Two Dutch government reports on the state of the Islamic State threat

I mentioned earlier that “I want to get back to using this blog more to share valuable resources about terrorism and national security produced by a wide range of people”, rather than just sharing my own work. I’d like to start 2019 by doing exactly that.

In light of renewed debate over the Islamic State’s supposed defeat, here are a couple of resources on Islamic State’s future. The Netherlands Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations recently released two English-language reports on the state of the jihadist threat following the Islamic State’s territorial collapse. They focus not only the threat to the Netherlands, but on the threat to Europe and the wider picture generally.

The first report is A perspective on the transformation of ISIS following the fall of the ‘caliphate’: Continuation of roles, transformation of threats. The report synthesises academic literature on the current situation. I’m sceptical of some of its concluding points, such as the argument that we are shifting to a new phase of “personal or leaderless jihad”. That argument has been made before; I was sceptical of it some years ago and remain so. But that’s just a small part of this detailed and interesting report, which discusses many elements of the Islamic State threat: returnees, home-grown plotters, the core organisation and its shift back to guerrilla tactics, external branches, funding arrangements, relations with al-Qaeda, as well as the online dimension.

The second report is The legacy of Syria – Global jihadism remains a threat to Europe. This report is shorter and is based on the intelligence from the Dutch General Intelligence and Security Service (AIVD). It focuses not only on the Islamic State but also al-Qaeda, and concludes that as “a result of the conflict in Syria, the movement has grown and professionalised.”

Both reports are well worth reading. I would more strongly recommend the first report than the second, as it is more detailed and informative, but the second does have the benefit of insights from information the authors of the first report wouldn’t have had access to.

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