The Ghost of the Islamic State Future

Islamic State fighters recruited from points distant from Syria and Iraq might return to their countries of origin with murderous intent. Pictured: Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. (Thierry Ehrmann / Flickr Commons)

Lately we’re being warned that a future source of Islamic State attacks will be its foreign fighters in Syria and Iraq, who will return to their countries of origin and wreak havoc. In a cleverly titled National Interest article, ISIS Is Here: Return of the Jihadi, Bruce Hoffman writes:

The vast pool of recruits drawn to Syria affords ISIS and any of the other militant Islamist groups active there a surfeit of potential terrorists from which to cherry-pick and potentially dispatch back home to carry out terrorist attacks.

… One does not have to speculate terribly much to see the potential threat from ISIS to the West given its vast cadre of foreign fighters native to, or previously resident in, those countries. This unprecedented pool of foreign recruits suggests that ISIS would certainly have the capability to undertake more attacks modeled on the simultaneous assaults and running gun battles that occurred in Mumbai in November 2008 and Paris almost exactly seven years later.

An even greater danger than these kinds of attacks exist. Hoffman again:

In addition, ISIS-trained fighters might not return home empty handed. The threat of a chemical-weapons attack targeting civilians elsewhere in the Middle East or in Europe has to be considered in respect of ISIS’s repeated use of these agents in Syria, often against civilian populations. There are already indications of ISIS’s interest in a variety of harmful toxins for use as weapons.

Besides that, what if the Islamic States develops its own air force? Last year it was widely reported (here, the Guardian):

Islamic State (Isis) is takings its first steps towards building an air force by training pilots to fly captured fighter planes, according to a group monitoring the conflict in Syria.

And just recently rumors, to wit: ISIS training kamikaze pilots to hit Brit bases with bomb-packed suicide jets.

Western powers, such as the United States are constrained from more aggressive action against the Islamic State first, by the fear of becoming entangled in another ground war, but, second, by the fear of killing more civilians (than the 500 plus alleged to have been killed by American bombing on the Islamic State). The longer we wait to, um, disempower the Islamic State, though, the greater the likelihood that war on a larger scale will have to be waged against it. The result would be many more casualties (not to mention those in the West from suicide pilots, should the Islamic State use said bioweapons or develop even a rudimentary air force). Again, ideally, other ways of dealing with the Islamic State need to be explored such as letting them keep the land they have on the grounds they stop attacking the West with, as further incentive, possible recognition of statehood and even, should it clean up its act, admission to the UN one day.