Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi
Abu Bakr al-BaghdadiReuters

After losing its self-proclaimed Caliphate in Iraq and Syria earlier this year, experts think the Islamic State (ISIS) is working on a come-back and this could include the establishment of a new Caliphate in Asia.

In many countries in the Middle East and beyond, the Jihadist group is currently regrouping and trying to create new strongholds while it is also developing new streams of revenue.

ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who again escaped an assassination attempt recently when he came late to a meeting of Islamic State leaders in eastern Syria which was targeted by Iranian missiles, last week ordered the execution of 320 of his fellow Jihadists for being disloyal to the organization.

The ISIS leader is reportedly hiding in the desert region along the Syrian Iraqi border and blamed the “traitors” for the demise of the Caliphate, which according to ISIS ideology should have been the beginning of a global Muslim empire.

ISIS’ hasn’t abandoned this goal as we will see here.

Let’s first take a look at what’s going on in Syria and Iraq, where the Islamic State group still holds roughly 10 percent of the territories it occupied since the 2014 ‘Blitz’.

In Iraq, the Jihadist group continues trying to destabilize the country by launching suicide and other terror attacks on Iraqi security forces and by attempting to seize oil fields.

Last week, ISIS terrorists attacked the Akkas oil field in the Anbar Province, killing 10 members of the Iraqi security forces.

The Jihadist group kills scores of Iraqis every day and frequently targets the Iraqi capital Baghdad where suicide bombings are an almost daily phenomenon.

On Saturday, Iraqi security forces carried out a large operation against the Islamic State group in Mosul, arresting 19 ISIS terrorists who were trying to infiltrate the city, which had been the Iraqi capital of its Caliphate.

In Syria, meanwhile, ISIS terrorists attacked a camp which housed displaced persons and abducted hundreds of people, including women and children, despite fierce resistance by Kurdish fighters who were guarding the Hajin camp on the east bank of the Euphrates River in eastern Syria.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights subsequently reported ISIS had begun to execute dozens of the hostages after which the bodies of the victims were displayed in the streets of the last Syrian villages still under Islamic State control.

In Egypt, the army is still struggling to contain Wilayat Sinai, Islamic State’s local branch which controls parts of the Sinai desert and tries to expand its activities to the Nile Delta and other regions in the country of 95 million.

Then there is Libya, which has the potential to become the most dangerous haven for the Jihadist organization in the near future, according to The National Interest.

The Libyan ISIS’ branch serves as a European beachhead for al-Baghdadi’s organization and has also launched attacks on Tunisia.

The anarchy in Libya, a country which lacks a recognized central government, makes it an ideal breeding ground for ISIS which maintains an office for special operations, recruitment, and logistics in the oil-rich state.

At the same time, ISIS is trying to get footholds in central Asian countries such as Afghanistan and Indonesia - the world’s largest Muslim country.

In Indonesia, Islamic State is growing stronger by the day after no less than 63 Islamist terror groups in southeast Asia, many of them Indonesian, pledged allegiance to ISIS leader al-Baghdadi.

Indonesian Defense Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu is trying to counter the growing threat to his country posed by ISIS by enlisting the United States, Australia, New Zealand, and Japan for what he dubs the “Five Eyes Intelligence Initiative”.

Last Thursday, Ryacudu met with his Australian counterpart Christopher Pyne to discuss the growing ISIS threat to Asian countries and to enlist Australia for his intelligence gathering project.

“Militaries cannot defeat terrorism, but they can ­defeat terrorists. Australian and Indonesian military forces have provided support to law enforcement agencies domestically, and both have contributed to counter-terrorism efforts beyond their ­borders,” Pyne said during his visit to Djakarta, Indonesia.

“ISIS is currently recruiting, training and reactivating armed cells in Europe, central Asia, southeast Asia, and Russia,” according to anti-terrorism expert Andrey Novikov.

Novikov says Islamic State is working hard to establish a new Caliphate in Asia by “planting new sleeper cells and invigorating existing ones.”

Afghanistan is ISIS favorite country to establish the new Caliphate because a large part of it is not under control of the central government in Kabul.

The geography of the mountainous country offers the Jihadist organization, furthermore, an ideal base for future operations in Asia while it protects ISIS against the airstrikes which contributed to the demise of the Caliphate in Syria and Iraq.

Wilayat Khorasan, ISIS’ Afghani branch, is currently driving Afghanistan towards a sectarian conflict by carrying out a relentless suicide-bombing campaign which is mainly directed at Afghanistan’s Hazara Shia minority and other Shia Muslim groups in the country.

The Hazaras and other Shiite groups in Afghanistan are now considering creating a counter force based on the model of Iraq’s Hashd al-Shaabi umbrella organization of predominantly Shiite militias in order to counter the growing ISIS threat to the country.

ISIS is financing its new global campaign by laundering the $400 million it smuggled out of Syria and Iraq and by criminal activities such as kidnappings, robbery, drug smuggling and trafficking in antiquities in countries where there is minimal law enforcement.

The Jihadist group is also regaining control over oil fields in Syria and tries to do the same in Iraq.

At the height of its rule over large parts of Syria and Iraq in 2015, Islamic State accrued nearly $6 billion which made it the richest terror organization in history.