For Indonesia’s Terror Groups, Taliban Victory Models Long-Term Success

Commentary by Alif Satria
For Indonesia’s Terror Groups, Taliban Victory Models Long-Term Success Taliban fighters patrol the streets of Kabul, Aug. 23, 2021.

In my view, the Taliban’s victory may indeed revitalize terrorist organizations’ intention to conduct jihad, but it does not impact any organizations’ capacity to do so. It is not likely to result in an immediate escalation of activities.

What the Taliban’s victory might impact, however, is jihadists’ time horizon. They are likely to conclude that jihad succeeds not in rash bouts of attacks, but in patient strategizing and waiting. Consequently, what Indonesia should look out for after the fall of Kabul is not an increase of jihadist threat in the short-term, but long-term.

It’s About Perceptions

One thing is certain –– the Taliban’s victory over the United States in Afghanistan will revitalize many jihadists’ morale. It marks a “clear propaganda victory” for Southeast Asian groups. Many Islamists will rejoice in the fact that the Taliban succeeded in outlasting a superpower. Notably, after the fall of Kabul, many jihadists were found to be sharing the Taliban’s strategy manual across WhatsApp groups; others uploaded posts showing they were euphoric about the events.

This rise in jihadists’ morale is concerning, as it may revamp a waning commitment to the belief that a group, despite whatever odds, can indeed overpower a nation to establish an Islamic state.

Notably, a similar set of events helped drive what scholar David Rapoport terms the religious wave of modern terrorism. This “religious wave,” a period which saw the increase of religion-oriented terrorist organizations such as al-Qaeda and its many affiliates, followed two key events. First: the success of the 1979 Iranian revolution in toppling Shah Reza Pahlavi. Second: the perceived success of the Mujahideen in 1989 in pushing the Soviet Union out of Afghanistan.

In both cases, Islamist groups were seen to have defeated secular, even superpower, governments –– giving credence to the possibility that such a feat could be replicated elsewhere. It was this possibility that led al-Qaeda, along with other Afghanistan Mujahideen, to internationalize their jihad to other countries and conflict zones.

Similarly, it was also this possibility that attracted many Indonesian jihadists to train in Afghanistan with al-Qaeda –– individuals who later formed the militant backbone of Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) and conducted the 2002 Bali bombing, Indonesia’s most lethal terrorist attack to date.

It’s About Capacity

While the Taliban’s victory may indeed boost the morale of Indonesian jihadists, this will not directly translate into an increase in their activity in the short term. Notably, the rise of terrorist activities by Indonesian organizations after 1989 was not caused by inspiration alone.

It was also because, at the time, these groups could access vital funding, recruitment, and training resources that enabled them to turn their hopes into reality. Not only did they have access to safe havens such as Mindanao and Afghanistan to train, they also had direct access to funds from al-Qaeda.

There is no indication that the Taliban’s victory today will open access to resources that would increase Indonesian terrorist organizations’ capacity to conduct jihad in the immediate term.

This is true for two reasons. First, it is currently unclear that the Taliban will allow jihadist organizations to use their territory as a haven to train and regroup. The Taliban’s incentive to support international terrorism is low, especially after they lost power for two decades and saw much of their leadership die because they decided to harbor Al Qaeda and do just that. If anything, we should expect to see the Taliban actively trying to prevent groups from crossing their borders –– similar to what happened in 1995, when Taliban closed JI camps in Afghanistan.

Second, the Taliban’s success does not change the fact that in the past three years, Indonesia’s Special Detachment 88 (Densus 88) has launched massive counterterrorism operations against both JI and Jemaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD), Indonesia’s largest pro-Islamic State organization. Between 2018 and mid-2021, Densus 88 has captured some 1200 terrorist suspects. In 2021 alone, they have captured 308 suspects, around 37 percent of them JAD personnel and another 37 percent, JI.

For JAD, this has led to a crippling of their central leadership, leading many cells to operate independently with little to no coordination. For JI, it has messed up the “rebuilding phase” the group envisioned would get underway in 2016, according to court documents from the 2020 trial of JI leader Para Wijayanto.

It’s About Time

However, this does not mean that the Taliban’s success will have no impact on Indonesian terrorist groups. If the fall of Kabul teaches anything to Indonesian jihadists, it is that a successful strategy is one that has a long time-horizon.

The Taliban’s road to victory winds back many years. Their seemingly swift takeover of Kabul was possible because throughout two decades, they patiently capitalized on the mistakes and lenience of their enemy. They harnessed popular anger over corruption, grievances, and death; they set up shadow governing systems that settled local disputes and provided important social services; and they used unaddressed grievance to increase their support base. When the opportunity arose for them to conduct a final offensive, those efforts paid off.

This lesson will be most likely picked up by groups such as JI which, like the Taliban, have in the past decade patiently built the social, educational, and economic foundation of a community that they could rely on to support their jihad. While JI is currently being pushed back by aggressive counter-terrorism operations, the Taliban’s success will suggest to them that success is, in the long run, still very much possible.

Alif Satria is a researcher at the Department of Politics and Social Change, CSIS Indonesia. His work focuses on terrorism and political violence in Southeast Asia. The views expressed here are his own and do not reflect the position of CSIS Indonesia or BenarNews.


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Sep 09, 2021 10:49 AM

Taliban has formed the government in Kabul !

It is the grand success of "Directorate S" of ISI !

S = 19th alphabet of the English Language,in the year when the world is plagued by COVID -19!

This is Taliban version 2,and so Directorate S + 2 = 21,which is the year 2021 !

Taliban hoisted the flag in Panjshir on 06.09.2021 = 11 in numerics !

Taliban declared govtt on 07.09.2021

Taliban declared 33 members of the Govtt,which is HALF the books of the Bible - as the other half Islam does NOT accept !

Govtt on 7th
Month is 9th
Taliban is version 2

On a Artithmetic Progression of 2 - the date of innaugration of Taliban state has to be the 11th !

7 - 9 - 11 !

It is a divine signal and the start of the Islamic Reinassance !

Now the question is what time will the ceremony start on the 11th !

This is PROVIDENCE ! dindooohindoo