Defence & Security

The threat of ISIS: Is Australia doing enough?

The emergence of ISIS and the introduction of new national security and anti-terror legislation continues to place a spotlight on Australia’s borders, assets and information. Dr Rohan Gunaratna, Global Threat Environment Specialist and Head of International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, warned that governments need to be prepared to tackle new levels of threat and consequently, homeland security spending will only continue to grow.

Dr Rohan GunaratnaIn this interview, Dr Gunaratna offered his insights on international measures, and how Australia is working with our global counterparts and various national communities to counter the growing global threat of ISIS.

What are your views in regards to ISIS and the threat they pose to global security?
The Islamic State (IS) presents a growing threat to the security and stability of the Middle East, Africa and Asia. With the meteoric rise of IS, an al Qaeda mutant, the nature of the global and Asian threat landscape has changed. Multiple threat groups outside Syria and Iraq have either pledged support to IS or taken an oath of allegiance to Abu Bakr al Baghdadi.

Do you feel their reach has security implications for nations far removed, such as Australia?
In Asia, two dozen groups support IS. Nearly 1000 recruits from Southeast Asia, China, Australia and New Zealand have travelled to Syria and Iraq. The al Qaeda centric threat landscape is eclipsed by an al Qaeda-IS hybrid global threat. Today, al Qaeda and IS compete for supremacy of the terrorist movement. Nonetheless, their ideology is identical: IS is more permissive in its brutality. If either of the apex leaders are killed, they will unite presenting an unprecedented global threat.

Can you provide some insights in relation to key security concerns associated within the Asia Pacific region?
With IS mastery of shock action and social media, the threat is both territorial and global.  With Western and Middle Eastern political will, IS infrastructure can be dismantled and by building international partnerships, global harmony can be restored. Although the threat of IS and al Qaeda-directed attacks persist, the dominant threat is by self-radicalized homegrown cells and individuals.  The strategy is to create a multinational, multipronged, multiagency, and a multijurisdictional framework to fight upstream counter radicalization and downstream deradicalization.

In terms of government policy, do you feel the Australian government is doing enough to counter terrorism?
Australia should invest in creating a capability to influence its Muslim communities. As a segments of Muslims in Australia are undergoing radicalization, the government must develop a strategy to prevent radicalization and rehabilitate those radicalized. Rehabilitation and community engagement are game changers in the fight against terrorism. To engage vulnerable communities and rehabilitate both terrorists and extremists, the formula for governments is to work with the civil society and private firms.

What are your views on the key areas of concern in relation to global security?
As the IS threat is global, the challenge today is to build a global rehabilitation and community engagement vision, infrastructure and capabilities. By integrating hard power with soft power, smart power can contain, isolate and eliminate IS at its core, its associates in Asia, and in the virtual space.

The Australian Government is making a push for greater data retention laws in the interest of national security. Is the collection of metadata a key measure to prevent terrorist attacks?
Government of Australia is moving in the right direction. The community leaders must support the government to keep Australia safe. Without security, there is no prosperity. Always, security is first!

Dr Gunaratna’s presentation at the conference, will focus on the emerging IS threat landscape in Asia. The event will be held at the RACV Club in Melbourne, on the 20th & 21st May 2015. Full details are available on the official conference website.

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