The Trump administration has made significant progress in the war against Islamic terrorism. With ISIS mostly defeated, President Donald Trump now plans to remove troops from Syria, a decision that has sparked a heated debate over the role of the U.S. in foreign affairs. The president is also expected to pull military forces out of Afghanistan, which would mark the conclusion of a 17-year conflict.
While the threat of ISIS has been diminished, it is important to realize that radical Islamic extremism still poses a danger to the western world. However, the peril might now originate from another geographic region. Over the past few years, the western world has experienced terrorist attacks perpetrated by Islamic terrorists coming from Russia, Uzbekistan, Chechnya, and several other countries that were previously under the control of the Soviet Union.
Sayfullo Saipov, the terrorist who drove a truck into a crowd of people in New York City, immigrated to the United States in 2010 and was radicalized shortly thereafter. Rakmat Akilov, who conducted a similar type of attack in Stockholm, Sweden, was also a Uzbekistani national. Of course, it is impossible to forget the terrorist attack at the Boston Marathon in 2013, which killed three people and injured hundreds more. The bombing was carried out by two brothers of Chechen origin.
As terrorists of Middle Eastern origin remain occupied with the wars in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen, the number of operatives from the Caucasus continues to rise.
Radical Islam in Former Soviet Union
Judging from the most recent attacks in Europe and Turkey, it is obvious that more terrorists from the former Soviet Union are becoming active in the efforts to carry out attacks in the western world and to join forces with the extremist elements fighting in Syria. According to Foreign Policy, it is in these theaters that Russian-speaking terrorists are receiving “their first taste battling U.S. and NATO troops.” Indeed, these conflicts have inspired these operatives to take the war to the west instead of fighting in the Middle East.
…radical Islam has morphed into a form of resistance against the country’s oppressive government…
Uzbekistan, in particular, is a nation that has spawned many of the radicals who are joining terrorist groups like ISIS and Al Qaeda. Despite the efforts of the country’s authoritarian government, extremist ideology has infected many of the disaffected population. In fact, radical Islam has morphed into a form of resistance against the country’s oppressive government, which has failed to contain the threat.
Dealing with the New Threat
The United States will need to adjust its focus if it is going to prevent radical Islam from regaining its influence. If the number of extremists from former Soviet-controlled nations is increasing, an evolution in tactics will be required to deal with the threat.
For starters, operatives coming from these nations enjoy more mobility than those from the Middle East. Their passports are far less likely to reveal travel to Middle Eastern nations that have issues with terrorism. None of the various iterations of the travel ban were applied to any of these countries.
Also, the fact that Washington and Russia are not on positive terms works in favor of jihadis from the Caucasus. Preventing future attacks would require deeper collaboration between the United States and the Kremlin, and this is unlikely to happen anytime soon. Moreover, Moscow isn’t exactly doing much to curtail the activities of these groups.
The Russian government has been known to give passports to homegrown radicals, allowing them to fight in Syria. But there is another reason the Kremlin enables these individuals to travel: It’s easier than addressing the problem in their own territory. Until the issues between the U.S. and Russia are resolved, the growth in the number of Russian-speaking jihadis can only be expected to continue, which means the west could soon be facing an unforeseen threat.