Isil could continue to inspire home-grown terrorists for years after it is defeated on the battlefield, America’s second most senior military officer has warned.
General Paul J. Selva, vice chairman of the US joint chiefs of staff, said the terror group’s ideology could continue to have an impact because so much radicalising content is already online.
He warned nations in the anti-Isil coalition, which includes Britain, that “Isis 2.0” could emerge unless they tackle the real drivers behind extremism.
Gen Selva also named foreign fighters fleeing London to take part in the jihadist cause abroad as an example of what must be tackled more effectively.
The comments, made to the Defence Writers Group in Washington DC, which is linked to George Washington University, will act as warning against complacency after a string of military victories.
Much of the land occupied by Isil in Syria and Iraq has been reclaimed after years of campaigning by an America-led coalition of nations.
Isil, also known as Isis or Daesh, is an abbreviation for Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant – the name of the terror group which gained notoriety from around 2014.
Speaking on Tuesday, Gen Selva raised concerns that radicalising content posted online could continue to circulate and have an impact for years to come.
“The ideology of Isis will persist for some time after the group itself is extinguished,” he said.
“If that legacy means people will be doing things in Isis’s name then Isis isn’t defeated until we actually stop that activity.
“And that could be measured in years after the active campaign to squash the control of territories in Syria and Iraq is over. "
He also discussed the issue of foreign fighters leaving their home countries to fight in the Middle East – a phenomenon that has been seen in the United Kingdom.
Some 800 people from the UK have travelled to support or fight for jihadist organisations in Syria and Iraq, according to British officials.
Gen Selva issued a call for all government involved in the anti-Isil coalition to consider how they can tackle the causes of radicalisation in their own countries.
He said that “a kid from London doesn’t just get up in the morning and say ‘you know what, I think I’ll go to Syria and kill people for a couple of years’.
Gen Selva added: “Something happens that causes that person to be predisposed to that activity. We have to figure what that something is and address it.
“And if we fail to address it, my concern is in five or 10 years we’ll have Isis 2.0 or Al Qaeda 3.0 and the process will start again somewhere else in the world.”
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