Once upon a time you needed to be Al Qaeda to get the US government’s attention. Today it is ISIS that has the brand recognition that Jihadists crave. If you are an unemployed teenager living in squalor, and perhaps influenced by an Islamist ideology in your neighborhood, the one thing you really want is to make sure that you are not forgotten about. ISIS is the brand name that pays those bills.
For a long time the CIA tried to ignore ISIS, as did other intelligence agencies, considering them to be little more than a half-baked militia in Syria. It wasn’t until ISIS began executing western hostages and flaunting their war crimes that the western world really began to take notice. ISIS produced slick propaganda worthy of a Madison Avenue advertising campaign and western media outlets gleefully propagated their message, acting as a force multiplier for terrorists. News sites like the Daily Mail never saw a ISIS war crime that they were not in love with or that they declined to do a full photo spread on.
ISIS is now a name brand that smaller rebel groups, secessionist movements, terrorists, and criminal gangs aspire to in order to catch the attention of governments worldwide. In Afghanistan, some Taliban elements have re-branded themselves as ISIS as a way to bait American forces in to fight them. It works. An emphasis has been placed on ISIS-K in Afghanistan, and Rangers have been deployed on movement to contact operations to root them out.
In the Philippines the Maute group has pledged allegiance to ISIS and in recent history has attempted to take over several villages and now the city of Marawi and raise the ISIS flag over it. Over the last year, Philippine Navy SEALs and Light Reaction Regiment operators have put a halt to such endeavors. In interviews that SOFREP conducted with over a dozen current and former Special Operations officers the question came up as to who is really ISIS?