Counter-terrorism: facing the “enemy from within” (2/3)

Roland Jacquard (*)

The deadly attack on October 3 at the very heart of the intelligence directorate, at the Paris police prefecture, illustrated in the most dramatic way the phenomenon we mentioned in the first of this series of articles devoted to the new anti-terrorist challenges. Namely, this type of terrorist acts is no longer the work of commandos attacking France from the fiefdoms of ISIS in Iraqi-Syrian jihadist areas, but is the poisoned fruit of spontaneous “jihadist vocations”, generated at a distance, by recruiters of ISIS, among French “subjects” most often motivated by violent nihilistic impulses, more than by a real desire for a jihadist “holy war”.

In addition to this unprecedented problem, which has never before been observed in any terrorist movement, whether ideologically, territorially, religiously or sectarially inspired, there is another new fact characteristic of this neo-Jihadism inspired by ISIS: a growing proximity that links this terrorism, endogenous emanation and rudimentary modus operandi, and the common law criminal circles, which serve as incubators for terrorist projects. And thus exempt them from the use of external logistical support networks that may be identified by the counter-terrorism services.

Paradoxically, despite the rudimentary nature of this neo-Jihadism of ISIS and the amateurish nature of its actions and those who carry them out, the singular pattern of its modus operandi – born of the combination, disconcerting for the anti-terrorist services, the endogenous nature of the “jihadist vocations” it arouses and the opportunism of relying on undetectable logistical support in the context of classic delinquency, from which most of its perpetrators originate, provide it with an unequalled degree of isolation.

This makes it almost impossible for the anti-terrorist services to anticipate threats and defeat terrorist projects before they are carried out. Thus, the media and public opinion were shocked to learn, attack after attack, that the neo-Jihadists who were the perpetrators were identified and known by the anti-terrorist services, were listed on the famous “S-file”, without this allowing them to be prevented from acting!

This acknowledgement of failure has given rise to a highly critical media campaign against anti-terrorist services, going so far as to question the very usefulness and relevance of the role of Intelligence services in the fight against terrorism. Criticisms that soon gave rise to a worrying drift towards militarizing the fight against terrorism!

Supporters of these militarist theses argue that the endogenous terrorism of the neo-Jihadists claiming to be part of ISIS is the work of “lone wolves”, who self-radicalize and act alone. As a result, they are, therefore, impossible to apprehend before their act, how much they would even be registered by the Intelligence services.

Such doctrines convey untruths that can lead to shortcomings and failures with fatal consequences in the fight against terrorism. Indeed, the so-called self-radicalization of “lone wolves” contributes to the emergence of neo-Jihadism of ISIS as an inevitability that cannot be countered: the anti-terrorist services cannot detect or anticipate the action of a “lone wolf”, since its shift into horror takes place in the most intimate personal sphere.

And since Intelligence will never be able to interfere in the head of a self-radicalized person, before it takes action, the advocates of self-radicalization recommend the militarization of the fight against terrorism as the only alternative to deal with this neo-Jihadist phenomenon!

However, it is unreasonable to consider that countering forms of threats, both new and bloody, would be sufficient to extend ad vitam aeternam emergency measures, such as the state of emergency; to create, after each tragic episode, new levels of alert; to deploy, as soon as a threat emerges or is felt, more and more soldiers assigned to security tasks for which they are neither trained nor adapted.

In reality, anti-terrorist action cannot be considered or envisaged as a “war” in the literal and military sense of the word, at the risk of facing ugly situations similar to those resulting from the “global war on terrorism” decreed by the Bush Administration in the aftermath of the attacks of 11 September 2001.

Didn’t the American President welcome the fall of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan as a sign of the end of Al-Qaeda? Did he not declare, in the aftermath of Saddam Hussein’s fall, that the liberation and democratisation mission in Iraq was complete?

We know today that these two events, perceived at the time as victories heralding a bright future, were the starting point for the chaotic situations that generated new waves of terrorism on a global scale and led to the emergence of ISIS.


(To be continued)


* Writer and consultant, Chairman of Roland Jacquard Global Security Consulting (RJGSC)