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Medyan Dairieh (VICE News) — VICE News produced a world exclusive when filmmaker Medyan Dairieh spent three weeks embedded alone with the Islamic State in June 2014, gaining unprecedented access into the heart of the self-proclaimed caliphate. Here he describes what he learned.
The two armed men were surprised to see me. No journalists had come this way before. After days of waiting and one failed attempt, I had finally managed to reach the first checkpoint guarding territory controlled by the group known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
By the time I left, about two weeks later, its ruler, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, had claimed for himself a title which brought with it a new religious and political authority — caliph. The so-called caliphate was declared a year ago, on June 29, while I was there. And from then ISIS became known as the Islamic State (IS).
Sudha Ramachandran (The Diplomat) — Recent events in India’s restive Northeast have turned the spotlight yet again on the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA), a controversial piece of legislation that confers vast powers on the armed forces deployed in “disturbed areas” of the country.
On March 27, the Indian government declared as “disturbed areas” 12 districts in Arunachal Pradesh bordering Assam and imposed the AFSPA on them, only to revoke it in early May. Then in late May, the government of Tripura revoked AFSPA, 18 years after it was first imposed in this state.
A few days later, on June 4, militants ambushed a convoy of the Indian Army’s 6 Dogra Regiment in Manipur. The attack, which left 18 soldiers dead and eleven injured, is among the deadliest militant strikes on the Army in over three decades in this troubled state.
Jennifer Cafarella (Institute For The Study Of War) — The death of al-Qaeda’s general manager, Nasir al-Wahayshi, will likely disrupt al-Qaeda’s global operations until he is replaced. It is likely that al-Qaeda leader Aymen al-Zawahiri will nominate his replacement according to traditional leadership patterns, choosing, for example, a former companion of Osama bin Laden.
It is dangerous but plausible, however, that Zawahiri will seek to maximize the influence of newer al-Qaeda leaders who have proven their qualifications on the battlefield in order to shepherd the reemergence of a reinvigorated and highly resilient global al-Qaeda organization with a leadership structure that is embedded within local affiliates.
One possible candidate for future al-Qaeda leadership is Abu Mohammed al-Joulani, the leader of al- Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate, Jabhat al-Nusra. If al-Qaeda shifts away from its current reliance on a core cadre of eligible members for leadership, the US must fundamentally adjust its current paradigm for limited counterterror operations in the effort to disrupt and eventually defeat al-Qaeda.
Boaz Ganor (Terrorism Research Initiative) — During the past year, the Islamic State (IS) has taken control of extensive areas of the Middle East.
Its military achievements, extreme and historically unprecedented barbarism, success in recruiting thousands of young people from around the world to its ranks in Iraq and Syria, its store of financial resources and, above all, its skilled use of social and other media to publicize its terrorist acts and spread its propaganda, have all made IS an increasing and alarming threat to global security.
Although experts on terrorism, security officials and decision makers worldwide concur that IS poses an unparalleled threat, they disagree about the answers to the following four key questions: What is the nature of the Islamic State?; Are the doctrines of the Islamic State an innovation?; What are the Islamic State’s aspirations? and, What is the Islamic State’s strategic situation? How we answer these four questions will affect not only our understanding of the nature, aims and activities of the Islamic State; it will also dictate what counter-strategy should be implemented in order to stop, if not trounce, the Islamic State.
Brian Glyn Williams (Terrorism Research Initiative) — The new era of covert drone war began on October 7, 2001–the opening night of Operation Enduring Freedom–America’s response to the Al Qaeda attacks that killed almost 3,000 Americans—with the firing of a Hellfire missile by an MQ-1 Predator in Afghanistan against the Taliban leadership.
Since that historic event, Central Command, Air Force, and CIA Predator and Reaper drones have become one of the most effective killers of insurgents, terrorists and enemy combatants in a war that has gradually extended from the Hindu Kush Mountains of Afghanistan and the tribal zones of Pakistan to the deserts of Yemen and the battlefields of ISIS-controlled territories in Syria and Iraq.
Yet despite the fact that remotely controlled drone operations have become a signature component of America’s campaigns in Africa, the Middle East, Central Asia and South Asia, this aspect of warfare remains widely misunderstood.