The desperate media machine of ISIS (you know, the ones who don’t blow themselves up, but con others to do it for them) love to crow about their “accomplishments.” When attacks happen, it is all we in the west hear about. But now we’ve learned that a quiet band of U.S. operators has been moving systematically through the ISIS ranks, and never saying much about it.
The Defense Department, in an interview with the Daily Beast, recently acknowledged that U.S. special forces have killed 40 “external operations leaders, planners, and facilitators” who had a role in recent European attacks.
While 40 may seem like a small number, it is who they’re killing that is significant. These aren’t the droves of disaffected youth willing to die for the cause, but the planners who attempt to ensure that those deaths make headlines. They’re the financiers who assume their fiduciary ties to martyrdom are as close as they’ll come to the fight.
It is the equivalent of ISIS coming over here and hitting targets in the Pentagon and on Wall Street. You can imagine what that does for moral. It is getting harder to recruit money and intellectual talent when those people don’t have any protection.
And that lack of protection has a chilling effect on recruitment on the ground, too. Estimates are hard to come by, but officials believe that fewer recruits are arriving in Iraq and Syria. Some numbers suggest that the high of 2,000 new recruits seen just a few months back has now slowed to as few as 200 a month.
Director of National Intelligence Jim Clapper still sees reason for concern. He’s warned that ISIS cells may be in place across Europe. In the wake of attacks in Paris and Brussels, this may seem like a fairly unsurprising announcement.
The optimistic news, though, is that we’ve taken the war directly to them. These teams are moving in areas where we traditionally haven’t had strategic success with boots on the ground.
But we know they’re working. One indicator is that the U.S. is sending more of these troops to the region. Obama recently announced that the numbers in Syria will be increased–almost doubled.
So why don’t we hear any more about these successes? When our traditional broadcast channels are removed from the equation, the CIA and others can better monitor how news is spreading regionally.
“What are they doing, what are they saying, who are they communicating to? How do they back-fill the missing operator?” one senior official said. All of this shows us how their communications systems work. These people have to react, and how they react may expose their infrastructure.
Still, I’m looking forward to the day when these stories start to leak. I’ll bet they’ll make for good reading.