Foreign Policy In Focus (FPIF) columnist
There may be a responsible way to fight the Islamic State, but the U.S. will have to leave its boots in the closet and the drones in the hangar.
The atrocities of ISIS become more shocking every day. In June, the Iraqis exhumed nearly 600 bodies of Shia recruits in Tikrit, an important Sunni Triangle city north of Baghdad. ISIS appears to have executed as many as 1,700 Iraqis and buried them in mass graves.
Last summer, when ISIS gained control of Mosul — Iraq’s second largest city — it should have spurred a re-thinking of U.S. policy. Despite the training of Iraqis to take control of their own security, the Iraqi forces defending Mosul melted away. A few hundred ISIS fighters easily defeated nearly 30,000 Iraqi military personnel trained and equipped by the Americans.
The victory of ISIS in Mosul was built on its past success in recruiting nearly 65 percent of the members of Jabhat al-Nusra in Syria. Its success in Mosul in turn emboldened its leadership and increased its popularity among many disaffected individuals in the region and beyond. ISIS explicitly links its successes to the past glories of the Arab empire. Many young Muslims worldwide see ISIS as a new wave: a fierce, invincible force that stands in stark opposition to the ideas and deeds of the West.