ISIS Gained Strength in 2015, Represents Global Existential Threat


January 26, 2016 - San Francisco, CA - – As frequent readers of this journal know, we have a great deal of respect for the work done by the Institute for the Study of War [ISW]. The organization’s frequent briefings especially those regarding the ME conflict.

The subject which immediately comes to mind when discussing political developments in that very troubled part of the world is the advance - and bloody footprint - of ISIS, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria…the Caliphate.

The President continues to downplay the threat posed by these Sunni jihadis, variously having called them the “JV team” and in his recent State of the Union Address openly mocking those who are alarmed at its rapid rise.

It’s beyond understanding how anyone could refer to a group which whose atrocities are the stuff of the 10th century, being characterized as a bunch of bumbling, gun toting whack jobs, "on the back of pickup trucks and twisted souls plotting in apartments or garages."

Of note, these, apparently non-ideological “twisted souls” have struck the West three times over the last 2 ½ months, killing nearly 150 and maiming dozens more. This is of course aside from the thousands within ISIS’ main battle space whom they have, with a grotesque level of cruelty, exterminated and defiled.

Though the President continues to represent his ISIS policy as working, the facts on the ground contradict him.

Two data points:

1. It’s impossible to reasonably claim, comparing territorial gains from the groups inception in 2014 through 2015, that it is being defeated.

2. ISIS itself shouldn’t be used as a barometer in gauging the threat posed by globalist jihadi groups to the West, it’s far more complex.

As evidence we turn to the aforementioned ISW which makes a very salient point; concentrating on tactical wins/losses of the various jihadist groups clouds the larger reality. The influence of hundreds of jihadist groups worldwide must be summed, not broken down into components, because it’s the overall unified threat that is important.

All of these outfits share identical goals and ideology and though ISIS does not play as well with other jihadis, as do some of the other Islamic revolutionary movements, the effect is cumulative.

“Physical annihilation or total subjugation are not the only existential threats to America. Al Qaeda and ISIS also pose a threat to the continued existence of the world order we have known for decades....Separating the elements of al Qaeda and ISIS actively working to attack the West from the main bodies of those groups fighting in the Middle East, Africa, and South Asia is impossible. All al Qaeda groups and ISIS affiliates seek to take the war into the West at some point and in some manner. Differences among and within groups on this matter are pragmatic”

When you consider the tremendous increase in influence of ISIS has had throughout the ME, its ability to project power globally [if only UC Merced, Paris, San Bernardino in the West] etc., it’s difficult to draw the conclusion that the forces of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi are in retreat.

In support of that consider the following visual which we assembled using ISW data.

Equally, if not more troubling and probative when thinking strategically are the myriad tentacles it has extended over a vast expanse of territory in a very short period of time.

Please refer to area of influence map which is located here.

This illustration clearly shows that outside of Iraq and Syria there are 8 nations, Nigeria, Libya, Algeria, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Russia and Pakistan, which currently have ISIS Wilyats/Governates.

Nothing like this existed prior to the creation of ISIS.

Additionally the U.S. air war is half-hearted at best, designed to obfuscate at worst. Though American strikes are certainly effective when undertaken, the number of daily sorties can usually be counted on one or two hands.

Takeaway: The CIC's push back is by historical standards nonexistent. A concerted 24 x 7 effort might see 200 missions a day. Certainly what has been done has proven effective but nowhere near enough to affect the strategic balance. If it were not for the ridiculous rules of engagement, ISIS’ command and control centers in Raqqa could be leveled in short order.

There is no lack of ability here; it’s a lack of will.

Rather than slowly fading away, or even being contained, ISIS has and continues to gain in strength. The few tactical setbacks it has seen in Iraq and Syria are more than offset by expanded operations and opportunities outside of the center of the Caliphate where the black flag is increasingly being hoisted.

18 months ago the prospect of Islamic holy war taking place in Paris or San Bernardino would have been unthinkable.

That is no longer the case.

©2016 LLC, William Mayer. Beila Rabinowitz contributed to this report. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law.