Jihadism in the Netherlands has developed in a relatively short time span into a complex and dynamic movement that poses a more serious threat to democracy and national security than ever before. A newly released report by the Dutch Intelligence and Security Service (AIVD) describes this development. Among other things, the AIVD states that the Syrian conflict has been an import game changer that explains the sudden transformation of the Dutch Jihadist movement.
More than a hundred Dutch foreign fighters are embedded within Jihadist battle groups like Islamic State of Iraq and Sham (ISIS) and Jabhat an-Nusra in Syria and Iraq. These foreign fighters pose three risks to Dutch national security and democratic values. First, Dutch foreign fighters can become complicit in war crimes or crimes against humanity. Second, returning foreign fighters (at this moment approximately thirty), experienced and hardened in warfare, could launch attacks within Dutch territory or get involved in recruiting new would-be-jihadists. Third, moderate voices within Dutch Muslim communities are being increasingly threatened and intimidated by the intolerance expressed by extremists that are part of the Jihadist Movement in the Netherlands. Also polarization between Sunnites and Shiites is defined by Dutch Intelligence as a slumbering dispute that could flare up again.
According to the AIVD report, new social media usages have contributed to the transformation of the Jihadist movement into a decentralized, self-steering 'swarm' that is less dependent on leaders and therefore more difficult to combat. However, according to Dutch authorities, new powers or instruments are not needed to counter the new threat. Key to success is a coordinated, long-term effort of all actors involved, information exchange, expertise and knowledge and foremost the political will to translate the feeling of urgency that has been articulated in today’s report into a solid, broad and enduring approach until the Jihadist movement has been weakened and risks are being neutralized.