The threat is not over, and is in fact growing. We are making progress and ISIS is losing ground. Depending on which report or article you read, or which person or “news” outlet you listen to, we are either winning or losing our fight against ISIS. However, CIA Director John Brennan just gave a presentation that highlights a bit of both sides of the fight, showing that although the Islamic terrorist group has been hit hard, it is not going away anytime soon (or, although it is still around, it has been hit hard).
We are Winning…Sort of
In a statement to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence yesterday, the Director of the CIA, John Brennan, said we are making progress against the Islamist terrorist group — which goes by, and is referred to as, all kinds of monikers and acronyms such as ISIS, ISIL, IS, and Daesh (not their favorite) — however it appears when they lose ground in one area, they are “resilient” and adaptable to gaining ground in other areas.
It is true that the number of deadly attacks and the amount of territory ISIS had occupied in Iraq and Syria has lessened, and they have been pushed back across that territory. In fact, Iraq just won ground in Fallujah as of today. This is in part due to less travelers showing up to physically join the cause and execute attacks there in person, because authorities have made it more difficult and challenging to travel to those destinations.
Additionally, ISIS has “lost some of its leaders in airstrikes.” Also, members are getting increasingly disillusioned with the “caliphate” goals and ways of operation, and are defecting either to other groups or just away from ISIS.
As begrudging as it is to admit, one thing ISIS does well is adapt. They are now morphing their tactics again. Since Mohammed can’t come to the mountain, so to speak, the mountain is reaching Mohammed. Instead of focusing on Iraq and Syria, ISIS is branching out in places such as Libya and Africa, encouraging affiliate terrorists to execute more attacks in Europe, such as the ones already carried out in France and Belgium.
Although they are communicating more often via encrypted means — something that is proving to be a challenge for authorities — there is less direct contact between the ISIS terrorists and their members, and more communication with unrelated affiliates via social media. These unrelated wannabes have become radicalized either via the internet or a friend or family member, and are “identifying” with the terrorist group of their choosing. They are being inspired to attack via general messages posted on social media, such as one reported by the Washington Post.
The Islamic State spokesman, Abu Muhammad al-Adnani, urged in his message to the easily swayed, that they don’t have to travel to Syria and can stage their own attack in the West.
“[T]he smallest action you do in their heartland is better and more enduring to us than what you would if you were with us.”
Additionally, even if someone has no previous, evident, active connection with ISIS, if they pull something off and it spreads across the media — like the murderer who just killed at least 49 in the Orlando nightclub— and ISIS likes it enough, the “media strategists of the Islamic State” will decide that they want to publicly embrace the single terrorist as ISIS-connected.
Lastly, although ISIS’ finances have definitely taken a hit, they are still pulling in tens of millions of dollars from taxes and continued oil sales.
The bottom line is that even if we are winning the fight against the ISIS terrorist group in some areas, it is a resilient enemy and, as animals do in the wild, it has so far learned to adapt. This means the fight continues even stronger in other areas. We must remain vigilant and not get complacent in any area, either on the danger side or on the safety side, because there will be future terror attacks on the West and we must be ready.
[Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images]