Pick a Strategy

One of the problems facing the Trump administration is the lack of an overall strategy to defeat radical Islamism. The one left over from the Obama administration consists of a schizophrenic blend of attempting to solve "root causes" incongruously combined with a program of targeted assassination. "The U.S. dropped an average of three bombs an hour in 2016 — a total of 26,171 explosive devices dropped in seven countries in the past year" according to a report published at the close of President Barack Obama’s second term, not counting thousands of air strikes which went unreported according to the Military Times. This vast campaign of targeted aerial assassination was accompanied by what the Nation called "the secret nation-building boom of the Obama years".   By 2014 Obama had doubled "nation-building spending from $24.3 billion to $51.3 billion".

The Trump administration campaigned on argument the Obama strategy has failed.  David Ignatius says the Trump White House is steeling itself for the fallout. "Michael Flynn, the national security adviser to President Trump, shows visitors a map predicting what will happen to the Islamic State after its stronghold in Mosul is captured. It shows menacing black arrows reaching west toward future battlefronts in Iraq, Syria and beyond."

That’s the worry that motivates the Trump administration as it plans strategy against the terrorist group: Rather than a shattering defeat for the adversary, Mosul may be the start of a breakout to other regions. That may be one rationale for Trump’s controversial ban on travel from Iraq and six other Muslim-majority countries, which was rejected Thursday night by a federal appeals court.

That fear of metastasis is shared by some regional countries.  The new ISIS nightmare according to the Christian Science Monitor is that having lost their geographical bastions, its soldiers are going home to start new Syrias. "As coalition and allied forces push through Mosul, Iraq, and close in on the Islamic State's capital of Raqqa, Syria, Arab states are bracing what some are calling a 'disaster': waves of ISIS fighters returning back home."

Attacks have left citizens apprehensive over the fighters’ return. In December, Tunisians protested against the return of former Islamic State fighters, holding signs like "Close the doors to terrorism" in front of parliament. Here in Jordan, many know a son of a neighbor, colleague, or distant relative who has gone off to fight to Syria.

“It is better for them to die in Syria then to come back and ruin our homeland,” says Mohammed, a 45-year-old grocer in Amman, who says he knows of “several” families whose sons have travelled to Syria.

Not only is ISIS be blowing back on MENA and Europe but Afghanistan may be falling to a resurgent Taliban, this time backed by Russia and Iran. "General Nicholson, commander of US and allied forces in Afghanistan, testified before congress today that he urgently needs a 'few thousand' more troops to break what has become a “stalemate” between the Taliban and other extremist forces, and the Afghan National Army (ANA). "