Weekly Update: Victory is Incomplete
By Rob Wittman
December 17, 2017
Victory is incomplete, but for now, we claim it.
Just three years ago, in the middle of 2014, ISIS claimed to have established a caliphateâ€”a religious state under an extreme interpretation of Islamic law. This self-proclaimed caliphate had reign over seven to eight million people and access to vast resources. However, in October, their self-proclaimed capital of Raqqa fell to U.S. backed Kurdish forces; followed shortly by Iraqi Prime Minister al-Abadi announcing that ISISâ€™s territory in Iraq had been fully retaken, thus declaring victory in his countryâ€™s war on the terrorist organization. The abolishment of the caliphate was made possible through a U.S. partnership with regional allies, including both Iraqi and Kurdish forces.
Terrorism is an attack against the mind; its aim is to instill the feeling that no matter where you go, nor what you do, your government cannot keep you safe. With its caliphate abolished, ISIS has fallen back on its roots: the use of propaganda, distributed on the internet, aimed to radicalize and inspire terrorist attacks. ISIS gains power both by carrying out acts of terror, and inspiring others to do the same. This was seen this past Monday, when a 27-year-old Brooklyniteâ€”inspired by ISISâ€”sought to strike terror into U.S. citizens by attacking Manhattanâ€™s Port Authority Bus Terminal with a homemade pipe bomb. Attacks on U.S. soil are extremely alarming, however there is evidence that this is a sign of the Islamic Stateâ€™s growing weakness.
These attacks are an attempt by ISIS to legitimize themselves and to show to potential recruits that the Islamic State is a still a player on the world stage. And as their physical strength declines, it is possible that small attacks, such as the one in NYC, may continue. That is why, after destroying their physical caliphate, we must now destroy the virtual caliphateâ€”their means of disseminating propaganda and directing attacks over the internet. Moving forward, an increased emphasis on cyber-defense will be crucial not only in the disruption of their communication network but in the identification and removal of their recruiters and propaganda distributors.
Due to the free flow of people within the Euro-zone, European countries have taken the large majority of these ISIS-inspired attacks. Fortunately, the United States has had an increased scrutiny on immigration flow which helps to limit possible recruiters and has prevented potential bad actors from doing harm to our homeland.
Radical movements in the middle-east have been cyclical. ISIS was preceded by Al Qaeda and, unless we actively work to prevent it, will be succeeded by some other radical group. Rising tensions between Sunniâ€™s and Shiaâ€™s may very well result in a whiplash effect that sees the formation of a new radical organization within the region. This means, in order to effectively counter regional disruption, we continue to have a vested national security interest in the Middle East
The world has become an increasingly dangerous place in the last eight years, and a credible U.S. naval deterrence is essential to regional stability. The U.S. Navy needs to maintain a consistent presence in this region in order to provide a credible ballistic missile defense and increased security posture for the United States and its allies. Meeting the challenges in this critical theater as well as other global commitments require our nation to provide a 355-ship Navy. As Chairman of the Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee, I have been working towards this goal, and with the FY18 NDAA recently passed into law we are one step closer to achieving this goal. We must continue to move forward in building a larger and more capable Navy, while at the same time engaging our partners and allies to create greater regional stability.
Right now, we are defeating terrorism on many fronts, but there is much left to be done in order to secure victory in the future. The bigger question is not what is next for ISIS, but instead, what is the next emerging threat and are we prepared?