There’s a Dangerous Downside to Defeating ISIS
Policy + Politics

There’s a Dangerous Downside to Defeating ISIS


The so-called caliphate that ISIS created in Syria and Iraq seems to be crumbling, but the next phase of its reign of horror may be a “terrorist diaspora” as the radical Islamic fighters scatter.

In a hearing before the House Committee on Homeland Security Thursday, FBI Director James Comey testified, “We all know there will be a terrorist diaspora…as military force crushes the caliphate. Those thousands of fighters are going to go someplace. Our job is to spot them and stop them before they come to the United States to harm innocent people.”

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Comey went on to say that the West should expect ‘more asymmetric attacks, more efforts at terrorism’” as ISIS attempts to demonstrate its “vitality.”

And in a column on the Turkish channel of Middle Eastern website Al Monitor, an Istanbul-based security analyst says that ISIS has become increasingly aggressive in targeting disaffected Turks, especially those in dire economic straits and those who oppose what the Islamic State rejects as secular Islam.

More important, Metin Gurcan says that in recent days there have been signs on social media in Turkey that ISIS is moving fast to build a cyber-caliphate, with a substantial rise in its propaganda posts on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter.

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Comey made a similar point to the Homeland Security Committee. “…We are confronting an explosion of terrorist propaganda and training available via the Internet and social networking media,” he said. “Terrorists readily disseminate poisoned propaganda and training materials to attract easily influenced individuals around the world…. They encourage these individuals to travel, but if the individuals cannot travel, the terrorists motivate them to act at home. This is a significant change and transformation from the terrorist threat our nation faced a decade ago.”

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Gurcan wrote that Turkish versions of professionally produced videos now say, “You can serve the Islamic State where you are.”

One selling point embedded in the ISIS propaganda is the promise of a more prosperous life. Gurcan quotes a cybersecurity researcher at Bilkent University in Ankara who says,  “There are scores of IS people, originating from economically deprived parts of Turkey, posting photographs of luxury villas and fancy cars they claim to own after joining IS because they have gotten their hands on what they call ‘war booty.’”