America Must Not Repeat the Mistake of Letting Islamic State Rebound from an Incomplete Defeat

After over four years of fighting, the U.S. and its allies have finally deprived Islamic State (IS) of its territorial base in Syria and Iraq. But the presence of IS offshoots throughout Africa and Asia, and the group’s ability to carry out terrorist attacks—for instance the Easter bombings in Sri Lanka—show that it is far from defeated. Bill Roggio urges Washington to break its habit of prematurely declaring victory and precipitously withdrawing, but instead to press its advantage:

Islamic State’s predecessor, the Islamic State of Iraq, which was really a front for al-Qaeda in Iraq, suffered a major defeat during the U.S. surge from 2006 to 2010. The Islamic State of Iraq controlled vast areas of the country prior to the surge; [it] responded [to its defeat] by going to ground and husbanding its forces. By early 2012, the group was back launching vicious attacks against Iraqi security forces, a prelude to Islamic State’s rampage in 2014. This same cycle has been seen in other theaters against jihadist enemies. . . .

Conditions in Iraq and Syria are ripe for this pattern to repeat itself. [The group’s head], Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, and many key leaders remain alive. Thousands if not tens of thousands of IS soldiers are at the ready. The Syrian and Iraqi regimes are ill-equipped to deal with the long-term threat. [Moreover], IS is not the only threat that would be buttressed by a [premature] American withdrawal. . . . Al-Qaeda, which initiated the war on 9/11, has not been “decimated” and is not “on the path to defeat” as President Obama boasted years ago. . . .

[A] lack of commitment by the U.S. will also be taken as a sign of encouragement for state sponsors of terrorism, particularly Pakistan and Iran. Pakistan is arguably responsible for the deaths of more than 2,000 U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan. Without Pakistan’s support of the Taliban, it would not be able to maintain a viable insurgency. Iran has paid no price for backing Shiite militias in Iraq, which are responsible for the deaths of more than 600 U.S. soldiers. Disengagement [from Syria, Iraq, or Afghanistan] will be seen as a green light to use terrorism as a tool of statecraft.

The defeat of IS in Iraq and Syria is a welcome and necessary development in the war, and it was long overdue. But it was merely one battle in this long war. These jihadists remain committed to their cause, despite long odds against them. There is no question that the West possesses the resources and talent to defeat such an enemy. Does it have the will?

Welcome to Mosaic

Register now to get two more stories free

Register Now

Already a subscriber? Sign in now

Read more at Washington Examiner

More about: Iran, Iraq, ISIS, Pakistan, U.S. Foreign policy, War on Terror

Only a Clear Message to Iran Can Restore Israel’s Deterrence

Aug. 19 2019

Currently the greatest threat facing the Jewish state is an attack on three fronts, in which Hizballah and other Iranian forces launch tens of thousands of missiles simultaneously from both Lebanon and Syria, while Hamas—now also taking orders from Tehran—does the same from Gaza. Such a barrage would likely overwhelm Israel’s storied missile-defense systems, severely disrupt civilian life and possible result in high casualties, and gravely interfere with the IDF’s ability to counterattack. Noting that the Islamic Republic could unleash this mayhem at the time of its choosing, Benny Morris suggests a straightforward preventative measure. (Free registration required.)

Sign up to read more

You've read all your free articles for this month


Sign up now for unlimited access to the best in Jewish thought, culture, and politics

Already have an account? Log in now

Read more at Haaretz

More about: Hamas, Hizballah, Iran, Israeli Security, Syria