The United States has promised that America will “degrade and destroy” ISIS in a “targeted, relentless counterterrorism campaign.” But two and a half months in,ISIS’s appeal shows little sign of waning. And the question is, even if the U.S. is able to kill the elusive architect of ISIS’s ascent, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, can America kill the idea propelling his organization’s appeal?
“You have to see ISIS as fundamentally a state-building enterprise,” says David Kilcullen, former special advisor to the Secretary of State and senior advisor to retired Gen. David Petraeus in Iraq, as well as author of a 2010 book on counterinsurgency. “These guys are trying to build a state.”
To date the U.S. has delivered a three-month campaign of air strikes in Iraq and Syria. Earlier this month the Pentagon announced that 1,500 more American troops would head to Iraq to advise and assist Iraqi and Kurdish forces now facing off against ISIS. The Obama administration has announced a plan to get $500 million in additional weapons, training and resources to more moderate Syrian fighters, the “boots on the ground” now fighting both the Islamic State, also called ISIS or ISIL, and the government of Bashar al-Assad in Syria. But that training and equipping has yet to begin. And that, say those close to the more moderate Syrian fighters, is part of the problem.
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