Following the attacks in Brussels, many feel the west is losing the war against ISIS and that the current strategy isn’t working. Right-wing politicians like Ted Cruz and Donald Trump have been exploiting this line for political gain.
Even to liberals who don’t buy into demagoguery, the horrific attacks in Paris and Brussels have been a source of fear and demoralization. It may be hard to believe, in the wake of such horrific and sophisticated attacks, that ISIS is actually getting weaker, but that is exactly what is happening. Here are four reasons why
- European security crackdowns have ISIS terror cells on the run: This point may be hard to believe, but the attacks in Brussels resulted from the success of recent security crackdowns. Authorities uncovered more explosives at the residence of two of the attackers and believe the terror cell had been planning a larger attack on a later date, an attack that could have been deadlier. But the attack was rushed after Salah Abdeslam, a ringleader in the Paris attacks and a leader within the terror cell that carried out both attacks, was captured on March 18, just days before the Brussels bombing. This seriously disrupted the cell’s activities. An e-mail written by one of the attackers shortly after Abdeslam’s arrest read “I don’t know what to do, I’m in a hurry, people are looking for me everywhere.” Under pressure, the attackers were forced to hastily plan a scaled back attack. With most of its members and all of its leaders killed or captured, the terror cell that carried out both attacks has disintegrated. The Brussels bombings were its last gasp of air.
2. ISIS is losing ground in the Middle East: In Iraq and Syria, ISIS is being bombarded on all sides as Kurdish, Iraqi, and Syrian government forces continue to advance. ISIS has lost nearly a quarter of its territory and continues to retreat. Syrian government forces are about to retake the ancient city of Palmyra. Several of the group’s leaders have been killed in recent airstrikes. It may not be happening as quickly as people would like, but ISIS is being pushed out of its original stronghold.
3. ISIS is shifting its focus to Europe because of this: The original goal of ISIS was to establish a caliphate in Iraq and Syria. If ISIS was stronger and was succeeding at this, it would not be wasting its time, energy, and resources to launch attacks in Europe, it would stay focused on its original task. But it can’t, so now it’s changing its strategy and is diverting more energy and resources to Europe, carrying out attacks aimed at spreading fear. In fact, ISIS is now discouraging its followers from traveling to fight in Syria, instead encouraging them to stay home or set up bases elsewhere and carry out more terrorist attacks.
4. ISIS grows more dangerous as it gets weaker: A wounded beast is the most dangerous kind, because it resorts to more drastic measures the more desperate it gets. This is exactly what ISIS is doing. It knows it cannot defeat the coalition it’s fighting and is struggling to carry on. By attacking western soil, it hopes to scare and demoralize people into giving up and leaving it alone. The attacks are intended to make it appear that ISIS is growing stronger even though it is getting weaker. They are intended to mask the damage caused by airstrikes in Syria and arrests in Europe. The big question is, how many more attacks will ISIS attempt as it continues to weaken?
While there is lots that needs to improve, the current strategy is taking its toll on ISIS. Of course, as long as there are people who believe in its message, it will be impossible to fully defeat ISIS and other jihadist networks militarily or through increased security measures. Other strategies are needed to combat the rise of Islamic extremism. But as an organization, ISIS is on the ropes.
Featured image via The Mirror