vision for a global Islamist caliphate that justifies murder and slavery, promotes repression, and seeks to undermine the American way of life." Yet, as of this writing, the United States has stopped short of articulating the means and methods by which it might be possible to undermine and dilute that "totalitarian vision."
This is hardly surprising. For the better part of two decades, American policy on radical Islam has consistently hewed toward the physical, rather than the intellectual, domains of the current conflict, with successive governments focusing on tangible, physical victory against Islamist threat groups. By contrast, America's Islamist adversaries have understood very well that the decisive arena of the current struggle is ideological, rather than military. And today, in the "post-caliphate era," the distributed, decentralized nature of the global jihadist movement has made meeting extremists on that battlefield more urgent than ever.
In this unfolding competition, the United States finds itself at an inherent disadvantage, without standing to weigh in authoritatively on Islamic thought and ideology. Yet it also possesses a secret weapon of sorts—one with the ability to dramatically diminish the appeal of the radical, exclusionary strain of political Islam propounded by extremists. The Muslim World today is home to a rich body of intellectual work and activism being carried out by governments, scholars and public figures. While the initiatives may vary greatly in substance, they are unified by a singular purpose: to reshape the narrative surrounding the Islamic faith in ways that diminish the appeal of extremist ideology. For the United States, learning how moderate nations in the Muslim World are confronting the message and vision of Islamic radicals and—where appropriate—empowering them, represents an essential component of crafting a potent antidote to the message and vision of today's Islamic radicals.
1. Rukmini Callimachi, "Last ISIS Village in Syria Falls, and a Caliphate Crumbles," New York Times, March 23, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/23/world/middleeast/isis-syria-caliphate.html.
2. "Islamic State," in World Almanac of Islamism 2018 (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2018), http://almanac.afpc.org/islamic-state.
3. "Sunni Rebels Declare New 'Islamic Caliphate,'" Al-Jazeera (Doha), June 30, 2014, http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2014/06/isil-declares-new-islamic-caliphate-201462917326669749.html.
4. Rick Noack, "How The Islamic State Compares With Real States," Washington Post, September 12, 2014, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2014/09/12/heres-how-the-islamic-state-compares-to-real-states/.
5. United Nations, "In ISIL-Controlled Territory, 8 Million Civilians Living In 'State Of Fear' – UN Expert," July 31, 2015, http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=51542#.WDZYsKIrKYU.
6. Stefan Heissner et al., Caliphate in Decline: An Estimate of Islamic State's Financial Fortunes (London: International Center for the Study of Radicalisation, 2017), http://icsr.info/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/ICSR-Report-Caliphate-in-Decline-An-Estimate-of-Islamic-States-Financial-Fortunes.pdf.
7. "Mission," Global Coalition to Defeat Daesh, n.d., https://theglobalcoalition.org/en/mission/.
8. R. James Woolsey, testimony before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Washington, DC, February 2, 1993. Quote excerpted at https://www.cia.gov/library/center-for-the-study-of-intelligence/csi-publications/books-and-monographs/directors-of-central-intelligence-as-leaders-of-the-u-s-intelligence-community/chapter_12.htm.
9. Daniel R. Coats, "Worldwide Threat Assessment of the US Intelligence Community," Statement for the Record before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, January 29, 2019, https://www.dni.gov/files/ODNI/documents/2019-ATA-SFR---SSCI.pdf.
10. Haroro J. Ingram, Craig Whiteside and Charlie Winter, The ISIS Reader: Milestone Texts of the Islamic State Movement (Oxford University Press, 2020), 3.
11. See, for example, Mustafa Fetouri, "How Islamic State is Undermining Peace Prospects in Libya," Al-Monitor, September 4, 2017, https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2017/09/libya-peace-isis-political-solution-threats-conflict-war.html; Geoff D. Porter, "How Realistic Is Libya as an Islamic State "Fallback"?" Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, March 16, 2016, https://ctc.usma.edu/how-realistic-is-libya-as-an-islamic-state-fallback/.
12. David Ochieng Mbewa, "U.S. Maintains Libya Needs Political Process to End Conflict," CGTN, June 23, 2020. https://africa.cgtn.com/2020/06/23/u-s-maintains-libya-needs-political-process-to-end-conflict/.
13. Emily Estelle, "ISIS Affiliate Expands in the Sahel," American Enterprise Institute Critical Threats Project, October 5, 2018, https://www.criticalthreats.org/analysis/isis-affiliate-expands-in-the-sahel.
14. Author's interviews, Rabat, Morocco, February 2019.
15. See, for example, "Islamic State's Marawi video 'powerful and dangerous': Malaysia's Top Cop," Channel NewsAsia, August 23, 2017, http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/asiapacific/islamic-state-s-marawi-video-powerful-and-dangerous-malaysia-s-9150562.
16. Rita Katz, "ISIS is Doubling Down on the Philippines," SITE Intel blog, October 10, 2018, http://news.siteintelgroup.com/blog/index.php/categories/jihad/entry/437-isis-is-doubling-down-on-the-philippines.
17. Anita Rachman and Ben Otto, "Families with Bombs: Islamic State Inspires New Wave of Indonesian Terrorism," Wall Street Journal, May 14, 2018, https://www.wsj.com/articles/families-with-bombs-islamic-state-inspires-new-wave-of-indonesian-terrorism-1526296404.
18. "Malaysia Police Nab 7 Suspected Extremists Linked to ISIS, Abu Sayyaf," Strait Times (Singapore), December 10, 2018, https://www.straitstimes.com/asia/se-asia/malaysia-police-nab-7-suspected-extremists-linked-to-isis-abu-sayyaf.
19. Namrata Goswami, "ISIS 2.0: South and Southeast Asia – Opportunities and Vulnerabilities," Joint Special Operations University JSOU Report no. 18-6, 2018, https://jsou.libguides.com/ld.php?content_id=44668615.
20. "Fears of ISIL Regrouping in Afghanistan after Syria Defeat," Al-Jazeera (Doha), February 11, 2019, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/02/fears-isil-regrouping-afghanistan-syria-defeat-190211064208745.html.
21. Brandon Wallace, "ISIS Re-Establishes Historical Sanctuary in Iraq," Institute for the Study of War, March 7, 2019, http://iswresearch.blogspot.com/2019/03/isis-re-establishes-historic-sanctuary.html.
22. Courtney Kube, Josh Lederman and Carol E. Lee, "ISIS Could Reclaim Territory in Months Without Military Pressure, Warns Pentagon in Draft Report," NBC News, January 31, 2019, https://www.nbcnews.com/news/mideast/isis-could-reclaim-territory-months-without-military-pressure-warns-pentagon-n965566.
23. Andrew Hanna, "ISIS Offensive Exploits Pandemic," Wilson Center, June 8, 2020, https://www.wilsoncenter.org/article/isis-offensive-exploits-pandemic. According to the report, ISIS-attributed attacks in May 2020 stood at 138 and 64 in Iraq and Syria respectively, a marked uptick from that January, when comparable figures had been 37 and 48.
24. See, for instance, Jeff Seldin, "US-Backed Forces Crack Down on Resurgent Islamic State," VOA News, May 7, 2020, https://www.voanews.com/middle-east/us-backed-forces-crack-down-resurgent-islamic-state.
25. See, for example, Stefan Heibner et al, Caliphate in Decline: An Estimate of Islamic State's Financial Fortunes (London: International Center for the Study of Radicalisation, 2017), https://icsr.info/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/ICSR-Report-Caliphate-in-Decline-An-Estimate-of-Islamic-States-Financial-Fortunes.pdf.
26. See, for example, Rosie Perper, "ISIS Made Millions from Taxes that it then used to Run Garbage Collections and even a DMV," Business Insider, April 6, 2018, https://www.businessinsider.com/islamic-state-used-taxes-to-grow-power-and-offer-services-2018-4.
27. David Kenner, "All ISIS Has Left Is Money. Lots Of It," Foreign Policy, March 24, 2019, https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2019/03/isis-caliphate-money-territory/584911/?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=share.
28. "U.S. Report: ISIS Resilient in Iraq, Syria," Wilson Center, February 10, 2020, https://www.wilsoncenter.org/article/us-report-isis-resilient-iraq-syria.
29. "How Many IS Foreign Fighters Are Left in Iraq and Syria?" BBC News, February 20, 2019, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-47286935.
30. See, for example, Thomas Hegghammer, "The Rise of Muslim Foreign Fighters: Islam and the Globalization of Jihad," International Security 35, no. 3, Winter 2010/2011, 61, http://belfercenter.ksg.harvard.edu/files/The_Rise_of_Muslim_Foreign_Fighters.pdf.
32 "UN: Over 10,000 Islamic State Fighters Active in Iraq, Syria," Associated Press, August 24, 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2020/08/24/world/middleeast/ap-un-united-nations-fighting-terrorism.html.
33 U.S. Department of Defense, Office of the Inspector General, Operation Inherent Resolve: Lead Inspector General Report to the United States Congress, April 1, 2019 – June 30, 2019, August 2019, https://media.defense.gov/2019/Aug/06/2002167167/-1/-1/1/Q3FY2019_LEADIG_OIR_REPORT.PDF.
34 See, for example, J.M. Berger, "The Islamic State vs. al Qaeda," Foreign Policy, September 2, 2014, http://foreignpolicy.com/2014/09/02/the-islamic-state-vs-al-qaeda/.
35. Edith Lederer, "34 Militant Groups Allegedly Pledge Allegiance to ISIS, UN Chief Says," Associated Press, February 8, 2016, https://www.militarytimes.com/news/your-military/2016/02/08/34-militant-groups-allegedly-pledge-allegiance-to-isis-un-chief-says/.
36."Sinai Province: Egypt's Most Dangerous Group," BBC, May 12, 2016, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-25882504.
37. See, for example, Regis Gente, "Is this the End of the Caucasus Emirate?" OpenDemocracy, June 29, 2015, https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/odr/is-this-end-of-caucasus-emirate/.
38. See "Boko Haram," in World Almanac of Islamism 2018 (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2018), http://almanac.afpc.org/boko-haram.
39. See, for example, J. Peter Pham, "How Boko Haram Became the Islamic State's West Africa Province," The Journal of International Security Affairs no. 30, Winter 2016, http://www.securityaffairs.org/issues/number-30/how-boko-haram-became-islamic-states-west-africa-province.
40. National Defense University, Africa Center for Strategic Studies, "African Militant Islamist Groups Set Record for Violent Activity," July 21, 2020, https://africacenter.org/spotlight/african-militant-islamist-groups-new-record-violent-activity/.
41. "List of countries by median age," Wikipedia, n.d., https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_median_age.
42. See, for example, Daveed Gartenstein-Ross and Nathaniel Barr, "An Opening for Al-Qaeda," The Journal of International Security Affairs no. 30, Winter 2016, http://www.securityaffairs.org/issues/number-30/opening-al-qaeda.
43. Asfandyar Mir and Colin P. Clarke, "Al Qaeda's Franchise Reboot," Foreign Affairs, September 9, 2020, https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/afghanistan/2020-09-09/al-qaedas-franchise-reboot?utm_medium=newsletters&utm_source=press_note&utm_campaign=&utm_content=20200910&utm_term=PressFAPressNoteMirClarke10Sept2020.
44. See, for example, Hassan Hassan, "Jabhat Al Nusra and Al Qaeda: The Riddle, the Ruse and the Reality," The National (UAE), November 1, 2017, https://www.thenational.ae/opinion/comment/jabhat-al-nusra-and-al-qaeda-the-riddle-the-ruse-and-the-reality-1.672221.
45. See, for example, "Ceasefire Deal Expands Jihadist Control over Syria's Idlib," France24, January 10, 2019, https://www.france24.com/en/20190110-ceasefire-deal-jihadist-rebels-control-syria-idlib.
46. During its heyday in the early 2000s, al-Qaeda had identified the "media war" as one of the "strongest methods" for promoting its objectives, and erected a multinational multimedia conglomerate—including a dedicated production arm, a mouthpiece for training and operations, and dozens of websites—to assist in this effort. "Letter to Mullah Mohammed 'Omar from Osama bin Laden," as catalogued in Harmony and Disharmony: Exploiting Al-Qa'ida's Organizational Vulnerabilities (New York: West Point Combating Terrorism Center, February 2006), http://ctc.usma.edu/aq/pdf/AFGP-2002-600321-Trans.pdf; Shaun Waterman, "Analysis: Al-Qaeda's Production Unit," United Press International, September20, 2007, http://www.upi.com/Emerging_Threats/2007/09/20/Analysis_Al-Qaidas_video_production_unit/UPI-10601190302473/2/; Marc Lynch, "Al Qaeda's Media Strategy," The National Interest, March 1, 2006, http://www.nationalinterest.org/Article.aspx?id=11524; Gabriel Weimann, Terror on The Internet: The New Arena, The New Challenges (Washington, DC: United States Institute of Peace Press, 2006), 15, 67.
47. "The Islamic State," World Almanac of Islamism 2017 (Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield 2017), http://almanac.afpc.org/islamic-state.
48. Author's interviews, Rabat, Morocco, February 2019; Author's interviews, Tel Aviv, Israel, September 2019; Author's virtual interviews with Moroccan and Jordanian officials, July-August 2020.
49. See, for instance, "More than Propaganda: A Review of Boko Haram's Public Messages," ETH Zurich Center for Security Studies, March 2017, https://css.ethz.ch/en/services/digital-library/publications/publication.html/258f3889-e9ec-4a7b-9689-93b9ec5ca70d; See also Ardila Syakriah, "Neo-JI still poses threat as it keeps recruiting, training cadres," Jakarta Post, October 10, 2019, https://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2019/10/10/neo-ji-still-poses-threat-as-it-keeps-recruiting-training-cadres.html.
50. Yonah Jeremy Bob, "Exclusive: Islamic Cyber Terrorists Trying to Target Infrastructure," Jerusalem Post, July 9, 2018, https://www.jpost.com/Arab-Israeli-Conflict/Exclusive-Islamic-cyber-terrorists-trying-to-target-infrastructure-562052.
51. Alberto M. Fernandez, "Why ISIS Flourishes in its Media Domain," American Foreign Policy Council Defense Technology Program Brief no. 12, September 2015, 7, https://www.afpc.org/uploads/documents/Defense%20Technology%20Briefing%20-%20Issue%2012.pdf.
52. Ibid., 8.
53. See, for example, Robbie Gramer and Elias Groll, "With New Appointment, State Department Ramps Up War Against Foreign Propaganda," Foreign Policy, February 7, 2019, https://foreignpolicy.com/2019/02/07/with-new-appointment-state-department-ramps-up-war-against-foreign-propaganda/; See also U.S. Department of State, "Press Release: Launch of the Sawab Center," July 8, 2015, https://2009-2017.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2015/07/244709.htm.
54. R. James Woolsey, "The Long War of the 21st Century," in Barry R. Schneider and Jim A. Davis, eds., The War Next Time: Countering Rogue States and Terrorists Armed with Chemical and Biological Weapons(Maxwell Air Force Base: USAF Counterproliferation Center, 2004).
55. White House, Office of the Press Secretary, National Security Strategy of the United States of America, September 2002, https://georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov/nsc/nss/2002/.
56. White House, Office of the Press Secretary, National Security Strategy of the United States of America, December 2017, https://www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/NSS-Final-12-18-2017-0905.pdf.