Lessons from the Fight Against the Islamic State

(War on the Rocks) Michael P. Dempsey - There are several lessons the U.S. and its allies can discern from the Islamic State's meteoric rise in 2015 and the loss of its physical caliphate last year. Absent its control of territory in Iraq and Syria, ISIS is now focusing primarily on trying to grow its eight overseas branches and inspire lone wolf operations abroad. Denying it control of physical terrain anywhere in the world should be job number one for those who want to see this group defeated decisively. In light of recent setbacks, ISIS fighters are increasingly focusing on suicide attacks and hit-and-run operations. Yet its reliance on extreme violence continues to alienate virtually the entire Muslim community. Moreover, its practice of entrusting only high-level foreign fighters with key leadership positions continues to alienate local communities. While ISIS is clearly on its heels, it remains a wily and determined foe capable of inflicting grievous harm if given the chance, and of reconstituting itself if the underlying conditions that fueled its rise are not addressed. What is required now is to maintain steady military pressure on ISIS remnants in both Iraq and Syria; prioritize the fight against its most important nodes, especially in the Sinai and Libya; and increase financial investment and loans to help rebuild shattered communities (especially vulnerable Sunni ones) in Iraq and Syria. The writer, former acting director of national intelligence, is the national intelligence fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

2018-03-14 00:00:00

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