Eliminating Daesh on the ground is only half the battle
Perhaps the alleged Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant has fallen for real, but did Daesh as a terrorist organization truly end? Can we say that Arab and Western alliances succeeded in completely eliminating Daesh? The answer is — and I hope it doesn’t shock any of you — definitely not. Maybe its existence as an organization ended on the ground, but their ideology still lingers, especially with Daesh’s transformation into a secret terrorist network scattered around the region and the world.
The answer may require further elaboration:
There are hundreds — if not thousands — of Daesh terrorists who managed to flee Syria and Iraq. Where have they gone? There are two answers: They may have gone to fight in a different front, Libya for instance, or maybe they went back home, whether to Arab or Western countries.
In the 1990s and beyond, we were introduced to what was called the “Afghan Returnees” and the Returnees from Albania and Chechnya. Those were silent time bombs waiting for their chance to explode. Today, we have what is called the “Returnees from Syria and Iraq.” What are we going to do with them?
In all their operations in Europe, Daesh adopted the “lone-wolf attacks” approach. Those are not members of the terrorist organization but merely people who adopted the ideology, which is a serious danger to many safe societies.
Daesh used traditional and social media as an easy and fast way to spread. Today, there are thousands of pages on the internet and on social media websites that embrace Daesh’s ideologies and continue to attract dozens of followers and lone wolves scattered around the world, waiting for their chance to explode.
For three years, Daesh controlled Raqqa and Mosul. They left seeds in the minds of those they ruled and these won’t be easily wiped away. Governments must not only count on eliminating Daesh, but also on dealing with the aftermath and treating their effect.
Daesh established what is known as the “Cubs of the Caliphate” — an army of youngsters, some of whom haven’t yet reached the ages of 8, trained by Daesh on its ideology and armed with weapons they were taught how to use. Furthermore, Daesh controlled many schools in which they taught children their ideology and thoughts. What would be the fate of this army and these children?
There are thousands of children spawned by Daesh insurgents and their captives, as well as Yazidi women. Most of these children’s fathers were killed, leaving them either with militant mothers or with mothers who were raped and taken captives. How will governments deal with this issue?
Daesh isn’t over yet; it still exists in other countries — they built bases in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Chechnya and the Philippines.
In the Arab world, many Daesh insurgents fled to Libya to fight there while others infiltrated into Egypt. Hundreds of Daesh insurgents returned to their homes in Europe through playing analysts or Trojan horses to enter and exit Syria. Even in Syria and Iraq, Daesh members have worn different masks and left Daesh for other groups that had a change of identity — like Al-Nusra Front, which is affiliated with Al-Qaeda and changed its name to Fatah Al-Sham. Strangely enough, the West and press bought into it — or perhaps chose to buy into it.
The military defeat of the ‘caliphate’ is complete but its poisonous ideology must be crushed too.
I don’t wish to be a pessimist, but what I’m trying to say is that if dozens, hundreds or even thousands of Daesh insurgents were killed, three years of killing and fighting would not end by simply taking control of the areas that were occupied by this terrorist organization. Perhaps the golden question here is: Where did all the old players go?
Al-Qaeda has disappeared for a while in the last few years, allowing Daesh to be in the limelight, but frequent news says the organization is trying to regain its strength, especially as Hamza bin Laden, the son of the former Al-Qaeda leader, is trying to oust Ayman Al-Zawahiri. Moreover, a new organization came into the picture recently known as Khorasan. Perhaps they will be allowed a larger space and role. This organization is an Islamist armed Syrian group, which the US intelligence community has deemed more dangerous than Daesh. It is believed to be affiliated with Al-Qaeda and was formed by members of Al-Qaeda from South Asia, North Africa and the Middle East. It was named after a historic region that included parts of Pakistan and Afghanistan.
In addition to that, there are dozens of small religious groups fighting in Syria — probably waiting to seize the opportunity and prove their worth, especially given that the war in Syria is about to end, but the cake has not yet been divided.
Finally, even if most of those groups were eliminated, as long as there are countries in the East and the West that support terrorism and use it to serve their political agendas, Daesh will not die and neither will its ideology.
Eliminate the ideology through educating, enlightening and helping your children. Otherwise, we will only achieve an incomplete victory that will soon turn into defeat.
Our mission is not over yet.
• Abdellatif El-Menawy is a critically acclaimed multimedia journalist, writer and columnist who has covered war zones and conflicts worldwide. Twitter: @ALMenawy
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