Absence of cogent regional, international strategy makes IS first year a success

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Absence of any cogent regional or international strategy to oppose the Islamic State (ISIS) has made the group's first year a success.

Their success started with fall of Mosul, the second largest city of Iraq, Raqqa in Syria in May that year, and the prelude to a wider strategic phase to deepen and expand the group's dominance.

First year of ISIS

They later captured two more cities in Iraq and Syria, Ramadi and Palmyra.

They governed swaths of territory over the two Levantine countries; and oversaw an economy with large-scale revenues owing primarily to oil sales from the captured Iraqi fields, Al-Monitor reported.

They made road among local tribes, shied the residents of the cities it controls from criminality and paying salaries to its foot soldiers.

The once all-mighty global Islamist group al-Qaeda was also displaced by the group.

They got formal support and allegiance from many groups active worldwide. Whereas al-Qaeda launched franchises over three years (2004-2007).

ISIS within a short span of time claim provinces in Libya (Ansar al-Sharia in Derna), Nigeria (Boko Haram in Maiduguri) and Egypt (Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis in the Sinai Peninsula).

Read More: Syria crisis: ISIS re-enters Kobane, seizes parts of Hasaka

Jund al-Khilafah (Soldiers of the Caliphate) in Algeria was created by ISIS in September 2014.

Attacks were carried out in its name in France in January, in Tunisia in March, in Yemen in April and twice in Saudi Arabia in May this year.

According to the United Nations, more than 25,000 fighters from some 100 countries have flocked to it from Chile to China.

They use to release near-daily, HD-quality videos with fast-paced Hollywood-style editing and video game-inspired imagery, all in multiple languages.

Lack of regional and international policy to counter them also played pivotal role in expansion of the group.
Oscillating between irresponsibly ignoring the rise of the group (US President Barack Obama remarked in January 2014 that "if a jayvee team puts on Lakers uniforms that doesn't make them Kobe Bryant") or hastily announcing its demise (US Secretary of State John Kerry declared that the group was being "routed" on March 1), governments stuck in a post-9/11 mindset focused instead on weakening al-Qaeda or the fate of foreign fighters.

There is no overstating the fact that after 14 years of global war on terror and unprecedented international investment in counterterrorism, there has been a sheer inability to properly understand, much less cogently address, the IS revolution. Yet, it is not only policymakers who have underperformed. Experts focused on either inconsequential name games (Is it ISIS, ISIL or Daesh?) or on the religiosity of the group (How Islamic is IS?) have strangely replayed the "What is al-Qaeda?" or "Al-Qaeda does not exist" headlines of the 2000s.

The level of brutality and pronouncement of its enemies, IS has changed the landscape of the early 21st-century Middle East through tactical leverage, conquer and hold tempo, and transnational dissemination.

Battling coalitions on several fronts, holding territory over two countries, fielding tens of thousands of men and, however unrealistically, planning to release its currency as announced in November 2014, IS has in a short period of time positioned itself as arguably the most powerful transnational nonstate armed group in contemporary history.

(The article was published in Al-Monitor) 

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