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The rise of ISIS: Why India should worry

June 23, 2014 14:57 IST

The rise of ISIS: Why India should worry

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Vicky Nanjappa

The world’s most dangerous man Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi leads Islamic State of Iraq and Syria’s attempts to carve out a caliphate in the Middle East. After Iraq, will ISIS make a foray in neighbouring Afghanistan? 

With the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria growing in strength with each passing day, experts have predicted that the crisis will soon spill into other nations.

Letters written to ISIS chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi are a sign of things to come, especially with Al Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahri taking a “sabbatical”, according to intelligence sources. 

Letters of undying support to the ISIS, whose ambitions are focused on implementing the harshest form of the Sharia law, has caught the imagination of fanatics from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Syria and other parts of the world. Intelligence agencies including those from India, who have been monitoring closely ISIS links to militants in Pakistan and Afghanistan, say that the support for Baghdadi is growing.

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Image: Members of the Iraqi Special Operations Forces take their positions during a patrol looking for militants, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, explosives and weapons in a neighbourhood in Ramadi
Photographs: Reuters

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A man considered to be “too violent” by even the Al Qaeda has been dubbed as the next Osama Bin Laden. However, there was a question mark over his global reach till now. He was considered influential only in Iraq and Syria, but that is changing rapidly. His recent operations in strife-torn Iraq and the message he has sent through fearless fighting has radical Islamists patrionising him today, warned intelligence sources.   

However, for India the greatest concern is the support he has been receiving from its neigbouring nations.

According to Intelligence Bureau officials, the threat to India from the ISIS is not immediate as Baghdadi’s focus is currently on Iraq and Syria. He is not expected to interfere immediately but with the West set to pull out its forces in Afghanistan there is all likelihood of the ISIS supporting Taliban, which is looking at staging a comeback, warn IB officials.  

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Image: Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, commander of ISIS, is shown in a US State Department wanted poster handout image
Photographs: Rewards For Justice/Handout via Reuters

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Baghdadi will adopt the same strategy he did in Iraq. He waited for the United States to withdraw and then sidelined the Al Qaeda. Similarities can be drawn in the situation in Afghanistan and Iraq, an officer from the Bureau pointed out.     

In Afghanistan, the situation at hand is concerning. There is no trace of Mullah Omar, Taliban’s supreme commander. The Al Qaeda, which has been leading the fight like it did in Iraq, is on the back foot. It’s No 1 man Zawahiri, who is hiding along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border area, has not made any noise recently. This is a clear indicator that the Al Qaeda is a leaderless force, analysed intelligence sources. 

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Image: ISIS may adopt the same policy in Afghanistan that it did in Iraq after US drawdown
Photographs: Erik De Castro/Reuters

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Former MI6 director of global counter-terrorism Richard Barrett said, “Baghdadi has managed to do a lot. He has captured cities and mobilised forces in large numbers.”

Experts attribute the rise of Baghdadi to Zawahiri’s failure to influence jihadis. Baghdadi and his ISIS are gradually becoming an influence beyond Syria and Iraq. “He has become that leader that all jihadi forces want to draw inspiration from. He may stay away from the rest of world for another year, but knowing his obsession to impose Sharia law, there is a good chance that he will send a strong contingent to fight in Afghanistan,” warn experts. 

The ISIS interference in Afghanistan will benefit Taliban the most. It has not received any major support from the Al Qaeda in the recent past and Baghdadi will fill the void of a strong influential leader who is ruthless, an IB officer said.    

Today Baghdadi’s ISIS is an 8,000 member strong force and the numbers could go up to 18,000 in no time. It is receiving tremendous support from jihadis from the West -- a large number of British fighters are part of the terror outfit.

According to the foreign media, Baghdadi is keen to fulfill Osama’s dream of creating as many radical states as possible.


Image: The ISIS interference in Afghanistan will benefit Taliban the most
Photographs: Parwiz/Reuters

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