Threat of ISIS Still RealPosted: February 8, 2018
Threat of ISIS Still Real
by JBS President Emeritus John F. McManus
During his 2018 State of the Union speech, President Trump delighted in reporting that Islamic State forces had been defeated in virtually all of the territory they had seized over recent years. But even he admitted, “There is much more work to be done.”
It is certainly true that ISIS forces no longer dominate portions of Iraq and Syria. But what became of the thousands of fighters who waged bloody warfare remains a concern of realists who comment about developments regarding ISIS. One assessment of what happens next was provided by Otso Iho, a senior analyst at London-based Jane’s Terrorism and Insurgency Center. As noted by the New York Times, this expert reported: “The group is transitioning into an underground organization that places more weight on asymmetric tactics like suicide bombings against soft targets in government-secured areas like Baghdad.”
Iho pointed to a recent suicide attack in Baghdad that killed several dozen and wounded close to 100. The incident occurred at a busy location in the Iraqi capital where laborers gather daily in hopes of being hired by someone.
How many of the thousands of ISIS warriors have discarded their uniforms and are melting into the populations of Iraq, Syria, and elsewhere isn’t known. But anyone who has studied ISIS and its efforts over the past four years knows that the number of dedicated Islamic warriors reaches into the tens of thousands. Some of these who have fled the formerly held caliphate and can be found in Libya, Yemen, Turkey, even the Philippines. Of these, many have joined never-defeated branches of Al Qaeda in those nations.
The number of Americans who traveled to ISIS-held territory in order to become an Islamist warrior number less than one thousand. But, according to Gilles de Kerchove, the European Union’s senior counter terrorism official, more than 5,000 Europeans left their homes and became ISIS fighters. Some perished and a few are still fighting. But 1,500 have returned to their European countries and each can be legitimately by labeled a potential terrorist. America’s vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Paul Selva summarized the situation in grim detail:
The thought that these foreign fighters who have participated in this fight now for over two years will quietly leave Syria and return to their jobs as shopkeepers in Paris, in Brussels, in Copenhagen, and elsewhere is ludicrous. That’s a very compelling problem.
The motivation keeping these men tied to ISIS and its determination to establish a dominant Islamic caliphate surely includes the promise of heavenly bliss for those who perish for Allah. It additionally promises the same glorious afterlife for suicide bombers. In other words, the problem presented when ISIS emerged several years ago hasn’t been solved by routing its military arm.
The West, certainly including the United States, has to expect more terror-inspired attacks.
Mr. McManus served in the U.S. Marine Corps in the late 1950s and joined the staff of The John Birch Society in August 1966. He has served various roles for the organization including Field Coordinator, Director of Public Affairs, and President. Mr. McManus has appeared on hundreds of radio and television programs and is also author of a number of educational DVDs and books. Now President Emeritus, he continues his involvement with the Society through public speaking and writing for this blog, the JBS Bulletin, and The New American.