West Point Report: Islamic State Threat 4 Years in the Making

Image: West Point Report: Islamic State Threat 4 Years in the Making (Stringer/Reuters/Landov)

Thursday, 28 Aug 2014 07:11 AM

By Elliot Jager

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The Islamic State, which has grabbed strategic territory in Iraq and Syria, gained momentum over four years, according to a report by the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, an independent privately funded group, Fox News reported.

The Islamist group, also known as ISIS, "had been steadily strengthening and actively shaping the future operating environment for four years," wrote the report's author, Michael Knights of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

Knights wrote that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi "re-booted" the group in 2010, taking advantage of the "unpreparedness of its enemies." Since 2012, the Islamic State has been able to field a "highly-motivated cadre of light infantry forces" while also carrying out waves of car bombings across Iraq. It has been "far-sighted" in its "political-military campaigns" and "resilient enough to survive the deaths" of key commanders.

Some of its early advantages "are diminishing" and its capacity to "continually shape and control the conflict will be sorely tested" as it faces counteroffensives. "As a defensive force," the Islamic State "may struggle to hold terrain if it is attacked simultaneously at multiple points," the report said.

President Barack Obama may have underestimated the warning signs, according to Fox News. In a January New Yorker interview, Obama discounted suggestions that the Islamic State posed the kind of threat al-Qaida did when led by Osama bin Laden.

"The analogy we use around here sometimes, and I think is accurate, is if a jayvee team puts on Lakers uniforms that doesn't make them Kobe Bryant," Obama told the magazine.

In August, Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes argued that the Islamic State had "gained capacity in the last several months" and poses "a greater threat today than they did six months ago," Fox News reported.

Administration officials say that the Islamic State is not expected to pose a threat to the U.S. homeland, but it does threaten U.S. interests and allies. It is expected to remain a "long-term" menace even after the Obama administration leaves the scene, Fox News reported.

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