Thursday, February 23, 2017

Jihadist trends in Europe, by Ioannis Michaletos

The forthcoming USA-Russian joint action against ISIS together with Iraqi-Syrian and Turkish military advance will soon neutralize ISIS possibilities to claim a stake of a statehood in the Levant region. 

Nonetheless, the number of radicalized persons in Europe is increasing as also the number of Jihadist fighters returning back into the EU-thus at first glance we should see a rise in the terrorism phenomenon in the coming years.

It has to be noted that the total number of Jihadist-related figthers in the war fronts of Syria/Iraq is roughly estimated around 150,000 people. Those include 6,000 Europeans and at least additional number of Caucausus, Central Asian nationals,plus 5-7,000 Turkish citizens. The returnees into the EU using a multitude of "human corridors"-often overlaping with the immigrantion ones- will augment the operational capabiities of he already exisitng EU terrorist cells.

This boosting of capabilities will be coupled with renewed efforts for recruitment of younger generation radicalized persons within the EU, along with establishment of newly formed extremist networks that will act as support ones for the would-be-terrorists. In a nutshell, the terrorist problem will be multiplied.

Furthermore the existence of multiple fronts where Jihadists are trained and fight nowadays such as :Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Sahel region, Nigeria, Sudan , Yemen, Sinai; brings us to the conclusion that we are likely witnessing an emergence of a serious threats that will engulf Europe for years to come. In simple terms terrorist attempts will continue. The total numbers in the aforementioned war theaters engaged either directly or indirectly in the so-called "Jihadist action" surpasses 1 million people. Furthermore the existence of tens of millions of citizens in permanent war conditions is a perfect fertile ground for the creation of a new generation of extremists that will constantly fill the ranks of terrorist groups. There is simply lots of human resources to be engaged in terrorist action in the coming years.

Moreover, the immigration wave into the EU which spreads mainly via North Africa-Italy and/or Turkey-Balkans, along with a mass of people with no IDs, fake IDs or otherwise deceptive information. This is a crucial aspect and heightens Jihadist threat in the EU. It is roughly estimated that there are 300,000 people with either fake or incomplete id about them coming into the EU in the past 18 months. If we add in those the immigrants with similar features that had arrived in Europe previous years, plus the ongoing radicalization process in the 2nd and 3rd generation of Muslims in the EU, then we will likely face urban destabilization and terrorism whilst security agencies would barely able to cope with such challenges.

The challenges for the authorities are simple overwhelming and it is not simply possible to keep track of all suspects involved. France is estimated that it has a watch list of 10,000 suspects, with additional numbers for Germany, Italy or Netherlands. A 24/7 systematic surveillance of a terrorist suspect may require up to 30 state security operatives, thus making it impossible to cover the entire spectrum of the suspects involved.

The amalgamation of terrorist action with criminal one is gathering pace and both activities fuel each other. Thus apart from the specific issue of terrorism in the European urban centers the magnitude of criminal activities has to be taken into account. In that case we are discussing a tremednous and highly complicated social situation that encompasses large urban sprawls in Paris, London or Brussels and a matrix of interpersonal relations that far exceeds the capacity of the authorities to combat it and even grasping it to a strategic level. The chronic issues in most EU countries with youth unemployment, private and public debt and economic stagnation further adds and indeed multiplies the negative dynamics relating to all the above.

The menace of jihadism nowadays has a distinct characteristic that augments its lethal threat. It is relies on operatives willing to sacrifice their lives (suicide bombers) concurrently with an aim to attack against the so-called “soft targets”, which are basically all venues of public gatherings. Attacks in Berlin, Nice, Paris, Istanbul and Brussels have proven that these targets could be easily attacked and result in substantial civilian losses.The number of restaurants and cofee houses in Paris for exmaple, is more than 40,000 premises. It is practically impossible for authorities to provide security to those in case Jihadists groups decide to enact a terror campaign similar to the November 2015 operation. Similar figures including hundreds of thousands of "soft targets" within the EU should be taken into consideration.

A further threat of this phenomenon is the spread of the so-called “lone wolves” and the ongoing radicalization of 2nd and 3rd generation Muslims in European countries. Radicalization within urban ghettos and the correctional facility system in the EU is also rampant. Until now the EU has failed to provide any practical guidance on how to deal with these issues. “Novel” ideals such educational on counter-radicalism or prevention against the use of cash money have no practical value when dealing with either lone wolves, suicide bombers or with ‘professional” terrorists. 

In addittion, the ongoing internet-based radicalization process via mostly social media outlets has been sreadily spreading amongst youngesters and children via the use of smartphones. Jihadist preaching gets beamed directly into the eyes and ears of 9-year olds all across Europe who have internet access via their smartphone. If one adds the dominance to a great extent of extremists within Europe's correctional facility system and the "street jihadist propaganda" that target petty crime perpetrators for recruitment pruposes; then a menacing urban landscape emerges for the coming period.

All in all, the challenges for EU authorities are increasing and the security situation will inevitably become worse, especially in the Western EU territories.