Three front lines to defeat ISIL

Military success alone will not be enough to defeat ISIL. EPA
Military success alone will not be enough to defeat ISIL. EPA

The reports that ISIL has been funding its operations by up to $50 million (Dh184m) a month by smuggling crude oil to Turkey show just how multifaceted the battle will have to be to neutralise the group. This money is ISIL’s single biggest source of income and is used to fund its forces and govern areas under its control.

Cutting off these illicit funds has already been identified as an important goal for the US-led coalition. However, just like the parallel battles against the group’s military forces and the ideological fight against the appeal of its twisted misinterpretation of Islam to some disaffected youth, it is proving to be difficult to win. With significant sums of money being made by corrupt officials, it will require pressure from the highest levels of government in Turkey for progress to be made.

As we reported yesterday, the smugglers have already adapted their tactics. When full-sized tankers were attracting air strikes by coalition forces, they moved to smaller tankers. This kind of targeting, alongside efforts to ensure the Turkish authorities crack down on those willing to buy crude oil at discount rates, is needed to defeat ISIL on the financial battleground.

On the military battleground, the London-based analysts IHS Janes reported that air strikes by the US-led coalition are having a limited effect on ISIL’s forces. While pressuring the group, the coalition is still unlikely to begin regaining territory from ISIL, which began expanding into Aleppo last week after failing to make significant gains in the previous three months.

Success against ISIL is most likely if progress is made on all three battlefields: military, financial and ideological. Success in the military sector will not be enough. If also starved of funds, it cannot perform the operations of a state and will lose whatever level of support it has from the people under its control. With the launch of a compelling counternarrative to ISIL’s corrupted version of the message of Islam, there will fewer recruits joining its ranks. None of these victories will be easy, but this multifaceted approach will be the way to finally defeat ISIL.

Published: October 24, 2015 04:00 AM

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