MESOP : ISIS’s Campaign in Europe: March 2016

by Harleen Gambhir with Claire Coyne and ISW’s Counterterrorism Team

ISIS is using its foreign fighters and safe haven in Iraq and Syria to execute a terror campaign within Europe. ISIS’s March 22 Brussels attacks support a larger strategy to punish, destabilize, and polarize the West. ISIS will likely continue to attempt attacks in France and Belgium in 2016, using its large Francophone foreign fighter population and local supporters. ISIS’s support networks in southern Europe may enable ISIS’s operatives to launch operations in other parts of the continent, including Austria, Germany, Spain, and Italy. ISIS may also increasingly target Westerners in Turkey in order to punish members of the anti-ISIS coalition and undermine the Turkish economy, as part of its stated objective to seize Constantinople. Current efforts to address these threats through law enforcement, surgical strikes on ISIS’s leadership, and linear attrition of ISIS’s terrain and resources are necessary but not sufficient to destroy the ISIS threat to Europe. The anti-ISIS coalition must deprive ISIS of its primary source of strength, its territorial control as a caliphate in Iraq, Syria, and now Libya. 
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