Tag Archives: isis

Stratfor Predicts that the Islamic State Will Rot From Within

Summary: Remember the hysteria in 2014-15 about the Islamic State? Our geopolitical experts debated whether they would be stopped at Cairo, Paris, or Chicago. Fast forward to today, where Stratfor predicts the rapid decay of ISIS. But even after it fades to irrelevance, a Jihad 3.0 will arise.Stratfor

The Islamic State in 2017: Rotting From the Outside In

By  Scott Stewart at Stratfor, 12 January 2017.

The Islamic State has entered into a slow decline that will continue throughout 2017. After its inception, the group energized the jihadist movement and drew thousands of enthusiastic foreign fighters by announcing the creation of a caliphate and assuring its followers that the end of the world was near. This enabled the Islamic State to rapidly amass manpower and capabilities — at least at first. But both time and geography have worked against the organization since its initial proclamation of a caliphate and an impending apocalypse.

Despite the Islamic State’s frequent and pointed criticism of al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, the group has roughly followed the plan al-Zawahiri laid out in a 2005 letter to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who was then the head of the Islamic State’s predecessor, al Qaeda in Iraq. Nevertheless, there are significant differences between the timeline al Qaeda and the Islamic State have set for that plan’s execution. As we noted last week, al Qaeda argues that the caliphate can be established only after the United States and its European allies have been defeated so thoroughly that they can no longer interfere in Muslim lands, having lost either the ability or desire to do so.

The Islamic State, by comparison, has adopted a more urgent approach based on the belief that the time for taking, holding and governing territory is now. But this strategy hinges on being able to use the territory conquered, resources captured and fighters recruited for greater expansion. This sense of immediacy explains the Islamic State’s decision to quickly trumpet the foundation of a caliphate after it seized large swaths of Iraq and Syria. The group’s message to the Muslim world was plain: The caliphate is a historical fact whose spread cannot be stopped, and all Muslims should migrate to it to help support the Islamic State’s rise. The group thought that it could leverage its initial success to quickly conquer more territory in much the same way the Prophet Mohammed and his followers did.

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U.S. Cyber Command Attacks ISIS. Slow Progress. Few Results.

Summary: Our war with ISIS is almost invisible to Americans. Only lightly reported by the press, visible mostly in the domestic terrorism it inspires. Even less visible is our cyberwar with ISIS. One of the most active fronts of the war, it is a harbinger of future conflicts. Here Emilio Iasiello briefs us on the US attacks by the lavishly-funded US Cyber Command. What are they doing? What successes?  Second of two posts today.

Screenshot: you have been hacked by ISIS.

Screenshot of an ISIS cyberattack

ISIS hacked the Argonne National Laboratory in July 2015. Details here. Click to enlarge.

U.S. Cyber Command’s ISIS Efforts. Slow Progress. Few Results.

By Emilio Iasiello from CyberDB.
Reposted with his generous permission.

Mid-July 2016 reporting reveals that U.S. cyber offensives against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) online recruiting and propaganda activities has not yielded the types of results that were initially anticipated. According to the news article, the debut effort of the U.S. Cyber Command (CYBERCOM) has not been effective, despite officials declining to provide any specifics as to the types of operations being conducted.  What was revealed was that CYBERCOM’s commander Admiral Michael Rogers had created a unit charged with the mission of developing digital weapons to support this effort.  Joint Task Force Ares, a 100-person strong unit, will not only build tools, but may engaged in other possible missions such as disrupting the terrorist group’s payment system and denying access to their current chat application of choice.

Nevertheless, despite aspirations and being the first publicly declared online military operation by any nation state, success has been fleeting. This is certainly a disappointing turn of events for a country largely believed to be the most cyber capable in the world.  The recent slow progress is impeding the normalization of how cyber attacks can be used as a potential military tool.  Officials hoped that the ISIS campaign would help normalize how cyber attacks can be leveraged similarly as airstrikes to support military objectives, to take cyber out of the shadows and provide a bit more transparency, according to a senior Pentagon official.  As of now, there has been little anecdotal evidence showing this type of success.

Part of the problem may be that CYBERCOM, despite being an official sub-unified command for approximately seven years, is simply not ready.  Admiral Rogers conceded that the first dedicated cyber troops will be operational by early fall, and expected the command to be fully operational by September 30, 2018, calling into question the capability and talent of the current staffing levels.  Such speculation has been raised in a June 2016 article that highlighted CYBERCOM’s struggles with identifying, recruiting, and retaining top talent. The Command’s Cyber Mission Force will eventually have 6,200 people split into 133 teams, half of which will be assigned to protecting networks, 20 percent dedicated to combat missions, 10 percent assigned to national mission teams to protect critical infrastructure, and the remaining fifth assigned unspecified “support” functions.

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The third wave of Jihad begins. We will soon see its power.

Summary: Jeremy Harding at the LRB looks at the next big step by jihadists, and the amazing oddity of the West’s response.

Islamic Jihad

 

Introduction

Modern jihad has gone through several phases, each stronger and more virulent than the predecessor. First came Afghanistan’s Mujahideen, who burned out in internecine conflict (defeated by the Tailiban). Al Qaeda came next, destroyed in the years after 9/11. Then came ISIS, now being destroyed after its premature shift to phase three insurgent operations (per Mao’s schema: holding territory and waging conventional warfare). Now jihad takes a new step, resuming phase two operations (terrorism) — but expanding their operations into Europe.

We can only guess at what form this will take, and what jihadists learned from their previous failures. Here Jeremy Harding explains this stage in jihad’s evolution, and the great oddity of the West’s response. Red emphasis added.

Third Wave Jihadism?

By Jeremy Harding. Excerpt from London Review of Books. 15 July 2016.
Posted with the author’s generous permission.

Gilles Kepel, a specialist on ‘Islam and the Arab world’, wrote last year in Terreur dans l’Hexagone – a study of French jihadism – that the Charlie Hebdo killings were ‘a sort of cultural 9/11’. The jihadism that we’re now confronted with, he argued, is a third wave phenomenon, superseding the mujahidin in Afghanistan (the first) and emerging in the long twilight of al-Qaida (the second).

“The latest wave is specifically targeted at Europe, with its significant Muslim population (about 20 million in EU countries): the approach is ‘horizontal’, favouring networks rather than cells; disruption, fear and division are the tactics; the radical awakening of European Muslims, many already disaffected and marginal, is the immediate objective. The murders at Charlie Hebdo’s offices and the kosher store in Paris brought the third wave ‘to a paroxysm’, in Kepel’s view, just as 9/11 brought the second ‘to its pinnacle’. At the time of writing, no one has laid claim to the atrocity in Nice: more than 80 dead, 50 hospitalised (‘between life and death’, in President Hollande’s words, earlier today).

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A new study explains why people join ISIS (with unexpected answers)

Summary: Insurgencies can’t be fought like conventional wars. Patton’s Third Army didn’t need to know what motivated the NAZIs. The nations of the Middle East cannot defeat ISIS without understanding it, while America’s ignorant efforts (invading, occupying, bombing, and assassinations) have helped destabilize the region. But academics have begun to provide answers, puzzling though they are. Here is one useful new paper.

ISIS spreading the word

Beheading of James Foley on 19 August 2014.

What Explains the Flow of Foreign Fighters to ISIS?

A paper by Efraim Benmelech (Prof Finance, Northwestern U)
and Esteban F. Klor (Prof of Economics, Hebrew U).
National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), April 2016.

Les Picker describes the paper in the June 16 NBER Digest.

“As of December 2015, approximately 30,000 fighters from at least 85 countries had joined the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Although the great majority of ISIS recruits come from the Middle East and the Arab world, there are also many from Western nations, including most member-states of the European Union, as well as the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. Thousands of fighters from Russia and hundreds from Indonesia and Tajikistan also have joined. ISIS’s recruitment of foreign fighters is a global phenomenon that provides the organization with the human capital needed to operate outside the Middle East.

“{The paper explores} how country characteristics are associated with ISIS recruit flows. They discover more about what does not motivate the foreign fighters than what does.

“They find that poor economic conditions do not drive participation in ISIS. Rather, the number of ISIS fighters from a given country is positively correlated with that country’s per capita gross domestic product and its place on the Human Development Index. Many foreign fighters originate from countries with high levels of economic development, low income inequality, and highly developed political institutions.

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Stratfor: What the Ramadan Attacks Reveal About ISIS

Summary: The fall of Fallujah and the Ramadan attacks mark a decisive retreat of the jihadist (led by ISIS) from Mao’s Phase 3 operations (holding areas) back to Phase 2 (attacks on the government, terrorism). Last week Stratfor looked at Fallujah; here is their analysis of the Ramadan attacks. Eventually it will get crushed as was al Qaeda, setting the stage for Jihad 3.0.

Stratfor

What the Ramadan Attacks Reveal About the Islamic State

Lead analyst:  Scott Stewart
Stratfor, 7 July 2016

Islamic State spokesman Abu Muhammed al-Adnani called on the group’s followers in late May to launch a spate of attacks during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Looking back on that month, which ran from June 5 to July 5, it is clear that his call was answered. This year’s Ramadan has been the bloodiest on record since the Islamic State declared its caliphate in June 2014.  {See info about the Ramadan Offensives in in 2003 and in 2006.

That is not to say that past Ramadans did not see their share of violence, too. In 2015, the holy month brought significant attacks against a tourist beach resort in Sousse, Tunisia, and against a military reserve center in Chattanooga, Tennessee. But this year’s carnage has far surpassed last year’s in both scope and body count, in spite of the Islamic State core’s notable losses of territory and fighters in Iraq and Syria.

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Stratfor: Why ISIS lost Fallujah. What will jihad 3.0 look like?

Summary: Iraq forces (army & militia) have retaken Fallujah, another step by Jihad 2.0 (ISIS) towards its inevitable end. Here Stratfor describes why ISIS loses, along with the obligatory hopes that this begins the reunification of the Sunni Arab regions back into Iraq (hopes for a return of the Kurds are long gone).  Read this as a jihadist. Imagine what they have learned, and what they plan for Jihad 3.0.

Stratfor

Living With the Islamic State

By Scott Stewart
Stratfor, 30 June 2016

After over a month of fighting, the Iraqi government has at last reclaimed the city of Fallujah from the Islamic State’s grasp. Clearing the city of any remaining fighters could take weeks, and removing the booby traps left behind will almost certainly take months. Nevertheless, the June 26 defeat is a huge symbolic loss for the jihadist group and a significant victory for the forces trying to discredit and destroy it.

Fallujah has a history as a hotbed for jihadist insurgency. In 2004, the U.S. military had to invade the city twice to wrest it from the hands of the jihadists controlling it. The second attempt, an operation that lasted more than six weeks, resulted in some of the heaviest urban combat that American troops experienced during their occupation of Iraq.

It came as no surprise when, a decade later, Fallujah became the first Iraqi city to fall to jihadists trying to expand their territory. The Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant seized the town in January 2014, six months before it swept through Mosul. A few weeks after Mosul’s highly publicized fall, the group declared that it had re-established the Islamic Caliphate and changed its name to one that better reflected its global ambitions: the Islamic State.

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Stratfor: Why the Islamic State Is Weaker Than It Seems

Summary: As I and others expected, the mad tactics and strategy of ISIS has resulted in a series of defeats. Here Stratfor evaluates the actual strength of ISIS, its strategic position, and likely future moves.

The late American strategist John Boyd (Colonel, USAF) said that a grand strategy focused our nation’s actions — political, economic, and military — to increase our our cohesion, weaken our opponents’ resolve and cohesion, strengthen our allies’ relationships to us, attract the uncommitted to our cause, and end conflicts on favorable terms, without sowing the seeds for future conflicts. (Patterns of Conflict, slide 139.)

Stratfor

Why the Islamic State Is Weaker Than It Seems
Lead Analyst: Omar Lamrani
Stratfor, 13 June 2016

Forecast

In Syria, the Islamic State will continue to lose cities and vital territory. The group will react to its losses by relying more heavily on insurgent and terrorist tactics, ensuring that it remains a serious threat. The continued disenfranchisement of Sunnis in Syria will enable the Islamic State, and groups like it, to maintain a foothold in the country.

Analysis

In Syria, the Islamic State is in crisis. Over the past 3 years, the group has managed to expand from a regional nuisance to a force with global relevance, declaring a caliphate in June 2014 that stretched from Iraq’s Diyala province to Syria’s Aleppo province. By doing so, it linked the two nations into a single zone of conflict and drew the attention of numerous powers, including the United States, Turkey and Russia. Today, the group maintains a presence from western Iraq to the Syria-Lebanon border — an impressive territorial spread.

But the breadth of the Islamic State’s holdings in Syria is deceptive. The group’s actual reach is largely limited to small, dispersed enclaves. The unbroken expanses of territory under its control are mostly empty desert. And a look at the group’s three core Syrian areas — northern Aleppo province, Raqqa and Deir el-Zour — shows how the Islamic State is steadily losing ground across its scattered, self-declared empire. Together, these territories form the foundation of the group’s power in the country and are critical to sustaining flows of revenue, fighters and materiel. Yet all three are under threat.

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