Author: Zurab Batiashvili

Despite the fact that Daesh (often referred to as the Islamic State) has lost control over  important territories  in Syria and Iraq, the Jihadist  movement  is far from being defeated  for a  multitude  of reasons. Furthermore, they create new kinds of threats all over the world using modern technologies which are often challenging for both small and big states to deal with.

Jihadist  Movement  and Organizations

Creating  a pan-Islamic  state  remains  a common  goal for the Jihadist  movement.  Jihadists  aim to topple  governments  in  the  Middle  East  and  fight  against  the  US  and  its  allies.1    However,  the movement is not monolithic – there are tactical, yet important differences among them. In addition, they are in competition with one another and, in some cases, this even leads to armed confrontation. Today, the Jihadist movement can be divided into four parts:

  1. Daesh  and  its  vilayets  (provinces)  in  Yemen,  Libya,  Egypt,  Saudi  Arabia,  Algeria,  the Caucasus, Nigeria, Afghanistan-Pakistan  and Niger;2
  2. Al-Qaeda  and  its  affiliated  organizations  (Hay’at  Tahrir  al-Sham  in  Syria,  Al-Shabab  in Somalia, branches in the Maghreb, the Indian sub-continent,  the Arabian Peninsula and so on3);
  3. Other Jihadist organizations (Taliban, Lashkar-e-Taiba and others);
  4. Individual Jihadists who are inspired by the ideologies  of Daesh and Al-Qaeda  but not  yet organizationally affiliated to them.4

Jihadist  fighters  today  are  mainly  concentrated  in  the  Middle  East  and  North  Africa.  Despite territorial losses, their number does not reduce. In 2018, the number of Jihadists varied from 100,000 to 230,000. For comparison, their number varied from 20,000 to 60,000 in 2007.5

Number of active Jihadist fighters from 1980 to 2018

At this stage, the largest number of fighters is concentrated in the following states:

Syria – 43,600 – 70,500 people;

Afghanistan – 27,000 – 64,000 people;

Pakistan -18,000 – 40,000 people;

Iraq – 10,000 – 15,000 people;

Libya – 4,900 – 10,000 people;

Nigeria – 3,000 – 7,000 people;

Somalia – 3,000 – 7,000 people;

Yemen – 2,300 – 3,500 people;

Mali – 1,300 – 3,200 people;6

Overall, a total of 67 Jihadist groupings were operating in the world in 2018 which is 180%  more than in 2001. Of these, 44 groupings are not affiliated to either Daesh or Al-Qaeda.

Transformation  of Fighting  Methods

Despite territorial losses, the motivation of the Jihadists is not waning. They are trying to follow the current changes and conduct their fight in the new environment.

Despite the fact that a smaller number of bombs were detonated in Europe in 2018 as compared to the previous years, the means and weapons of attack have become more diverse. Now cars, hammers, knives  and other  blunt objects  are more  and more  intensively  used  for  terrorist  attacks.  This no longer requires groups, their preparation, transportation, internal communication and so on – things that made their discovery more probable in the past. Today, using the new tactics, a terrorist attack can be carried out by a single person which makes it more difficult to get information about it and prevent it in advance.

In addition, the Jihadists are given a high level of autonomy. Oftentimes, they choose places, dates and weapons for carrying out an attack themselves and no longer need to exchange information about it. This also prevents the information from leaking.

Additionally,  several  reasons  are revealed  which  will make  the process  of monitoring  even  more difficult in the future. Technologies are being developed rapidly, creating new opportunities for the Jihadists.

Among  new  technologies,  drones  need  to  be  mentioned  separately  as  they  are  used  for  both intelligence  operations  as well as for attacks.7   Today,  drones  have  become  cheaper  and  easier  to access. Moreover, individuals can build them by themselves.8   Daesh actively uses  unmanned  aerial vehicles for carrying out its attacks. For example, in 2017 Daesh carried out  from 60 to 100 aerial attacks  in Iraq  and  Syria  using  drones.9   Hence,  it is natural  that  the  Jihadists  have  started  mass producing them. In June 2017, the Iraqi security forces discovered a drone factory belonging to Daesh where partially constructed unmanned aerial vehicles were found.10

Completely new opportunities arise with the use of 3D printing technologies. The study conducted at the University of Sheffield proved that ten drones can be printed in 24 hours using this technology which measures up to 300 drones a month.11

A drone boat deserves a separate mention, having been used only once in January 2017 to attack an adversary in the Middle East.12 However, this tactic could also be refined in the future.

To  serve  their  purpose  of  advertising   themselves,   boosting  motivation  among  supporters  and attracting additional  funding and followers, the Jihadists are actively using social media,  including Twitter,  Telegram,   Facebook,   etc.  However,   these  platforms   are  actively   combatting   Jihadist propaganda. For example, Twitter suspended 360,000 accounts for their connections to terrorism in 2015-2016.13  In response, the Jihadists are trying to move to alternative channels and applications of communication.

Yet another field of possible use for Jihadists is the artificial intelligence. Despite the fact that most Jihadist  groups  do  not  currently  possess  the  resources  to  do  this,  the  Director  of  US  National Intelligence,  Daniel  Coats,  pointed  out  in the  2018  Worldwide  Threat  Assessment  that  artificial intelligence could create new challenges in the field of security.14

Lately, the Jihadist organizations  have been using encrypted communication  applications more and more   often   which makes   it  more   difficult   for  the   government   structures   to   control   their connections.15

Virtual currencies are a topic of separate discussion as they no longer require banks for transactions to be made. This excludes the possibility of tracing their origins or controlling their movement.16

Apart from this, the so-called Dark Web that is not visible in conventional search engines (www – World Wide Web) is also used for illegal business (drugs, weapons, user databases and other illegal activities). Back in 2015, after its attack in Paris, Daesh stated that it would be actively using the Dark Web for its purposes.17   In this way, they have the ability to provide  money and weapons to their supporters.18

The United Cyber Caliphate, created by Daesh in 2016, also deserves a special mention as its goal was to carry out cyber-attacks.  This unit managed  to hack numerous  websites  as well as  hundreds  of Facebook and Twitter profiles.19

Yet another  threat is the possibility  of the Jihadists  using weapons  of mass destruction,  especially given the fact that Daesh and Al-Qaeda have already used chemical weapons in Syria and Iraq.20

Georgia  Facing the Transformation  of Jihadist  Threats

After the size of the territories controlled by the Jihadists reduced, yet the number of their fighters remained the same, they started looking for refuge in order to survey the situation, rest, spend the winter, heal from injuries and for other reasons as well. They first move towards the direction where they believe the access, movement and residence will be easier.

It is exactly in this light that we have to consider the incident with Chataev and his group that took place  at  the  end  of  2017  in Georgia  when  the  Jihadists  who  had  crossed  from  Syria  to  Turkey managed to then enter Georgia.

Given the fact that the Jihadists are altering their tactics all over the world, using new technologies to achieve their goals, it is probable that they will use the same methods with regard to Georgia as well.

It is less likely that the cutting-edge technological achievements will be used here for the first time; however, there are certain preconditions  for them trying to transform their methods of fighting in Georgia as well:

  1. The  case  of Chataev  and  his  group  showed  that  in the  case  of using  traditional  fighting methods (shootings), the Jihadists have small chances of success in Georgia. Georgian special forces managed to deal with the danger created by Chataev’s group adequately;
  2. Jihadists have already tested new means of fighting with regard to Georgia:
  • There  was a case  of a Jihadist  organization  (Daesh)  conducting  a cyber-attack  against Georgian websites;21
  • From time to time pages (groups) are created on social media that are favorably disposed towards the Jihadist groups;22
  • Georgian special forces are periodically arresting people who have necessary materials for building weapons  of mass destruction.  The most recent of such cases was  observed  on April 28, 2017, when the State Security Service of Georgia arrested five people in Kobuleti for the illegal sales of a radioactive  substance,  Uranium 238. Before that, in January of 2017, the State Security Service of Georgia was stating about the arrest of three  people attempting to sell radioactive Cesium. Law enforcement  structures and experts fear that the radioactive  materials can be used to build the so-called “dirty  bomb.” This means a conventional explosive system which would spread radiation over a large territory.23

The abovementioned  indicators show that the transformation  of terrorist threats is quite realistic in Georgia and respective preparations are necessary for their prevention.


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