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Global Islamism Monitor - No. 34

Edited by Ilan Berman and Jennifer Schaffer
December 26, 2016


BOKO HARAM'S ECONOMIC IMPACT
The United Nations is calling upon the international community to renew its assistance to northeastern Nigeria, where as many as 75,000 people may die due to famine in the next 12 months. Famine conditions in the country, where an estimated 5 million people are currently in need of food assistance, are being exacerbated by the ongoing Islamist insurgency headed by Boko Haram. The militant group, which has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State, regularly carries out "bombings, kidnappings and merciless assaults on entire villages," thereby exacerbating instability and prompting afflicted locals to flee. Since the emergence of the group in 2002, approximately 20,000 people have been killed and millions more have been internally displaced - most of them herders and farmers, putting a significant strain on the country’s food supply. 

The challenge is a daunting one. Experts and humanitarian relief organizations estimate that it will cost $1.5 billion to adequately feed everyone in Nigeria next year alone. (
ABC News Australia, December 1, 2016) 

ISIS IN AFGHANISTAN: DOWN, BUT NOT OUT

Despite frequent U.S. airstrikes and little local support, the Islamic State has managed to maintain a stronghold in eastern Afghanistan since 2014. The group controls local populations through its brutal tactics, despite the small number of militants actually under its command. But the ISIS footprint in Afghanistan is receding. What little local support it enjoyed in the country has all but disappeared in recent months thanks to draconian measures - from customs duties to restrictive dress and grooming codes to arbitrary bans on snuff and poppy production - that the group has imposed upon the territories under its control. It is still too early to count the Islamic State out entirely, however. According to Borhan Osman, a researcher at Afghanistan Analysts Network, while ISIS has now lost about half of its initial territory in Afghanistan, there are still four districts where the group has proved to be "irremovable." (London 
Guardian, November 18, 2016) 

HOW THE TALIBAN MOVES MONEY

The Taliban has been using the internet to solicit donations for years. Thanks to secure and encrypted messaging platforms such as Telegram, Viber, and WhatsApp, finding and communicating with potential donors has become progressively easier for militant groups, and the Taliban is no exception. Yet, thanks to economic restrictions imposed by many financial institutions, actually moving monies raised in this fashion has become increasingly difficult - something that has prompted the Taliban, among others, to rely on unconventional methods. Majeed Qarar, an Afghan analyst and diplomat, confirms that Taliban insurgents "most often rely on hawala, an informal value transfer system, to collect donations." Despite this popularity, very little has been done to date to combat the use of hawala by the Taliban or other militants. According to Colonel Michael T. Lawhorn, a spokesperson for the American-led coalition in Afghanistan, the U.S. and its allies are currently "not tracking any fundraising attempts." (
Vice, November 15, 2016) 

TARGETING THE CYBER CALIPHATE

One by one, American and allied forces have eliminated approximately a dozen members of the elusive Islamic State cell called the "Legion" in recent weeks. The "Legion" is a group of highly skilled English-speaking computer specialists and hackers that works to spread ISIS propaganda and recruit through the Internet, and their targeting is part of a major effort by the United States and its allies to combat ISIS online activity. It has been coupled with stepped up monitoring of "Legion" members within the United States by the FBI over the past year. So far, almost 100 people have been apprehended as part of this effort. (
New York Times, November 24, 2016) 

ISIS SEEKS SOFTER TARGETS IN EUROPE

EUROPOL, the European Union's police agency, is warning that the Islamic State has changed tactics in Europe. Rather than attack large, high profile targets, the group is targeting more random and "soft" targets in a strategy that is intended to intimidate the public rather than directly engage armed forces and law enforcement officials. The conclusion comes from a recent study by EUROPOL's European Counter Terrorism Centre, which outlined that ISIS possesses both the "will and capacity" to continue to attack Europe - and is likely to do so in ways similar to those recently utilized in France and Belgium. Moreover, the likelihood of such attacks is increasing as the Islamic State shrinks and more and more jihadists turn their sights on Europe, the study warns. (
Wall Street Journal, December 2, 2016) 

A HELPING HAND FROM RIYADH

As it did after 9/11 against al-Qaeda, Saudi Arabia is using its religious clout to attempt to combat the Islamic State. Through a volunteer group called Sakinah, private Saudi citizens fight Islamist rhetoric on social media platform Twitter, utilizing their own knowledge of the ultraconservative Islamic creed of Wahhabism from which ISIS draws inspiration. The effort is an attempt to leverage Riyadh's religious clout in the Muslim World, as well as its familiarity with Wahhabism, which is the state religion of the Kingdom, to counteract and dilute the most extreme practices of the Islamic State. "Saudi Arabia is the heart of Islam," one volunteer explains. "They can't play around with us. We know how to bring al Qaeda and Daesh in our dialogue, how to put them to shame, how to challenge them." (
Wall Street Journal, November 30, 2016)