Europe Awakens to the Islamic State’s Ambitions and Proficiencies
by aupara123 on March 30, 2016 - 11:59pm
The article from The Economist titled “The Brussels attacks show that Islamic State (IS) is still growing in ambition and capability” dated March 22, 2016, sheds light on the operational capabilities of IS outside of the territory it controls in Syria and Iraq, as well as Europe’s challenges in fighting terrorism.
The Belgium authorities were satisfied with their capture of Salah Abdeslam, who is believed to have been the IS logistics chief behind the Paris attacks. It is worrisome that it took so long to track him down. The fact that they found him in Molenbeek, a district of Brussels that may contain the highest level of jihadist sympathisers in Europe, is a sign of intelligence failure of the Belgian authorities.
The biggest worry, as indicated in the article, is that the IS network in Belgium, and possibly across Europe, is extensive. Eighteen people in six countries are being held in relation the Paris attacks, and this is believed to be the tip of the iceberg. They have the ability to conduct multiple coordinated attacks, as demonstrated at Brussels’ international airport and a metro station on March 22, 2016.
The IS network in Europe appears to have been developing for at least three years. The intelligence services view a deadly scenario in having thousands of EU citizens radicalised on the internet, trained fighters returning from Syria and Iraq, and possibilities to re-enter the EU amongst legitimate refugees.
IS’s sophistication of the external operational branch is evident in their competency at making bombs, in their use of encrypted communication, and in their ability to carry out many simultaneous attacks to spread confusion and to overwhelm emergency services. IS has shown its ability to attack on a regular basis.
America’s lessons learned from September 11 was the failure to share intelligence data, and it has successfully taken measures to address the gaps. The article suggests that replicating such a model would be extremely difficult for the countries of the EU, as sharing information in a timely manner requires extensive coordination. Europol, EU’s law-enforcement agency, does not have the executive powers to carry out investigations. The European countries are equipped with a wide range of IT systems, some significantly outdated, which are disconnected from one another. Furthermore, America’s mass data collection approach would unlikely be accepted in Europe, especially in Germany with its recent history under Nazi and communist control.
In conclusion, IS’s operational network in Europe is much more developed and sophisticated than originally anticipated. IS’ loss of 40% of the territory it controlled in Syria and Iraq is not a reflection of its increasing “ambition and capability” to strike in Europe. The EU has major gaps in its ability to counter IS attacks. It is paramount that the EU countries find the means to work together and to share intelligence information in an efficient manner such to substantially enhance their coordination.