Islamist extremist groups such as Daesh and Boko Haram will not be beaten until western governments tackle the corruption that allows them to recruit new members and thrive, according to a new report from Transparency International.
The NGO claims the failure of the west support efforts to root out corruption in countries such as Iraq, Libya and Nigeria is a major enabler of jihadist terror organisations.
As well as using institutionalised wrongdoing as a recruiting tool to attract potential new members, Islamist groups are able to exploit links with crooked officials in positions of power and organised crime networks to acquire arms and take part in illegal activities that bolster its finances.
Transparency International spoke with current and former Libyan fighters, two thirds of whom said they thought the country is now equally as corrupt as it was before the fall of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.
Sources Transparency International spoke with while compiling the report said Daesh has bribed officials in both Libya and Egypt and used drugs to buy weapons. They also claimed Daesh militants had been spotted driving around parts of Libya in expensive luxury cars.
The report also alleges that corruption has diminished the capabilities of national armies, allowing jihadi groups to establish strongholds in areas they might not have been able to infiltrate if met with stronger opposition.
It notes that corruption in the Iraqi army was one of the main reasons Daesh was able to seize control of Mosul with relative ease in 2014.
The study’s authors found Daesh regularly seeks to inflame public anger by pointing to examples of corruption in its propaganda material and social media posts, positioning itself as the answer to crooked regimes it accuses of failing their people.
The jihadi group also seeks to highlight the role western powers play in propping up corrupt elites, the report found.
Katherine Dixon, Director of Defence and Security at Transparency International, commented: “Corruption is a rallying cry, an enabler and a key modus operandi for ISIS. The failure to grasp this undermines efforts to tackle the rise of violent extremism.
“The international community expends great efforts tackling the ‘ideology’ of groups such as ISIS, focusing on the religious rhetoric they produce, yet completely ignoring the material circumstances in which they thrive.
“This is not just about closing off the corrupt channels that enable the day-to-day operations of groups like ISIS, but rethinking relationships with the Mubaraks, Gaddafis and Malakis of the future.
“Corruption is a real security threat, more than just a means for elites to line their pockets. In the end corrupt governments by fuelling public anger and undermining institutions, are the architects of their own security crises.”