In Focus | The Security Campaigns against ISIS.. Analysis
The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the Iraqi army, the Popular Mobilization Forces, the Syrian regime forces and the international coalition rely on focused security campaigns to pursue and dismantle ISIS cells. In 2020, dozens of security campaigns were launched in Syria and Iraq, the latest of which was the launch of the “al-Jazeera Lions 1” campaign in Iraq. The campaign was launched in parallel with the QSD campaign carried out in the northeast of Deir Ez-Zor reaching the border with Iraq at dawn on September 25, 2020. The campaign was preceded by the White Desert campaign led by Russia and the National Defense Militia west of Deir Ez-Zor.
The security campaigns seek to achieve the following goals:
- Arresting ISIS leaders and pursuing its active militants
- Tightening control over the areas that ISIS cells use as corridors to access targeted areas
- Cutting off logistical supplies from ISIS cells and dismantling the network of members who conduct logistical operations
- Exposing and destroying ISIS safehouse headquarters and weapon, ammunition and explosive device manufacturing warehouses used by ISIS to ensure its continued operations.
Despite the importance of these campaigns and their achieving various field results on the ground, they did not stop the escalation of ISIS activity in both countries. In addition, the campaigns failed to achieve the goal of gaining control over ISIS locations and secret headquarters or dismantling the logistical, security and military supply network which ISIS depends on for the continuation of its activities.
It is likely that ISIS will adopt alternative plans to avoid the effects of the security campaigns by:
- Promoting decentralization among its clusters: based on drawing up a time specific policy, then assigning groups and sub-cells to implement it - within the general framework – without conferring with ISIS’s basic leadership.
- Relying on individual and encrypted communication: Orders and plans will be transmitted from the main leaderships to the cluster leaders via members who are not subject to suspicion, and messages will be encrypted to ensure messengers do not realize the content of the commands being conveyed.
- Preparing alternative leaderships: where ISIS is exposed to continuous losses through arrest, assassination or repeated clashes, and then the organization has relied on continuously providing its cadres with organizational and leadership experience to avoid the repercussions of losing some field or primary leaders. It is likely, in this context, that these members are not known to the security services, which makes it more difficult to arrest and dismantle their cells.
Based on the information presented above, the continuous security campaigns failed in eliminating ISIS, but rather prompted it to develop its organizational structure, strengthen its ranks with leadership and military expertise and create a moving map cells scattered in Iraq and Syria. All these efforts aid it to reduce the effects of the security and military campaigns against it.
Unit of Religious Movement - Jusoor for Studies