Small Wars Journal

To Defeat ISIS for Good, The U.S. Needs to Take the War Beyond the Battlefield

Sat, 05/13/2017 - 12:44pm

To Defeat ISIS for Good, The U.S. Needs to Take the War Beyond the Battlefield by Joseph Collins, The Hill

We are about to score tremendous tactical victories against ISIS terrorists in Iraq and Syria. The ISIS, or as the Arabs say, Daesh, strongholds of Mosul and Raqqa are about to fall, with much thanks to Iraqi forces, American advisers and miscellaneous militia units. But this is the beginning of a victory, not its final act.

A brilliant Naval officer, a SEAL with many combat tours, recently told an audience of scholars and practitioners in Washington, D.C., that, when Americans say counterterrorism, what they really mean is counterterrorist actions. We are fixated on the battle, the kinetic fight. The other aspects of counterterrorism — stability operations, propaganda and recruitment, returning foreign fighters, and reconciliation or incarceration — often go unaddressed. To win the war against Daesh, we will have to dive deeper into the non-kinetic tasks.

On the battlefield, the first day-after task will be to mop up and count heads. Defeat is far from destruction in detail, which should be the tactical goal. Al Qaeda in Iraq, the forerunner of Daesh, was one of the most completely destroyed terrorist groups in history. In a few short years, a handful of its members hid out and reconstituted in the fertile ground of the Syrian civil war. In 2014, re-empowered, few thousand of them invaded Iraq, bested its Army, and seized a third of Iraq, including Mosul, a city of a few million people.

Daesh fighters are dedicated jihadists. Some will die fighting, but others will try to slip away for the next battle. We have to track them down, cell by cell, and kill or capture them.

Next, we have to turn our attention to governance. Wars begin with political motives, but end with political arrangements. Americans are all about the fight, and often fail to plan adequately for the post-conflict period…

Read on.