Post-‘caliphate’ IS could cause mayhem in Europe

ReutersIraqi displaced people sit in the back of a car as they return to their homes in Falluja, Iraq on Friday.

As the Islamic State (IS) loses territory in Iraq and Syria, U.S. and other Western officials say they are bracing for large numbers of battle-tested terrorist fighters to flee the conflict and prepare attacks after returning home. Some of the fighters will head north to Western Europe, officials said, posing a threat that many countries there still seem ill prepared to combat.
“When they return and connect with the radicals in Europe, it’s going to be a very tense situation for our national security,” said Dick Schoof, the Dutch counter-terrorism coordinator.

“Hundreds of hardened killers who are not going to die on the battlefield” will flow out, James B. Comey Jr., the FBI director, said this month, adding that the fallout from “crushing the caliphate” would dominate the bureau’s attention for the next five years.

Even top IS leaders acknowledge the inevitable collapse of their declared caliphate, and they appear to be shifting to a new strategy that threatens Europe on multiple fronts: with cells developed in Europe over the past two years, with returning fighters, and with followers who heed the IS’s call to carry out attacks.

When fighters return

Many of the attacks conducted in Western Europe and the U.S. over the past six months underline the reality that returning fighters would be just one element in the IS’s larger strategy to remain relevant after losing territorial control.

U.S. military officials say the battles to seize Raqqa and Mosul could be well under way within the next two or three months, flushing out thousands of foreign fighters and forcing them to make hard choices.

Some may disconnect from the fight, but others will pose a threat. — New York Times News Service

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