ISIS in motion stays in motion without U.S. action

Morgan White
Opinion Editor

Illustration by Fahmida Azim.

As a country we know what it’s like to watch our home burn. We watched the Twin Towers bleed smoke into the sky as civilian workers jumped out of the windows to save themselves from burning to death. We watched the tidal wave of smoke and debris cover New York City streets after the towers collapsed into themselves. As we approach the 13th anniversary of those attacks, my mind is filled with fear, not remembrance. A terrorist group, which al-Qaida cut ties with earlier this year due to exactly how brutal their tactics were, has risen to prominence in the Middle East.

In President Barack Obama’s Aug. 28 press conference he admitted that his administration did not yet have a strategy to deal with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. It has taken backlash from opposing and allied politicians over President Obama’s “no strategy” statement and the second American journalist beheading to lead to the Sept. 3 press conference where President Obama declared the U.S. government would now take action, something that should have happened much sooner.

“Our objective is clear, and that is: degrade and destroy ISIL so that it’s no longer a threat, not just to Iraq but also to the region and to the United States,” President Obama said, using an alternative acronym for the group. How has the government let the ball roll on such a brutal organization when the history of the group reaches further back than their current incarnation?

On Sept. 3, BBC published an article which defined ISIS and discussed the background of the terrorist organization. After the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi pledged his allegiance to bin Laden. Following his allegiance, Zarqawi created al-Qaida in Iraq which became a huge force in the insurgency in Iraq. After Zarqawi’s death in 2006 AQI set up the Islamic State of Iraq which carried out dozens of attacks in the area per month. The organization at that time was weakened severely by the U.S. troop surge and the creation of councils by Sunni Arab tribesmen. 

The group’s current leader is Abu Bakr al-Bagdadhi. Bagdadhi took control of the previous incarnation in 2010 and built the organization back up to be more intense. By 2013 ISIS had begun carrying out dozens of attacks per month again in Iraq. ISIS also came to the aide of the rebels in Syria in 2013. 

Following the last U.S. troops to leave Iraq in 2011, civilian casualties have gone from the lowest they had been in years to steadily climbing back to where they were in 2006. So far in 2014, 8,500 civilians have been killed in Iraq. These lives could have been saved given the presence of American troops.

Currently ISIS is estimated to control about 40,000 square-miles. between Syria and Iraq. The territory includes highly populated areas such as Mosul, Tikrit, Falluja and Tal Afar in Iraq, and Raqqa in Syria. They have control of oil fields, dams, main roads and border crossings. The estimated population that ISIS has control of is approximately 8 million people. 

On June 29 the Islamic State declared a caliphate, a sovreign state comprising all who follow the Muslim faith. The caliph, who is known as the leader of the government, is usually considered a successor to Muhammad by those in the state.

The territory ISIS controls runs under Sharia Law. This means persecution of Christians and other minority religious groups. If a person is a Christian in the ISIS territory then they are either forced to pay a fine, convert to Islam, or beheaded. Muslims who leave the faith will also be executed. Selling or drinking alcohol will result in prison sentences, and the use of drugs could lead to a death sentence. 

ISIS is reportedly the world’s wealthiest militant group with a sum of $2 billion under their hands. They make their money off of oil smuggling, taxation, tolls, extortion and kidnapping. They are also able to add money from banks in the towns they conquer to their payroll. 

Why didn’t the U.S. keep an eye on this for fear of what could happen without the intervention of troops in the area after withdrawal post 2011? At most the realization that this has not been put under a microscope for much longer than the current conflict shows complete ignorance. We have seen what happens when such a strong ideology is pitted against our country. We have about 3,000 civilian lives to account for the toll it can take. How could they have remained inactive for so long when their income amounts hire than al-Qaida in their heyday during the ’90s?

Sure, military intervention is now in motion to take control of the group, the U.S. and several NATO allies have discussed what needs to be done in order to eliminate the threat. This military intervention should have been implemented months ago. Stronger support should have been left in the area following our withdrawal in order to protect the Iraqi civilians who had already suffered the violence in the presence of our battle with the insurgents in prior years. The rise of such an extremist group in Iraq and Syria not only spits in the faces of U.S. military who gave their life in the War on Terror to show that what they had done is quickly being undone, it does the same to those who lost their lives during the attacks 13 years ago.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply