Vail Daily column: Know thy enemy |

Vail Daily column: Know thy enemy

Butch Mazzuca
Butch Mazzuca |

To many Americans, the Islamic State group is little more than a rag-tag group of illiterate goat herders living in mud huts in the desert. But this notion couldn’t be more wrong. The fact is Islamic State group is a highly sophisticated organization with an operational culture one would expect to find in any sovereign society.

Originally known as the Soldiers of the Levant, these terrorists were once affiliated with al-Qaida and were crushed by U.S. forces during the Iraq War. But in 2011 when President Obama failed to sign a Status of Forces Agreement and pulled our troops out of Iraq, the terror organization reconstituted.

They soon took advantage of the governance vacuum in Syria and began expanding. They split from al-Qaida and proclaimed themselves the Islamic State group in June 2014 with a stated goal of expanding throughout the Middle East, northern Africa and southern Europe.


The Islamic State group relies on four distinct sources of revenue: Extortion and crime networks — looting small banks and demanding protection money from businesses, Christians and other minorities; hostage taking — collecting ransoms in exchange for releasing hostages; oil — the Islamic State group controls at least 30 oil fields and four separate refineries. This oil is sold to middlemen who in turn re-sell it through an extremely sophisticated smuggling network to traders in the vast black oil market; donations — funds it receives from private citizens throughout the Middle East and Europe.


The Islamic State group believes the only deity is Allah, and that Muhammad was his messenger. They believe sovereignty belongs to Allah through the Sharia law and not the people. At the same time, these ruthless terrorists do not recognize the physical borders or the independence of any Muslim country. Meanwhile, its foreign policy is simple — to make Islam the global ideology.


Islamic State group’s organizational structure includes an Islamic outreach, Sharia institutes, courts, law enforcement, recruitment and tribal relations. Their educational system schools girls for two years and boys for six, with math, science and the arts banned. Meanwhile, young boys begin their religious indoctrination and are introduced to military training at about 10 years of age — some even younger.

The Islamic State group controls water distribution and electricity giving it enormous leverage over the people in the territories it controls. They offers free health clinics, humanitarian aid, and foodstuffs — but only to Sunni Muslims, leaving Christians, Shia Muslims and any other non-Muslims living in their territories to fend for themselves.


The Islamic State group retains a highly centralized command structure and uses their decentralized operational model to keep their adversaries off balance. Appearances are paramount to many Muslims, and the Islamic State group will do anything to appear the winner or in Arab colloquial parlance, be the strong horse in the Islamic world

We are only now beginning to understand the organization’s information dominance which uses social media, satellite communications (phones) and an ability to jump from type to type (Facebook to Twitter to Google to whatever is available), essentially achieving electronic swarming and swamping.

It’s military has conventional fighting units and they employ extensive intelligence and dissemination networks with the ability to plan complex operations. The Islamic State group’s military equipment includes state-of-the-art hardware from the United States and Russia including UAV drones, TOW missiles and captured Russian/Syrian air defense batteries.

The Islamic State group’s leadership makes use of salary supplements for its soldiers, i.e., allowing them to profit from kidnapping, slaving (almost exclusively women), selling antiquities and looting. Meanwhile, its military has greatly improved its tactical efficiency and some units have even received cold weather training in the Qalamoun Mountains in Lebanon.

The Islamic State group’s utilizes several specialized units i.e., the Inghimasiuun — shock forces that lead assaults with suicide bombings aimed at command and control centers. The Dhabiha — known as the slaughterers whose purpose is to carry out beheadings, mass executions, crucifixions, rapes, massacres and the burning of captives alive.

They also deploy a Foreign Fighter Brigade, comprised primarily of Chechens and Turks with extensive military experience in both Russian and NATO tactics and doctrine. And lastly, the al-Khansaa Brigade, an all-female religious-police force with rear-area security responsibilities that runs the slaving centers and brothels, filled primarily with kidnapped European and Middle Eastern Christian women.

How to defeat them

This evil is not going away anytime soon, and unless the world unites to rid our selves of this malignancy, terror attacks such as Paris, San Bernardino and Brussels will only increase in frequency and severity. How to do it? The next American president should form a coalition comprising the threatened Arab nations (Saudi Arabia, Jordan, etc.) and NATO (invoke Article V, i.e., an attack on one is an attack on all.) While no one wants to see American boots on the ground, The Islamic State group has declared war on us, so what other choices do we have?

Quote of the day: “… if a J.V. team puts on Laker uniforms, that doesn’t make them Kobe Bryant.” — President Obama.

Butch Mazzuca, of Edwards, writes regularly for the Vail Daily. He can be reached at

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