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In this publication, Dr. Can Kasapoglu provides a terrorism risk modeling and intelligence analysis guide for counterterrorism assessments vis-à-vis the threat of a 'mutated' Islamic State of Iraq and the Levante in the Euro-Mediterranean region - a threat that the author calls "black banners reloaded."

Key findings of the report at hand.

  • ISIS’ center of gravity lays at the intersection of the terror network’s ability to translate military success into political power, control of vast territory, and function as a statelet. In the absence of a viable day after plan, the ongoing military operations will not eradicate the terrorist organization, but will lead to a shift in its center of gravity. There is a grave risk that ISIS may transform into the champion of ‘global jihad’ in a de-territorial fashion.
  • Foreign fighters would play a substantial role in ISIS’ transformation. Especially, the returnees with their intentions to pursue the legacy of the so-called Caliphate could give a notorious boost to the homegrown extremism potential of the Euro-Mediterranean area.
  • Recently, some experts draw attention to the prospects of a merger between al-Qaeda and ISIS. Although the organizational structures of these two terrorist entities differ to a great extent, an operational cooperation between the affiliated groups could lead to serious threats to the Euro-Mediterranean region.
  • Another trend to monitor regarding the foreign fighters remains the category that could be classified as the ‘radical mercenaries’. These militants will likely pursue the ideal of raising the black banners of the so-called Caliphate in another place. In this regard, we might see an influx of foreign fighters into the Maghreb and Sahel region, as well as other parts of Africa. Without a doubt, such a development would plague the Euro-Mediterranean security environment.
  • The threat landscape along the southern coastlines of the Mediterranean could be depicted as a series of Pandora’s boxes intertwined in a matryoshka fashion. Tunisia’s homegrown militancy converts into Libya’s foreign fighter problem; the power vacuum in Libya leads to terrorist militancy in the western desert area of Egypt; and the western desert militancy throws a lifeline to the terrorist presence in Sinai since it diverts the Egyptian security forces’ operational focus.
  • The lack of border control, the power vacuum emanating from failed or fragile states, the incapacity of national security sectors, and the Western states’ inadequate understanding of the regional strategic cultural landscape may lead to a reloaded ISIS problem following the terrorist group’s major setbacks in Syria and Iraq.
  • More dangerously than ever, some open–source pieces of evidence now suggest that ISIS militants from the north Caucasus might be moving to North Africa.
  • NATO has the capability to address some of the security issues in the region. In this regard, the Mediterranean Dialogue and the NATO Strategic Direction South Hub are two key assets. Besides, the ongoing intelligence reform is promising. It is of vital importance to understand that most of the actors of the MENA region have a skeptical view about the Western political and security bodies. Especially, the indispensable security and intelligence cooperation with the Mediterranean Dialogue partners can only be maximized through a case-by-case approach, and, by all means, paying utmost attention to the strategic cultural factors.
  • Intelligence sharing within NATO has always been a complex issue as reflected in various multinational operations. The Alliance has been renewing its intelligence structures in recent years, which led to the establishment of a specific Assistant Secretary General post. At this point, the decision to approach the ISIS issue whether as a military intelligence case to protect the deployed forces or through a broader lens to address the homegrown radicalization will be determining. Besides, following the Warsaw Summit, the European Union and NATO have agreed to foster their intelligence and security cooperation. Extending this vision to the regional partners across the Euro – Mediterranean area remains a must to confront ‘ISIS reloaded’.
  • Syria has not only served as a training ground for ISIS, but also a pool of selection through which the surviving militants boosted their resilience and adaptation capacity to a notable extent. Indeed, the ongoing military efforts have succeeded in targeting the territorial control of ISIS. Yet, the returnee foreign fighters are already equipped with very critical battlefield experience against a wide array of actors ranging from the US-led anti-ISIS coalition to the Lebanese Hezbollah. Such a background alone would be enough to inspire the homegrown extremists across the Euro-Mediterranean area.

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