EER Webinar Invitation: “Beyond Syria and Iraq: The Islamic State’s Growth Around the World”


EER Webinar Invitation: “Beyond Syria and Iraq: The Islamic State’s Growth Around the World”

European Eye on Radicalization would like to invite you to attend our next webinar.

It is now four years since the destruction of the Islamic State (ISIS) “caliphate”. ISIS no longer overtly controls cities in Iraq and Syria, the terrorism wave in Europe and America has been reduced, and three “caliphs” have been eliminated. Unfortunately, ISIS continues to show not only signs of life but of growth.

At the Centre, in Iraq and Syria, the pace of ISIS’s insurgent operations has held steady, and there have been some “spectacular” attacks, notably on the main prison in north-eastern Syria containing ISIS’s most dangerous operatives, hundreds of whom were broken free a year ago. The tactics in operation—prison breaks, relentless attacks on security forces, exploiting local political dynamics—are all familiar from the period preceding the “caliphate” declaration. Still, for now, ISIS’s strongholds are in the deserts of eastern Syria, the chaotic Turkish-controlled zone in northern Syria, and the rural belts of central and western Iraq.

Beyond the Centre, ISIS has established a much more robust presence since 2019. In Africa, ISIS’s renegade “Boko Haram” branch in Nigeria has been more or less brought to heel, and the jihadists have control of parts of the north, having fought the Nigerian government to a standstill. In the broader Sahel, despite the pressures of competition with Al-Qaeda, ISIS remains a threat. And in Sub-Saharan Africa—in Somalia, the Congo, and Mozambique—ISIS has established footholds and continues expanding them. Feeding off the chronic problems of governance on the continent, ISIS has advantages going forward.

The other major theatre where ISIS has gained significant strength in Afghanistan, especially since the country was handed back to the Taliban and Al-Qaeda in 2021. The new de facto government has proven powerless against ISIS’s rise and its spread outside Afghanistan into the broader South Asia region. Given that ISIS’s units in Afghanistan have previously been involved in international terrorism plots, this is a serious problem.

The webinar will attempt to examine these issues in detail and what might be done about them. The webinar will take place on Thursday, 6 April, at 15:30 UK Time. The event will last about an hour, with panelists presenting for 10 to 15 minutes followed by a question-and-answer session with our audience that is largely comprised of analysts, journalists, and practitioners.

Our panelists are: 

  • Jacob Zenn, an adjunct assistant professor of the graduate-level course, “Violent Non-State Actors in World Politics”, at Georgetown University’s Security Studies Program, and a senior fellow on African and Eurasian Affairs at The Jamestown Foundation in Washington, D.C. 
  • Pieter Van Ostaeyen (Ph.D. candidate KU Leuven) studied Medieval History with a specialization in the history of the Crusades (KU Leuven 1999) and Arabic and Islamic Studies, focusing on the history of Salah ad-Din al-Ayyubi and the Assassins (KU Leuven 2003). Van Ostaeyen started analyzing the conflict in Syria from the outset in 2011 and started reporting on foreign fighters in the very beginning of the conflict. He published multiple papers on different research topics regarding the Islamic State, al-Qaeda, and smaller Jihadi groups or factions. Currently, his main focus lies in the Sahel, monitoring Jihadi activities in the region on a daily basis.