Overall, South East Asia appears to have a difficult time “exporting” jihad, with most current and former jihadi groups choosing to focus their operations domestically. By all indications, most Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) fighters in the Levant are trapped in the deteriorating conditions of Iraq and Syria, and are most likely increasingly cut off from any means of egress. As a result, it is unlikely that defectors from the conflict will play much of a role in radicalising locals further, as it is especially unlikely they return home successfully.
However, ISIS-affiliated Abu Sayyaf remains a significant security threat in the region and has engaged in large-scale terrorism as recently as 2 September 2016, with a bombing in Davao city, the Philippines. Ultimately, the security outlook for the region as the conflict in the Levant deteriorates is likely not much different than it has been in the past decade. A large-scale homecoming of battle-hardened fighters to South East Asia appears increasingly unlikely. The greatest danger is likely from Abu Sayyaf reprisals in a bid to give ISIS legitimacy both in the region and abroad, as the so-called caliphate in Iraq and Syria fails.