Monday, October 23, 2017

On to the Next Stage of Foreverwar

As the last few blocks are being cleared of the Islamic State's fighters in their capital Raqqa, let's review the core of PLAN SALAMANDER from a little over two years ago;
Let the Iranians and Russians kill Sunni Arab Islamists in the west of Syria while we kill them in the east. How about this: we'll kill them east of the Euphrates and south of road from Nassib in the southwest, through Damascus to Deir ez-Zur on the Euphrates. The Russians, Syrians, and Iranian proxies can kill them in the rest. Once they are done in the north and west, we can just do CAS for the Kurds on the front lines of their frontier as we all push IS forces in to the Iraqi desert.
Though adjusted in REV. 1 four months ago, that holds up well over time.

Note a key word in the above, "kill." That is the best long-term solution to the question of what to do with the Islamic States fighters. Kill them there before they get back here. 

You kill them as they are non-state actors and unlawful combatants. They will continue to kill until they have assume room temperature. Eliminating their "caliphate" and taking their capital does undermine their Strategic Center of Gravity (The religious justification for their existence), it does not eliminate the threat.

In may, SECDEF Mattis outlined what was really the only way to properly end the Islamic State;
Mattis pointed to the battles for Mosul and Tal Afar as models for how these tactics will be implemented in other places. In both cases, forces on the ground, some with U.S. help, have surrounded IS targets to try to prevent Islamic State militants from retreating and foreign fighters from leaving the battlefield to return home. The forces then advance and clear these cities block by block, a hard task that takes time. This is what Mattis described as annihilation. The Islamic State’s greatest strength on the battlefield has been its ability to retreat and regroup, and the goal of annihilation is to destroy that strength.
We won't get them all. Every day more and more who stayed at home are getting radicalized in place and are just looking for an opportunity.

We've seen so much already, no one should be surprised what is on the way.
Now, those cities have fallen to American-backed forces, but the number of combat-hardened returnees has been much smaller than anticipated, if still worrisome, counterterrorism officials say. That is in part because the Trump administration intensified its focus on preventing fighters from seeping out of those cities, and more militants fought to the death than expected. Hundreds also surrendered in Raqqa, and some probably escaped to new battlegrounds in Libya or the Philippines.

“We’re not seeing a lot of flow out of the core caliphate because most of those people are dead now,” Lt. Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., the director of the Pentagon’s Joint Staff, said last week. “Some of them are going to go to ground.”
And so we are at the next phase: their "big pond" has dried up. Like the walking catfish, they are now scattering about looking for new ponds. Due to the self-loathing policies of decades, in Western Europe there are plenty of small ponds nearby for them to find, hide, swim and plan in. In Africa and SE Asia, opportunities abound.
Some 40,000 fighters from more than 120 countries poured into the battles in Syria and Iraq over the past four years, American officials say. Of the more than 5,000 Europeans who joined those ranks, as many as 1,500 have returned home, including many women and children, and most of the rest are dead or still fighting, according to Gilles de Kerchove, the European Union’s top counterterrorism official.
“I’ve been saying for a long time that there won’t be a ‘flood’ of returnees, rather a steady trickle, and that’s what we are seeing,” said Peter Neumann, director of the International Center for the Study for Radicalization at King’s College London. “Many of them are stuck in the Turkish border areas, where they are contemplating their next move.”

As it becomes harder for the Islamic State to plan attacks from Iraq and Syria, some plotters may have also moved to the Philippines or to Libya. The bomber who killed 22 people at a pop concert in Manchester, England, in May had met in Libya with members of an Islamic State unit linked to the Paris attacks, according to current and retired intelligence officials.
“It only takes one or two fighters to slip through the cracks back to Europe — armed with militant knowledge or even instructions by their handlers — to wreak havoc and bring ISIS back to the TV screens,” said Laith Alkhouri, a director at Flashpoint, a business risk intelligence company in New York that tracks militant threats and cyberthreats.

That cold reality is pressuring European politicians and policymakers to erect or strengthen the legal frameworks and institutions needed to identify, arrest, prosecute and imprison foreign fighters before they can build new networks or join existing ones, wherever they end up.
Europe, Australia, and even the United States already have a low-grade insurgency in place. Policy makers need to plan for what is coming. We can't kill them all.
Some fighters leaving conflict zones seem to have been briefed in detail on how to act when they encountered government authorities, in an apparent attempt to ensure that they would not be deported to countries where they may be arrested, the United Nations report noted. That might indicate a deliberate attempt by Islamic State leaders to establish a presence in different regions, the report concluded.

The report said people returning from these conflict zones fell into three broad categories: First, those who were disenchanted by their experiences in Iraq or Syria and were good candidates to be reintegrated into society.

Second, a much smaller group who return intending to conduct terrorist attacks. And third, individuals who have cut ties with the Islamic State and are disillusioned by the organization, but who remain radicalized and are ready to join another terrorist group should the opportunity arise.

“It is an incredibly difficult adversary,” Mr. Pompeo said at a security conference in Washington last week. “They still have the capacity to control and influence citizens all around the world.”

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