A much-hyped new report for SOCOM is aiming to shift US focus away from ISIS and back toward al-Qaeda on the grounds that the later is a bigger “long-term” threat, and that ISIS is too aggressive to actually be successful in the long run.
The report comes out of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, and attempts to compare al-Qaeda to Mao, with ISIS as Che Guevara, and drawing the conclusion that because Mao had a much bigger reign, that means al-Qaeda ultimately will too.
Underpinning all the claims of ISIS relying on a strategy that “already failed” is the conceit of a US victory in the occupation of Iraq, and the notion that al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), which became ISIS, was “defeated” by the US in that war. It then goes on to assume ISIS will inevitably be defeated the same way again.
By contrast, the report credits al-Qaeda for moving slowly to try to impose sharia law on anybody, and for avoiding trying to amass territory on the ground that it has to defend. This may make al-Qaeda harder to wipe out, they argue.
Yet ultimately, it also means that al-Qaeda, nearly 30 years in, has little real territory, and that is mostly in the possession of its auxiliaries. ISIS, by contrast, has half of Syria and a good chunk of Iraq, and is recruiting at a much faster clip than al-Qaeda is. Whether they ultimately falter, it’s hard to deny that right now, ISIS is making more progress than al-Qaeda toward their respective goals.
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