Is ISIS/ISIL making a strategic mistake?

Over the last two days, many reports have surfaced that a faction of Al Qaeda, the al-Nusra Front, has joined forces with ISIS in their bid to carve away large sections of Syria and Iraq and claim them as their own.  Although these two factions reportedly had a falling out over tactics in Syria, if these reports are correct, the Caliphate movement driven by the extremists of ISIS could gain even more ground as the inadequate Iraqi forces attempt to contain them.

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There is no doubt that both ISIS and al-Nusra are heavy hitters in the insurgency arena.  They have proven themselves a viable fighting force that is both brutal and efficient in its prosecution of its chosen cause.  Following such conflicts as the Libyan civil war, the Syrian rebellion, and America’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, many of these terrorists are battle-hardened, experienced fighters who have proven themselves on the battlefield.  And they are growing into a viable army.

An Army.  This is the statement that begs the question that represents the title of this Op-Ed.  When you are insurgents and terrorists, there are no boundaries, no borders, and no reasonable restraint against your actions.  You are as free as a criminal element can be to travel the world and ply your evil trade upon the passive victim populace.  You can have one commander or you can have seven hundred commanders.  Hell, all of your terrorists can refer to themselves as “commander” if they choose.  The hallmark of all successful terrorist groups, and the force behind much of their success over the last 40 years, has been the cell structure.  Small units of dedicated terrorists working perhaps independently, or unaware of their interdependence within the larger scheme of things.  Move quickly, travel light, hide within the community for years if required before you strike your blow for the cause.

That isn’t an army structure.  An army is large, cumbersome, and possesses a rank structure and chain of command.  An army requires massive logistical support and resources such as intelligence and reconnaissance.  An army has to have a stable resupply system to keep its forces fed, clothed, armed, and healthy.  Sure, during your initial push through enemy territory you can acquire things you need, commandeer items from the population, steal, murder, and gather up the items left behind by the fleeing enemy forces.  This will keep your army sustained, but only on a limited basis and for an indeterminate period of time.  Eventually, your army will need a supply chain that can move freely throughout the region and bring in replacement troops, food, weapons, new vehicles, repair items, and all of the other items that make up the standard army “Beans, bullets, and band-aids” supply list.  You become static.  Suspended within the area your army adequately controls.  An island unto yourself.

If ISIS and al Qaeda are successful in their territorial expansion and can hold that territory with the intent of making it permanent, they are really isolating themselves and creating a situation in which they are no longer the insurgents – they are the occupiers.  Now, just like so many other armies throughout history, they have to discover just how difficult it is to hold territory among an unfriendly populace while surrounded by enemy forces.  The become a stationary target.  A fixed location.  A location that can be cut off from the outside world and starved.  They also are not thinking through the facts of history which are plainly found within the last 25 years…

If there is one thing the U.S. military accomplishes better than any force on the planet, it is the ability to utterly destroy a target – reducing it to dust and nothing more.  It is much, much easier to do such a thing when that target isn’t moving.  Let them build their army.  Let them feel the growing pains of pugilistic puberty as they figure out they are no longer the dark shadow in an alley, waiting to pounce on an unsuspecting victim but have become the army of occupation they spent years fighting against.  Let them bog themselves down with the required accoutrements of an emerging army.

Then unleash a hell unlike any previously seen.

I look forward to your thoughts on this subject.  It’s just a thought I had today while doing something completely unrelated.  It seems that is the best time for me to have thoughts on any meaningful subject – when I’m thinking of something else.  Join the discussion on Facebook and give me your opinion.

 

Ross