Small Wars Journal

I Was Special Envoy to Fight the Islamic State. Our Gains are Now at Risk.

I Was Special Envoy to Fight the Islamic State. Our Gains are Now at Risk. By John R. Allen – Washington Post

John R. Allen, president of the Brookings Institution, is a retired four-star Marine Corps general who served as special presidential envoy to the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL (now ISIS) in 2014-2015.


Four years ago, just before President Barack Obama appointed me his special envoy to the coalition fighting the so-called Islamic State, I laid out a set of ideas for how to defeat and ultimately destroy the terrorist group. Because the Islamic State was a regional and global problem, posing an imminent threat to the United States, it was clear that its defeat would require an international coalition.


I recommended that this coalition, once formed, be tasked with halting the group’s forward momentum, empowering indigenous forces to be the final and lasting agents of the Islamic State’s defeat, and coordinating much-needed stabilization efforts once the fighting had subsided. I believed then, and remained convinced after taking on the role of special envoy, that only through a comprehensive and multilateral approach could the Islamic State be truly eliminated from the world stage.


Ultimately, the broad strategy executed by the Obama administration and largely continued by the Trump administration was a success — the Islamic State was halted in its tracks and was slowly but surely rolled back in Iraq and Syria. Yet, President Trump’s recent decision to announce the defeat of the Islamic State and pull U.S. forces from the region demands that we confront the question: After more than three years of the coalition campaign against the group, what is the condition of the Islamic State today?


The answer requires a bit of context. After splitting with the al-Nusra Front in the chaotic Syrian battlespace of 2014 and styling itself as a caliphate, the Islamic State quickly grew into a well-coordinated, internationally focused group. Fueled in part by a striking adeptness at digital propaganda that attracted thousands of foreign fighters to its ranks, the group evolved into a three-headed monster — with a core territory spanning Iraq and Syria; with control of discrete external territories in Asia and Africa; and with a permanent and highly sophisticated presence online…

Read on.


Once again, President Trump has shown that he does not seem to understand that fight that he is in -- which:

a.  Is not a fight against terrorism/terrorists, per se, 

b.  But, instead, a fight against those that -- much like the Soviets/the communists in the past -- offer their own  populations, and those of other states and societies, a way of life, a way of governance and values, attitudes and beliefs which are decidedly different from our own.

(These such alternative ways of life, etc., tending to halt/prevent our ability to reach out to and penetrate the hearts and minds of these such populations and to "transform" them -- via our own way of life, etc. -- so that they might be better utilized for our own purposes.)


a.  In such a "fight" as I describe above:

b.  Defeating the terrorists in only, shall we say, "Step Number One?" (If, indeed, even that?)