The United States and its European partners have been fighting jihadist terrorism for more than 20 years. Although the fight against this type of grouping was already a constant in the late 20th century, the West did not have an anti-terrorist law, the origin of which came about as a result of the attacks claimed by al-Qaeda on the World Trade Center on 11 September 2001. This attack, the first ever on US soil, was a turning point. It led the United States to double its defence budget in just 4 years and, compared to today, Washington has invested up to 4 times as much in defence by 2022 compared to 2001.
Since then, missions against terrorist organisations by the US military have been a constant in Syria, Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan.
The fierce battle of Western society to curb the fear instilled by these armed groups that attack under the mantra of Jihad has been a great challenge for governments and one is aware of the difficult task involved when the entire defence machinery of states had to wait more than 10 years to be able to execute Bin Laden, who at the time was the most wanted person on the planet. Now, 12 years after the death of the organisation's leader, terrorism has evolved and has split into different groups, with one group standing out above the rest: Daesh, also known as ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria).
At its peak between 2011 and 2017, Daesh carried out the most vicious attacks against European society, such as the Charlie Hebdo, Bataclan and Le Carrillon attacks in 2015, the attack in Nice in 2016 and on the Rambla in Barcelona in 2017. However, the jihadist organisation has claimed the most lives in North Africa and the Middle East region. The virulence with which ISIS terrorised society, which saw the emergence of the Arab Spring as an ideal context in which to gain a foothold, reached its lowest level of activity in 2019.
The arrest of the organisation's leaders, the constant fighting by the armies and the tightening of anti-terrorist laws have been the reasons why activity has decreased.
Even so, the White House has indicated that until these terrorist groups are completely disbanded, they will not stop their missions. According to the US Army Central Command (USCENTCOM), the recent actions are a sign that the battle continues, as confirmed by USCENTCOM commander Michael Korella, who stated, according to Al-Ain, that there is a "real army under arrest" in Iraqi prisons.
Although the UN has claimed in its latest report that Daesh is made up of more than 5,000 fighters, affiliates or sympathisers, Lieutenant General Qais al-Muhammadawi, deputy head of the Iraqi Joint Operations Command, confirmed that there are no more than 500 soldiers belonging to the jihadist group. Since the separation of the caliphate in 2019 and the loss of power and influence, the organisation has been forced to retreat and settle in the Syrian desert in the provinces of Homs and Deir ez-Zor. At the same time, White House spokesman John Kirby said on Monday that despite the low level of activity, the recent spike in activity will not change the US position on its actions.
He added that the words of US President Joe Biden regarding the measures that will be taken if the integrity of US soldiers is affected were more than a warning to Iran. Meanwhile from Syria and Iran, the Foreign Ministers of both countries clarified that the US reports were "exaggerated", called them "false" and called for the "immediate cessation of US activity on national (Syrian and Iraqi) soil".
In February, USCENTCOM issued a report detailing all activity against ISIS. The document specifies all the missions carried out by the US Armed Forces and their European partners. The last 48 missions resulted in 22 deaths and the arrest of 25 Daesh members. It also details that in the last quarter of 2022, Daesh claimed 72 attacks, and that the United States participated in 108 joint attacks and 14 unilateral attacks. Meanwhile, the Syrian administration accused the United States that many of the attacks were carried out on civilian sites.
In its conclusions, the US government affirms that without real efforts on the ground and the construction of effective anti-terrorist prisons, Daesh forces will be able to regroup and continue to perpetrate terror in society. In Korella's words, he assured that "they are focused on the final and lasting defeat of Daesh" and added that "if US activity in Syria ceases, the regeneration of the Islamic State would be assured".
Americas Coordinator: José Antonio Sierra