Tag Archives: Counter-Terrorism

Countering ISIS: A Special Kind of Insurgency

Iraq-ISIS-606x283It is commonplace these days to refer to the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Shām (i.e. Greater Syria) – henceforth, ISIS – as the greatest threat to regional, international, and for some countries, even national security. As a product of mergers between smaller Islamist groups (e.g. an al-Qaeda affiliated Iraqi group) in the aftermath of the 2003 US-led Iraq invasion, this rapidly evolving organization has been empowered in the context of the Syrian civil war, and has surprised the world when it swept into northern and central Iraq early June 2014. It has changed its name into Islamic State (IS) and declared the establishment of an Islamic Caliphate – a state run according to Sharia law – in Syrian and Iraqi territories.

One of the biggest questions that needs to be answered is, how do we counter ISIS? Almost three months after ISIS advanced into Iraq, US President Barak Obama stated, “We don’t have a strategy.” This was quite a surprising statement coming from the White House given the high level of threat that ISIS poses; but it is, nonetheless, true. However, it was later decided for Obama to announce his plan against ISIS in an address to the nation on September 10th. Among other things, Obama is expected to introduce ways of enhancing international cooperation against ISIS and try to display a more coherent and decisive stance than the one presented thus far. Continue reading

The Difference Between Killing the Insurgents and Fighting an Insurgency

There is a big difference between fighting an insurgency and killing the insurgents. The latter cannot only by itself bring about the wanted results. To understand this better we have to firstly examine what insurgencies are. In a few words, insurgencies are popular movements that try to bring about the change of the status quo through the use or the threat of use of violence. They are run by radical elites, consist of people with certain socio-political background, and they use guerrilla and terrorist tactics to accomplish their political aims.

The key word in the above definition is “popular”. They acquire power and support from the people; that is their strongest spot. It is also important to note that insurgencies cannot be defeated unless they clearly accept their defeat. That is because they are not conventional armies and their power is not solely based on their military power. The most prominent characteristic of them is their political aims and the popular support. Even if there are only a few people left undertaking the insurgency, if they still have the support of the people to achieve their political aims, they can then keep going on. Likewise, if they lose the popular support, then their actions – whatever their political aims – have no legitimisation within the people, a fact which in turn weakens them and leads them to their end. Besides, guerrilla warfare has shown through history that it can accomplish great victories against strong nations and also that it can be defeated very hardly and only if it chooses to. Examples of die-hard insurgencies are the EOKA organisation in Cyprus (55’-59’) which – along with other factors – led the British to leave Cyprus; also the Kurdish insurgents and separatists in Turkey, Iraq, Syria and Iran who have been fighting Turkey for almost a century. Example of an insurgency which admitted its defeat after many years of fighting is the one of Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka. They accepted their defeat after a series of intense violent clashes with the Sri Lankan government in 2009. Lastly, we should not forget of course the ongoing insurgencies in Iraq which are giving the US a very hard time even after the major American counterinsurgency operation “The Surge”, in 2007.

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