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ISIS Ranks Grow as Fast as U.S. Bombs Can Wipe Them Out

Posted by on Feb. 4, 2015 at 7:38 AM
  • 11 Replies

ISIS Ranks Grow as Fast as U.S. Bombs Can Wipe Them Out

The extremist group keeps attracting new adherents—never mind the American-led air war. ‘The numbers are not moving in our favor,’ a senior senator tells The Daily Beast.

The American-led bombing campaign is doing little to stem the tide of foreign fighters joining the war in Iraq and Syria. Four thousand of these fighters have joined the conflict since the allied airstrikes began, U.S. intelligence officials tell The Daily Beast.

That’s nearly as many combatants as coalition forces claimed to have killed, raising fears that if ISIS can continue to withstand a sustained air campaign, it could keep its ranks restocked for years, if not decades, to come.

“The numbers are not moving in our favor,” Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-TN) told The Daily Beast last week, after emerging from a secret briefing at the Capitol with retired Marine Gen. John Allen, presidential envoy in the campaign against ISIS.

Corker added that when the strength of the U.S.-backed Syrian rebels is compared to the fighters supporting ISIS, “we are losing now in numbers.”

The Pentagon has said it has killed 6,000 fighters since coalition strikes began five months ago; the intelligence community estimates 4,000 foreign fighters have entered the fray since September. (A higher estimate, made by The Washington Post, holds that 5,000 foreign fighters have flowed into the two countries since October.)

Either way, the tally doesn’t count the suspected thousands of local Iraqi and Syrian combatants who’ve joined the conflict. So when combined, the figures paint a worrisome picture: that even without counting the number of in-country recruits, the Islamic State is able to substantially replenish its manpower on the battlefield. 

“Unless we do stop something to stop the flow of foreign fighters, this conflict has the potential to go on indefinitely,” Rep. Adam Schiff, the top-ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said in an interview with The Daily Beast.

Schiff said he couldn’t discuss specific figures, but he made the point that “the key indicator is how many people continue to join ISIS’s ranks. Because if we can’t stop that, this conflict is going to be neverending.”

Pentagon officials privately acknowledge that despite the number of Islamic State fighters they’ve killed, they have also seen ISIS adjust to the strikes, particularly in places where there are no strong ground troops to fight them. U.S. officials have refused to estimate how many new fighters have come into Iraq and Syria, but there are quiet concerns that the terror group isn’t significantly smaller than when the coalition airstrikes began. It may have even grown.

“Foreign fighters keep coming in, even though we are killing many of them,” Sen. Bob Menendez, the top Democrat on the foreign relations committee, said. “So one of the key issues you’ve got to [address] is stopping foreign fighters.”

The Pentagon has said airstrikes cannot defeat an ideology and that the war cannot be measured in numbers. But in an opaque war like this, many are leaning on such statistics to assess the air campaign.

“Unless we do stop something to stop the flow of foreign fighters, this conflict has the potential to go on indefinitely. The key indicator is how many people continue to join ISIS’s ranks. Because if we can’t stop that, this conflict is going to be neverending.”

Some question the reliability of the Pentagon count. Christopher Harmer, an analyst with the Institute of the Study of War, said drones and other kinds of air power cannot accurately estimate the number of ISIS fighters that have been killed.

“There’s just no way for the U.S. can do this accurately… When it comes time to killing people, the only way to really confirm it, you need boots on the ground or eyeballs on the target,” Harmer said. “As long as ISIS shows the ability to continue to recruit foreign fighters, and regenerate lost manpower, then it’s an irrelevant metric. I don’t know how long ISIS can sustain battlefield damage… but so far they haven’t collapsed.”

Harmer also pointed out that the United States has no ability of tracking how many internal recruits ISIS is able to attract.

“Good, we’re killing ISIS fighters,” he said. “Just don’t dislocate our shoulders patting ourselves on the back. What matters is: Have we broken their will or ability to fight? … So far they haven’t collapsed.”

Some argue if the Islamic State is gaining new fighters at a similar rate to which it is losing fighters, it’s a possible worst-case scenario: Airstrikes turn local opinion against the American-led coalition, while simultaneously failing to reduce the net strength of ISIS.

“If ISIS fighters are merely being killed at which they’re being replaced by foreign fighters, then you have a situation where ISIS has not lost numerical strength and has also gained public sympathy,” said Evan Barrett, a political adviser to the Coalition for a Democratic Syria, a Syrian-American opposition umbrella group.

If the foreign-fighter flow problem is to be fixed, said Rep. Schiff, two things need to happen: Turkey needs to take a leading role in stopping the flow—many foreign fighters travel through its porous border. And the United States needs to empower those in the Muslim world who are speaking out against radicalism.

“We need to put additional pressure on Turkey to get serious about controlling its border… and redouble our efforts to prevent people from becoming radicalized at home,” Schiff told The Daily Beast. “The bottom line is notwithstanding the demonstrated brutality of ISIS, and maybe because of it, foreign fighters continue to flow to the region. We have not been nearly successful enough in stemming that flow.”


http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2015/02/03/isis-recruits-thousands-of-new-fighters-despite-u-s-bombs.html

by on Feb. 4, 2015 at 7:38 AM
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VooDooB
by on Feb. 4, 2015 at 7:40 AM

How ISIS is growing, and the fight to stop it


LONDON -- More than with any other jihadist group in the past, ISIS has focused on drawing in new recruits from Muslim communities around the globe -- including in Western cities.

While the Taliban in Asia and al Qaeda's various franchises across the Muslim world have concentrated on drawing in local and regional recruits, ISIS' much broader outreach has seemed to pay off. According to the CIA, the Sunni extremist group can count as many as 31,500 fighters among its ranks in Iraq and Syria.

ISIS leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi mentioned "hijrah" (migration) more than once in his first public appearance, issuing a special call people from certain backgrounds to join the group; Muslim scholars, judges, people with military, administrative, and service expertise, as well as doctors and engineers.

"In their minds, voluntary migration ensures that the society is religiously pure, but also politically loyal," explains Firas Abi Ali, head of Middle East and North Africa Country Risk and Forecasting at the global security consultancy IHS. "It is worth remembering that the original Muslim community built by Mohammed in Medina was based on a mix of immigrants and locals. The immigrants, who had adopted Islam earlier, played a role in teaching Islam to the locals."

Ali says ISIS is "probably consciously emulating" that historic example. He says their relative recruiting success is likely down to the fact that cash-flush ISIS -- which now calls itself simply "the Islamic State" after seizing a vast swath of territory spanning the Syria - Iraq border, "is better able to pay and equip fighters than most groups."

In addition, their victories on the battlefield "serve as 'proof', so to speak, of the correctness of its teaching and make it the most appealing group for a youth that feels that Islam needs to recover from a long series of historical defeats," says Ali.

"They have the most sophisticated and professional communication strategy I've seen," Ali tells CBS News. "The sense that the world is being forced to rally to stop them and push them back will probably help their recruiting in the future."

The recruitment process often begins on Twitter, or websites like ask.fm, where potential recruits anywhere in the world can make initial contact and ask basic questions about practical concerns, like travel and accommodation. According to experts, the conversation with prospective members quickly moves off those public forums to be conducted via Skype, e-mail, or smartphone messaging apps like Kik.

Questions for current ISIS members from potential recruits on Twitter and Ask.fm vary from: "Are borders getting tight?" (the answer: "It is still possible to get in") to issues around bringing spouses and whether it is possible to join the group if you have a disability.

The terror group's recruitment drive has become a major problem for Muslim leaders in the West, who find their communities targeted relentlessly by the slick propaganda churned out by media-savvy ISIS -- increasingly in English.

"It is scary no matter how you look at it," says Humera Khan, executive Director ofMuflehun, a Washington D.C.-based Muslim community organization that works to prevent radicalization.

Her organization tries to counter ISIS' message by monitoring social media to understand the multi-step process of radicalization, and by organizing workshops for teenagers to explain the difference between recruitment material and legitimate online debate and information on the tenets of Islam and Islamic law.

Khan's organization is also setting up online safety workshops for parents, so they can help to protect their children from the long arms of Islamic radicals on the internet. The things to look out for, she says, "are the same as with the kids getting involved in gangs, drugs, or any of the social vices."

She says parents need to look out for any significant shift in their child's behavior; isolation, withdrawing from their usual activities, and or suddenly looking for more privacy.

"If you see some shift, get help, don't ignore it," she says. "If they start hiding from you, saying, 'I went to this study group but I can't tell you what I talked about, that should be a red flag," says Khan.

She estimates that about 140 youth from the U.S. have traveled to Syria and Iraq to join extremist groups, including ISIS. U.S. officials haven't given firm numbers, but intelligence agencies believe as many as a dozen Americans have joined ISIS alone.

The U.S. government is also trying its hand at counter-propaganda, seeking to prevent radicalization and recruitment before it takes root in young minds.

The State Department released a video on social media at the end of August with the opening line: "Run. Do not walk to ISIS land," followed by images from ISIS' own graphic videos showing the destruction of a mosque, and execution, beheading, and crucifixion of other Muslims. The video ends with the line: "Think again. Turn away," the name of the State Department's online counterpropaganda initiative.

The video clearly carries the U.S. State Department logo, so its effectiveness may be limited. But as Khan says, anything to help tip a young mind toward a decision in the right direction should be welcomed.

"From the prevention side, I can see how it might have an impact," she tells CBS News. "From the actual intervention side -- for someone who is already committed or interested and is going down the path -- then no."

"None of these messages are going to change the mind of someone who is already in Syria, and as far as I know, that's not the objective," she says.

Khan also says a clear strategy is needed to deal with those Americans who have been radicalized and traveled to the battlefield -- and it cannot be a one-size-fits all approach.

"We need to have a way for people who are disillusioned, or who you can convince that what they are doing, is wrong for them to get out without thinking, 'if I leave now, if I go back to my home country I'm going to spend the rest of my life in jail,'" she says.

"If the alternative is to stay in Syria or in Iraq, versus spending the rest of your life in jail, it reduces the desire to come back home," says Khan. "We want to get them out of these environments. We want them not to be there. We need an exit ground."

CBS News' Clarissa Ward reported recently that as Western nations hastily bolster their laws to counter the threat posed by radicalized Westerners who might try and attack their homelands upon returning from Iraq or Syria, "it is important to consider what motivates these men to leave the battlefield, and to remember that they are in a unique position to deter other would-be jihadists who are considering travelling to Syria from doing so."


http://www.cbsnews.com/news/isis-focus-on-recruiting-foreigners-and-the-online-drive-to-stop-it/

RaverLady
by Silver Member on Feb. 4, 2015 at 8:50 AM

Every bomb makes a hundred new terrorists.



Carpy
by Emerald Member on Feb. 4, 2015 at 8:52 AM

Bombing alone, will not do it.

VooDooB
by on Feb. 4, 2015 at 8:55 AM

I just don't understand why so many in the Muslim community WANT to join such a violent and evil group. It baffles me.

Quoting RaverLady:

Every bomb makes a hundred new terrorists.




VooDooB
by on Feb. 4, 2015 at 8:58 AM
1 mom liked this

It's certainly not working is it?

Quoting Carpy:

Bombing alone, will not do it.


RaverLady
by Silver Member on Feb. 4, 2015 at 10:26 AM
1 mom liked this

I just don't understand why so many in the Muslim community WANT to join such a violent and evil group. It baffles me.


There is nothing baffling about young men wanting to join the military arm of their group to defend their homes and the way of life they love.  That is a story as old as tribes.

We're boming them.  A few years ago we were marching through their cities, destroying their homes, killing women and children, sniping them with rifles, torturing them in custody.

That was the U.S. Military.  Why would any American want to join such a violent and evil group?  Because they don't see it that way.




Luvnlogic
by Platinum Member on Feb. 4, 2015 at 10:35 AM
And yet we just keep giving them more and more recruiting tools with our actions. 😕 There's got be someone out there smart enough to figure out a better way???? This region has had seemingly endless wars...from tribal level on up...for so long that it's become the "norm". Waging more war obviously isn't fazing them.

Quoting RaverLady:

I just don't understand why so many in the Muslim community WANT to join such a violent and evil group. It baffles me.

There is nothing baffling about young men wanting to join the military arm of their group to defend their homes and the way of life they love.  That is a story as old as tribes.

We're boming them.  A few years ago we were marching through their cities, destroying their homes, killing women and children, sniping them with rifles, torturing them in custody.

That was the U.S. Military.  Why would any American want to join such a violent and evil group?  Because they don't see it that way.

SEEKEROFSHELLS
by Platinum Member on Feb. 4, 2015 at 10:56 AM

The US also got rid of a Sunni government, and in went the Shias. That angered a lot of Iraqis. We trained moderates in Syria, ( Sunni) that went and joined QS ( which claim to be Sunni- I don't consider them Islamic at all)  So we are training Sunnis in Syria, yet supporting Shia in Iraq. Funny how all this US military hardware falls in QS hands as well. The US is trying to oust the Shia in Syria. As long as their is instability in the Middle East, the US and the allies can claim they need to go in, and control and stabilize and rebuild. They have an excuse to control, and get their hands on the natural resources. 

Quoting RaverLady:

I just don't understand why so many in the Muslim community WANT to join such a violent and evil group. It baffles me.

There is nothing baffling about young men wanting to join the military arm of their group to defend their homes and the way of life they love.  That is a story as old as tribes.

We're boming them.  A few years ago we were marching through their cities, destroying their homes, killing women and children, sniping them with rifles, torturing them in custody.

That was the U.S. Military.  Why would any American want to join such a violent and evil group?  Because they don't see it that way.





RaverLady
by Silver Member on Feb. 4, 2015 at 10:59 AM
1 mom liked this

There's got be someone out there smart enough to figure out a better way????

It doesn't take brains, just a similar mentality.  The dumb nuts in charge of the Bush Administration figured out a better way, they just didn't admit it very loud because it's not heroic.  They tamped down violence during Iraq II with payoffs.  It's not pretty but it sure works.  A lot of poor people will switch teams for money. It's very disruptive to the ranks, at least in the short term.   

However what the entire region needs is to grow up and there is no way we can do that for them.

Europe had to fight two terrible world wars and destroy their civilization twice before they figured it out.  Some of them still don't quite get it.   We certainly don't - we jump into every battle we can find or make.  We've got some growing up to do too.



This region has had seemingly endless wars...from tribal level on up...for so long that it's become the "norm".

It is the human norm.  We have had to construct complex social systems to prevent reverting to that level, and whenever civilization is dispelled we're right back there again.  

But, human progress accumulates.  We may start to figure it out.







SuckIt69
by Bronze Member on Feb. 4, 2015 at 11:03 AM
1 mom liked this
It may be time to accept that this will be a never ending fight that we'll have to keep fighting or risk them growing into immeasurable numbers and they take over the world.

Whether we fight back or not, they will keep growing.

Maybe we need to employ other tactics, like prohibiting travel to those areas, actually enforcing treason laws in the States, etc.
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