International Travel Security & Terrorism: The Siege of Kobani
In August 2014, the United States launched its first air strikes against ISIS. The strikes were meant to blunt the effectiveness of the group and stop the Islamic militants from marching on Baghdad and northern Iraq. Since that time, a large coalition of Arab states and NATO countries have come together to confront the ISIS threat, launching dozens of air strikes.
Although these air strikes appear to have slowed ISIS’s advance, they have not been able to inflict the damage many had hoped. Perhaps the most visible example of these disappointing results is the siege of Kobani. In mid-September, ISIS fighters surrounded Kobani, a Kurdish town located on the Turko-Syrian border. Despite an aggressive air campaign, ISIS has managed to make slow but steady gains as of the date of this writing. Indeed, Western media outlets were even able to capture ISIS vehicles moving freely around Kobani, in seeming defiance of Western air power.
For now, the United States and other nations are unwilling to send in ground forces against ISIS. This is probably because the White House believes, reasonably enough, that conventional ground forces could complicate and even exacerbate the situation in the region. However, there is a risk with the current approach as well. By relying solely on air strikes, the West and its Arab allies risk dragging out the conflict, artificially inflating the status of ISIS. Indeed, the group can claim that it is holding out against Bashir Assad, NATO, and several Arab states, all at the same time. That is why the current siege of Kobani is so psychologically important for the group. It demonstrates ISIS’s ability to continue to take ground in spite of the might of its many adversaries.
Military successes such as these will tend to increase the group’s credibility among radical Islamists, allowing it to attract recruits and resources. Additionally, ISIS gains on the battlefield mean that Arab tribes in the region may be intimated into submission. After all, if ISIS can go toe-to-toe with NATO, what chance does a smallish tribal group have?
From an international travel security prospective, the growing credibility of ISIS among radical Islamists presents a serious concern. It suggests that ISIS, rather than Al Qaeda, may become the center of Islamic extremism and terrorism. Indeed, the group is more sophisticated that Al Qaeda in some ways. For example, ISIS has demonstrated that it is able to take, hold, and raise revenue from captured territory. Going foreword, international security experts should pay attention to how this group evolves and matures. Unfortunately, ISIS may be the next chapter in the long struggle against Islamic extremism.
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