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Joshua Kurlantzick (Bloomberg) — In the wake of last week's attacks in Jakarta, which killed seven people, fears are growing that the largest Muslim-majority nation in the world is going to be hit by a wave of Islamic State-linked bombings and shootings.
The potential for mayhem seems obvious. Indonesia’s open society and high social media penetration make it easy for young Indonesians to access Islamist sites and Facebook pages, and the Sunni Muslim insurgency has released several videos in Indonesian in an apparent recruiting effort.
Indonesia is a country of thousands of islands, with porous borders and many soft targets: The militants launched bombs and opened fire in broad daylight in one of the busiest neighborhoods in Jakarta.
Robin Simcox (Foreign Affairs) — The recent attacks in Brussels show that terrorists’ ability to strike at the heart of Europe remains apparently undiminished. Early reports suggest a death toll of around 31, with more than 100 injured. The Islamic State (ISIS) has claimed responsibility for the attack.
Belgium may seem an unlikely hub of jihadism, but despite being a small and peaceful nation, Belgian connections to militancy are long established.
In the 1990s, bullets and guns made their way from local jihadi crooks in Brussels to the Groupe Islamique Armé, Algerian terrorists aiming to establish an Islamic state in Algeria. Throughout that decade, a smattering of Belgian residents headed off to fight in various foreign conflicts, including the one in Chechnya.
Scott Stewart (Stratfor) — Bombs used in the March 22 attacks in Brussels displayed a degree of tradecraft not before shown by the Islamic State outside its core areas of operation.
The bombings at the Zaventem airport and at a metro station in Brussels killed 35 and wounded more than 300, making them the deadliest jihadist bombing attack in the West in more than a decade.
The Brussels attacks broke the recent trend of moving toward armed assaults from bombings. The Brussels cell was able to conduct such a large bombing operation because one of its key members, identified by Belgian authorities as Najim Laachraoui, possessed advanced bombmaking tradecraft acquired from Islamic State trainers while he was in Syria. Laachraoui is also thought to have constructed the bombs used in the November 2015 Paris attacks.
Uri Friedman (The Atlantic) — In October 2015, two suicide bombers killed more than 100 people outside a railway station in the Turkish capital of Ankara.
It was the deadliest terrorist attack in the country’s modern history, but it was also something more, something not fully appreciated at the time, according to Robert Pape, a terrorism expert at the University of Chicago: The U.S.-led military campaign against the Islamic State—a mixture of air strikes and support for local ground forces—had turned ISIS into a “cornered animal.” And the animal was lashing out.
The group’s suicide attacks in its sanctuaries of Syria and Iraq declined, displaced by complex acts of terrorism abroad: the Ankara attacks, followed by the October 2015 downing of a Russian plane over Egypt, the November 2015 Paris attacks,more explosions in Turkey, and most recently triple bombings, at least two of them suicide blasts, in Brussels.
Ben Watson & Patrick Tucker (Defense One) — The momentum has shifted in the U.S.-led coalition fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, so it’s time to commit more forces for the looming battles ahead, the top U.S. civilian and military leaders told reporters Friday.
“We have a series of recommendations that we will be discussing with the president in the coming weeks to further enable our support for the Iraqi Security Forces, or ISF,” Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Joe Dunford. “The secretary and I both believe that there will be an increase to the U.S. forces in Iraq in the coming weeks—but that decision hasn’t been made.”
“We’re broadening both the weight and the nature of our attacks on ISIL,” added Defense Secretary Ash Carter. “In both Syria and Iraq, we’re seeing important steps to shape what will become crucial battles in the months to come.”