To combat terrorism, we must address poverty and recruitment

On April 20, 2019, the day before the Easter attacks in Sri Lanka, ISIS had $4.5 million in bitcoin, up from just $500,000 on the same day. On April 21, one day after the deadly attacks, the balance of ISIS’s main bitcoin dropped back to $500,000. This went relatively unnoticed by the international intelligence community until the Israeli blockchain intelligence startup company Whitestream released the data after conducting an investigation. In February, just months before the attacks for which ISIS claims responsibility, U.S. President Donald Trump declared that ISIS’s caliphate in Iraq and Syria was “100% defeated” but there are still thousands of active ISIS fighters in those countries. Loss of territory has not equated to a loss of members. The caliphate is defeated but the terrorists are not. Terrorist groups prey on young people – particularly though not exclusively young men – seeking identity. New recruits are usually poor and struggling to find their places in society. Joining a group like ISIS provides them with a purpose and a sense of belonging. They are told that participating in terrorist attacks raises their level of importance within the radical Islamist community and that if they die in a suicide mission, their families will be taken care of financially. The rise in the influence and reach of technology has facilitated terrorist recruitment among poor populations. It costs nothing to create a profile on a social network or to join an online forum where hateful propaganda is shared. ISIS has mastered the use of these tools to exploit poverty-ridden populations. The solution? A public-private partnership among the leaders and allies of the Western world. Five Eyes (FVEY) is widely regarded as the world’s most significant intelligence alliance, consisting of the U.K., U.S., Australia, New Zealand and Canada, with each country being responsible for monitoring and gathering intelligence throughout their assigned countries in the Middle East and Asia. FVEY members are not only top intelligence leaders but economic leaders and among the wealthiest nations in the world. Why not use intelligence agencies and alliances like Five Eyes to share limited intelligence with nongovernmental organizations such as the Red Cross, Doctors Without Borders, Operation Hope and other entities whose purpose is to address base conditions of poverty and disease that help create recruiting opportunities for terrorist organizations in the first place? Why not work with tech giants such as Google (which has done signal work in this space in the past) and its subsidiary, YouTube, to block terror organizations’ access to social networks and online forums and remove their recruitment videos? Peter Singer and Emerson Brooking recently released “LikeWar: The Weaponization of Social Media,” which expands on this principle, and several policy think tanks are starting to explore these options. The ISIS attacks in Sri Lanka officially introduced “Terrorism 3.0” into the international sphere, and because of technology, its growth will accelerate like a global cancer. The previously implemented anti-terror solutions in Iraq, Syria and other countries in the Middle East will no longer be sufficient to conquer this beast but with proper use of 21st-century tools, we can drastically reduce poverty, prevent and combat future terrorist activity. Source: Israelhayom