Defeating ISIS

By Mark Kelton

Mark Kelton retired from CIA as a senior executive with 34 years of experience in intelligence operations including serving as CIA’s Deputy Director for Counterintelligence. He is a partner at the FiveEyes Group; a member of the Board of Trustees of Valley Forge Military Academy and College; member of the National Security Advisory Board of the MITRE Corp.; member of the Day & Zimmermann Government Services Advisory Board; member of the Siemens Government Technologies Federal Advisory Board; and a member of the Board of BigMediaTV.

With 34 years of service in the CIA now behind me, I was recently asked how our ongoing war with ISIS will end.  My answer that ‘either we will defeat them or they will defeat us’ struck some in the room, I am sure, as overly stark.  I am, however, convinced we have no other choice but to destroy the enemy or we will continue to face his depredations.  We can neither compromise with, nor turn away from, this enemy for the very simple reason that he will not allow it.  His war aims are unlimited and all encompassing in that he will accept nothing less than the subjugation of our people and the destruction of our way of life.   The butchers who wrought their havoc in San Bernadino will, alas, not be the last of their ilk we will see here in the homeland.  The enemy is resolved to carry his war to our shores.  This is not a choice between fighting them over there or over here.  As ongoing FBI arrests of ISIS plotters and aspirants should indicate, we will have to do both to win.  In that sense, the debate over whether we are at war is rather silly.  To paraphrase Trotsky, we ‘may not be interested in war, but war is interested in’ us.

Our ISIS enemy is implacable and relentless. And he is dictating the pace and nature of this war.  His centers of gravity are his false claim to represent all of Islam and the fearsome reputation he has for striking at the defenseless.  That claim and that reputation are embodied in the territory he holds and the city, Raqqa, from which he “governs.”  Left to his own devices, he will continue to use that territory as a platform from which to launch attacks against us and our allies.  To defeat him, we must capture Raqqa and deny him that territory, taking with it ISIS’s capacity to wage war and its much-vaunted warrior repute amongst radicals in the Islamic world.

“The Cipher Brief has become the most popular outlet for former intelligence officers; no media outlet is even a close second to The Cipher Brief in terms of the number of articles published by formers.” —Sept. 2018, Studies in Intelligence, Vol. 62

Access all of The Cipher Brief’s national security-focused expert insight by becoming a Cipher Brief Subscriber+ Member.


Categorized as:Middle East ReportingTagged with:

Related Articles