Gains against IS ‘not yet enough’

Pakistan Observer - - INTERNATIONAL -

NEW YORK—US Pres­i­dent Barack Obama and some ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials have hailed re­cent mil­i­tary gains against IS in Iraq and Syria, but other US of­fi­cials and out­side ex­perts warn that the US-backed air and ground cam­paign is far from erad­i­cat­ing the rad­i­cal Is­lamic group, and could even back­fire.

While ISIS’ de­feats in Iraq and Syria have erased its im­age of in­vin­ci­bil­ity, they threaten to give it greater le­git­i­macy in the eyes of dis­af­fected Sunni Mus­lims be­cause Shi’ite and Kur­dish fight­ers are a ma­jor part of the cam­paign, some US in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cials ar­gue.

A se­cond dan­ger, some US of­fi­cials said, is that as the group loses ground in the Iraqi city of Fal­luja and else­where, it will turn in­creas­ingly to less con­ven­tional mil­i­tary tac­tics and to di­rect­ing and in­spir­ing more at­tacks against “soft” tar­gets in Europe, the United States and else­where.

One US in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cial, who spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity, warned that in re­sponse to los­ing Fal­luja and other cities the group likely would turn more to guer­rilla tac­tics to dis­rupt ef­forts to re­store gov­ern­ment ser­vices.

“We can ex­pect ISIL to ha­rass lo­cal forces that are holding cities it pre­vi­ously con­trolled, thereby draw­ing out bat­tles into pro­tracted campaigns,” he said.

The ter­ri­tory held by IS has en­abled it to build up rev­enues through oil and taxes, promil­i­tary-to-mil­i­tary vided it a base to launch at­tacks on Baghdad, and acted as a re­cruit­ing tool for for­eign fight­ers drawn to the self-pro­claimed Is­lamic caliphate.

Pres­i­dent Barack Obama said on June 14 - two days af­ter a gun­man pledg­ing al­le­giance to ISIS killed 49 peo­ple in Or­lando that the mil­i­tant group was los­ing “the money that is its lifeblood” as it con­tin­ues to lose ter­ri­tory.

Brett McGurk, the pres­i­den­tial en­voy for the Global Coali­tion to Counter IS, told a White House brief­ing on June 10 that the group has lost half the ter­ri­tory it had seized in Iraq, about 20 per­cent of its self-pro­claimed caliphate in Syria, and at least 30 per­cent of its oil pro­duc­tion, which ac­counts for half its rev­enue.

But ISIS fight­ers in Iraq are al­ready show­ing signs of adapt­ing a guer­rilla war-style strat­egy, Seth Jones, an an­a­lyst with the RAND Corp, told Reuters.

“It looks like the areas that the ISIS has lost, they are gen­er­ally aban­don­ing, and that would mean pre­par­ing to fight an­other day,” he said.

De­spite the progress against ISIS on the bat­tle­field and in the fi­nan­cial realm, CIA Di­rec­tor John Bren­nan told the Se­nate In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee last week: “Our ef­forts have not re­duced the group’s ter­ror­ism ca­pa­bil­ity and global reach.”—Agen­cies

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