Key Take-away: The threat of large-scale attacks in North Sinai by ISIS’s Wilayat Sinai is elevated as of March 12, 2015, but this threat is not assessed to directly target the upcoming Egypt Economic Development Conference in Sharm al-Sheikh scheduled for March 13-15, 2015 due to heightened security in South Sinai. Wilayat Sinai may, however, conduct attacks elsewhere during the conference in order to portray instability and derail economic and political opportunities for the government of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.
Middle East Security Project
The Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) is not the only Salafi-Jihadist threat emanating from Syria. Its prominence in U.S. policy has overshadowed a threat of similar magnitude from Jabhat al-Nusra (JN), the official al-Qaeda (AQ) affiliate in Syria. JN rivals ISIS as a sophisticated, intelligent, strategic actor in the region and continues to enjoy a dangerous freedom to operate in Syria. The two groups share common goals, including a revived Islamic Caliphate.
Col. Harry G. Summers Jr. begins his book, On Strategy: The Vietnam War in Context, by relaying the following conversation: “‘You know you never defeated us on the battlefield,’ said the American colonel. The North Vietnamese colonel pondered this remark a moment. ‘That may be so,’ he replied, ‘but it is also irrelevant.’” As much as we may not want to admit it, in this sense, our current war against al Qaeda and their ilk resembles that of Vietnam. In fighting our post- 9/11 wars, we have won nearly every battle but are far from winning the war. How can this be? The answer lies largely in the civil military nexus that underpins how America wages war.
Despite rapidly spreading reports that Egyptian Salafi-Jihadist group Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis (ABM) has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, that does not appear to be the case. Initially reported by Reuters, other sources have run with the dubious story without further vetting the information.
Recent statements by the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, and an alleged new group called the “Soldiers of the Caliphate in the Land of Egypt” has given rise to speculation that ISIS may be seeking to expand beyond Iraq and Syria into new territories such as Egypt. This fear is compounded by the recent arrest of an individual at the Cairo airport, allegedly seeking to travel to Syria for training with ISIS.
Harleen Gambhir is a Counterterrorism Analyst at the Institute for the Study of War. She focuses on the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham’s global activities and strategy, as well as on U.S. national security interests in dealing with a growing ISIS “Caliphate.” At ISW, Harleen has researched ISIS’s resurgence and capabilities in Iraq, and has authored “Dabiq: The Strategic Messaging of the Islamic State” and the “ISIS Global Intelligence Summary.” She is also the lead on several of ISW’s technology partnerships.
Lauren Squires is a Research Analyst at the Institute for the Study of War. Prior to joining ISW, she worked as an analyst in the intelligence community focusing on the Middle East. Before joining the government, Lauren served as an Active Duty Army officer serving on deployments to Kuwait in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Egypt where she was a liaison at the United States Embassy in Cairo. Her professional work has included support for multiple combatant commands, including CENTCOM, AFRICOM, and EUCOM.