National Security & Defense

ISIS Attacks Jakarta, Again Proving Its Reach

Police and emergency crews at the blast site in Jakarta, January 14, 2016. (Oscar Siagian/Getty)

Istanbul, Turkey, is nearly 6,000 miles from Jakarta, Indonesia. But this week, civilians in both Muslim nations were attacked by ISIS. Earlier today, five ISIS gunmen in Jakarta killed an Indonesian and a Canadian, and they wounded a number of other innocents. The attackers were then killed by their own suicide-bomb detonations and Jakarta’s prompt security-force response. Still, the scale and audacity of this plot demand our deeper contemplation. I have three key takeaways.

First, while innocent casualties today were thankfully lower than in Istanbul or Paris, this incident supports the analysis I offered earlier this week on NRO. The Istanbul suicide bombings near the Blue Mosque are “just one more example of the threat that I and others have long warned about,” I wrote. “Namely, that ISIS is a transnational project determined to destroy civil society across the world.” This is relevant because President Obama insists that ISIS is a peripheral threat to global order — but Jakarta, Istanbul, and Paris prove the opposite.

President Obama insists that ISIS is a peripheral threat to global order — but Jakarta, Istanbul, and Paris prove the opposite.

Second, reports that the Jakarta attacks were directed from ISIS territory in Syria are notable. According to Indonesian authorities, a key operational manager of these attacks was Bahrun Naim, an Indonesian jihadist serving ISIS in Syria. This is important because since September 2014, when Australian authorities foiled a public-beheading plot to be carried out by Australian citizens, ISIS has continually used its followers to plot attacks inside their home nations. That tactic relies on the superior ability of native fighters to target locations and recruit and direct attackers to carry out attacks. Facing this threat, the British government has undertaken unprecedented action to target U.K. ISIS fighters in Syria.

#share#Unfortunately, it’s very tough to to identify native citizens who are working for ISIS because these jihadists are skilled at evading our intelligence networks. President Obama’s immense discourtesy to Jordan, a key Middle Eastern intelligence ally, has only made it harder for us to gather intelligence with the help of allies. Shockingly, President Obama refused to meet with King Abdullah during the Jordanian leader’s visit to Washington this week.

Third, this attack is just another representation of the ongoing metastasis of ISIS globally. In terms of inspiring new recruits, winning fealty from other Salafi-Jihadist groups, and enhancing transnational attack capabilities, ISIS is a growing rather than declining threat. We need to challenge this propaganda-induced growth. To be precise, instead of messing around with placid Twitter hashtags, the U.S. government should draw visual attention to successes such as the recent killing of Jihadi John. Doing so will weaken ISIS’s image as a victorious and righteous power. There is a strong connection between ISIS’s might and the perception that ISIS is successfully resisting the United States.

#related#Still, the critical issue here is the Obama administration’s continuing and willful strategic impotence. While the president disdains the notion of ISIS as a critical threat — as he again proved during his State of the Union address — he is increasingly isolated in that viewpoint. It’s not only Republicans and Democrats who vehemently disagree with him; it’s American allies abroad. Today, both Britain and France clearly disagree with Obama’s assessment that ISIS is not an existential threat. Their disagreement isn’t personal; they’ve simply recognized that reality changed on one November evening in Paris.

— Tom Rogan is a writer for National Review Online and Opportunity Lives, a panelist on The McLaughlin Group, and a senior fellow at the Steamboat Institute. He tweets @TomRtweets. His homepage is

Tom Rogan is a columnist for National Review Online, a contributor to the Washington Examiner, and a former panelist on The McLaughlin Group. Email him at


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