What the Paris attacks tell us about ISIS strategy

Der Spiegel reports: For years, experts have worried that the up to 4,000 young men and women from Western Europe who are believed to have gone to Syria and Iraq to either fight with Islamic State or live inside it might one day return and conduct attacks here. European IS fighters have long been using social media platforms to openly discuss their dreams of attacks on their home countries.

“Attacking Europe is in the DNA of many of those who have traveled from Europe to Syria,” says jihad expert Wassim Nasr of French international news channel France 24. Still, he argues, it is very unlikely that individual members like [Abdelhamid] Abaaoud made the decision to actually carry out the attacks on their own. He see it is “an issue of such strategic importance that it has been directed from the highest level of IS.” And it appears that the decision was taken months ago.

It’s not surprising that IS chose France as the target of its first attack in Europe. With around 1,200 current and former fighters, the largest number of IS jihadist from Western Europe originate from France. With its numerous military deployments in Africa and the Middle East, France is very much in the terrorists’ crosshairs. Measured against its overall population, the only country in Europe with a greater per capita number of IS fighters is Belgium. Germany also has several hundred residents who have gone to the region as jihadists.

The Europeans tended to play a relatively minor role in combat for the IS in recent years, but they have an important function in terms of recruitment. And under Islamic State’s new strategy, they are also in charge of bringing the war to Europe. The terrorists who struck in Paris may have spent some time in Syria, but they are the product of our society. In that respect, fighting in Syria to prevent Islamic State terror in the West can only have a limited effect. [Continue reading…]

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