Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Get Ready to Fight ISIS's "Virtual Caliphate" ...

Get Ready to Fight ISIS's "Virtual Caliphate"


Brian R. Moore, Sim Vireak

Security, Middle East

Image: Iraqi soldiers learn urban operations tactics​. DVIDS/U.S. Army.

The next big battle won’t be fought with guns.

2016 continues to see young Muslims inspired by radicalism commit terrorist attacks across the globe. In Orlando, forty-nine were killed and fifty-three more injured at the hands of Omar Mateen, a single gunman who pledged allegiance to ISIS. In the Philippines, at least eighteen soldiers were killed and fifty-two injured in clashes with Abu Sayyaf militants. In Indonesia, eight were killed and twenty-four injured in several explosions directed by ISIS. The events, though unique in scale, felt eerily familiar for the United States and the rest of the world. They are a continuation of ISIS’s rhetoric falling on receptive ears, with social media often being the tool used in the recruitment process aimed at reaching even the lowest-end user, as seen by Orlando’s lone-wolf attack.

In fact, as ISIS loses territory and is driven off the battlefield, it is likely to further turn to social media to groom future lone wolves to carry out attacks at home. Look no further than ISIS’s official spokesperson and senior leader Abu Muhammad al-Adnani’s statement that “The smallest action you do in their heartland is better and more enduring to us than what you would do if you were with us.” Indeed, ISIS is evolving into a “virtual caliphate.”

Extremist groups today are particularly skilled at social media. The radical activity online includes Hollywood-quality videos that glorify violence, and offer a sense of brotherhood and belonging in hopes of reaching young Muslims who may be disillusioned with their current social position. These groups boast a social media presence that releases ninety thousand tweets and other media responses every single day. Social media may not be the decisive factor in the decision to radicalize and travel to the Syrian battlefields or downtown Jakarta, but the nature of terrorism requires only few to inflict large-scale damage and death to many.

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