Monday, September 5, 2016

Turkey has pushed ISIS fighters out of the border area, cutting them off from the outside world.

The Turkish military, along with the rebel allies, have liberated ISIS's last strongholds on the Syria-Turkish border. Washington Post. For the first time since 2013, ISIS controls no territory linking them to Europe. With the Turks pushing them out of their remaining villages, ISIS no longer controls any territory adjacent to NATO. ISIS had little chance against the rebels, supported by Turkish airstrikes and heavy armor. Without their border posts, ISIS is largely cut off from the outside world. The border region with Turkey was both their main supply line, but also served as a conduit for new recruits joining the fight, and skilled terrorists leaving their territory to sow chaos and destruction in Europe. Though the Turks have pushed back ISIS in the region, their main goal continues to be countering the power of the Kurds in the area. 

My Comment:
This is a game changer for ISIS. They are completely cut off from the outside world and now are surrounded by enemies. New recruits have no way to get in and experienced terrorists have no way to get out. That means that as they suffer casualties they will be less able to replace their losses. Some may still find their way in, but the journey will be much tougher and less likely to succeed. To be fair, ISIS has been telling people to stay in Europe or their home countries to cause damage there and to not to come to Syria, but now they don't even have that option. 

Terrorist operations may be hurt as well. This border area is where ISIS would send their infiltrators through. I am guessing the people that sneaked into Europe to attack places like Paris and Brussels, originally left Syria from this region. With that route cut off, ISIS's ability to get fighters out will be largely destroyed. This should have a long term impact on the number of attacks.

That doesn't mean that terrorism from ISIS isn't a threat though. A large number of fighters had already escaped to Europe or who knows where with orders to conduct terror operations. Many of these terrorists have not been found or captured yet, so the threat is still as bad as it has ever been. Plus there is the ever present threat of lone wolf attackers not connected to core ISIS. Still, this will effect ISIS's terror operations throughout the world, and not for the better.

There will also be massive economic consequences for ISIS as well. A major source of funding for ISIS was black market oil, that was being sold in Turkey. Though their oil trucks and wells have mostly been destroyed, they still got some income, and that income is now cut off. Now they will have to rely on taxes and whatever loot they can steal when they win a rare victory. 

This battle was never really in doubt. Turkey has a modern military and, despite the purge that happened after the failed coup this summer, they have decent morale. They had modern tanks and equipment and were much better armed than ISIS. Even though Turkish sponsored rebels helped, the difference was the Turkish Army. It just goes to show that when it comes to military strength, ISIS is mostly a paper tiger. The only reason they had success is because of how dysfunctional the Syrian and Iraqi governments are. Against a modern army with relatively decent morale, like the Turks, they didn't have a chance. 

It just goes to show that if we were really interested in degradingISIS, it could be done. The utter destruction of the group probably isn't realistic, but if the goal was to simply deny them territory, it wouldn't be that hard to do so. It would be bloody, and a lot of people would probably die, but it can be done. The problem is that nobody really has the guts to do so. We won't because Americans are sick of war and Barack Obama doesn't want Syria to be his legacy. The Russians are busy fighting the rebels and the Syrian government has enough problems as is. The Turks could, but they are not going to launch a full scale war against ISIS. They have other goals in mind. 

Remember, this attack in Syria was never about ISIS. The destruction and defeats that Turkey is handing out to ISIS is in furtherance of another goal. That goal is to prevent the spread of Kurdish influence in the region. It's no coincidence that the territory that Turkey just took is right between the two main Kurdish enclaves. ISIS was getting pushed back in the region and the fear for the Turks was that the Kurds would link up and then have even more of a de-facto state then they have now. 

I've got mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, it's great that ISIS is getting wrecked and no longer control any border territory. No question that is a good thing and it is very good that the Turks put a stop to it. On the other hand I have little sympathy for the Turks and their war against the Kurds. Though I have problems with the Kurds as well, you can't deny that Turkey's campaign against them has been prejudiced at best and genocidal at worst. If it wasn't for the fact that the Kurds are often far left radicals, some of whom are even openly communist, I would say that the Kurdish/Turkish conflict was good vs evil. As it stands right now, it's grey vs gray, with the Turks being a darker shade and the Kurds being only slightly better. 

One wonders how the war against ISIS would have played out if Turkey had done something like this in 2013. Had ISIS been cut off from it's main source of recruits and a major source of income, would they have survived as long as they have? Would there have been so many terrorist attacks in 2015 and 2016? Would ISIS even be a power today had the border been closed? Would Syria still face civil war and would Iraq be stable? I guess we will never know, but perhaps this is the beginning of the end for ISIS. The Middle East will still be a mess, but maybe someday soon the worst actor in the region will be gone. We can only hope, right? 

No comments:

Post a Comment