Australia faces a decision point. With the impending defeat of the Islamic State in Mosul, Iraq there may be a push to declare “Mission Accomplished” and withdraw Australia’s support and commitment in fighting ISIS in the Middle East. However, some observers say that Australia should stay the course.
Ash Collingburn writes in The Strategist for the Australian Strategic Policy Institute that it is in Australia’s national interests to make a long-term commitment to the Middle East. He states that the Islamic State won’t be defeated once Mosul is liberated – that the fight will continue against ISIS throughout the Middle East.
Collingburn lists four critical enablers that ISIS draws strength from: environmental factors, military capability, information operations, and economic power. These enablers constitute a ‘system’ – and nations opposing ISIS need to harness all the instruments of national power to defeat ISIS.
Even after the defeat of Mosul the Islamic State will still retain a significant amount of real estate. It has a robust presence in western Iraq and eastern Syria – the heartland of the Sunni population. It continues to recruit foreign fighters and acquire funding from wealthy patrons in the Middle East. And . . . it hasn’t completely lost the support of many Sunni in the Middle East.
The article by Collingburn provides some recommendations. One is to conduct a strategy review of how the Islamic State can threaten Australia. Another provides a viewpoint of how to look at the threat – “Deep (Middle East)”, “Close (SE Asia)”, and “Rear (home)”.
Ash Collingburn is a visiting fellow at ASPI’s Counter Terrorism Policy Centre. You can read his paper at “After Mosul: Australia’s long-term counterterrorism strategy”, The Strategist, December 20, 2016.