Why There Is So Little Attention for the Islamic State’s Defeat

David French wonders why the defeat of the self-proclaimed Islamic State (or ISIS) isn’t a bigger story.

Remember how debates about ISIS dominated the presidential primaries? Remember how Donald Trump and Ted Cruz ratcheted up their rhetoric until they both seemed to promise that they’d commit warcrimes, like carpet bombing and torture, to defeat the deadly threat? ISIS was often the most important and most prominent story in the world.

Now that the wannabe caliphate lies in ruins, though, Americans no longer care. Read more “Why There Is So Little Attention for the Islamic State’s Defeat”

Trump Doesn’t Deserve Credit for Defeating the Islamic State

Donald Trump Emmanuel Macron
Presidents Donald Trump of the United States and Emmanuel Macron of France inspect an honor guard in Paris, July 13 (Elysée/Soazig de la Moissonniere)

Donald Trump wants credit for defeating the self-proclaimed Islamic State.

In a radio interview, the American said he “totally changed the attitudes of the military” after taking over as president from Barack Obama in January.

“We weren’t fighting to win,” he said of the Obama era. “We were fighting to be politically correct.”

Asked why the caliphate is now giving up, the president said, “Because you didn’t have Trump as your president. I mean, it was a big difference.”

Sure. Read more “Trump Doesn’t Deserve Credit for Defeating the Islamic State”

After Caliphate’s Fall, A Spending Challenge

Since Iraqi troops seized back Mosul last month, the self-proclaimed Islamic State has been reduced to the area around Raqqa in Syria. Predominantly Kurdish forces are attempting to take the city, protected by Western airpower. Authorities estimate the number of Islamist fighters has dwindled from the thousands to the hundreds.

As soon as the caliphate falls, governments will face another challenge: the reconstruction. Read more “After Caliphate’s Fall, A Spending Challenge”

Dark Side to Coalition’s Success Against Islamic State

The Western-backed effort to drive the Islamic State out of Iraq is making headway. The self-proclaimed caliphate has lost two-thirds of its territory. The battle for Mosul, Iraq’s second city, is well underway.

But there is a dark side to the coalition’s success in Iraq. We’ve seen it in the streets of Paris, Nice and London: The more the Islamic State is cornered, the more of its sympathizers commit terrorist attacks in the West.

Gilles de Kerchove, the EU’s counterterrorism coordinator, has warned that as Islamic State leaders are killed and the group loses territory in the Middle East, it could take the fight to Western Europe.

Returning jihadists, who are estimated to number in the thousands, pose a particular threat. Not all plan to commit attacks upon returning, but the risk that they do is substantial and more fighters could return in the coming months as the Islamic State is reduced. Read more “Dark Side to Coalition’s Success Against Islamic State”

Trump Seems to Realize Assad Is No Ally Against Islamic State

It appears to have dawned on Donald Trump that a pact with Syria’s Bashar al-Assad against the Islamists in his country makes no sense.

“It’s very, very possible, and, I will tell you, it’s already happened, that my attitude toward Syria and Assad has changed very much,” the American president told reporters in Washington after it emerged that Assad’s troops had again deployed chemical weapons.

As recently as last week, Trump’s secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, appeared to soften America’s position, saying Assad’s future “will be decided by the Syrian people”.

Trump’s Democratic predecessor, Barack Obama, famously declared Assad “must go”.

During last year’s presidential campaign, Trump told The New York Times he saw the self-proclaimed Islamic State in Iraq and Syria as a bigger threat than Assad.

He also repeatedly counseled against American military intervention in Syria. (Which didn’t stop him from blaming the absence of military intervention under Obama for the most recent chemical weapons attack.) Read more “Trump Seems to Realize Assad Is No Ally Against Islamic State”

Trump’s Plan to Defeat Islamists Looks a Lot Like Obama’s

Remember Donald Trump’s secret plan to defeat the Islamic State?

During last year’s presidential campaign, the Republican said he knew how to defeat the caliphate. Indeed, he knew better than the generals.

Trump wouldn’t tell us what his plan was. That could tip off the enemy, he said.

In reality, he never had a plan. As soon as he was elected, Trump’s secret plan became a request to the Pentagon for an updated strategy.

Now the same generals who, according to Trump, didn’t know what they were doing have come back and recommended not to change the strategy. Read more “Trump’s Plan to Defeat Islamists Looks a Lot Like Obama’s”

Syria’s Endgame

It has taken at least 400,000 dead and over ten million internally and externally displaced Syrians, but we are finally coming to the end game of the Syrian Civil War.

Last week, Turkey’s Recep Erdoğan blithely announced in a news conference that Raqqa, the capital of the Islamic State, would be the final target of the Turkish invasion.

Today, Pentagon sources leaked that the United States might send large combat forces into Syria.

This comes on the heels of talks between Iran, Turkey and Russia aimed at ending the conflict.

At long last, a confluence of interest is emerging that is the beginning of the end of the Syrian Civil War. Read more “Syria’s Endgame”

Defeat in Mosul Will Not Eliminate the Islamic State

As David Downing reported here on Sunday, Mosul could make a quick economic recovery once it is entirely liberated from the self-declared Islamic State by Iraqi government forces.

Not only is the city, once Iraq’s second largest, a hub for northern Iraqi industry and trade; it’s also situated close to major oil and natural gas reserves. The potential for further economic expansion could be close at hand.

The battle will not be over quickly, though. It has been estimated it will take another three to five months to rout the Islamic State from eastern Mosul.

Once the militants are defeated, internal and sectarian divisions could resurface. A Shia-Sunni divide seems inevitable. Mosul being a Sunni majority town doesn’t help the cause for peaceful settlement. Friction between religious groups can hurt reconstruction efforts, especially with the involvement of Iraqi prime minister Haider al-Abadi’s sanctioned Shia fighters. We are looking at a “game of thrones” mentality where a balance of factions in this enclave becomes quite a task. Read more “Defeat in Mosul Will Not Eliminate the Islamic State”

Joining Assad and Russia Against Islamic State Is Foolish

One of Donald Trump’s most foolish foreign-policy proposals is to team up with Iran, Russia and Bashar al-Assad to defeat the Islamic State in Syria.

“I don’t like Assad at all, but Assad is killing ISIS,” the American president-elect said last month, referring to the self-proclaimed Islamic State by an acronym.

“Russia is killing ISIS and Iran is killing ISIS.”

If that were true, a pact might make sense. But it isn’t. And even if it were, the arguments are against an alliance. Read more “Joining Assad and Russia Against Islamic State Is Foolish”

After Mosul Falls, What Then?

There are some 100,000 troops involved in the conquest (or reconquest, depending on your perspective) of Mosul. On the surface, the battle is meant to restore the Iraqi government to its full writ; a Baghdad-united Shia and Sunni realm, a nation state on the way to functionality. In other words, a normal country.

Ah, dreams.

Careful observation reveals a more wretched future. The Islamic State may be doomed, but that hardly means peace for Iraq. There are too many who want a piece of this particular pie.

Many players there are. Let’s start with the greatest of powers, who define the broadest outlines of geopolitics in the Middle East. Read more “After Mosul Falls, What Then?”