Tuesday, April 26, 2016

ISIL : The Beginning of Its End?

"Defeating the formal military presence of a terrorist group will not significantly mitigate the threat of lone wolf or small independent cells that are based in the West."
"You can defeat ISIS in ISIS-controlled territories, but you're not going to defeat ISIS itself. The ideology of jihadism continues to evolve and continues to exist."
Jonathan Schanzer, Foundation for Defense of Democracies, Washington


Various intelligence sources and authorities have come out with definitive statements that in their opinion the threat of Islamic State has been vastly diminished, that they are simply at this point hanging in, still successful in recruiting jihadis from foreign parts, but reeling from the combined assaults that have hammered their forces in the past year. Alternately, other sources express the opinion that there is no real indication that they are losing critical ground, and they will prevail.

U.S. Defense Department officials have revealed that U.S. airstrikes have killed 24,000 Islamic State fighters in Iraq and Syria. Millions of dollars plundered by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, and placed in storage areas have been incinerated in those airstrikes, striking a blow for the financial support of Islamic State purchasing power of new weapons, and salaries paid to their fighters. Of the territory that ISIL has captured in Iraq, 40 percent has been lost to them, along with a similar geography in Syria.

Those are the setbacks that Islamic State has suffered, but it's hard to tell how meaningful they are to its determination to continue advancing its viral agenda of jihad. For one thing the allure of Islamic State has continued to spread in Europe, in North Africa and in Afghanistan. Attacks in Brussels, Istanbul and France have stamped "approved" by ISIL to its loyal cells abroad who have struck out on their own with direction from ISIL which takes credit for all the bold attacks its followers engage in.

And while ISIL may have lost a veritable fortune in the destroyed treasury it had set aside, not all that much funding is required to advance strikes in the West by ISIL cells. The cost of the materials, as an example, used in the Brussels attack and the laboratory that produced the explosives are estimated to have been between $10,000 and $15,000 to fund. And while police and the military in the West may realize success in shutting down some of the cells, the idea that propels them cannot be shut down.

The Islamic State is viewed as one of the wealthiest violently militant groups ever to have surfaced, given its looting of $1-billion from Syrian and Iraqi banks. That looted treasury has given it leeway to mount spectacular assaults, such as the early April abduction of some 170 workers from a cement factory near Damascus.

isis-vehicles islamic state

According to authorities the efforts to both militarily shrink ISIL's influence and dominion in Iraq and Syria and at the same time slash its finances to deprive them of resources needed to continue to wage conflict have each aided the goal to diminish ISIL's presence and capabilities. The retaking of oil fields and cities from ISIL have struck a blow to its prestige and its finances. The U.S. air campaign Operation Tidal Wave II has struck oil fields, refineries and tanker trucks, slicing oil revenue for ISIL by a third.

A series of cities and towns have also been lost to Islamic State, finally taken by Iraqi security forces backed by U.S. airstrikes enabling for example, the retaking of Ramadi, a significant loss for ISIL, an impressive gain for Iraq. The oil refinery and northern city of Baiji is yet another loss for ISIL, as is their having been driven from the northern city of Sinjar by Kurdish and Yazidi forces.

Important ISIL leaders have been killed recently; its minister of war, Omar al-Shishani, and commander Abd al-Rahman Mustafa al-Qaduli, as well as a chemical weapons specialist having  been captured by American Special Operations forces. That seems on the surface like a series of losses, but at the same time there is the official acknowledgement that it represents but a pause for ISIL; it has since replaced those leaders.

As for cutting the cash flow to ISIL: "There is no simple tool to separate ISIL from its vast wealth", noted Daniel Glaser, U.S. assistant Treasury secretary for terrorist financing. Iraq has been persuaded to prohibit bank branches in cities and towns held by the Islamic State from making international transfers, however, and that can be effective, coupled with the U.S. and European countries and the UN adding people or companies associated with the Islamic State to financial blacklists.

The proof of some measure of effectiveness of these initiatives can be determined by salaries for fighters in Mosul, Iraq and Raqqa, Syria having been cut by half since last year. "These days, the situation has changed, and there is a shortage of money in Mosul", reports Ayham Ali, a Mosul resident who sells prepared street food in Mosul. A retired engineer in Mosul is also of the opinion that Islamic State's influence is waning: "The corruption that ISIS is committing is the beginning of its end."

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