June 15, 2016 | Commentary on National Security and Defense, Terrorism

U.S. Must Up Anti-Terror Game

I hate to bring this up as we mourn the innocent victims of the Orlando shooting, but I can’t help but feel that if we’d made greater progress in snuffing out the Islamic State, we might not be talking about another terror attack on American soil.

I’ve said this before — and unfortunately, I have to say it again.

As news has reported, the shooter called 911 from the scene of the shooting — where he killed 49 people and wounded scores more — and claimed the attack was in support of the Islamic State.

Since then, ISIS has claimed “credit” for the terrible tragedy, the worst terror attack on the homeland since Sept. 11, 2001. Islamic State radio brazenly called the Orlando terrorist, Omar Mateen, “one of the soldiers of the caliphate in America.”

While we don’t yet know if the Islamic State directed or controlled the attack (like in Paris last fall) or inspired the carnage (like in San Bernardino last year), there appears to be some sort of twisted connection between the killer and the terror group.

My concern is that we’re battling the symptoms of the ISIS illness (for example, ISIS oil sales, cutting the flow of foreign fighters to Iraq and Syria — and responding to horrific terror attacks), but we’re not doing what’s necessary to eradicate the disease itself.

I agree that we’ve made some progress on the ground in dealing with the Islamic State since August 2014 — almost two years ago now — when the U.S. bombing campaign began, including shrinking its territory, knocking out fighters and terminating senior ISIS leaders.

Unfortunately, the list of failures in dealing with ISIS is significant, too, such as leaving Iraq prematurely in 2011, not seeing al-Qaeda in Iraq explode into ISIS and underestimating the terror group as the “JV” team.

And so on.

You have to wonder whether we (and our international partners) are fighting the war against ISIS with enough power and speed considering Sunday’s Orlando massacre — just the latest ISIS-inspired attack.

We should refute the idea that ISIS is over there and the threat is far, far away. Think on this: Since January, 2015, we’ve had 22 Islamist terror attacks or plots in the United States — all homegrown and all but four ISIS-inspired.

We just don’t have the resources or capabilities in this enormous country of ours to just play defense against the Islamic State. Indeed, it was reported last year that the FBI was following some 900 potential ISIS cases in all 50 U.S. states.

We need to play an overwhelming offensive game, too, including devastating U.S. and allied kinetic, cyber, economic and information campaigns that will bring down ISIS once and for all.

ISIS’ violent extremism at home and abroad is part of the bigger problem of militant political Islam (i.e., Islamism), but destroying the Islamic State quickly — not eventually — is a perfect place to start in reducing the threat of this ideology and its terrible tactics.

About the Author

Peter Brookes Senior Fellow, National Security Affairs
Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign and National Security Policy

Originally published in The Boston Herald