Book review: After the liberation of Mosul and Raqqa, where will Daesh's 'children' go?

Mahmoud El-Wardani , Monday 2 Apr 2018

In his new book, Dr. Hassanein Tawfiq Ibrahim asks whether the Islamic State organisation may continue in some form after its apparent defeat on the battlefield, highlighting the future of children born to IS members


Ma b’ad Al-Hazima Al-’Askaryyah li-Tanzeem Daesh – Afaq wa Tahadyyat (After the Military Defeat of the IS Organisation – Horizons and Challenges) by Dr. Hassanein Tawfiq Ibrahim, Al-Ahram Center for Political & Strategic Studies, Strategic Series 2017 pp. 29

Dr. Hassanein Tawfiq Ibrahim, the author of this volume, points out that it is the fruit of a big research project that he began in 2014 focused specifically on the Islamic State (IS) organisation.

The project was comprised of four separate studies: “After the IS Stage and the Muslim Brotherhood’s Downfall” (2014); “Why IS behaves in such a Savage Way?” (2014); “Jihadist Organisations and the Social Media Networks – IS as a case study” (2016); and “Interpreting the Expansion of the Islamic State and the Spreading of its Takfiri Thought”, which was presented at the International Scientific Symposium organised by the Faculty of Arts and Humanities, Al-Kairouan University, Tunisia.

Thus, the author has been studying the IS phenomenon in all its facets for several years. Here he is presenting the summary of his research following the military defeat that the organisation has suffered. In this context, he raises the most important question: Does the defeat of IS in Iraq, Libya, Syria and Egypt mean the demise of the organisation and the end of its takfiri ideology?

The answer to the question is "no", because the real challenge remains, namely that its takfiri ideology is now widespread and the organisation itself is a jihadist network that crosses international boundaries.

It is well known that in the course of a few years the organisation succeeded in recruiting thousands of adolescents and youths called “foreign fighters” from more than 100 countries, including the United States, France, Britain, Germany, Belgium and Russia. Such recruits are spread all over the world, acting like sleeper cells.

There are many possibilities concerning the foreseeable future of the organisation. It might repeat the experience of the Al-Qaeda organisation, which was able to continue existing after surviving the war launched against it by the USA, its occupation of Afghanistan in 2001, and the overthrow of the Taliban government, which was the incubator of Al-Qaeda.

There is another possibility, which the study considers as more likely, in the form of new jihadist terrorist organisations emerging, adopting the thought of IS and acting as a continuity and extension of it. This is based upon the historical experience of terrorist organisations in the region since the 1970s.

While all the studies exclude the possibility of the IS organisation going into extinction in the foreseeable future, they identify two specific possible outcomes.

The first is that the main organisation will continue and its existence will be reinforced in other countries, assuming that the internal crises and conflicts in Syria, Iraq, Libya and elsewhere persist. Thus, it will create the favourable circumstances needed for the organisation to reorganise its ranks.

It might also seek to transfer some of its fighters to other countries, such as the Philippines, where the fighters of the Maute and the Abu-Sayyaf groups seized and controlled parts of country in 2017. These groups are loyal to IS. There are other countries that provide a safe-haven for armed non-state actors, such as Somalia, where the Mujahedeen Youth Movement plays a role, with some of its elements pleading allegiance to IS. The same goes for Yemen and Nigeria.

As for the second path, it is the gradual disintegration of the organisation, with the role of local groups increasing and the emergence of new ones that are inspired by its ideas and are considered an extension of the takfiri phenomenon.

The study concludes that "lone-wolf" operations are expected to escalate. These operations target human gatherings in public spaces such as theatres, metro stations and nightclubs, and they don't require elaborate planning or special skills in order to be carried out. It is difficult for the security bodies, no matter how efficient they are, to identify those intending to execute such operations and prevent them from carrying them out, especially as many of them don't have criminal records.

Moreover, some IS fighters in Libya, Syria and Iraq might return to their countries, constituting a threat to their security and stability due to the fighters' involvement in violence and terrorism, having acquired fighting expertise in the course of their previous battles.

Finally, the book points to what Dr. Ibrahim calls the problem of the "Caliphate Cubs", which are the children born to members of the organisation. Although there are no accurate statistics on those children at the present time, some studies estimate that thousands were born to terrorist fathers or are of unknown parentage.

What's certain is that the organisation has been keen to brainwash those children through the educational curriculum of their burgeoning religious state. The organisation has also used many children, aged between 12 and 16, in its many battles.

Undoubtedly, these children constitute time-bombs, and the menace that they represent must be attended to.

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