Small Wars Journal

Islamic State Becoming Urban Guerrilla Threat

Islamic State Becoming Urban Guerrilla Threat, Expert Tells AFP by Agence France-Presse

The West must ramp up air strikes by 10 to 20 times to have any hope of disrupting the Islamic State group, which risks turning Europe into an urban guerrilla warzone, warned one of the world's leading counter-terrorism experts.

David Kilcullen, an Australian army veteran, became the senior counter-insurgency advisor to US General David Petraeus during the Iraq War and is considered a key architect of the "surge" strategy that helped turn the conflict around.

In an exclusive interview, he told AFP the Paris attacks showed the Islamic State group (IS) was morphing from a terrorist threat into a "structured organisation" like the IRA in Ireland or ETA in Spain during the 20th century…

"We're treating IS like a terrorist organisation, trying to target individual leaders and weapons posts.”

"We should be targeting them as an enemy state. That's what they are. We need be knocking out the power, the water supply, their control of oil fields and refineries, the cities they control.” ...

Read on.


Outlaw 09

Wed, 11/25/2015 - 6:19am

Social media is the answer when pushing back on the AQ/IS info war side of the house that drives their recruitment and global marketing image.

This was finally picked up by a single MSM outlet but had been extensively covered in social media initially with little to no response from MSM.

Teenage Austrian 'poster girl for the Islamic State' killed by group for trying to escape - Telegraph…

MSM across all countries should be doing the following messaging but some how it isn't...young Muslims who might be duped into thinking ISIS is cool, need to learn from this. They're cold blooded killers in the name of Islam--use the truth of the event as the focal point of the messaging.


Mon, 11/23/2015 - 11:10pm

In reply to by Outlaw 09

Perhaps Assad was simply being prescient...

He has been attempting to position himself as a bulwark against Islamism.

Outlaw 09

Mon, 11/23/2015 - 2:37pm

An interesting intertwined is Assad and the IS in the attacks on France....???

Anonymous ‏@YourAnonCentral
Hours after the #Paris attacks Assad in a message to France said "he had warned the West not to meddle in #Syria’s affairs."

Assad Fueled The Al-Qaeda [#ISIS] Surge That Has Kept Him In Power. via @MichaelKelleyBI

"We said do not mess with the fault-line in #Syria, it’s going to be an earthquake that will reverberate around the world,” Assad to EU.

Outlaw 09

Mon, 11/23/2015 - 1:37pm

In reply to by Azor

Azor ---an interesting article but I tend to think there has been no tactical shift--the only actual shift is in the concept of attacking previously "far enemies" vs now "near enemies" and just because they are taking battlefield loses does not mean they upped their game to distract from those loses.

If you really analyze their video threats---Russia has been their target far more times in those videos than say France...France is a natural target due to the dissatifcation of young Muslims from North Africa living on the edge of French society which is to a degree racist against North Africans---kind of an holdover from the Algerian days. There are massive ghettos that Muslims were placed into in France and if you are a young Muslim and have succeeded in actually achieving your highschool degree in France--the doors to the university are yours--so you make it through the university and apply then for work--in France your Zip Code is the card to success and if you hail from the wrong Zip Code then hang it up.

That is the reality of todays France regardless of what Hollande tries to spin and IS plays to that dissatifiaction via their info war messaging 24 x 7 X 365.

Secondly, if we are actually kind to IS --yes they planned for these attacks and they spent time on them but they bascially failed---meaning three blew themselves up with no major damage done and the rest went down shooting--the second large team got basically rolled up as did the 21 arrested in Belgium in the last few days. AND these were largely cells already based in France and Belgium and just expanded by new members for the strikes from syria for their combat experience.

If you are to survive and expand as an urban guerrilla you cannot keep taking loses--sure it is great for the media but that means you have to start from scratch with every new attack as the previous cell blew themselves up....that kind of kills keeping a level of experience in the field to plan and cary out more attacks. Kind of like firing an AK and then running out of ammunition and you cannot get more.

Yes they killed 130 but really the death toll could have been far higher but it was not.

We should be looking at exactly why they failed....their tradecraft of working on the dark side unseen by the police and security services was only as good until the first person was arrested and the tradecraft thread unravelled.

In some aspects previously planned attacks in France say from the 2004-2005 timeframe--bombing attacks planned against the Cathedral in Strasbourg--from which the Crusaders started with a Church blessing were far more dangerous as they had high explosives (literally kilos of it) not selfmade explosives and only stopped literally at the very last moment. AND there it was a tip from the inside that the police used to roll up the group not police-security services developed leads.

My concern is that IS was always good at self analysis of failures in Iraq and will learn and morph from these attacks making the next go around even harder to detect--that was the evolution of previous European terror groups in the 70-80s.

But the support needed to truly support multple attack teams that to a degree blow themselves up takes alot money, alot of effort and alot of tradecraft experience especially with the technology of the 21st century being used against them.

Not so sure they can maintain the pace.

Still maintain one can dry up the swamp but it is via info warfare both against IS and directed as well at those standing close to the edge in their decisions and it will take time alot of time and patience with a large P.

But we seem to not be able to organize any capable long term anti IS info war program.

BTW the big difference between IS and Hezbollah is ---non state actor vs a state sponsored actor.

Goes to my thoughts that the tradecraft experience was not enough to match a concerted pushback by police and security confusion rules as they unwind the two cells and those cells in Belgium.

BREAKING: An explosive belt, same type as those used at the #ParisAttacks, was discovered in #Montrouge #France.

You can be the greatest jihadi fighter in Aleppo or Ramadi but urban guerrilla warfare takes an altogether different skillset and mindset.

Outlaw 09

Mon, 11/23/2015 - 3:09am

ISIS Jihadi Helpdesk Customer Log, Nov. 20

From NBC News come revelations that ISIS has its very own web-savvy, 24-hour Jihadi Help Desk manned by a half-dozen senior operatives to assist foot soldiers in spreading their message far and wide. My first reaction to this story was disbelief, then envy (hey, where the heck is my 24/7 support?). But soon enough I forgot about all that, my mind racing with other possibilities.

jihadihelpdeskImagine the epic trolling opportunities available to a bored or disgruntled Jihadi Help Desk operator. For this persona, we need to reach way back into the annals of Internet history to the Bastard Operator from Hell (BOFH) — a megalomaniacal system administrator who constantly toyed with the very co-workers he was paid to support. What might a conversation between a jihadi and the Bastard Jihadi Operator from Hell (BJOFH) sound like?

[RECORDED MESSAGE]: Thank you for contacting the ISIS Jihadi Help Desk. We are currently experiencing higher than normal call volume. Please wait and your inquiry will be answered in the order that it was received. This call may be monitored for customer service and Jihadi training purposes.

JIHADI: [audible sigh].


BJOFH: ISIS Jihadi Helpdesk, Mohammed speaking, how may I help you?

JIHADI: Finally! I thought someone would never answer! I’ve been sitting here sweating bullets and listening to the same infidel hold music over and over.

BJOFH: My sincerest apologies, sir. Someone hit “reply-all” on an operational email, and that really lit up our switchboard this morning. Also, most of the encrypted email services we use are under attack by some other terrorist group and are offline at the moment.

JIHADI: Too bad for them. Seriously, you guys call this 24/7 support?? I’ve been parked on this couch for hours waiting for some son-of-a-dog to answer!

BJOFH: [Pause. Deep breath.]…Well, you’ve got me now, sir. What can I do to…er…for you?

JIHADI: Right. So I’ve got a hardware problem. This itchy vest I have keeps beeping, really loud. It’s getting super annoying, and I’ve got to have some quiet prayer…you know….me-time…pretty soon now, understand?

BJOFH: Yes, I see. Well, good news, brother! I think I can help you. Tell me…is there a mobile phone attached to the vest?

JIHADI: [inaudible…fumbling with receiver]….uh..yeah there is..Huh…feels like there’s one sewn into the left inside pocket.

BJOFH: So, I’m going to try something on my end. Sit tight, and I’ll be right back.

JIHADI: [pause] Uh…okay. But don’t be gone so long this time!

BJOFH: [one minute later]…Thanks for holding. Yeah, looks like I’m going to have to go ahead and troubleshoot this issue a bit more. Can you do me a favor and call me from the vest phone?

JIHADI: Uh..wait, through the jacket, you mean?

BJOFH: Yes, sir. My desk line here is 1-866-GO-JIHAD.

JIHADI: Okay. But it’s kinda hard to reach the keypad. So many wires….

BJOFH: Totally fine, sir. Take your time. You should still be able to feel the phone’s keypad through the pocket fabric.

JIHADI: Okay yeah, I think I got it. So how do I send the call?

BJOFH: If your vest is the model I think it is, the “Send Message” button should be the big one in the middle above the keypad.

JIHADI: [Fumbling with the phone] Okay, is it ringing?

BJOFH: [Line rings in background] Yep, got it, thanks. Okay, now I’m going to call you back.


BJOFH: Great. Do me a favor and just wait until the phone rings at least once before answering, okay?

JIHADI: Fine, whatever. Just…today, maybe?

BJOFH: You bet. Go JIHAD!

JIHADI: Wait a second! how do I answer…[fumbling with the receiver]

[Vest phone rings. Line goes dead].

All satire aside, the jihadis take their security and privacy seriously, shouldn’t you? has helpfully published a translated 34-page Opsec Guide (PDF), a document originally printed in Arabic and intended to introduce newbies to basic operational security measures, techniques and technologies. It’s not the easiest tutorial to read, but it does reference a great many resources worth investigating further.

BTW--the OPSEC manual was previously done for journalists traveling to the ME or working in war zones--IS just modified it for themselves and re-released it.

We refuse to call the Islamic State what it really is: the current iteration of Sunni supremacism.

IS is merely taking over from Al Qaeda, albeit while learning from its mistakes.

It fields conventional forces in Syria and Iraq, unconventional forces beyond its "borders", and can motivate lone wolves and sympathizers among the Muslim diaspora.

Even if we destroy the physical Islamic State, its ideology will persist.

What do Muslims offer the West that it can't get from any other group of people? Why do we have to lose our freedoms and manage a low-level civil war out of misguided tolerance?

Outlaw 09

Mon, 11/23/2015 - 7:40am

In reply to by Outlaw 09

brusselslockdown during one hour we have been sending 1000 pictures a minute to block all other news out...we won

At the peak point in the blockade effort there were 1.3K tweets per minute and for the total blockade effort over 220K were sent.

Evidently as usual Twitter never seemed to notice the spike in traffic....

Outlaw 09

Mon, 11/23/2015 - 7:08am

In reply to by Outlaw 09

Belgium Federal Police response to the social media black out driven by "cats" yesterday evening to keep extensive jihadi raid info from becoming public knowledge via social media......

Belgian police response to the cat tweets re #BrusselsLockdown: Brusseleir humour at its best

Federale Politie ✔ @FedPol_pers
Voor de katten die ons gisteren geholpen hebben... Alsjeblieft! #BrusselsLockdown

Outlaw 09

Sun, 11/22/2015 - 5:34pm

We way to often underestimate the power of social media especially if it is used to block Russian and IS information warfare.

Tonight in Brussels there is a massive police and military operation underway--police asked for a social media blackout but the supporters of IS starting tweeting under various hashtags info concerning the locations and what was ongoing---social media started a blockade of those specific hashtags in order to assist the police....

BrusselsAlert People are now posting cats, dogs even hedgehogs to suppress any leaks about ongoing operations

brusselsattack #brusselslockdown #brusselsalert #niveau4 we have won operations are OVer WE HAVE WON - channels blocked

in half an hour press conference #bruissels #terrorism operation over NO MORE cats needed we have won

mailforlen @mailforlen
stop sending cats and pics the operation is over we have won #brusselslockdown all arrested

mailforlen @mailforlen
thank you for sending cats all that time - the world has learned now how to block channels quickly #brusselslockdown

There is an inherent power in social media that nation states are seemingly unwilling to use against IS.....why is that????

Outlaw 09

Sun, 11/22/2015 - 7:27am

I have been saying this over and over here at SWJ….and Obama has never SEEN this coming at us???....…he is a President, has a DNI, has a 700 person NSC and the entire IC AND yet he twisted arms for his Iran Deal which was strictly for his legacy………

BREAKING: Head of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards says country is leading a “single Islamic nation” in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen.

Source for this item can be found here

Iran coming out of the closet now: Their Islamic Revolution to spread throughout the Middle East.

How many times in say the last five years have I mentioned here at SWJ that Iran has since Khomeini stated his concept of the “revolutionary Islam” prior to the takeover of our Embassy and it’s declared defense by the IRGC as well as the Khomeini stated “Green Crescent”—the current Iran is not about to change.

Regardless of what the dreamers inside the WH think….

What we are now seeing and it is the core believe of IS--they are equally at war with the Shia and Iran as well as the West...we should never forget that tidbit......


Sun, 11/22/2015 - 1:14pm

In reply to by Outlaw 09

Outlaw9, what would be your complete plan?

Outlaw 09

Sun, 11/22/2015 - 12:04pm

In reply to by Outlaw 09

Appears to confirm what I mean by the comment many in the west including MSM do not fully understand what a Takfirist is in Islam and how they can "live among their enemies".

Notice how this MSM article never once mentions if the participants were takfirists....telling actually.

If you fully understand them--they are the only Muslims that can kill other Muslims and not pay a price for it in the Koran.

The core reason they did not "appear to be Islamists" to both the French and Belgium security agencies was exactly what this article talks about--no Friday prayer sessions, no online jihadi web site visits, not seen with other local radicalized individuals and the list goes no and on.....just partiers, drug sellers and nude photos....check exactly how the 9/11 group acted when they were in the US and preparing for their attacks...the exact same process.

One frequented gay sex clubs; another sold drugs: hypocritical misfits behind #ParisAttacks …

If one paid very close attention to the French RAID team commander the female suicider engaged them in a conversation and tried to lure them closer to her in order to kill them with her bomb vest---and he also made the comment she was indeed going to kill herself and them to--this on top of the fact that they themselves fired over 5000 rounds in the fire fight...does this sound like "hypocritical misfits"?? Core question would be just where did they radicalize each other if they were out partying, or selling drugs....?? Takfirists are extremely motivated and do not need your common mosque or prayer group--they just need each other in a room.

If you heard him talk about their first fire fight on the 13th in the theater the two there did not give ground and fought hard with one blowing himself up and the other being shot multiple times. does that sound like "hypocritical misfits".

You cannot fight an urban guerrilla until you fully understand his motivations and how he fights...otherwise it is just a waste of time...

Outlaw 09

Sun, 11/22/2015 - 7:16am

In reply to by Outlaw 09

This is one example of why it is so important to push back on the IS info war side 24 X7 365...........BTW just as it is important to push back on the Russian info war.

‏@LatestAnonNews Where are ISIS supporters tweeting from in 2015?
1. Saudi Arabia
2. Syria
3. Iraq
4. United States
5. Egypt

NOTICE number who??

Outlaw 09

Sun, 11/22/2015 - 3:31am

We in the West are really bad about understanding lessons from history....Europe has had it's issues with urban terror groups since the PLO, PFPL under Habash (which by the way is now fighting along side Assad in Syria against Sunni's), the IRA, Red Brigade and the well known German RAF.

One thing we have forgotten is how these groups morphed a number of times and many had left wings that fractured into other urban guerrilla groups ie RAF which split into two/three groups.

Why we assume that IS is not right now a UW practitioner is beyond me---urban warfare is just another tactic in UW. They initially joined the Iraqi Salafist UW efforts in 1991 until they branched out on their own and have been up to now quite successful in using UW.

Urban guerrilla groups have a large number of single points of failure--they need safe houses, money, ID documents that can pass police checkpoints, transportation and logistical support. BTW---a number of failures in this chain is what led police to roll up the Paris and Brussels groups.

We also forget that there is an Salafist element called Takfiri that is used to mask their urban activities and we saw this very clearly in the second group of IS that was rolled up. We need to fully understand what Takfiri's are capable of--the entire 9/11 group were Takfiri as that wing of Islam allows them to mask themselves into a society --practically not acting like Muslims but rather like you or me as they fight their "near enemy".

But in the case of IS---there is one critical point of failure--informational warfare--it is used as their recruitment tool, their funding flows, their messaging both internal to local supporters and it defines their image.

Europe has a long history of using police and security agencies to push back --they just need to get organized --ie it is hard to get 28 different police and security services all on the same page on the info sharing side.

They did not see nor did we see the coming UW tactic urban warfare--but actually it has been there all the while--I am actually surprised that IS did not go to it sooner.

Europol was/is a beginning but that was focused on criminal activities not urban warfare.

I am not pessimistic as many are---we just need to understand that this is a long hual thing and that there will be wins and loses and that the urban guerrilla will morph to face the police challenge but in the end they will disappear as did RAF and the IRA because and it is from experience that I speak--it is hard to live in the underground and not eventually be found---it is all about tradecraft and IS still has not yet achieved that-if they get there first we might in fact be in trouble. Yes senior members of IS were trained by the KGB and MfS but that was for internal security not urban warfare--two completely different games.

BUT to truly win one must control the informational warfare battle space and there we are doing rather badly--we have virtually turned it over to the user of UW and their political warfare goals.

Bill M.

Sat, 11/21/2015 - 10:49pm

I recall Dr. Kilcullen a few years stating the obvious to the military, which was that in addition to nation building you still have kill your adversaries. Our COIN doctrine and liberal biases based on our Western upbringing turned our military into fools, as evidenced by making civil affairs the primary effort during certain points of war under the assumption we convince people to embrace our way, and embrace the flakey governments we helped form. All the while keeping our adversaries freedom of movement to strengthen and spread. We forgot we were at war, and confused political legitimacy with defeating/suppressing real threats to our security interests. This problem is compounded by the legacy of effects based targeting that still haunts our operational approach. An approach that assumes a minor targeting effort against select targets will make a system collapse. This has never been the case, yet we continue to believe it. Our restraints for rapidly degrading ISIL are self-induced by our national leadership's belief in a strategy based on false premises.

Paris was a tragedy, but is also an opportunity to generate the necessary political will to reduce this threat to a manageable level in relatively quick order. It won't happen overnight, and the long term defeat will not be easy. Fortunately, senior and knowledgeable administration members are speaking out. Quotes are from two articles in the SWJ News Roundup.…

"If your job is to protect the security of others, inaction is never the right answer--and so called "long-term solutions" ring pretty hollow. We are not dealing with individuals who can be "nudged" into better behavior; this generation is lost. And kinetic action always offers the opportunity that you will scare off some of their less-committed members and perhaps kill off some of their more talented leaders. But beware of the politicians and experts who think any of this is easy."…

Mike Vickers speaks out, and provides several recommendations. I'll only quote a couple.

"First, time is not on our side. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant is not just a regional insurgent army. It is a terrorist group with global reach and the leader of global jihad".

"Second, we need a “Syria-first” strategy to replace the Iraq-first strategy we’ve been pursuing."

"Airstrikes are not enough, however. We must leverage the moderate Syrian opposition—and they do exist in the tens of thousands—to dislodge ISIL and Al Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate, Jabhat al-Nusra, from their territory."

"Dislodging ISIL and Al Qaeda from Syria does not mean, moreover, that U.S. forces have to occupy and try to pacify the country afterward."

He then goes into a discussion on what our position on Russia should be.

This is a war, and pretending it is not has led us to a misguided strategy for dealing with ISIL. Yes, there are all sorts of complexities, and an uncertain tomorrow, but it is increasingly apparent to most of the world, that a world without ISIL will be better than a world with ISIL.


Tue, 11/24/2015 - 8:35am

In reply to by slapout9

Yep -- I remember seeing that interview and wincing. Keep in mind, he was one of Warden's planners when Checkmate laid out Instant Thunder. Schwarzkopf (through Horner) sent Warden packing for being a bit too enthusiastic about his own plan, but Horner kept Deptula to run the targeting cell...that's where he made his reputation. Smart guy, and he was more three-dimensional when he was on active duty. Now he's gone over to the dark side...he's effectively a lobbyist.


Fri, 11/20/2015 - 4:27pm

Yes, it is a good model. Warden never said or meant for it to be perfect. But it is truly amazing all the absolute crap that is out there about the 5 rings and Warden. I am trying to get a recent clip of USAF ret. General David Deptula("who used to work with Warden back in the Desert Storm Days) on how we "should be using Airpower against ISIS". Will post as soon as I can get it

The Ice Man

Fri, 11/20/2015 - 6:30am

I can't speak for what would be the best strategy for fighting isis in Iraq and Syria. But as for Europe becoming a war zone, the mass immigration of muslim's needs to be dealt with very soon. The unwillingness to stop this invasion by the govt.'s of Europe, some even after the events in Paris, like Germany needs to change. In fact the integrity of some of these govt.'s may come into question soon because of there peoples anger at there govt.'s apathy of this issue. It may even lead to a back lash with mass persecution and deportation of migrants.


Fri, 11/20/2015 - 11:23am

In reply to by slapout9

It wouldn't be a bad place to start. For all the crap Warden's model takes, it's not a bad strawman to look at the dependencies and vulnerabilities between elements within a nation state. For ISIL, one of the key questions is just how dependent is it on these elements? If you knock out their access to oil money (whether you bomb the oil infrastructure or steal the money out of their accounts), how badly does it hurt them? Just how firm a grip to they need to keep on the population? Kilcullen's right in the aspect that we need to look at ISIL in totality, not just as a group of guys running around with guns and a seductive message. Even true believers need resupply.


Thu, 11/19/2015 - 4:47pm

Of course, we should be using Warden's 5 rings of Victory!