The Difficulty of Fighting ISIS

Tarkhan Batirashvili was one of ours. He is a former non-commissioned officer of the Republic of Georgia, trained by the U.S. to fight the Russian invasion of that country.

Now he’s Abu Omar al Shishani, and he’s fighting with ISIS.

He and other ISIS military commanders are flush with high-level U.S. provided equipment and  munitions captured from collapsed Iraqi battalions.

When the Republican presidential candidates, or Senator McCain, or any of the hawks demand that we train and equip “moderate Syrian forces”, I’d like them to think about al Shishani, or indeed about Osama bin Ladin before him. Credible allegations suggest that bin Ladin received training from the CIA to fight against the Russian occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980’s.

Absent a permanent U.S. occupation of collapsed Middle Eastern countries, I’m not sure what resuming a hawkish policy on the region might look like. Individuals and factions are very happy to take our money, training, and arms – like the Sunni forces we paid to fight on our side during “the Surge” – and they then go off the rez to engage full bore in their centuries-old conflicts with each other. They are not, repeat not, fighting for the freedom to have Western-style democracy.

I’m getting to be a big fan of containment, hardening our intelligence so that we can forestall rogue attacks within the U.S., and working with anyone who has influence in the region, including Russia and Iran, to try to quell the current turmoil and utter disarray.

[reference an article by Mitchell Prothero entitled “U.S. Training Helped Mold Top Islamic State Military Commander in McClatcheyDC.]

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