Tags: Al-Qaida | Exclusive Interviews | ISIS/Islamic State | MidPoint | anbar | awakening | isis

Thomas Joscelyn: Time For Another 'Anbar Awakening'

By    |   Thursday, 05 February 2015 02:43 PM

Tribal populations in Iraq and Syria that have suffered under the Islamic State need to be rallied, armed and trained to overthrow the jihadi caliphate, with the U.S. military taking the lead in bringing about this new regional awakening, a counterterrorism expert and writer on global security tells Newsmax TV.

Thomas Joscelyn invoked the "Anbar Awakening" of 2007 in an interview with "MidPoint" host Ed Berliner, referring to a turning point in the Iraq War in which U.S. troops allied with 30 Sunni tribes to expel al-Qaida in Iraq from the same western territory the Islamic State (ISIS) occupies today.

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"There needs to be a real effort, probably lead by the U.S., to really support the tribes in both the eastern part of Syria and the western part of Iraq to fight ISIS and other jihadists," said Joscelyn, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and senior editor of The Long War Journal.

"And that really is something the U.S. did before the height of the surge against al-Qaida in Iraq, which is the mother organization for ISIS," said Joscelyn, who served as counterterrorism adviser to the 2008 presidential campaign of Rudy Giuliani.

"That sort of effort is needed again now," he said, "and that's probably going to have to be led by the U.S., not nations throughout the Gulf."

A new awakening would be easier to pull off if U.S. troops were still a sizable presence in Iraq, so the failure to get a status-of-forces agreement before the U.S. pullout in 2011 complicates the job today, said Joscelyn.

But there are signs that tribes are beginning to rise up.

"If you look at what ISIS has had to do, the resistance they've met on the ground has primarily come from powerful tribes both in eastern Syria and western Iraq," said Joscelyn. "In fact, just two days ago, one of the heads of one of the leading tribes in western Iraq called for the formation of something called the League of the Virtuous … very similar to the Sons of the Awakening that we saw during the height of the Iraq surge, to take on ISIS.

The same story is unfolding in eastern Syria with one of that region's most prominent tribes, the Sheitat.

"They basically have gotten slaughtered by ISIS because they weren't properly armed and trained," said Joscelyn. "But they've got thousands upon thousands upon thousands of members who are willing to fight ISIS, and yet late last year what we found was a mass grave of about 700 members of their tribe who basically had to be executed by ISIS because they were such a problem for them.

"So there is very much a tribal revolt against ISIS," he said. "The problem is that there haven't been the right authorities in place to basically nurture and cultivate that revolt and also arm them to really take on ISIS in a way that can defeat them."

Joscelyn said that Iraq's leaders might be rethinking their objection to a large U.S. troop presence and that "right now there's still some political appetite in Iraq" for more U.S. military aid.

"We basically could inject more forces — American forces — in Iraq," he said.

"I'm not talking about a quarter of a million troops or anything like that," said Joscelyn. "But you could have about 25,000 troops who would make a big difference, basically rekindling these old tribal alliances and providing the type of logistical-tactical support that they really need on a day-to-day basis, and also intelligence, to really take the fight to ISIS and kick them out of Anbar and elsewhere."

Joscelyn also discussed the Islamic State's barbaric videotaped execution of a Jordanian pilot, who was burned alive in a cage. Jordan has executed jihadi prisoners in response, and an unnamed Jordanian official vowed an "earth-shattering" response to the murder of the pilot, Moaz al-Kassasbeh, who was shot down and captured during an airstrike run against ISIS.

Joscelyn said it "remains to be seen" whether an enraged King Abdullah and his devastated people will wholeheartedly join the fight against ISIS.

"You've seen condemnations before of ISIS throughout the Muslim world, the question is whether that's going to actually match any kind of real behavior or sort of tactics that are really going to take the fight to ISIS in a way other than airstrikes, other than intelligence operations, that sort of thing," he said.

"Right now I don't see it," he said. "Jordan has an armed forces of about 88,000. … They certainly have military capability to get into this fight but I don't think they're going to. They're going to continue to basically support airstrikes, they're going to crack down ISIS inside Jordan, and they have one of the best intelligence services in the region, they're going to continue to use that.

"But again, that's all far short of sort of introducing the sorts of boots on the ground you need to really dislodge [ISIS} from their strongholds," he said.

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Tribal populations in Iraq and Syria that have suffered under the Islamic State need to be rallied, armed and trained to overthrow the jihadi caliphate, with the U.S. military taking the lead in bringing about this new regional awakening, a counterterrorism expert and...
anbar, awakening, isis, counterterrorism
Thursday, 05 February 2015 02:43 PM
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