Gen. John Allen, who heads the Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL, will step down from his post in November, according to a Bloomberg View report. At the Aspen Security Forum this past July, Allen explained why in his mind, “ISIS is losing.” “[There is] the sense they are monolith, the sense they are a juggernaut, the sense that they are inevitable, [and] all of that’s far from the truth,” he said.
FBI Director James Comey had a different take: speaking on another panel at the Forum, Comey described ISIS as “the threat that we’re worrying about in the homeland most of all.”
During the full conversation with Allen, which also features the ambassador of Iraq to the US and the Treasury Department’s assistant secretary for terrorist financing, Allen laid out the reasons he doubts ISIS’ holding power as one the world’s leading terrorist regimes.
1. Gaps In Strategic Operations
During the discussion, Allen asserts that ISIS’ military campaign has been checked “strategically, operationally, and by and large tactically,” but he argues that ISIS’ success will rely on more than armed aggression.
“There is a counter-finance campaign, there’s a counter-messaging campaign, there’s a counter-foreign fighters campaign,” Allen said. “Then there’s a humanitarian piece, and they all have confluence towards strategic objectives, and it’s very important that [they] have that larger strategic perspective when you consider whether [they’re] having effect or not.”
2. ISIS Member Rebellion
Allen noted that the death of Muath al-Kasasbeh — the Jordanian pilot burned alive by ISIS after his plane crashed over Syria last January — sparked internal rebellion within the ISIS regime.
“A number of ISIL foreign fighters rebelled against that kind of brutality, and were summarily executed by the central government, the central element within DAESH,” he said, underscoring the fracturing and treason occurring within the extremist militant group.
3. Fear Coupled By Lack of Morale
“They’ve got problems with their morale right now,” Allen said of ISIS members. From the Kobane attacks, in which ISIS fighters executed more than 100 Syrian civilians, to the group’s inability to sustain financial operations and pay their fighters, Allen believes ISIS members are both fearful and disheartened — a combination that serves to further splinter the organization.
4. ISIS Member Disillusionment and Desertion
During the Forum, Allen explained that many are empowered to join ISIS in support of the caliph and caliphate. Yet their reasoning for joining, according to Allen, “is often dispelled very quickly when they get to the region.” The result? Those who become disillusioned not only desert the group, but return home to spread anti-ISIS messaging.
“The foreign fighter who is disillusioned, and is able to survive to get home, is able to tell the message of the horror,” Allen said. “This isn’t an Islamic Utopia. The [voice of] the rehabilitated foreign fighter is very powerful.”