Why did the advance of ISIS catch anyone by surprise?

The New York Times reports: When Islamic militants rampaged through the Iraqi city of Mosul last week, robbing banks of hundreds of millions of dollars, opening the gates of prisons and burning army vehicles, some residents greeted them as if they were liberators and threw rocks at retreating Iraqi soldiers.

It took only two days, though, for the fighters of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria to issue edicts laying out the harsh terms of Islamic law under which they would govern, and singling out some police officers and government workers for summary execution.

With just a few thousand fighters, the group’s lightning sweep into Mosul and farther south appeared to catch many Iraqi and American officials by surprise. But the gains were actually the realization of a yearslong strategy of state-building that the group itself promoted publicly. [Continue reading…]

The specter of terrorism invoked by Western political leaders over the last decade has emphasized not only its global reach but also its subterranean nature. We need such a vast counter-terrorism apparatus because the terrorists are so hard to find and their plots so cunning. So when officials say they have been caught by surprise, I imagine they expect the public will be forgiving because terrorists specialize in catching people by surprise.

ISIS, however, like a public corporation, publishes annual reports and those who have taken the trouble to read them say that the group is functioning more like a military organization than a terrorist network.

The Institute for the Study of War says:

The repeated publication of consecutive annual reports indicates that the ISIS military command in Iraq has exercised command and control over a national theater since at least early 2012. ISIS in Iraq is willing and able to organize centralized reporting procedures and to publish the results of its performance to achieve organizational effects… While the contents of the annual report are more significant as a message than as a measurement of actual attacks, it is important to understand what ISIS is reporting about its own performance in order to understand its own narrative about the war in Iraq.

Has anyone in the White House studied ISIS’s reports? Did they even know they exist?

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1 thought on “Why did the advance of ISIS catch anyone by surprise?

  1. Norman

    Does everyone really believe that nobody saw this coming? Hard to believe that all the intelligence agencies were asleep at the wheel. Perhaps it’s time to ask the question: “Where did all the money go that supposedly these same agencies keep sucking up”?

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