The Impact of COVID-19 on Salafi-Jihadi Terrorism
by
Norlen, Tova C.

The purpose of this article is to evaluate how COVID-19 might impact the future threat posed by Salafi-Jihadi groups and to explain how the current crisis might re-shape the Salafi-Jihadi central message and strategy and in turn impact recruitment, tactics, capability, and leadership, and even doctrine. Salafi-Jihadi groups have found themselves in a dilemma as they have to reckon with the fact that Muslims are not spared from infection despite fervent prayer. If the Coronavirus is the wrath of God against the infidels, why is it also killing the Mujahedeen, and how do you explain it while still maintaining credibility to potential recruits? How do you maintain the Jihad during a global lockdown, where movement is curtailed and resources dry up?
To better understand what we should expect from Salafi-Jihadist groups in the future, the analysis explores three challenges that Jihadi groups will most likely have to overcome as a result of the current crisis: First, the challenge to their strategic mission and capabilities, especially relating to the operationalization of motivations for martyrdom and revenge. Second, the challenge to their ideology, faith, and religious interpretation of scriptures, with impacts on the consistency of their doctrine and “brand.” And Third, the challenge to their unity and ability to provide members with a shared group identity, which may influence recruitment. How Jihadi groups and their leaders address these multi-level challenges will impact their cohesion and effectiveness, and the credibility of their message. It may also have repercussions on leadership and control, which could determine the relevance of the group as a future global threat. The analysis suggests that Salafi-Jihadi terrorism remains a threat both in the short and long-term.

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This issue of Connections. The Quarterly Journal looks into a number of issues: professional military education and its role in deepening defense capabil­ities with a special focus on the South Caucasus, the defense cooperation of the South Caucasus nations with both Russia and NATO which may result in a new form of a ‘Great Game’ rivalry... Read More