ISIS is winning

Politico has a great story running right now: ISIL Is Winning — Fourteen years after terror struck the U.S., our strategy to defeat terrorism is failing.

Unfortunately, it’s a pretty long article that most people will probably find too long to read. As such, I thought I’d cut and paste some key graphs from the article.

At the tenth anniversary of 9/11, it seemed like we had terrorism on the run; Osama bin Laden was dead, the Taliban was defeated and officials like CIA director Leon Panetta had proclaimed al Qaeda all but finished. But as we mark on Friday the 14th anniversary of the devastating attacks on the United States, it’s time to admit that the terrorists—at least one specific branch of terrorists—are now winning. And it’s time to admit that our response to the so-called Islamic State has been an abject failure.

Last year, fighters belonging to the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), a group once part of the same organization responsible for the 9/11 attacks stormed into Iraq, conquered half that country, declared itself both a state and a Caliphate and set about to slaughter and enslave thousands of Christians, Shi’a, and members of Islamic minority sects. Fifteen months later, ISIL’s influence has spread far beyond the Levant and Mesopotamia. A thousand foreign recruits converge monthly on its operational cynosure. Hailing from some fifty countries they exceed by a factor of ten the average monthly flow of foreign fighters to Iraq at even the height of the war there a decade ago.

ISIL’s international cadre has also far exceeded the number that gravitated to Afghanistan during and the 1980s and 1990s. That growth creates the same conditions—but on a far vaster magnitude—that led to al Qaeda’s rise and the attacks on New York and Washington, D.C., on 9/11.

The temptation to dismiss these developments as primarily “local” phenomena—confined to the perennially violent, unstable Middle East—is further belied both by the growing number of ISIL branches or “provinces” and its continued efforts to radicalize a worldwide stable of “stay-behind” amateurs, whom the group encourages to carry out low-level, lethal attacks in their respective homelands. To date, ISIL has established bases in at least a half-dozen countries: stretching from West and North Africa to the Arabian Peninsula and from the Sinai to South Asia and the Caucasus. And, over the past year alone, ISIL-inspired homegrown attacks have occurred in the U.S., Australia, Canada, France and Belgium.

ISIL is something the world has never seen before. During the summer of 2014, for example, it launched a battalion-sized assault and defeated 30,000 U.S.-trained Iraqi soldiers. As the defenders fled, they left behind approximately three military divisions’ worth of equipment, including American-made Humvees and M1 Abrams tanks, totaling tens of millions of dollars. ISIL had already seized large stockpiles of weapons, equipment and cash while fighting in Syria and has recently employed chemical weapons on several occasions. The size, weapons and tactics of ISIL forces—combined with their ability to seize and hold terrain—are arguably unique in the annals of terrorism.

We have to accept that Iraq has ceased to exist as a viable federal union and has now permanently splintered into Sunni, Shi’a and Kurdish enclaves. In these circumstances, our best option is to back the only reliable and militarily capable partners we have there—the Kurds. To date, both the Kurdish Peshmerga and YPG or People’s Protection Unit, its Syrian counterparts, are the only local forces who have demonstrated any effective ability to counter ISIL. Yet, American support of both is hamstrung by a misplaced deference to Turkey’s priorities—a NATO ally who has often proven as unhelpful in the war on terrorism in the Levant as Pakistan has been in South Asia.

I’m pretty much an eternal optimist, but even I can’t really dispute the facts of this article.

Keep the faith,

Stan R. Mitchell

About me:  write military action books similar to Vince Flynn, Stephen Hunter, and Tom Clancy. I’m also a prior USMC Sgt with Combat Action Ribbon, and a guy who spent 10+ years writing every day in the newspaper business — 9 of them with a newspaper that I started. Please consider subscribing for email alerts — I mostly post about American foreign policy, national security, and all things Marine Corps.

More on ISIS in Iraq

The Economist in its May 23rd edition discussed the fall of Ramadi and had a pretty in depth article on ISIS, and it had a couple of graphs I wanted to make sure you all saw.

These are the two final graphs in the article.

First, here’s some insight into how ISIS is actually able to hold ground — and nope, it’s not completely through fear, as I mostly assumed.

  • “(ISIS) administrators win plaudits for their efficient management, clean streets and timely payment of salaries. They have partially restored electricity to Mosul, refurbished a hotel there and opened Saddam Hussein’s palaces for weekend strolls. Debt-burdened Jordan hopes that IS might see a mutual interest in keeping its border crossing open for trade, and even recognises the receipts it issues for import duties as tax-deductible.”

So, clearly, ISIS  is actually competing with the Iraqi government — it seems, quite well — on providing services. This has been exacerbated by the pro-Shia government of Iraq, which I’m certain has short-changed the Sunni-part of its own population.

Thus the opening for ISIS, a Sunni-based organization.

The final paragraph was the nail in the coffin, so to speak. I mean, I like to be optimistic, but reading this graph helped convince me that Joe Biden was probably right all the way back in 2006 about dividing up the country. Here’s the last graph from the article:

  • “The danger is that the IS caliphate is becoming a permanent part of the region. The frontiers will shift in the coming months. But with the Kurds governing themselves in the north-east, and the Shias in the south, Iraqis question the government’s resolve in reversing IS’s hold on the Sunni north-west. “Partition is already a reality,” sighs a Sunni politician in exile. “It just has yet to be mapped.””

Colin Powell famously said “if you break it, you own it.” I think we certainly broke it, and there’s probably not any putting it back together.

Keep the faith,

Stan R. Mitchell

Oak Ridge, Tenn.

About me: I’m a full-time, action-fiction author with books similar to Vince Flynn, Stephen Hunter, and Tom Clancy. I’m also a prior infantry Marine with Combat Action Ribbon, and a guy who spent 10+ years writing every day in the newspaper business. Please consider subscribing for email alerts — I mostly post about things American foreign policy, national security, and all things Marine Corps.

P.S. You should really consider buying this book: The Shaolin Workout: 28 Days to Transforming Your Body and Soul the Warrior’s Way. It’s absolutely changed my life for the better.

Why ISIS is winning, and how its foes can reverse that success

This is the best article I’ve seen yet — probably in two months — about ISIS. (Ignore the video, though it’s pretty good, too. Just read/scan the article.)

Why ISIS is winning, and how its foes can reverse that success(H/T Blake K. Baxter)

Keep the faith,

Stan R. Mitchell

Oak Ridge, Tenn.

About me: I’m a full-time, action-fiction author with books similar to Vince Flynn, Stephen Hunter, and Tom Clancy. I’m also a prior infantry Marine with Combat Action Ribbon, and a guy who spent 10+ years writing every day in the newspaper business. Please consider subscribing for email alerts — I mostly post about things American foreign policy, national security, and all things Marine Corps.

P.S. You should really consider buying this book: The Shaolin Workout: 28 Days to Transforming Your Body and Soul the Warrior’s Way. It’s absolutely changed my life for the better.

Elite Iraqi units abandon Ramadi in biggest Islamic State win since Mosul

This story is pretty much nothing short of embarrassing: Elite Iraqi units abandon Ramadi in biggest Islamic State win since Mosul.

Try to take a moment to read it if you get a chance. The flight of even “elite” Iraqi units is pretty shocking. (Oh, and they left some plenty of nice equipment for ISIS, including vehicles, machine guns, and artillery pieces.)

I think America’s patience with Iraq as a whole is wearing thin. I know mine certainly is.

Also, in case you missed it, our beloved Marine Corps lost six of its finest in rescue operations in Nepal. Keep these warriors in your thoughts, as well as their families.

Keep the faith,

Stan R. Mitchell

Oak Ridge, Tenn.

About me: I’m a full-time, action-fiction author with books similar to Vince Flynn, Stephen Hunter, and Tom Clancy. I’m also a prior infantry Marine with Combat Action Ribbon, and a guy who spent 10+ years writing every day in the newspaper business. Please consider subscribing for email alerts — I mostly post about things American foreign policy, national security, and all things Marine Corps.

P.S. You should really consider buying this book: The Shaolin Workout: 28 Days to Transforming Your Body and Soul the Warrior’s Way. It’s absolutely changed my life for the better.

The two biggest travesties of our 2003 invasion of Iraq.

I think there’s a chance I’ve come across some facts that just boggle the imagination regarding our invasion of Iraq.

Since this is potentially a controversial post, I feel the need to explain how I got here. It began with me noticing Iran’s far-stronger influence in the Middle East of late, and the explosion of violence between Sunni and Shia in several different countries. (None of this is news to my devoted readers.)

But what caused my head to nearly explode was when I stumbled upon a single sentence written back in the early ’90s. I was reading Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf’s autobiography recently, “It Doesn’t Take a Hero,” when I came across this paragraph:

“Though no one had told us, ‘We don’t want you to destroy Iraq as a nation,’ my assumption in directing the planners had been that the United States would continue to need Iraq as a regional counterbalance to Iran.” — From Chapter 17.

Think of that. This book was published on Nov. 1, 1992. Thus, we knew in the ’90s — long before the 2003 invasion to topple Saddam — that Iraq was needed as a counter to our most dangerous regional enemy: Iran.

Furthermore, one of the big rationales for the current invasion was to set up a democracy. The only problem with this concept is the solid majority of Iraq is Shia. Likewise, Iran is Shia. This isn’t rocket science. It’s 9th grade geography.

So, we should have known going in that if we established a democracy in Iraq, we’ve created a Shia state. A huge one, which happens to be adjacent to Iran.

That consequence alone — practically doubling Iran’s power and reach — should have given us serious pause. It should have been known and understood by our strategists.

I have no idea how this was somehow overlooked or ignored, but that’s not all that’s been troubling me of late.

Unfortunately, it gets worse. Because of where Iraq is situated, it served as a buffer for one of the most important borders of Shia and Sunni civilization. Consequently, when we toppled the country’s strong man (Saddam), we set up the perfect situation for a massive regional war between Shias and Sunnis. That regional war has been spreading like wildfire, as everyone now knows, with Shia Iran supporting Shia fighters and the Sunni Saudi Arabia (and other Sunni countries) supporting Sunni fighters.

Now you might say, “But, Stan, who could have known how ugly that would get? How could we have known that religious fighting would spread from Iraq to Syria to Yemen to pretty much you name it in the Middle East?”

But I’d argue that this religious divide, and it’s subsequent clashes (see video below), began 1,400 years ago, and surely someone at the CIA — probably a lot of someones — tried to highlight this fact to the Bush Administration. (If they did, I really want to know this. And if they didn’t, I even more want to know this.)

So, in summary, let’s ignore all of the regular arguments on this issue. Forget arguments about WMD, oil paying for the war, being welcomed as liberators, etc. I can understand how we got much of that wrong.

But, what I want to know is how in the world our leaders overlooked these two potential problems, which seem incredibly simple and easy to see:

  1. That Iraq could become a second state strongly allied with Iran. (And how this would hardly be a good thing for us, Israel, or our long-time ally Saudi Arabia.)
  2. And that toppling Saddam could lead to an ferociously large civil war between Shias and Sunnis. One that will probably rage for years and years and kill (and displace) who knows how many  hundreds of thousands.

We’re already dealing with these consequences, and they’re already getting worse.

Now, we’ve got Russia arming Iran with anti-air missiles and conflict exploding across the Middle East faster than a wildfire with a strong wind behind its back. Iran is ascending and the rest of the Middle East is worried about this growing tiger in their midst.

It’s my strong suspicion that history will want to know how we overlooked these two potential problems, which we should have known.

So, please, dear readers, tell me where I’m wrong on this and what I’m unfairly overlooking.

Oh, and here’s a super short video on the Shia-Sunni divide:

Keep the faith,

Stan R. Mitchell

Oak Ridge, Tenn.

About me: I’m a full-time, action-fiction author with books similar to Vince Flynn, Stephen Hunter, and Tom Clancy. I’m also a prior infantry Marine with Combat Action Ribbon, and a guy who spent 10+ years writing every day in the newspaper business. Please consider subscribing for email alerts — I mostly post about things American foreign policy, national security, and all things Marine Corps.

P.S. You should really consider buying this book: The Shaolin Workout: 28 Days to Transforming Your Body and Soul the Warrior’s Way. It’s absolutely changed my life for the better.

My hesitation in sharing a pretty startling conclusion I’ve been developing

Hey guys,

I apologize for the lack of posts of late. For quite a while now, I’ve been researching and chewing on some information I’ve uncovered regarding Iraq and the larger overall Sunni/Shia conflict that’s increasingly coming to light.

I’ve been digging going all the way back to Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf’s invasion in the early 90s, reading his entire biography and picking up a treasure chest of clues written with no political viewpoint in mind. I can say this with absolute conviction because his book was written prior to our 2000-era invasion and toppling of Saddam.

Furthermore, Schwarzkopf says in his biography that he’s a Republican. I don’t think he’d be wanting to sabotage his own party.

So, I’m beating around the bush here but I don’t want my hesitation to suggest that I haven’t drawn up a conclusion. In fact, I’ve drawn up a serious conclusion. One I feel extremely firm on. But, it can’t be said without coming across as political.

And I’ve learned that once you become political, it’s a deadly thing. Furthermore, I’m a moderate and never want to become a passionate supporter of just one side. I will always support trying to mend fences and create dialogue among people of opposite persuasions. Doing so is how progress is made, and is best for our country, in my opinion.

Additionally, it seems quite clear to me that when you make a political statement, you immediately lose about half your readers. They get defensive. Or pissed. And perhaps rightly so.

So, for now I’m holding off on laying out this great conclusion that I’ve drawn. I’m going to continue to look for someone else who has come across the same thing and hopefully written about it. Once I find that person, I’ll share it here.

But if I don’t find this information somewhere soon, then I think I’m going to lay out my evidence and conclusions. And I will do so as respectfully and from as non-political a viewpoint as possible.

We can only avoid repeating history if we learn from it, and I’m not sure we’ve learned enough from our history the past ten-plus years, since it doesn’t seem anyone is saying what I believe to be a pretty clear truth.

Keep the faith,

Stan R. Mitchell

Oak Ridge, Tenn.

About me: I’m a full-time, action-fiction author with books similar to Vince Flynn, Stephen Hunter, and Tom Clancy. I’m also a prior infantry Marine with Combat Action Ribbon, and a guy who spent 10+ years writing every day in the newspaper business. Please consider subscribing for email alerts — I mostly post about things American foreign policy, national security, and all things Marine Corps.

P.S. You should really consider buying this book: The Shaolin Workout: 28 Days to Transforming Your Body and Soul the Warrior’s Way. It’s absolutely changed my life for the better.

U.S. Military news round up from around the world, 2/23/15

In Ukraine…

More evidence of Russia sending troops directly to Ukraine has emerged. This news should surprise no one. And in other news, Ukraine is saying it can’t pull back its heavy weapons because of continued “rebel” attacks.

If I were in charge of Ukraine, I’d be digging in, recruiting more soldiers, and preparing my country for all-out war. And lets hope Europe steps up and starts getting more serious about their own defense and NATO commitments.

Back to the F-35…

A couple of weeks ago, I shared a post of the U.S. Navy not being that sold on the F-35.  I went on to say that I continued to have concerns because when an Admiral is speaking up about a super-controversial weapons program, there just may be more news here than any of want to think about…

On the front of me possibly being wrong, which I sincerely hope I am since this is the Pentagon’s most expensive weapons program EVER, Israel appears to be in love with the plane. They just ordered 14 more of them, on top of the 19 that they already have.

In Iraq…

There’s been lots of talk about taking Mosul back from ISIS/Daesh by the administration, and that led to torrents of criticism about announcing the plans ahead of time.

Turns out, most of this talk doesn’t matter anyway, since now the Iraqi’s admit that basically their forces suck and they can’t take Mosul when the administration hoped, anyway. Well, they didn’t quite say it so clearly, but I’ll save you some reading and you can trust me on what they said.

I would take the time to compile a ton of links of all the times that Iraqi’s with better weapons and tanks (provided by the U.S.) have run from ISIS like complete cowards, but I’m betting most of you already know this truth. (Seriously, how do you ever give up if you even have one, single M1A1 tank? I mean, seriously, guys. Come on…)

So, instead of researching a bunch of links, let me just show you a little training.

I’m thinking it’s time we send this guy back over there to chew some ass…

Keep the faith,

Stan R. Mitchell

Oak Ridge, Tenn.

About me: I’m a full-time, action-fiction author with books similar to Vince Flynn, Stephen Hunter, and Tom Clancy. I’m also a prior infantry Marine with Combat Action Ribbon, and a guy who spent 10+ years writing every day in the newspaper business. Please consider subscribing for email alerts — I mostly post about things American foreign policy, national security, and all things Marine Corps.