Home / Articles / “Virtual Planners” in the Arsenal of Islamic State External Operations
This article explores virtually planned attacks, an innovation by the Islamic State (IS) in its global campaign of terrorism. It argues that the United States and its allies have successfully combined military, intelligence, and law enforcement activities with border security measures in Turkey to reduce IS’ ability to send foreign fighters home to conduct attacks against the West. IS leaders have responded by relying on a team of virtual planners. These individuals use encrypted online messaging applications, such as Telegram Messaging or WhatsApp, to gather local recruits, provide them with technical expertise, and pick the target. Historically, virtually planned attacks in Europe and the United States have not been as successful as those executed by foreign fighters. But attacks in Southeast Asia may provide a forewarning of what is to come.