Threat from ISIS not on battlefield but in civilian spaces: Book

New Delhi, Jan 17 (PTI) The immediate threat from ISIS is not on the battlefield anymore, but in civilian spaces, says a new book which seeks to explore the psychology of South Asian jihadists.

'The ISIS Peril: The World's Most Feared Terror Group and its Shadow on South Asia' tries to uncover the ideological underpinnings of the movement in South Asia, deconstruct its strengths and expose its fault lines.

'The Islamic State’s designs and methods were ambitious, perhaps too ambitious, which is why its fall was prophesied early into its rise itself. Recapturing territory from the Islamic State was never going to be the difficult job, the difficult job of fighting ISIS starts now,' writes Kabir Taneja.

He argues that just because a US declaration pronounced the end of the Islamic State and Russian bombings of the same do not mean the organisation has taken the defeat in its stride and retired into history.

The author feels that while for India, 'Pakistan-based terror groups may be trying to infiltrate the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir or the international border in Punjab, others such as ISIS have created direct access using the power of modern communication tools, the internet, and so on to get access to our living rooms'.

From the Holey Bakery attack of 2016 in Bangladesh to Easter weekend 2019 in Sri Lanka, from the flag-waving in Kashmir to the Twitter accounts in Bengaluru, from the young converts of Kerala to online recruitment by way of Facebook and Telegram, the book explores the psychology of the jihadists.

According to the author, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of ISIS fighters today who are unaccounted for, or those who have melted away into obscurity of refugee camps and general towns and villages of both Iraq and Syria.

'These people may be former citizens of the caliphate, but their commitments to ISIS and its ideologies would more often than not remain strong,' he says.

That means a situation has come forth where revival of cities and towns in Iraq and Syria affected by ISIS would also include ISIS fighters themselves, the book says.

There is no way of knowing whether they have now decided not to commit themselves towards the caliphate or they are just waiting for the opportune time to strike once again, with the ‘black flag’ in tow, it adds.

'The immediate threat from ISIS is not on the battlefield anymore, but in civilian spaces. The SDF (Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces) along with the few international aid organisations working on the ground have been left with the job of taking care of the land and people in a post-ISIS region, capacity that the Kurds-led group does not have,' the book, published by Penguin Random House, says.

'With hundreds of people living in makeshift camps, and many ISIS fighters being held in makeshift prisons, in close proximity with each other, there is complete confusion on how to handle these camps, who will pay for them and what to do with the ISIS fighters,' writes Taneja.

'In fact, the celebrations of an ISIS defeat at this rate could be short-lived, as the Kurds, who first took on the weight of actually defeating ISIS and now are having to host the stateless citizens of the caliphate may have no choice but to slowly release these radicalised people back into society,' he says.

According to Taneja, most ISIS fighters in captivity would still be what they set out to be, those who believed in the caliphate and would still like to see it make a return. And considering the political landscape in both Syria and Iraq, many would also like to think that resurgence is fully plausible.

'ISIS may be defeated geographically, but as an idea it persists. This persistence will have no easy solutions, and the world has a long battle against an idea in front of it,' he says. PTI ZMN RB RB