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The War on ISIS: Coming to an End or Just Beginning?

By: Maria Latimer

ISIS remains synonymous with terror in today’s society, but is the United States finally pulling back from its role in combating their reign?

President Trump’s recent statement through Twitter proclaimed, “We have defeated ISIS in Syria, my only reason for being there during the Trump Presidency.” He then orderedthe withdrawal of more than 2,000 troops. Where does President Trump get the notion that ISIS has been defeated? The answer to this question is a little more convoluted. President Trump tweeteda day later and acknowledged that more fighting might need to be done, but that the United States should leave it to Iran, Russia, and Syria.

Furthermore, he followed up with: “Does the USA want to be the Policeman of the Middle East, getting NOTHING but spending precious lives and trillions of dollars protecting others who, in almost all cases, do not appreciate what we are doing? Do we want to be there forever?”

Eastern Syria is one of ISIS’ last strongholds. Evidence of their presence was found by troops who discovered diaries, parts of explosive devices, and abandoned shacks that were proudly displaying the ISIS flag.

A bigger question to address is whether the United States’ war with ISIS, al-Qaida, and other terrorist organizations is even legal. After the tragic events of the 9/11 attacks, Congress passed a statute that allowed military force against groups directly connected to the attacks. However, over time, the terrorist organizations manifested have expanded and are not just located in Afghanistan and Iraq. They are now located all throughout Yemen, Somalia, Pakistan, and Syria, to name a few. However, no court has directly addressed the government’s actions for military deployment in so many different regions of the world. The only recent challenge regarding this issue is a case brought by the ACLU. As stated by Brett Kaufman, reporting for the ACLU, “Our client’s case will be the first time the government’s theory concerning its ability to use force against ISIS gets tested in court.”

The Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) was established post-9/11 to protect the country against forces that may be connected to the attacks. Whether ISIS falls within the AUMF is a tricky legal issue to dissect. However, the AUMF has been broadened based upon more terrorists organizations popping up around the world. An important sentiment stated by Heather Brandon-Smith of Just Securityis: “To avoid repeating the mistakes of the 2001 AUMF, any new authorization should contain clear and precise language that is tailored to current threats, should facilitate proper congressional oversight and transparency, and should tightly constrain the use of extraordinary wartime powers.”

A essential case that deals with this issue is Doe v. Mattis, a habeas case of an anonymous U.S. citizen accused of being a member of ISIS. Doe v. Mattis, 889 F.3d 745 (D.C. Cir. 2018).

ISIS itself emerged in 2013 in Syria. Reports show that now in 2019, they are in fact diminishing. However, according to military officials and Jane Arraf, Middle Eastern Correspondent for NPR, ISIS is still considered a military threat. ISIS has civilians trapped with them in the areas that they still do maintain control over. ISIS is notorious for using civilians as human shields, which increases civilian casualties and the threat to civilians in those countries, especially today with threats to their power coming into question. Estimates show that 12,000 civilianshave been killed in Iraq and Syria by ISIS.

White House national security adviser John Boltoncautioned Sunday that the threat of the Islamic State will persist. He further stated that pulling troops could cause ISIS to regain their footing. Answering the question that the war on ISIS, without a particularly challenging military presence to stop them, could again evolve into a terrorist powerhouse. Particularly, among our own borders, where the threat of domestic terrorism tied to groups like ISIS is a continual concern.


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