ISIS reaches for Russian recruits


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"As a recruitment tool, ISIS may have hit more than one target in Istanbul to sweeten the allure of its brand. Not just the wanton killing and egregious mutilation of so many travelers but as a rallying call for more jihadists, from all points over the globe.

ISIS reaches for Russian recruits

ISIS reaches for Russian recruits

In this case, the former Soviet Union.

The attackers were a Russian from Dagestan, an Uzbek and a Kyrgyz, Turkish authorities said. Kyrgyz and Russian officials have yet to confirm this, but if it proves to be the case it would be foolish to think ISIS high command did not plan it this way.

Turkish authorities have already said ISIS leadership in Raqqa, its 'capital' in Syria, was behind the attack. So what would ISIS and their leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi gain?

An impassioned pitch to jihadi wannabes in all three countries. Ratchet up awareness, create heroes, draw more recruits to the caliphate. Simply put: more skin in the game.

Last June, ethnic Chechen Muslims and other radical Islamists from Russia's volatile North Caucasus pledged allegiance to Baghdadi.

Two months later the IMU, Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, a group that for decades had ties and training camps shared with al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan also pledged allegiance to Baghdadi. And just two months ago a Muslim cleric in Kyrgyzstan was arrested for trying to rally young Muslim to join ISIS in Syria.

Russian government officials estimate that thousands of radicals from the North Caucasus region have traveled to Syria. Baghdadi wants more and what better way using their warped logic than to create a hero from their ranks.

Such a figure will be talked about in the forest camps where they train back home, in the back streets where deprivation turns young men to look for escape and excitement and a cause.

ISIS has a strategy. Awaken Muslims in far-flung communities. Make them think. Give them a stake and star in the ISIS fight.

The IMU of Uzbekistan has more typically sent its fighters across the border to Afghanistan, but Baghdadi faces a crumbling Caliphate. Loyal franchises so far from the core of his fight in Iraq and Syria do him no good.

And as for Kyrgyzstan, it is clear Baghdadi wants to kindle an awakening there. So far radical Islamists have been a rarity in this Sunni state, but no place these days is safe from ISIS's toxic ideology. Its tentacles have reached to Bishkek in the north and in the south not far from the ancient silk route town of Osh is the Uzbek border and the IMU.

I was at that border a few years ago and watched people cross freely. Gaping holes had been ripped in the flimsy mesh fence border. At that time, families were escaping instability in Osh, but it was clear to me the post-Soviet borders were porous to people and whatever ideology they carried with them.

Yes, Baghdadi used the nationalities for a number of reasons, not least of which to invest their countrymen in his fight, to get more skin in the game. "

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