The back-to-back Dhaka and the Serbia terror attacks have formed a whirwind of questions in one's mind. Initially, it was Tripoli, Egypt, Libya and Lebanon that have witnessed the crisis created by the terror organization. Interestingly, the reach has been limited, to countries that are either financially or politically weak.
The primary reason behind choosing very soft targets is to deter the Western assaults on their strongholds. Most of the victims in almost all the attacks are Westerners or European, further mounting pressure on the western front to stop their strikes on the country. Hence, the most populated areas like cafe, malls and supermarkets have a better prospect of sending the Jihad message effectively.
Syria and Iraq
Experts believe that ISIS thrives on political and religious upheavels. It insists on the building of an Islamic State, which has carved out of civil war in Syria and the tehnic diversity in Iraq. While striking them and propagating it in social media, they are showing themselves as heroes to the would-be recruits. Moreover, it hits back against the international air campaign targeting Islamic State in its Mesopotamian stronghold.
The main goal of striking so-called soft targets is to intimidate and deter by projecting that economic interests, companies and eventually the public will pressure the (Obama) administration into forgoing its air campaigns in Iraq and Syria," terrorism scholar Walid Phares, author of "The Confrontation:Winning the War against Future Jihad said.
He further added, "While another goal is to produce video propaganda for recruitment, there is also the side dividend of demanding protection money from companies, telling them, 'If you don't want this to happen to you, here's what it will cost.'"
While it is difficult to attack Saudi Arabia, Canada and Australia are all linked in targetting positions of the Islamic State, Libya is in a no-man's land, fighting the forces against the Islamic State and the Islamic State itself. While the former has forced it to engage in strikes against the IS, the latter targets it for striking against it. Add to it, the internal crisis that the country faces.
Sacrifice soft targets to achieve major goals
The Islamic State knows that sacrificing places like Kobani, Libya, Afghanistan and Sinai would send out a strong message to the Western and European world that they should stay away from targetting the ISIS if they did not want similar fate. As per Ryan Mauro, national security analyst with the Washington-based think tank Clarion Project:
"ISIS knows how to write the headlines and they know what the media is going to cover. Soft-target attacks in places like Libya, Sinai or Afghanistan are very important in order for them to say that they have momentum and that the loss of a place like Kobani doesn't make much of a difference."
This would also leverage their position in the eyes of the new recruits, thus giving momentum to the never ending cycle of ISIS.