The Islamic State Counterattacks in the West
“There are bodies everywhere!” – a bystander who experienced the Nice Terror Attacks
Scores of people took to the streets all over France to celebrate Bastille Day. Bastille Day is the equivalent of Independence Day here in the United States. This is a time of patriotism, celebration, and kinship. It is a time of great celebration. Today, however, it is a time of terror and mourning. A large transport truck, apparently manned by two individuals with firearms, took to the crowded streets of the historic French seaside city of Nice, and plowed through the unsuspecting people in the crowd. At this point, roughly 73 people are dead. Nearly 100 are injured. The death toll is expected to increase as well. The real questions that must be answered are: 1) was this, in fact, the Islamic State? And 2) if it was IS, was this attack a response for the recent killing of famed Islamic State commander Abu Omar al-Shishani?
In the last half hour, since the attacks occurred, scores of Islamic State-related Twitter accounts have posted pictures of the massacre and claiming that the attacks are in response to the recent killing of IS commander, Abu Omar al-Shishani. Shishani had become something of a sensation in recent months. Shishani was a Georgian, born to an Orthodox Christian father and a Muslim mother. He was raised in northeastern Georgia, which was used as a transit point for Chechen rebels on their way to fight Jihad against the Russians. Shishani’s father has commented that during his teen years, Shishani assisted in moving the rebels through the region in order to fight the Russians. It was during this period that Shishani honed his insurgency skills. He then entered the nascent Georgian Army and was trained by U.S. Special Forces upon entering an elite Georgian intelligence unit. Indeed, when the Russians launched their egregious invasion of Georgia in 2008, Shishani’s elite unit inflicted disproportionate damage on the invading Russian 58th Army’s tank units during the Battle of Tskhinvali. During this battle, his attacks are believed to have seriously injured the Russian 58th Army’s commanding officer, General Anatoly Khrulyov.
Following the Russo-Georgian War, Shishani’s service ended in 2010 whereby he was arrested for harboring illegal firearms in his home. He served for two years in Georgian prison. Upon his release, Shishani swore his commitment to Jihad, worked his way over to Syria, joined the Islamic State, and assisted in the horrific IS invasion into Iraq. Shishani was a brilliant military officer and a soldier who served his nation with distinction in its ultimately unsuccessful defense from Russian aggression. However, Shishani’s background with the Chechen rebels, coupled with his firm belief in an extreme, or Wahhābīst, view of Islam, made him a fierce and disturbingly effective command for the Islamic State.
It was said of Shishani that, “Having trained and specialized in insurgent-like, asymmetrical warfare, Shishani would be just as much of a danger to Iraq even should ISIS begin to lose territory.” Luckily for the war effort, Shishani has been killed in an airstrike near Mosul. However, as we have seen in recent months, the Islamic State does not allow the Coalition governments to control the message. Any time that the Coalition has a success against the Islamic State, IS responds elsewhere within hours, thereby changing the news narrative. Whereas the Obama Administration and its allies insist that IS is “on the run,” the Islamic State–whether it is truly lasting or not–consistently responds in a devastating fashion that not only reaffirms their so-called strength, but also exhibits their horrifying reach. They are insistent that theirs is a Caliphate that is here to stay. Of course, their Caliphate is rapidly losing ground in Iraq. However, their main threat isn’t so much territorial as it is ideological. The Islamic State is proving that even if the Caliphate is physically lost, they will continue to plague humanity. Indeed, the breaking up of the physical Caliphate will mean that the Islamic State is likely to return to an al Qaeda-type global insurgency. In such an event, given their level of support outside of the Middle East, it is likely that the Islamic State will become an even greater direct threat to Western powers, as the reorganized Islamic State focuses on killing kufar (unbelievers) everywhere.
“He was a perfect soldier from his first days, and everyone knew he was a star, we were well trained by American special forces units, and he was the star pupil.” – An unnamed Georgian defense official, commenting on Abu Omar al-Shishani’s capabilities as a soldier and insurgent.
I believe that this attack was likely the work of the Islamic State. I also believe that this is a symbol of what is to come next for us in the West. Irrespective of what happens to the Caliphate in the Middle East, things will continue to be dangerous, as the Islamic State seeks to reassert its “brand,” if you will, beyond the region. As I have argued in The Weichert Report’s ongoing symposium on “How to Defeat the Islamic State & Stabilize Greater Syria,” the real threat to America from the Islamic State is its global ideological appeal and reach. As will be discussed in the forthcoming third part of our symposium, we will advocate for a greater and more robust approach to the ideological portion of this fight. Click here for part 2 of the symposium and here for a further assessment of the current status of the Global War on Terror.
Our thoughts and prayers are with the people of France. The fight against the Islamic State is not going as well as we hoped it would. Regardless of what happens on the Iraq-Syria border, which IS claims as their territory, the fact remains that the Islamic State is proliferating. From France to Belgium; from the Philippines to Bangladesh; from Canada to the United States, this threat is hardening and it is getting worse. Whatever one’s opinion on President George W. Bush’s decision to fight the Global War on Terror (a badly named conflict, by the way) following 9/11, one thing is certain: his assertion of wanting to fight the Terrorists overseas rather than in our backyards was right. We cannot simply abandon the Middle East because it’s a nasty place. Also, we cannot just rest on the vainglorious hope that Political Correctness will save us. We have to resist the Islamic State by ruthlessly pursuing Jihadists within our own borders whilst pressing our significant military advantages over the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
This fight is winnable. But, we have to be willing to take the field. Otherwise, more Orlandos and Nices will happen.