Victory Laps About the Defeat of ISIS are Premature
Victory Laps About the Defeat of ISIS are Premature
I did a repeated facepalm when Donald Trump declared that ISIS was defeated last year and he was withdrawing troops from Syria, prompting Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to “PEACE OUT, BITCHES!” The timing couldn’t have been worse, and based on the terror group’s history, the announcement and withdrawal were both premature.
After much sturm and drang, some US forces continued supporting the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and other Kurdish allies in the region, much to the chagrin of Turkish president Erdogan, who was hoping for a US withdrawal, so that he could stage an incursion into Irbil and get rid of those Kurdish menaces on this borders.
We continued fighting, and Syria is very nearly free of ISIS presence, which is fantastic news. However, Donald Trump Jr.’s Twitter post a few hours ago shows a serious lack of understanding about ISIS and the threat this terror group poses to US and other western interests.
ISIS defeated! A really big deal. This is what happens when you let the guys in the field do what is needed to win rather than let Obama’s lawyer bureaucrats in DC call the shots. We’ve now understand full well how incompetent those bureaucrats really were on many levels. https://t.co/NdWPc5bHq4
— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) March 23, 2019
Let’s start off with some facts.
1 – ISIS is far from defeated. The terror group has lost its territory in Syria, but approximately 14,000 fighters still remain in Iraq and Syria, according to the Deputy Director of the National Counterterrorism Center. ISIS core and its poisonous ideology continue to inspire attacks against the West. ISIS amir Abu Du’a released another communication last August, encouraging his followers to continue attacking the west, and every indication is that his followers are doing and planning just that.
Since 1 January, ISIS launched 147 attacks resulting in 465 fatalities. This number is dynamic and changes almost daily. The majority of these attacks took place in Iraq and Syria, with one attack in Russia thankfully resulting in no fatalities.
After Donald Trump publicly declared ISIS to be defeated in December, the group reared its ugly head from its winter hibernation to show it was still around and could still kill Americans.
Closer to home, an Ohio man was indicted just a few weeks ago for plotting an attack against a synagogue in support of ISIS.
Sweden began a trial in January of six terrorists who were funneling money to ISIS.
Australian police foiled an ISIS plot in November, in which three scumbags inspired by ISIS planned to target a prominent public places in Melbourne.
2 – ISIS doesn’t need territory to inspire terror. It doesn’t need formal ties or fighters. The group has supporters all over the world, and they never stop plotting. And my fear, which I think is being realized, is that after the Christchurch mosque attack, ISIS has increased its calls for attacks – this time in retaliation for the mosque massacres – and its followers have rallied around this cause.
The group’s spokesman, Abu Hassan al-Muhajir, broke a six-month silence to call on Isis supporters to “take vengeance for their religion” in the 44-minute audio recording.
“This slaughter in those two mosques is no more than another tragedy among past and coming tragedies, which will be followed by scenes of force that reach all who were tricked to living among the polytheist,” he said in the message distributed by Al Furqan, a media organisation linked to Isis.
“The scenes of death in the two mosques are enough to wake the sleep and incite the supporters of the caliphate who live there, to take vengeance for their religion and for sons of their Ummah, who are killed everywhere in the world.”
3 – ISIS continues to sprout branches, networks, and affiliates all over the globe, especially in Afghanistan, Nigeria, and Somalia, as well as other undergoverned places where they can find save havens. And while they’ve lost territory and oil revenues, they still conduct kidnapping-for-ransom operations and get money from the Middle East under the guise of “humanitarian aid.” The intelligence community briefed its assessment this year that ISIS is still active, still poses a threat to US interests, and “will exploit any reduction in CT pressure to strengthen its clandestine presence and accelerate rebuilding key capabilities.” ISIS it maintains eight branches, more than a dozen networks, and thousands of dispersed supporters around the world, who are more than happy to continue ISIS’s mission of targeting the West.
4 – And then there are the foreign fighters. Thousands of them went to the conflict zone to fight in Iraq and Syria, and now that the fighting is over and many of them are in SDF custody, with their futures up in the air. Europe doesn’t want them. Several European governments have stripped these guys of their citizenships and are loath to repatriate them, because who the hell wants these ISIS extremists running around, plotting attacks, or indoctrinating and radicalizing a new generation of would-be terrorists? It’s not like these guys are no longer extremists and no longer support ISIS ideology, and many of them are experienced fighters who are coming back from the battle field and are just itching to use their skills and indoctrinate others.
It’s no wonder the West doesn’t want them. In addition, some Western governments are prohibited by statute to negotiate with a non-state actor, so they can’t even discuss repatriation with the SDF, which means that these detainees could be released into the wild and go back to doing what they do best – plotting terrorist attacks against the West or supporting those who do. Judging from the number of former Guantanamo Bay detainees who have started their terrorist antics anew, this threat from released ISIS detainees is very real.
The Director of National Intelligence, consistent with direction in the Fiscal Year 2012 Intelligence Authorization Act, reported to Congress that out of 729 detainees transferred from the U.S. facility at Guantanamo Bay 123 have been confirmed as re-engaging in terrorism.
The majority of those releases happened under the Bush administration, with 114 cases of re-engagement before Jan. 22, 2009, and nine cases afterward.
So while I’m thankful that ISIS doesn’t have a stronghold in Syria any longer, to crow on Twitter that ISIS has been defeated is foolhardy at best.