During the NATO Summit in the United Kingdom last week, world leaders acknowledged the real and legitimate threat that ISIL (aka ISIS and IS) poses to the people of the Middle East and the whole world.
ISIL’s barbaric and murderous rule and its pervasion of Islam, in combination with land, oil and wealth, has been used to expand its occupation, which is now threatening the countries surrounding Iraq and Syria and the people residing within them.
NATO and other leaders have realized what many in the Arab world have understood for a number of years, that ISIL and their like will not stop until the whole region and world comes under their flag.
We have seen a large number of atrocities such as the beheading of journalists, mass killings, the selling of children into slavery as well as the sexual exploitation of women throughout ISIL lands – all of these will only expand and get worse without action. It’s worth watching the ThinkAgain TurnAway video produced from ISIL’s own propaganda: Welcome to the “Islamic State” land.
The most worrying developments in the last few weeks have seen groups in Libya, Sinai and Yemen joining forces under the ISIL ideology, which will soon be followed by the rule from the sell proclaimed caliph Baghdadi – in circulating the whole Arab people.
ISIL is now a direct and immediate threat to Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Jordan, and Algeria, and without necessary international action, will become a threat to all other nations in the region.
Both Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel have been working tirelessly to bring together a coalition to confront, degrade, and destroy ISIL.
[As full disclosure John Kerry and Chuck Hagel were founding members of the American Security Project where I am an Adjunct Senior Fellow]
Kerry and Hagel’s joint visit to the Middle East this week could not come at a more pressing time.
I have written previously for the need to confront ISIL militarily, economically, politically and with true Arab leadership. Following on from the NATO Summit it is worth exploring what needs to happen next.
First we must realize that to militarily defeat ISIS, we need “boots on the ground” – just not thousands of American boots. As I have written previously, there is a vital need for Arab governments and militaries to work together on a permanent basis under an Arab style NATO. It is this style of organization that must stabilize Libya as quickly as possible and rid the country of the threats emanating from ISIL and other connected groups threat. This Arab style NATO must then move on to support Jordan and Iraq and confront the main ISIL forces directly.
Second, I agree with MGen Bob Scales who wrote in the Washington Post this weekend in The only way to defeat the Islamic State – that there needs to an expanded focus on special operations and target operations. While the main Arab forces would be countering ISIL in Libya, Arab and Western Special Forces should destabilize ISIL through targeted ops.
Third, and connected with the above point, we need American know-how, intelligence and diplomatic support. We need Kerry and Hagel to help build this coalition and offer intelligence assets to their Arab partners. We also need to see Arab governments re-equip their forces with the best weapons and equipment; these weapons have to come from the US and other NATO countries.
Finally, Arab governments and political leaders need to demonstrate their leadership. While the leadership shown by Egypt and the UAE should be applauded, it needs to be expanded throughout the region. It is imperative that more Arab countries commit their military and financial resources to the fight against ISIL.
On Sept 18, I will be chairing a high-level panel to discuss the future of the Middle East and America’s role in the future, at the American Security Project, that will be discussing these issues further.