[7 September 2021] The immediate blowback to Indonesia from the Taliban victory in Afghanistan is likely to be greater from pro-ISIS groups than from Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), the organisation with the strongest historical ties to al-Qaeda.
Weakened by some 200 arrests in the past two years, JI has shown little interest in attacks, though it remains committed to military training for its cadres. Any new al-Qaeda camps for foreign fighters would be cause for concern. A more militant splinter, angered by the arrests and inspired by the Taliban success could emerge, despite a high level of police vigilance. However, a bigger risk is that one of the many pro-ISIS cells could be inspired by the Kabul airport attack of ISIS-K to try its hand at violence.
“The Impact of the Taliban Victory on Indonesia’s Jemaah Islamiyah,” the latest report from the Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict (IPAC), provides an in-depth examination of JI’s current status and possible future trajectory.
“All indications are that in the short-term, JI does not pose a significant threat,” says Sana Jaffrey, IPAC director. “But this is an organisation that has shown extraordinary resilience, and whether inspired by the Taliban or its own sense of history, we are likely to see regeneration. No one should rule it out”
The report notes that the last direct communication between JI and the al-Qaeda leadership took place in Bangkok in 2010, when JI rejected an offer to work together against targets in Southeast Asia.
The new IPAC report answers the most pressing questions about JI’s current status. It examines JI’s goals and strategy; size and structure, transnational links; economic base; military capacity and the risk of violence; ability to rebuild; and the reported reaction of imprisoned JI leaders to the Taliban victory.
“If JI wanted to reopen channels of communication with al-Qaeda, it could probably do so, given that it still has some cadre abroad,” says Jaffrey. “Its likely priority, however, will be on rebuilding at home. The pro-ISIS groups remain the ones to watch.”