The past week has seen a horrendous upswing in ISIS terrorist attacks around the globe. And, horrifyingly, these attacks could signal just the beginning of a more pronounced worldwide ISIS campaign that represents a marked shift in tactics.
According to Clint Watts, a former FBI special agent on the Joint Terrorism Task Force and a Robert A. Fox Fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute’s (FPRI) Program on the Middle East, this surge in global attacks from ISIS could become the new normal as the terror group loses ground in the Middle East and its vast array of foreign fighters now find themselves “homeless.”
“For those homeless foreign fighters, the choice is simple: They can either die in place fighting for a crumbling caliphate or they can go out as martyrs striking their homelands or regional or international targets,” Watts wrote.
He added: “The Islamic State owns the largest number of homeless foreign fighters in history. As the group loses turf, they will likely become part of the largest human missile arsenal in history and be directed against any and all soft targets they can reach. This campaign is likely not the end of the Islamic State’s suicide campaign, but only the beginning.”
Between June 27 and July 4, ISIS carried out seven successful attacks and one additional attempted attack in eight countries. The attacks stretched from Istanbul, Turkey, in the West, to Yemen and Iraq, to Dhaka, Bangladesh, and a nightclub bombing in Malaysia.
This series of attacks, according to Watts’ analysis for FPRI, illustrates both the terror group’s continued reversal of fortune on the ground in the Middle East, as it steadily loses territory, as well as the group’s startling ability to strike worldwide at soft targets.
Incidentally, this global reach is enabled and caused by ISIS’ military losses. The group’s vast contingent of foreign fighters are now left without a proto-state and are slowly returning to their home countries.
On June 26, Iraq announced that it had liberated the entire city of Fallujah from ISIS. Fallujah was the first Iraqi city to fall to ISIS and was seen as a deep bastion of support for the group. The loss of the city comes amid a string of defeats for the terror group throughout the country — and as Iraqi forces are preparing for an assault on Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city and the crown jewel of ISIS’ territory in the country.
In Syria, ISIS’ fortunes are also fading. US-backed forces have been reclaiming land from ISIS along the group’s last shared border with Turkey, which would further isolate the group internationally.
But as the group’s losses pile up and its “caliphate” continues to shrink, ISIS is likely to continue instigating and attempting to carry out global terror attacks in order to maintain the group’s relevance.
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