Recently, the US intelligence community has communicated that Daesh and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan could have the capability to conduct international operations, potentially even attacks on US interests, in less than six months, confirming that the terrorist organiations have the intention to do so.
While Afghanistan continues to face serious security concerns, there are also signs of the return of ISIL in Iraq. According to the country’s security forces, the last terrorist attack killed at least 11 civilians and many others were wounded in the ISIL attack on Al Hawasha village in Diyala province in eastern Iraq.
It is important to recognise the risk of the emergence of a new Al Qaeda taking a greater role on Afghan territory, perhaps even collaborating with the Taliban. Such an emergence would likely see Al Qaeda garner support for international activities, and potentially reactivating its old global and regional network. Critically, Syria is likely to be one of the major places where Al Qaeda reappears in force as it has been operating there since 2011.
This would mean that both Iraq and Syria would be targeted in the reemergence of both Al Qaeda and Daesh. Interestingly, the recent attacks, even in Afghanistan, are targeting civilians suggesting this new wave of terrorism is not limited to the security apparatus or state representatives. This suggests the objective of these groups is to create panic and send a global message of their return.
It could also suggest that non-sophisticated “lone wolf” style attacks could return, particularly in the coming feast period during Christmas and New Year. These times create opportunities for the terrorist groups to amplify their impact and propaganda. It is worth noting that in some places attacks by those who sympathise with these groups have continued, for example in New Zealand where last September an attack by a Daesh sympathiser took place in a supermarket and the various attacks that France has witnessed in recent times.
When it comes to security, the global challenges are continuous, but the US withdrawal from Afghanistan is a trigger for the potential new wave of terrorism. Facing these challenges must be coordinated and planned, which will be difficult given the political conflicts between the US and countries like Russia, China and Iran. These difficulties are greater given the lack of resolution in Syria, the increasingly complicated political situation in Iraq and potential conflicts in North Africa.
It is also worth noting that this growing global security challenge comes at a time when many countries are facing post-COVID economic and sociopolitical challenges which already threaten security and stability.
Perhaps the challenges faced by the re-emergence of Daesh and Al Qaeda are an opportunity to build consensus around global policy, leveraging the fact that there is more agreement than disagreement when it comes to countering terrorism.