How to Battle Terrorism in 2017

Serviceman holds a Stinger anti-aircraft guided missile. Wikimedia Commons/Public domain

How to beat the plague of the twenty-first century.

It's time to take stock of 2016. The past year can be termed as one of war against international terrorism. Unfortunately, we have to recognize that it has not brought victory over this phenomenon. Furthermore, I would even frankly recognize that the terrorists have triumphed. 2016 has changed the nature of international terrorism. “The plague of the XXI century” has become absolutely decentralized, diffused and multilayered. Let’s focus attention on the following factors during the analysis of international terrorism.

First of all, looking at the conditional map of terrorist activity, two sub-regions can be identified: Iraq-Syria and Afghanistan-Pakistan. The most significant activity and density of terrorism has been focused here throughout the year. It became obvious that availability of "safe haven", where acts of terrorism could be prepared, assists radical activity. The greatest activity occurred in Iraq. The largest number of attacks occurred in this long-suffering country--almost half of the committed for the full year. The density and the concentration of population have led to the large-scale casualties. Sometimes a single terrorist attack in Baghdad has led to the deaths of hundreds of people.

Secondly, the greatest influence on terrorist activity of the world had two transcontinental groups. These are the so-called “Islamic State” with its vilayats (autonomous regional offices) and “Al-Qaeda” with its “sisters”.

And, thirdly, all counter-terrorism measures, despite the heroism of their initiators, were aimed at dealing with symptoms, but not with the “disease”. This applies to all countries without any exception.

Let's start with numbers. Final statistics for 2016 don’t exist yet. However, it can be assumed that around nine to twelve thousand of terrorist acts were committed worldwide in 2016. In 2015, for example, there were about twelve thousand of attacks, according to the State Department. As a result it was killed about thirty thousand people. Almost a record number of terrorist acts had been committed in 2014, it is about fourteen thousand, which killed nearly thirty-three thousand. In 2013, there were ten thousand terrorist attacks and twenty thousand people died. And about seven thousand terrorist attacks were committed in 2012.

The past year saw a significant blow to terrorist groups, especially to the “Islamic state”. From the outset, 2016 became the most unsuccessful year for Islamic State. After take-off and victories, the radicals began losing territories. From the beginning of 2016 the militants have lost control of territories where they had fundamental advantages of “basic conditions.” This term in the counter-terrorism dictionary refers to the factors that allow terrorist groups to feel safe in a particular area. Basically, there are two: the support of the population and difficult geography.

The “Islamic State” has lost control over large swaths of Iraq and Syria, where it had the support of a certain part of the population and in some cases geography conducive to its activities (the Iraqi cities of Ramadi and Fallujah). In the outgoing year it was possible to cut the main logistics ways of “Islamic State” in Syria and Iraq.

As a result, last year was the most unsuccessful for the radicals in Syria and Iraq. The influence and control of the Islamic State territory was at its peak in the spring of 2015. After that the militants had no major wins (with the exception of a broken Palmyra). Radicals have lost about thirty to forty percent of the territory in Iraq and Syria.

In January 2016 the terrorists have lost control over the Iraqi city Ramadi. The same thing happened in Fallujah in the summer. This occurred thanks to the actions of the Iraqi Armed Forces with the support of the United States. Syrian Palmyra was liberated with the support of Moscow in March 2016. However, due to the intelligence errors, including errors of its allies, the Syrian army lost control over the settlement in December 2016

Along with this, “Islamic State" has lost control of dozens of small towns in Syria and Iraq. Militants have lost control of dozens of oil facilities, refineries and factories in the past year. All this has led to the loss of “area of influence”, and “basic conditions", resulting in lower revenues. In brief, it began the decline of “Islamic State” in 2016, and maybe in the middle of 2015.

If the loss of a “safe haven” for “Al-Qaeda” in Afghanistan in 2001 was a result of the entry of American forces, after 9/11 it was the factor that pushed to change the format and mechanism of its activity. For “Islamic State, considering its ideology, it is tantamount to catastrophe.

I'll try to explain in more simple language. “Al-Qaeda” has moved to network activity. That is, after the loss of control over a part of Afghanistan, “Al-Qaeda” turned from a single organism to nominally related small groups acting independently. Osama bin Laden, and nowadays Ayman al-Zawahiri, gave the general outlines of activity, strategic directions, the paradigm, but the decisions were made on the spot.