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Confronting ISIL – what next?

Confronting ISIL – what next?

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During the NATO Summit in the United Kingdom last week, world leaders acknowledged the real and legitimate threat that ISIL (aka ISIS and IS) poses to the people of the Middle East and the world. ISIL’s barbaric and murderous rule and its perversion of Islam, in conjunction with their accumulations of land, oil and wealth, have been used to expand its occupation, which is now threatening the countries surrounding Iraq and Syria and the people residing within them. NATO and other leaders have realized what many in the Arab world have understood for a number of years that ISIL and their like will not stop until the entire region and world submits to their caliphate and pledges allegiance.

We have seen a large number of atrocities, such as the beheading of journalists, mass killings, the selling of children into slavery as well as the sexual exploitation of women throughout ISIL lands – all of which will persist and worsen without action. It’s worth watching the ThinkAgain TurnAway video produced from ISIL’s own propaganda: Welcome to the “Islamic State” land.

In the last few weeks, groups in Libya, Sinai and Yemen joined  forces under the ISIL ideology – expanding the reach of ISIL and allegiance to their Caliph Baghdadi throughout the Arab world. ISIL is now a direct and immediate threat to Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Jordan, and Algeria, and without necessary international action, they become a threat to all other nations in the region.

Both Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel have been working tirelessly to bring together a coalition to confront, degrade, and destroy ISIL. 

[Disclosure:John Kerry and Chuck Hagel were founding members of the American Security Project , where I am an Adjunct Senior Fellow. ]

Kerry and Hagel’s joint visit to the Middle East this week could not have come at a more pressing time. I have written previously on the need to confront ISIL militarily, economically, politically and with true Arab leadership. With the NATO Summit behind us, it is worth exploring what needs to happen next.

First, we must realize that to militarily defeat ISIS, we need “boots on the ground” – just not thousands of American boots. As I have written previously, there is a vital need for Arab governments and militaries to work together on a permanent basis under an Arabstyle NATO. It is this style of organization that must stabilize Libya as quickly as possible and rid the country of the threats emanating from ISIL and the that of connected groups. This Arab style NATO must then move on to support Jordan and Iraq and confront the main ISIL forces directly.

Second, as MGen Bob Scales stated in his piece, The only way to defeat the Islamic State in this weekend’s Washington Post, there needs to an expanded focus on special operations and target operations. While the main Arab forces would be countering ISIL in Libya, Arab and Western Special Forces should destabilize ISIL through targeted ops.

Third, and connected with the above point, for the fight against ISIL to succeed, the Arab world needs American know-how, intelligence and diplomatic support.

They need Kerry and Hagel to help build this coalition and offer intelligence assets to their Arab partners and Arab governments to re-equip their forces with the best weapons and equipment, These weapons must come from the US and other NATO countries.

Finally, Arab governments and political leaders need to demonstrate their leadership. While the leadership shown by Egypt and the UAE should be applauded, it needs to be expanded throughout the region. It is imperative that more Arab countries commit their military and financial resources to the fight against ISIL.

On Sept 18, I will be chairing a high-level panel to discuss America’s role in the future of the Middle East at the American Security Project, where further discussion will take place on this topic. Join us.