SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS - The jihadist threat in the Netherlands is changing. Due to the collapse of the 'caliphate', ISIS has been weakened. Furthermore, there have been virtually no jihadist attacks in Western Europe since October 2017.
As it is still too early to predict how long the current situation will last, the threat level will remain at 4 out of 5, meaning that there is a realistic chance of an attack. This is the main takeaway from the 47th Terrorist Threat Assessment Netherlands (Dreigingsbeeld Terrorisme Nederland) published by the National Coordinator for Security and Counterterrorism.
There are numerous reasons to maintain a threat level of 4 at this time, despite the changing nature of the threat. Both ISIS and Al Qaeda retain the intent and the capacity to perpetrate attacks in the West.
The situation in Syria and Iraq is extremely unstable. Moreover, the recent period has seen multiple persons arrested in the West on suspicion of preparing attacks.
No cases of successful travel to jihadist areas have been reported since June 2017. Consequently, the jihadist threat in the Netherlands is gradually changing. The movement focuses more emphatically on social activities, as it did prior to 2012. It is also conceivable that persons who have previously travelled to jihadist areas will join the jihadist movement in the Netherlands. The fact that jihadists are attempting to gain influence within wider Salafist circles online is a cause for concern.
The content of the propaganda is changing. Where initially the focus was on the caliphate as an ideal state, the content now tends to glorify armed struggle.
The arrival of returnees in Europe is the source of a long-term threat. These persons may belong to existing networks, which have the potential to play a role in the preparation of attacks. There is also concern regarding the hundreds of ISIS combatants being detained in camps belonging to the Syrian Kurds.
This situation could easily give rise to new networks. Recently, ISIS has been relying to a greater extent on persons already living in the West. These are often friends and family members of travellers. This constitutes a change in how ISIS coordinates attacks.
Left-wing and right-wing extremism
There is no evidence that right-wing terrorist structures or groups exist in the Netherlands. One notable development, however, is the growth of the racist group Erkenbrand, which is attracting increasing attention. Due to the anti-democratic ideology held by Erkenbrand's members, this group poses a threat to democratic society and the rule of law.
The recent period has been relatively quiet in terms of extreme left-wing protests and demonstrations. The Netherlands' asylum and migration policy remains a breeding ground for left-wing extremists, as does the Zwarte Piet issue and incidents of alleged police brutality.
Highly polarised debates have taken place in connection with a number of topics in the recent period. In the last few months, for instance, the debate surrounding Salafism has flared. Recurring topics of debate are asylum seekers and the Zwarte Piet character. These serve to intensify a lack of understanding between population groups.
The Turkish military operation in Afrin has given rise to heightened tensions across all of Europe and incited sporadic incidents of violence. The tense political situation in Turkey is a cause for concern among Dutch nationals of Turkish descent. Unease has emerged with regard to the Diyanet following reports in European media that it was engaged in efforts to identify political opponents of the Turkish government.