Since the US withdrew from Iraq in 2011, violent attack on civilians and military installations have increased. The ISIS conquest is a reflection of the popular discontent that Sunni Muslims have for the central government under President Nouri Al-Maliki. Al-Maliki, a Shia Muslim, has put no effort into welcoming Sunni Muslims into his government. His government has faced blistering criticism from his blatant attacks on Sunni members of Parliament, including an incident where a Sunni MP was arrested at the request of the administration. He has also faced charges of corruption and nepotism.
The ISIS action is reflective of a larger legacy that started with the second Bush Administration and inherited by the current administration. The so-called "War on Terror" has transformed geopolitical conflict across a vast swath of land from the Middle East to Africa to Eastern Europe. ISIS is one of many groups that were formed to take advantage of unstable regimes to spread their jihadist message. Here are some regional highlights:
- In Africa, groups like Boko Haram in Nigeria and Al Shabab in Somalia have carried high profile acts of terror that have left hundreds dead or wounded. Boko Haram continues to be a thorn in the side of the Nigerian government as it continues its attempts to rescue over 200 school girls kidnapped by the group.
- A sustained rise in extremism in former Soviet territories led to one of the worst attacks on US soil since 9/11 - the Boston Marathon bombing. Fighters from jihadist groups in Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and other Eastern European countries have joined the fight against Assad in Syria and have joined up with groups in Yemen to attempt to topple the government.
- ISIS has been considered so extreme that even elements of the rebels fighting Assad (who are aligned with Al Qaeda) have decided to fight them in addition to battling the government. ISIS continues to impose its extremist views on areas it controls in both Iraq and Syria, including carrying out executions for apostasy.
- Western governments are facing the terrifying reality that those who were radicalized in their home country and decided to join the extremist side in Syria might return with those views. Belgium experienced its first incident when a French-born jihadist who had been fighting in Syria killed three people at a Jewish Museum.
The War on Terror has grown exponentially in scope from its inception as a way to find and uproot the terrorists who were responsible for the 9/11 attacks. It now extends from the former fiefdoms of dictators in the Middle East to the skies over Yemen and Pakistan to the streets of Boston and Benghazi and the Museums of Belgium. The US and its allies must maintain a military presence in order to ensure that the fledgling democracies in areas once controlled by dictators (including Sadaam Hussein) do not slip into complete chaos. It is through that necessity that the War on Terror continues to proliferate.