Tuesday 17 July 2018
As a bird fynix, the so-called Islamic state is on its way back both in Syria and Iraq. It shows that it is not only useful to use bombs, rockets and grenades, writes Jan-Erik Smilden.
-IS is fought, we heard from Iraqi, Syrian, Russian and Western leaders a few months ago. Now the tone has become another. Earlier this month, Britain’s Defense Minister Gavin Williamson warned that the terrorist group had not been knocked out and that the British would have to continue to wager for a long time in the area unless the IS progress was stopped.
During the last three years, IS has gradually been thrown out of virtually all areas they controlled, but the group still has a presence in the desert in Syria, in border areas between Iraq and Syria and in some other “pockets” in the two countries.
There will be between three thousand and ten thousand IS soldiers left in Syria and Iraq. It is only a tenth of the “Islamic state” power available five to six years ago. But IS can still bite away, not least because many of their warriors got away with both vehicles and weapons and because they still get new weapon supplies. Even though the cash flow from donors in rich Arabian oil has decreased, it has not dried up.
IS was thrown out of Raqqa, the “capital” of the so-called Islamic caliphate last autumn. Now IS warriors are again operating near the city. They have captured and killed soldiers from rival militias and they have killed Russian soldiers. According to the British newspaper The Independent, they have also established new bases in this area.
Both in Syria and in Iraq, the IS warriors use the same methods as they did before they began to conquer large territories in 2014; attacks and other attacks against civil and public institutions, military, police officers, government officials and politicians. There are killing and kidnappings. One main goal is destabilization.
A few days ago Syrian government forces attacked a Syrian IS Allied group who lives in the border with Jordan in the direction of the Israel-occupied Golan Heights. In return, IS attacked a city fourteen kilometers from the Israeli border, where more moderate rebels had just surrendered.
In Kirkuk, northern Iraq, the IS activity has increased lately. On June 27, a group of five Islamists attacked several villages in the southern part of the province. On the same day, five Iraqis who worked for the security forces were executed on the main road between Kirkuk and Baghdad.
In the Kirkuk area, the IS Warriors even put false checkpoints and barricades on the roads to attack people. It was a method used during the civil war in Iraq in 2006 and 2007.
In several places in the countryside, the IS warriors will operate quite open, even during the daytime.
A police officer recently told a journalist from the Al-Monitor website that IS now regroups in Southern Kirkuk and that your warriors have drawn up plans on what targets they are going to hit.
It is uncertain how many IS warriors in this area are. It is known that some people fled there after the city of Mosul fell a year ago and that, until the turn of the year, they kept a relatively low profile.
One of the biggest problems in Syria and in Iraq is that IS warriors now have cut off their beard and act in civilian clothes and run civilian cars. It is also easy to operate in some of the areas they previously controlled because they still have support from civilians there.
Political instability, lack of government’s willingness to rebuild, shifting armed alliances and betrayal are among the reasons that IS has now recovered.
But it is not only in Iraq and Syria that IS now increases its business. Many IS warriors have fled to areas with major military and religious challenges, such as Afghanistan, Yemen, North Africa and West Africa.
How should such IS be combated?
It’s no use to break such an organization just with weapons. Both Iraqis and Syrians need a hope for a better future. With rebuilding, job creation and infrastructure development, much of the foundations for support for extreme Islamist groups like IS would weaken. Today, almost nothing happens on that front. Take, for example, Mosul: 380,000 people are still displaced, and the city is still in ruins – one year after IS was thrown out.
Currently, both Syrians, Iraqis and the outside world are most keen to fight each other. It costs billions of dollars each month. When it comes to civilian reconstruction, it is often only with promises.
That’s how it will not be peace.