(Jerusalem, Israel) — Tonight, I fly back to the U.S. to prepare to launch my new political thriller, The Kremlin Conspiracy. But before I pivot to Russia, I wanted to update you on the fight against the Islamic State.
What’s more, a year ago I asked McLaughlin & Associates, a respected U.S. polling first whose clients included the Trump campaign, to conduct a survey to understand how Americans were viewing the war against ISIS. What we found was sobering:
- Only one-in-three Americans believe “the U.S. and our allies are winning the war against the Islamic State and getting safer every day.”
- A remarkable 41 percent believe “the U.S. and our allies are losing the war against the Islamic State and the threat to our safety is growing.”
- Fully one-in-four say they had no idea if we’re winning or not.
- We also found that almost seven-in-ten Americans (68%) said they “fear catastrophic terrorist attacks by ISIS are coming to the U.S. homeland, possibly involving chemical or biological weapons.”
How much has changed in just twelve months.
The new administration — working closely with its Arab and Kurdish allies — has:
- Decimated the Islamic State caliphate, after removing the handcuffs the Obama team had put on the U.S. military and American allies.
- Liberated 98% of ISIS territory.
- Liberated some 8 million people enslaved by ISIS.
- Liberated Raqqa, the Syria capital of the Islamic State.
- Hit Syria with missile barrage after Syria used chemical weapons against its citizens, something President Obama never did even though he drew the “red line.”
- “In January (2017), about 35,000 Islamic State group fighters were in Iraq and Syria controlling more than 17,000 square miles – an area roughly the size of Pennsylvania,” reported U.S. News & World Report. “Now, between 1,000 and 3,000 extremists are occupying less than 2,000 square miles, according to officials at the U.S. military headquarters in Baghdad overseeing the war.”
The Caliphate in Iraq and Syria is, effectively, no more. That’s the good news.
The bad news is that the war against ISIS is far from over.
- Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the group’s leader, has been reported killed several times, but seems to actually be still at large. He needs to be hunted down and killed.
- Many ISIS foreign fighters have redeployed from the Middle East to their home countries, where they are believed to be plotting new and deadlier attacks. The U.S. and Europe need to be especially wary.
- Countries like Libya and Yemen are in chaos, and ISIS can use such no-man’s lands to rebuild and train for new strikes.
“Brett McGurk, the special envoy to the coalition fighting the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria, told reporters at the State Department just before Christmas that the U.S. had made significant progress against the extremist network in 2017, but there is still work to do,” reported U.S. News & World Report.
“Nobody who works on these problems would tell you we’re popping champagne corks or anything,” said McGurk, who began his position during the Obama administration and has continued under Trump. “This is not over, there is a long way to go.”
Bottom line: the West — and Washington — dare not become complacent. Much progress has been made in the battle to crush the Caliphate. But ISIS is not dead. We must stay on the offense, lest these jihadists blindside us, without warning.