ISIS (or IS) has options in response to U.S. bombing and attacks by local ground forces aided by U.S. spotters and advisers. Its personnel can disperse. They can lay low for a while. Some can melt into population centers. They can go back into Syria. And one thing they can do is to ramp up their truck bombings.
ISIS has a truck bomb technology that was reported back in June. It has truck bomb “factories” surrounding Baghdad. The number of vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices or truck bombs went up in 2013, and ISIS can devise a new strategy around increasing their use again. Bombing ISIS makes such a strategy more likely. Another option is for ISIS to teach enough of its followers how to build these truck bombs and get a few of them into other countries where they can build them in situ and explode them.
ISIS cannot hide the heavy equipment it captured (like howitzers, trucks and tanks) if it uses them in battle, and it can’t hide them or protect them from attack unless perhaps it brings them into populated areas. ISIS is also spread thin and vulnerable to an opposition force that relies on maneuverability and operational initiative. These weaknesses suggest that ISIS will pull in its horns for a while and go back to hit and run truck bomb tactics. This means that a conventional victory against ISIS won’t be possible.
Obama’s hope to degrade and ultimately defeat ISIS will run into another major obstacle, even exclusive of the battlefield challenges and the difficulties noted above of ISIS melting away and reverting to truck bombs. ISIS will use the bombing campaign against it and any successful truck bombings to ramp up its recruiting.
ISIS cannot be defeated militarily as Obama’s rhetoric suggests, not without spying on and locking down entire population centers in order to stop people who are intent on killing other people by such means as truck bombs or other improvised explosive devices. And these measures produce new recruits and adaptations to any and all attempts to extirpate them. If truck bombs are stamped out, then a new generation of jihadists will find some other means to kill, like biological means or drones or hacking computers. The U.S. cannot solve the problem of killers out to kill by heightening its interventions into Arab lands. This only makes the problems worse.12:26 pm on September 7, 2014