A growing Islamic global jihad is forming — some may say it has been forming for quite sometime. As I’ve stated previously, we have non-state, non-uniform unlawful enemy combatants as well as conventional nation-state actors aligning as a 21st century axis. And in the case of Iran, we have the number one state sponsor of Islamic terrorism. Separately, Russia is supporting separatist forces engaged in a conventional assault against the recognized sovereign state of Ukraine. The question looms, who will lead the formation of an opposing alliance? We seem to have clear evidence of who will lead the Islamic jihadists.
As reported by BBC.com, “Nigerian militant group Boko Haram has pledged allegiance to Islamic State (IS), according to an audio statement. The message, which has not been verified, was posted on Boko Haram’s Twitter account and is believed to be by the group’s leader, Abubakar Shekau. Boko Haram began a military campaign to impose Islamic rule in northern Nigeria in 2009. The conflict has since spread to neighboring states. It would be the latest in a series of groups to swear allegiance to IS. In the past Boko Haram is thought to have had links with al-Qaeda.”
“IS took control of large swathes of territory in eastern Syria and across northern and western Iraq last year. The group aims to establish a “caliphate,” a state ruled by a single political and religious leader according to Islamic law, or Sharia. Its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, is known to his followers as Caliph Ibrahim. In the audio message posted on Saturday, the Boko Haram leader purportedly said: “We announce our allegiance to the caliph… and will hear and obey in times of difficulty and prosperity. We call on Muslims everywhere to pledge allegiance to the caliph.”
Seems like the “hashtag” campaign didn’t work against Boko Haram. Just recently this Islamic terror group used young girls as suicide bombers once again with chilling effect, killing upwards of fifty Nigerians and wounding scores more.
But what is more telling is that Boko Haram is now leveraging social media to convey its barbaric message. We must be concerned that in Africa we now have ISIS in Libya, al-Qaida in the Maghreb, Ansar al-Sharia, Al Shabab, and Boko Haram. Can the African states pull together a force that can combat these savage influences? Perhaps, but that requires leadership and support.
As we witness these groups aligning, we must consider the conjoining of command structures, logistical and communications support, and financial resource sharing. Two weeks ago I was presented with a number of perplexing questions by a person who wishes to dismiss this enemy. He felt that this movement was small and inconsequential and didn’t warrant the attention of the United States. I had to remind him of the carnage wrought by just 19 men upon the United States on 9-11. Or that one person, Nidal Hasan, killed 14 and wounded nearly 32 in December 2009 at Ft. Hood Texas. ISIS has gone from 3,000 fighters a year ago to perhaps 50-60,000 and growing affiliations globally — as well as recruiting network.
Now, there are rumors that there is internal dissent, especially as ISIS grows with foreign fighters. And there are desertions because the rosy picture being presented in videos isn’t what it seems — jihadi life ain’t so grand.
So here is where we could be using information operations and leaflet drops to open up the psychological operation (PSYOP) against ISIS. I remember a tactic used during Operation Desert Shield/Storm when before a frontline Iraqi unit was bombed, at least 2-3 days of leaflets were dropped on the element announcing their subsequent bombing — and that if they fled carrying the leaflet, they would be given safe quarter.
I cannot tell you how many Iraqi soldiers we picked up who had their “ticket.” If there is a developing schism, we should capitalize and advance the dissension. The last thing we should want to see happening is for the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Al Quds force to gain great dominance and influence.
I can guarantee that as Shiite militia forces advance deep into Saddam’s home territory, heavily Sunni — the resistance will stiffen as fears will arise of Shia retribution attacks.
Certainly ISIS will leverage that aspect in their favor. Can we fight Islamic terrorism and Iran concurrently? Absolutely, and based on a recent Fox News interview with President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, there is a willing ally, along with Jordan and the UAE.
However, time is not on our side when it comes to contending with ISIS. As the BBC reports, “IS has forged links with other militant groups across North Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. In November Abu-Bakr al-Baghdadi accepted pledges of allegiance from jihadists in Egypt, Libya, Algeria, Yemen and Saudi Arabia. In January, militants in Afghanistan and Pakistan announced that they were forming an IS “province.”
The U.S. does not need to take a leading role in the form of hundreds of thousands of troops. But we should show the way forward. Of course that assumes we have someone at the helm who can actually lead…