Unravelling the mystery of ISIS

Reply to the article ’The Mystery of ISIS’ from The New York Review of Books

ISIS has proven more than adept at confounding critics, bamboozling experts and making a fool of those rash enough to write them off after a seemingly catastrophic setback. Their tactics are unconventional to say the least and their ability to recruit, despite offering some fairly solid odds that said recruit will not survive their first six months, remains undimmed. In the article ‘The Mystery of ISIS’ penned by an anonymous author noted to be a former official of a NATO country with wide Middle East experience, published in the New York Review of Books, the rise and continued success of ISIS as an organisation was investigated. The author offered a detailed look at the contradictions of the group that, from the outside, appears almost completely disorganized The article reveals a group who’s success is built on several counter intuitive strategis such as opening front against virtually every possible enemy simultaneously (ISIS currently find themselves aligned against Turkey, the Kurds, Syria’s government, their former Al-Qaeda counterparts in al-Nursa, the Syrian Rebels, Iran and the United States’ alliance which contains much of Europe and the Middle East), alienating potential allies and brashly facing down some of the world’s largest most tactically advanced armies in open warfare.

The article also notes that ISIS has ignored the basic tenants of fighting an insurgency which it records as the avoidance of “holding ground, fighting pitched battles, and alienating the cultural and religious sensibilities of the local population”. A quick look at the redrawn map of the Middle East would quickly assuage any doubt that ISIS is working from their own playbook, controlling vast swathes of land, including several major cities; fighting costly pitched battles in places such as Kobane; and subjecting the local populations to the rigours of their stark perspective of Islam (which includes slavery as the article points out). This movement away from the standard playbook has left planners and experts scrambling to both anticipate the groups moves and find the right course of action to engage them. Thus far the group has been impervious to all attempts aimed at its destruction.

Continue reading