ISIS can be characterized as both terrorists and insurgents. Their record of brutal terrorist attacks has few rivals in terms of both the number of victims and the gruesome nature of the attacks. ISIS is also an insurgent group, waging wars of insurgency in both Syria and Iraq. Infamous for its brutal violence, this self-described caliphate has claimed responsibility for hundreds of terrorist attacks around the world, in addition to destroying priceless monuments, and works of art from antiquity.
Origin and History of ISIS
Al-Qaeda and ISIS share a common history. To understand ISIS it is important to understand Al-Qaeda. Al-Qaeda’s story begins when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. The invasion sent shock waves among the Muslim world resulting in galvanising of foreign fighters to help Afghans resist the Soviet forces. That’s where Osama bin Laden met a number of other young radicals, who together formed the core of the al-Qaeda network. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi a Jordanian also travelled to Afghanistan who later would find the group that became what we today call ISIS.
The Soviets withdraw in 1989 and the Arab fighters go home. Bin laden grows al-Qaeda into a global network to fight against enemies of Muslims. Zarqawi returned from Afghanistan, and in 1999 in Jordan formed his own group, Jamaat al-Tawhid Wal-Jihad (JTWJ), but it was not a prominent group. But later both men return to Afghanistan ruled by Taliban and on September 11, 2001, al-Qaeda attacked America. The US invaded Afghanistan and bin Laden fled to Pakistan and Zarqawi flees to Iraq. The US 2 years later invades Iraq and sets a stage for the rise of ISIS.
The Americans toppled Saddam Hussein’s secular, Sunni dictatorship and disband the Iraqi army. Thousands of Sunni Iraqi soldiers, unemployed, join the insurgency. Jihadist groups see this as the repeat of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Zarqawi who was present in Iraq seizes this opportunity to form a group. He eventually started attacks of Iraq’s majority-the Shia. Sparking a Sunni-Shia civil war. Al-Qaeda which at this point was struggling for its existence forms alliance with Zarqawi’s group, which becomes known as al-Qaeda (AQI) in Iraq. But in 2006, Iraq’s Sunni’s rise up against Zarqawi and the US kills him in an air strike. over the years AQI weekend in Iraq and the US withdrew in 2011 from Iraq that was returning to stability.
By 2011 Iraq finally had relatively good security, a generous state budget, and positive relations among the country’s various ethnic and religious communities. But it was squandered. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki stripped political opponents of power, appointed his cronies to run the army, and killed peaceful protesters. Most importantly, he reconstructed the Iraqi state on sectarian lines. This exacerbated Iraq’s existing sectarian tensions.
By this time, AQI had a new leader: Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, an Iraqi. Under his leadership, AQI began allying with former officers from Saddam Hussein’s army and recruited disaffected Sunnis. Around this same time, Syria erupted in Arab Spring protests that became a civil war. In March 2011, Syrian demonstrators took to the streets to demand Bashar al-Assad step down. Almost right away, the Syrian regime began slaughtering protesters in an attempt to provoke a civil war.
In August 2011, Baghdadi sent a top deputy, Abu Mohammad al-Joulani, to Syria to set up a new branch of the AQI in the country. Joulani succeeded, establishing Jabhat al-Nusra in January 2012. The key investments in ISIS came from private individuals from the Middle East who wanted to see the Assad regime fall. Series of attacks on Iraqi prisons took place in 2012 and 2013. These prison attacks supplied it with a huge infusion of recruits.
In April 2013, Baghdadi did something dramatic: He asserted unilateral control over all al-Qaeda operations in both Syria and Iraq. To demonstrate this change, he renamed AQI as ISIS. ISIS and al-Qaeda eventually split, dividing the jihadist movement in Syria.
Why ISIS is distinct from other Militant Groups?
• It is the first Islamic terrorist group to gain direct control of oil revenues.
• It upped the level of medieval violence through sensationalized barbarity.
• It brilliantly appealed directly to disaffected young Muslims throughout the Western World.
• Unlike other extremist groups, ISIS refuses to lurk in shadows.
• ISIS is not content with controlling a limited amount of territory confined to a single nation-state like the Tamil Tigers for instance.
India and ISIS
India faces an increasing domestic threat from virtual recruitment and self-radicalization, which has resulted in some Indians officially joining ISIS and fighting in Iraq and Syria. There aren’t natural limits on the growth of ISIS in Bangladesh. The porous borders between Bangladesh and India and the rising tensions in refugee camps related to the Rohingya refugee crisis are particularly concerning. Although India’s Ministry of Home Affairs estimates that only 75 Indians have joined ISIS, the Islamic State is growing faster in India than many realize.
Starting in 2014, cases surfaced of young adults trying to join ISIS online. ISIS attempted to plant the seeds of unrest in India in June 2014 by including India in a map of its planned caliphate. Six months later, ISIS named former Tehrik-e-Taliban commander Hafiz Saeed Khan as the wali (governor) of the “Khorasan Province,” which includes India. Propaganda about Khorasan has not gained significant traction in India, however.
ISIS poses a significant threat to India, but India has not been engaged in the global fight against the group. If India becomes more involved in the global fight against the Islamic State by working closely with the United States in the region, sharing terrorist watch lists, and taking a stronger stance against Bangladesh, it can have a stronger partner to fight the growing domestic threat of ISIS while making a global contribution that US and the world will likely value.
Solution to ISIS problem
• Defeating the Islamic State requires a holistic strategy to deal simultaneously with all of the various aspects of ISIS power. Elements of such a strategy are in place, but by themselves, they are insufficient to defeat ISIS in an acceptable time frame.
• Good intelligence and robust homeland defences are absolutely required to deal with ISIS-inspired terrorism.
• Airpower and special operations forces will continue to degrade ISIS command and control and logistics, including its lucrative oil smuggling business.
• Intelligence agencies must apply more resources to track people who have travelled to the Islamic State and then returned home.
• To defeat the ISIS, its armed forces must be destroyed and its territory occupied. This can only be accomplished by ground operations in Syria and Iraq.
The chaos in the Middle East has had effects on the whole world. It’s high time that the world leaders keep their differences aside and work together in rebuilding areas of Syria and Iraq which were plundered by ISIS and its soldiers.