Risks posed by IS still remain

Monday, 2019-02-25 18:22:16
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Family photo of Arab and European leaders during the first EU-Arab League Summit in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, February 24, 2019. (Photo: Reuters)
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NDO – An international conference on terrorism was recently held in Egypt, with the attendance of representatives of 41 countries and international organisations from the Middle East, Africa, Europe and Asia.

Taking place as the fight against the self-proclaimed Islamic State (IS) in Syria and Iraq is coming to an end, but with the remnants of this extremist organisation continuing to be an existing threat, the conference aimed to strengthen the power of nations in combating terrorism risks.

Addressing the event, Egypt emphasised the urgent need for international cooperation seeking to end the financing of terrorism and money laundering operations, which are currently the dangerous “underground waves” threatening to sabotage efforts in this battle. Although the IS has lost much of the territory it once occupied, this organisation can maintain operations through cash funds, business or criminal activities. It is estimated that the IS’ financial reserve ranges between US$50 million to US$300 million.

When terrorist organisations still have a “nurturing” source, they continue to grow. Although the IS has almost been completely defeated in Syria and Iraq, their “centipede” is still present everywhere. Egypt itself is also a country suffering from huge damage caused by terrorists, regardless of the country’s security forces’ drastic crackdown campaigns. The Egyptian army launched an anti-terrorism campaign in Sinai, but the peninsula remains the area targeted by the IS in order to establish its base.

Meanwhile, the potential risks from the IS continue to threaten the security of countries that share their borders with Libya. The extremist organisation is said to have retired to secret operations and to be accelerating the recruitment of new gunmen in the countries to which its members return. Taking advantage of the weak state management system and fragmented territory, the IS is rising strongly in Libya. The organisation has enhanced its links with the Al Qaeda terrorist network, which is also strengthening operations in the areas near oil fields, oil ports, along the Mediterranean coast, and to the east and south of Libya.

In Asia, the IS has expanded its operational scope as well as accelerated sabotage acts. Russian officials said that the influx of jihadists from the Middle East into the Soviet Union (formerly) through the Afghan territory is leading to increased threats to the region. Russia has called on several countries to abandon their tacit support policies for terrorists to serve the implementation of geopolitical goals.

European countries are upset by the risk of their citizens joining the IS militants returning home from Syria. The UK intelligence agencies estimate that about 900 UK gunmen had arrived in Syria, 20% of whom died and 40% will return. According to German statistics, since 2013, more than 1,000 Germans have travelled to war zones in Syria and Iraq, however, only about a third of them have returned to Germany. Both the UK and Germany have argued that it is infeasible for European countries to “readmit” the IS gunmen. Europe has inherently been struggling to cope with the terrorist risks posed by “lone wolves” inspired by the IS, and is now worried about the return of IS gunmen.

The fight against terrorism in Syria and Iraq has achieved significant results as the IS strongholds have been wiped out in these two Middle Eastern nations. However, the IS is still at risk of rising again at any time, because this extremist organisation has “spread its tentacles” to many countries around the world. The United Nations warned that the IS continues to pose potential risks, threatening security and stability in many areas. It is estimated that the IS currently consists of 14,000-18,000 member gunmen, of whom 3,000 are foreign terrorists.

Countries are seeking for join hands in implementing resolute measures against the IS, in the context that the organisation remains a security threat to many nations. Although basically withdrawn into underground operations, the IS is said to hold on its influence and intrigue to conduct large-scale terrorist attacks aiming to maintain its network globally.