FREE NEWSLETTER: Econintersect sends a nightly newsletter highlighting news events of the day, and providing a summary of new articles posted on the website. Econintersect will not sell or pass your email address to others per our privacy policy. You can cancel this subscription at any time by selecting the unsubscribing link in the footer of each email.

posted on 19 November 2015

Explainer: Why Islamic State Is Proving So Hard To Defeat

from The Conversation

-- this post authored by Natasha Ezrow, University of Essex

The terror attacks in Paris that killed well over 120 people and injured many more mark a particularly deadly turn in the West's struggle to crush Islamic State (IS) - but they fit a pattern of behaviour the group has been pursuing for months.

IS and its affiliates have also claimed responsibility for gunning down 38 tourists on a Tunisian beach in June, bringing down a Russian airliner and killing its 224 occupants over Egypt in October and bombing a Shia area of southern Beirut, killing 44 people, on November 12. It's also suspected of being involved in a suicide attack in Ankara that killed 102.

This is a big change of tack. Initially focused on building a functioning caliphate/state and eliminating opponents in Syria and Iraq, the group has shifted strategy and is now staging attacks on opponents outside the region. IS is often labelled a terrorist group, but dealing with it is much more complicated than eliminating a typical terrorist organisation.

What makes IS so different?

IS is not just a terrorist group. Like al-Qaeda, for instance, it consists of cells and affiliates, and inspires lone wolf acts of violence, but it is also capable of both providing some administrative services to the people under its captivity, engaging in organised crime and pursuing a full-blown insurgency. IS is a hybrid organisation, which makes it all the more challenging to deal with.

Terrorist groups of the past were mostly hierarchical, tightly organised, highly secretive with very selective recruitment. But that very clear leadership structure meant that "decapitation" strategies of killing off the leadership usually resulted in the demise of the organisation, and made their survival contingent on the survival of their leaders. Whereas conventional wisdom (based in large part on studies of groups in the US) once held that most terrorist groups last less than a year, more recent studies indicate that they now last 14 years on average.

Terrorist groups can endure for longer by flattening the hierarchies of their organisations. This means that exterminating one cell does little to affect the strength of the organisation. Sure enough, though US-led coalition airstrikes apparently continue to kill off IS's leaders, their impact is lessened by the proliferation of new cells ready to defend the group's values.

France strikes back. EPA/ECPAD

IS and its ilk are skilled recruiters, using the internet and informal networks. They can therefore rely on a steady flow of terrorists ready and willing to fight. Instead of going through a tightly controlled and highly competitive recruitment process, IS has a well-funded web and social media propaganda campaign disseminating videos of brutal violence and destruction to appeal to potential followers. It also distributes an English language magazine, Dabiq.

Taking advantage of improvements in technology and transportation, the Islamic State (like al-Qaeda) contrasts with past terrorist groups that remained more domestic and nationalist. Today's terrorist groups are transnational - European and North African recruits are incorporated into cells based in Europe and beyond. Unable to migrate to fight in Syria, they are being used to stage attacks in the countries in which they are based.

Driven by ideology, the conventional terrorist organisations of yesteryear mostly received their support from state sponsors. But today, most terrorist groups engage in organised criminal activities to keep their organisations thriving. IS has flexible and lucrative sources of funding. Most of this comes from illicit proceeds from occupying territory such as controlling banks, oil and gas reservoirs, extortion and theft of economic assets. IS also earns funds by kidnapping for ransom and donations from non-profits and foreign fighters.

By not relying on foreign funding, the group is not vulnerable to a sudden loss of support. Additionally, the group's motives also mutate. Lucrative criminal opportunities motivate the group. They also provide a constant flow of funding for further attacks.

Holding territory

Occupying territory is also a something that distinguishes terrorist-hybrid organisations from terrorist groups of the past. Typically it is insurgencies that hold territories by force, whereas terrorist groups have been too weak to hold territory and must rely on a safe haven provided either passively or actively by a state sponsor.

IS holds territory roughly the size of Belgium, which it uses as a base to train its militias and conduct and plan its operations. More than 60% of its funds goes towards paying its military. By holding territory and providing services to the people who live there, it can operate more freely than groups which lack a large base for its headquarters.

Though the organisation is transnational and cellular, it also has a robust organisation capable of planning carefully orchestrated attacks and offering the financial and logistical support necessary to make its attacks highly deadly. The Paris attacks were too sophisticated and effective to be the work of leaderless resistance or lone-wolf terrorism. As the French prime minister, Manuel Valls, has now officially stated, they were very probably planned from the top in Syria, rather than by an autonomous cell based in France.

But in spite of its unusually clear hierarchical leadership structure, simply killing IS's top leaders and destroying its resources and supply lines (as post-Paris attacks on Raqqa seem to be aiming for) will still be ineffective. The only way to deal effectively with the group will require a long-term plan of eliminating the deep sources of frustration in the region, such as government corruption, mismanagement and state violence.

The ConversationNatasha Ezrow, Senior Lecturer, University of Essex

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

>>>>> Scroll down to view and make comments <<<<<<

Click here for Historical Opinion Post Listing

Make a Comment

Econintersect wants your comments, data and opinion on the articles posted.  As the internet is a "war zone" of trolls, hackers and spammers - Econintersect must balance its defences against ease of commenting.  We have joined with Livefyre to manage our comment streams.

To comment, using Livefyre just click the "Sign In" button at the top-left corner of the comment box below. You can create a commenting account using your favorite social network such as Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn or Open ID - or open a Livefyre account using your email address.

You can also comment using Facebook directly using he comment block below.

Econintersect Opinion


Print this page or create a PDF file of this page
Print Friendly and PDF

The growing use of ad blocking software is creating a shortfall in covering our fixed expenses. Please consider a donation to Econintersect to allow continuing output of quality and balanced financial and economic news and analysis.

Take a look at what is going on inside of
Main Home
Analysis Blog
Rising Tide Does Not Lift All Ships
Comments on Feyerabend’s ‘Against Method’, Part II
News Blog
Docking A Huge Cruise Ship Is More Complicated Than You Think
New Seasonal Outlook Updates from NOAA and JAMSTEC - Let's Compare Them.
Infographic Of The Day: Driving Into A Battery Powered Future
Earthquake Risk - Location Matters
Investor Alert: Be On The Lookout For Investment Scams Related To Hurricane Matthew
Lost In Translation: Five Common English Phrases You May Be Using Incorrectly
The Size And Scope Of Samsung's Business
Immigration Is The Top Worry For Britons
People Killed By Russian Airstrikes In Syria
Have You Taken These 4 Simple Steps To Improve Your Trading?
14 October 2016: ECRI's WLI Growth Index Insignificantly Declines
Mom Breaks Down In Tears When Son With Autism Meets Service Dog
Rail Week Ending 15 October 2016 Paints A Negative Economic View
Investing Blog
FinTech Is Taking A Bite Out Of Banks
Options Early Assignment - Should You Worry?
Opinion Blog
US 2016 Election: Will US-China Relations Change
Prop. 51 Versus A State-Owned Bank: How California Can Save $10 Billion On A $9 Billion Loan
Precious Metals Blog
How Will The Election Outcome Impact Precious Metals?
Live Markets
21Oct2016 Market Close: Major US Indexes Close Flat On Low Volume, Crude Prices Resume Climb, US Dollar Stabilizes In Mid 98 Handle, Yes, Most Investors Are Worried Which Way This Market Will Go
Amazon Books & More

.... and keep up with economic news using our dynamic economic newspapers with the largest international coverage on the internet
Asia / Pacific
Middle East / Africa
USA Government

Crowdfunding ....



Analysis Blog
News Blog
Investing Blog
Opinion Blog
Precious Metals Blog
Markets Blog
Video of the Day


Asia / Pacific
Middle East / Africa
USA Government

RSS Feeds / Social Media

Combined Econintersect Feed

Free Newsletter

Marketplace - Books & More

Economic Forecast

Content Contribution



  Top Economics Site Contributor TalkMarkets Contributor Finance Blogs Free PageRank Checker Active Search Results Google+

This Web Page by Steven Hansen ---- Copyright 2010 - 2016 Econintersect LLC - all rights reserved