The Pentagon released a disturbing report last week indicating that despite the almost total territorial conquest of ISIS in Syria and Iraq, leaving the bloodthirsty jihadist caliphate with virtually no land, it has “solidified its insurgent capabilities in Iraq and was resurging in Syria this quarter.”
The Defense Department Inspector General quarterly report noted that “ISIS likely retains between 14,000 and 18,000 ‘members’ in Iraq and Syria, including up to 3,000 foreigners,” as well as “an extensive worldwide social media effort to recruit fighters”; that “ISIS in Iraq is attempting to expand its influence over populations in the Sunni-majority provinces north and west of Baghdad, and has reorganized its leadership and established safe havens in rural Sunni-majority areas.”
There are numerous “targeted assassinations, ambushes, suicide bombings, and the burning of crops,” plus “ISIS is likely reestablishing financial networks in both countries.” Meanwhile, “ISIS in Iraq was able to establish a more stable command and control node and a logistics node for coordination of attacks” and “ISIS remains capable of conducting ‘asymmetric operations’ and exploiting tension between Iraq’s Shia and Sunni communities and popular discontent over the perceived failures of the Iraqi government.”
Worse still, “ISIS also exploits the gaps between the security forces of Iraq’s central government and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in a swath of territory claimed by both sides.” And “in these areas, ISIS fighters are able to find safe haven to regroup and plan attacks,” according to the Pentagon.
President Trump, as a matter of course, displays little if any trepidation about any apparent setbacks in pursuing the terrorist entity. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo maintained that the “administration is incredibly mindful of the success we’ve had versus ISIS,” adding: “I’m sure it’s the case that there’s pockets where they’ve become a little stronger. I can assure you there are places where it’s become weaker as well.”
Pompeo, however, conceded that he had not yet read the Pentagon’s IG report on ISIS – suggesting an unfathomable communications breach (if not some worse sort of disconnect) between the military and, by all appearances, a decidedly hawkish Trump administration foreign policy shop. Granted, the report is critical of Trump’s force reductions in the region, and Pompeo may consider the criticism unjustified. But it’s not a good look. Did national security adviser John Bolton not get to read it before its public release either?
The El Paso or Dayton Shooter x 1,000s
All that be as it may, when there are approaching 20,000 ISIS operatives still getting up to no good; “about 10,000 ISIS fighters in …’prisons/pop-up prisons’ in northeastern Syria,” about 2,000 of these detainees being foreign fighters, and the U.S. is pressing governments “to repatriate them to stand trial in their own countries,” it sounds like massive numbers of the enemy not only aren’t vanquished but are still actively waging war.
As unsophisticated an observation as it might be, these are the El Paso or Dayton shooter times a few thousand. It might be pleasant to imagine that after committing the carnage at the Wal-Mart or the Ned Peppers Bar – massacres motivated by sentiments every bit as extreme and antithetical to civilized values as ISIS’s ideology – the two killers could be rehabilitated and reinstated into society. Few believe such a thing possible. Therefore they must be stopped with deadly force at the scene, or lifelong incarceration. Or the shortening of their lives via capital punishment.
In El Paso, law enforcement swiftly took the assailant into custody; the federal government will likely seek the death penalty. In Dayton, police already on the scene in the lively downtown Oregon Historic District where Ned Peppers is located shot the killer dead within an astounding 30 seconds of his first shots.
Imagine what each of these thousands of ISIS killers would do if given the chance to shoot up a Wal-Mart or a busy pub within our homeland. We are deluding ourselves if we think these fanatics can blend back into peaceful existences somewhere in the Middle East.
De-radicalization techniques vary. Saudi Arabia enlists clerics who subscribe to the kingdom’s extremist Wahhabi strain of Islam to engage in “intensive religious debates,” and pair that with “psychological counseling.” But Wahhabis are forbidden to condemn jihad (holy war), and so instead must “stipulate conditions under which it is acceptable to take up arms instead of fully denouncing the practice.”
Denmark police have apparently had small-scale success with what has been ridiculed as their “hug a terrorist” program.
But as scholar Katherine Seifert found, all forms of terrorist rehabilitation are difficult to administer and unproven in their large-scale effectiveness. If the free world really means to protect itself from terrorism, then like the El Paso and Dayton murderers ISIS operatives must be sent either to permanent imprisonment or to the grave.
Too bad the brave El Paso and Dayton police departments, who know very well what to do with mass murderers, aren’t available to help the equally brave U.S. military and its local allies get it done. Those cops are busy at home protecting their own communities, thank God.
— Written by Thomas McArdle
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