It seems that ISIS is always on the move, whether in retreat or in advance, inciting violence and committing mass atrocities. The militant organization gains territory here, loses some there, wins a town, loses a village, and continues its attempts to advance on the battlefield and through social media.
But where exactly is ISIS moving towards, or more specifically, where is it possible to make new advances?
ISIS in Syria and Iraq is wedged between Saudi Arabia, Iran, Turkey, Jordan, Israel, and a wobbly Southern Iraq. What allowed ISIS to accumulate so much territory was in part from the Syrian Civil War and weak regions. Northern Iraq and Southern Syria faced a lack of a strong government and military to protect its citizens and prevent armed groups from taking power.
However, ISIS is facing a wall on all sides. Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Iran have relativity stable and secure territory. Their large military force tasked with taking out ISIS also increases the dangers and risks of intruding any of these nations. These countries are not blind to ISIS, or at least no longer remain passive towards the groups. There has been an active reaction to the militant group, whether it is military action or strong condemnation. For ISIS to make any more significant gains, the focus is on unstable regions, similar to what Syria and Iraq have been experiencing.
Outside of the Middle East, African conflicts are ideal for ISIS and its expansion of a caliphate.
ISIS supporters have appeared in war torn Libya, a country being ripped apart by political and sectarian violence. After the fall of Qaddafi, a new Libyan government faced challenges from Islamic political groups to armed militias vying for power and control of the nation. With several empty pockets, ISIS has been able to gain a foothold in Libya. Their campaign has been unsuccessful in comparison to Syria and Iraq. Only small regions and a few towns have been taking by the group.
Regardless of their achievements, ISIS’ status as a functioning group in Libya raises concerns on the groups next move and their access to resources, weapons, and revenue.
ISIS has also been able to gain power in Nigeria.
On March 7th, the Nigerian group Boko Haram made an announcement in a video swearing allegiance to ISIS. This move has not been surprising, and was seen by some as a strong possibility due to their new media campaign. Boko Haram traditionally relied on grainy video, low quality sound, and a straightforward message to the Nigerian government or any group it opposed. This transformed into high quality videos featuring Islamic music and scenes of Boko Haram’s force.
This gives ISIS a new region in Northern Africa to expand their campaign, should Boko Haram’s link with ISIS stand as a strong and legitimate bond.
Boko Haram alone has not had the ability to move as far as it wants due to military efforts from Nigeria, Chad, and Niger. This campaign is critical in suppressing further ISIS movement and development, as a weaken North Africa would allow for rapid expansion. A strong tie between Boko Haram and ISIS, however, could funnel money and weapons between the two. The result would be a more aggressive militant campaign in Nigeria with the potential of future spreading to neighboring states like Niger, Chad, and Sudan.
In the Middle East, ISIS is running out of room to expand. It may look towards Lebanon, a nation that has repeatedly faced sectarian struggles, as well as a possible movement in Turkey. Although, the best option would be Northern Africa. For this reason, it is important to work with African nations as well as Arab states to fight ISIS and work towards regional development. It’s not enough to implement military attacks and strikes against these militant groups, but to also strengthen national governments and address local issues and grievances.
Photo Credit: MaltaToday