A new congressional report confirms forecasts by the Investigative Project on Terrorism (IPT) concerning disturbing trends in the global spread of Islamist terror in 2016-2017.
The IPT compiled its analysis from extensive research, sources and multiple databases such as the University of Maryland’s Global Terrorism Database and published it in March.
The Congressional Research Service (CRS) report finds that the Islamic State (ISIS) has expanded beyond its initial base in Iraq and Syria to field six effective militias in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia.
In addition to its declared caliphate in Iraq and Syria, the CRS paper counts ISIS affiliates in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Libya, Nigeria, Libya, Afghanistan and Yemen as among the most significant and capable of its 34 pledged offshoots.
The IPT’s research indicated that governments which failed to provide stability or security for its citizens became an outsized factor in determining where ISIS would flourish, which the CRS brief reflects. The IPT found that more than half of all jihadist assaults since 2012 occurred in the failed states of Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen, Iraq and Syria.
“To date, the Islamic State organization and its regional adherents have thrived in ungoverned or under-governed areas of countries affected by conflict or political instability,” stated the CRS document, titled “The Islamic State and U.S. Policy.”
Formerly known as Ansar Bayt al Maqdis, the Islamic State in Egypt emerged after the Egyptian revolution in 2011 with up to 1,000 radicalized indigenous Bedouin Arabs, foreign fighters and Palestinian militants. It claimed credit for destroying Metrojet Flight 9268 over the Sinai Peninsula on Oct. 31 in a strike that killed all 224 passengers.
The Islamic State in Saudi Arabia claimed responsibility for multiple attacks in the kingdom since 2014, including suicide bombings against Shia mosques and assaults against Saudi security forces, according to the CRS findings. A suicide bomber connected to ISIS successfully detonated himself in a Kuwaiti mosque in June 2015, killing more than two dozen and wounding hundreds.
ISIS declared its second caliphate along the Mediterranean in Libya in 2015 following coalition airstrikes against its territory in Iraq and Syria. Western officials estimate that 6,000 ISIS fighters moved there. Its new dominion reaches as close to 200 miles from the vulnerable southern border of Europe.
Boko Haram – the ISIS affiliate in Nigeria and the deadliest jihadist group in the world – has destroyed large areas in Nigeria and neighboring Cameroon, Chad and Niger. It first appeared in 2009 when it launched its military campaign for Islamist rule in attacks that killed hundreds. It has murdered 15,000 people over the past five years and displaced more than 1.6 million.
The Islamic State-Khorasan Province named itself after a region that once included parts of modern day Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Initially comprised of several small Afghan Taliban and other militant factions, it announced its affiliation with ISIS in 2013.
It grew as additional Taliban factions broke away, and in 2015 ISIS headquarters began sending it financial resources. U.S. officials estimate that it supports between 1,000 and 3,000 fighters in Afghanistan.
The Islamic State in Yemen has exploited the ongoing proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran to repeatedly bomb Shia mosques and target supporters of the Iranian-backed Houthi Movement in northern Yemen, the CRS report states.
Beyond the recent carnage in the U.S. and Europe, the IPT further predicts that jihadist attacks will continue to surge in lethality and geography throughout Africa and Middle East, as well as South and Southeast Asia. They will encompass countries such as Algeria, Jordan, Tunisia, Turkey, Bangladesh, Chad, Indonesia and Thailand.
Pete Hoekstra is the Senior Shillman Fellow at the Investigative Project on Terrorism and the former Chairman of the U.S. House Intelligence Committee. He is the author of “Architects of Disaster: The Destruction of Libya.”