We have seen many times before that when a conflict is over, whether by force, negotiated settlement or a conspiracy, transnational terrorists move in different directions. This was the case with militants who returned from Afghanistan, Albania and Chechnya, and we can expect the same with Daesh.
Where will the Egyptians who joined this terrorist adventure go? And where will the mercenaries, unable to return to their home countries, go?
We can expect them to form a new wave of returning terrorists, as happened before. In Egypt, it will be difficult to accurately identify all of them because they are a new generation who grew up away from the watch of the security authorities, who suffered from the destruction of their intelligence structure in the years after what is known as the “January events.” They are now trying to restore their capabilities and build a new intelligence database, but it will take a long time.
The other difficulty is that most of these young men were just children a few years ago, and there is little information about them. The level of communication, cooperation and transparency between the intelligence services in different countries will have to increase to obtain a more precise picture.
As for mercenaries, they will travel abroad looking for the next militant theater — Yemen, Libya, West Africa or Afghanistan. Some of them are actually the children of extremists who joined Al-Qaeda and fought in Afghanistan against the Soviet Union, as well as in Chechnya and the Balkans, and hundreds more are hiding in Turkey — on Europe’s doorstep. Organizations loyal to Daesh and local militants in these areas would welcome extra support from “comrades” with experience of war.
International intelligence sharing must improve if we are to avoid the mistakes that followed Afghanistan, Albania and Chechnya.
This should all be kept in mind when the Egyptian administration formulates its plans and expectations for dealing with the incoming danger, especially since leaked information points to a concentration of terrorist groups and their supporters on the Egyptian front. The operators of these groups believe that their next battle with Egypt should be decisive and effective, so we should expect more infiltration through Egyptian land borders. Egypt did well in its pragmatic dealing with Hamas on the eastern border. Moreover, maintaining a quiet and friendly atmosphere is essential with Sudan in the south, and expanding the protective umbrella with Egypt’s allies in Libya is vital. But all this will not be enough without continuous measures for the development of the border protection system. Internally, the decisive solution is to win the support of the whole society in the war against terrorism, which is a whole other issue.
• Abdellatif El-Menawy is a critically acclaimed multimedia journalist, writer and columnist who has covered war zones and conflicts worldwide. Twitter: @ALMenawy