Monday, March, 19, 2018

​​The Future of the “Islamic State,” American Univ. of Beirut, Lebanon

​​The Future of the “Islamic State”
Provinces and Affiliates:
Decline or Continued Impact after the Fall of the
“Caliphate” in Iraq and Syria? ​

Conference at the American University of Beirut
Organized by AUB’s Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs and the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung
March 20th – 21st, 2017


​​Concept Note: ​​​
The “Islamic State” (IS) has increasingly come under pressure on the battlefields in its core territories in Iraq and Syria. Although the Mosul offensive is still ongoing, a conventional military defeat of the organization has never been more likely. However, IS is not just a highly efficient terrorist organization that occupies certain territories and their populations – it is a phenomenon with multiple dimensions, which include terrorist attacks in Europe, a highly successful propaganda machinery, the ability to exploit both regional power vacuums and the refugee situation, and, last but not least, the creation of franchises or offshoots in the so-called provinces (wilayat) of their self-declared “Caliphate”.

In 2014 and 2015, the organization claimed a total of 20 new provinces in areas of Algeria, Libya, Egypt, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Russia, however, the incorporation of these provinces into the core structure of IS varies greatly. While the majori-ty of the groups that have joined IS are local jihadist organizations such as Boko Haram in Nigeria, which existed before the rise of IS in 2014 and have their own distinct identities and histories and operate largely independent of the core IS leadership, a few organizations are more closely connected to IS, such as the cells in Libya and the Wilayat Khorasan in the Af-ghan-Pakistani border region. Even though these branches only exert marginal territorial con-trol, the nominal existence of provinces outside Syria and Iraq is crucial, as it supports IS’s claim of global domination. In addition, these branches present a danger for Europe due to their geographical proximity and their function as safe havens, where terrorists can plan and prepare attacks on European targets. In Western Africa, an increased presence of IS-affiliates could further encourage larger refugee flows from the region to Europe. An expansion of IS in Afghanistan would be particularly critical, as Western nations have spent millions to stabilize Afghanistan over the past 15 years. Its destabilization could lead to a disastrous spillover into Pakistan and Iraq. Likewise, Egypt’s destabilization due to an IS takeover of the Sinai Penin-sula could also have negative consequences for the region, as it is one of the few pillars of stability, hosts key trading routes and shares a border with Israel.

With the imminent defeat of IS in the conventional sense, the question about the future of these provinces arises. This conference’s aim is to discuss this future and the potential impact of the provinces on the local countries after the military defeat of IS in Syria and Iraq. How will the provinces develop, and will they manage to hold on to power? What are the potential influences that these franchises can exert upon the countries that host them? Special focus shall be put on the views that young academics, journalists and professionals from the coun-tries concerned hold on the possible influence of IS on their generation. How attractive do IS and its offshoots seem to young inhabitants? Do they see the offshoots in their countries as posing a real threat, or do they rather think that their influence will vanish once the core of IS is defeated?

​ The conference aims to cover hotspots with a significant IS presence all over the Islamic world, as well as countries in the immediate proximity of the core territories, and will include the Wilayat Khorasan (Afghanistan, Pakistan), West Africa (Niger, Nigeria, Mali), the Maghreb (Libya, Egypt, Tunisia), the Mashreq (Lebanon, Jordan, GCC), and Europe (Germany, France/Belgium, United Kingdom). The conference will be designed as a two-day event, with three panels of 90 minutes each per day, and three speakers plus a chair per panel. The second day will also feature a wrap-up session, held by one speaker, who will summarize the main points and give their thoughts on them.