The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militants are the most sophisticated terrorist organization in modern history.
It has claimed responsibility for a string of deadly attacks and has gained significant influence across Iraq and Syria.
President Donald Trump’s recent executive order temporarily barring entry to citizens of seven predominantly Muslim countries — Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen — was designed to prevent this from happening.
It also aims to cut off the group’s access to funds and training.
But there are still questions about how much this policy actually prevents the group from continuing to grow.
The Obama administration’s response to the terrorist threat in the Middle East is rooted in a belief that the group can never be defeated militarily.
“It was the only way to win the war,” said David Sanger, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.
“We can’t win by using diplomacy to do it.”
But the Obama-era strategy was flawed in its approach.
The administration did not anticipate the growth of ISIL.
The U.S. military and intelligence agencies underestimated the group before the 2016 elections.
It took more than a decade to learn how to defeat it.
“You have to be pretty damn smart,” said William C. Catton, a former CIA director and counterterrorism expert.
“I think the strategy was fundamentally flawed.”
The Obama strategy was also flawed in terms of its foreign policy goals.
In the 1980s and 1990s, it focused primarily on defeating communism and promoting democracy in the former Soviet Union.
“The world was in chaos at that time,” said Catton.
“There were all kinds of problems in the world, from terrorism to arms control, and that was a foreign policy question.”
The United States also did not want to be perceived as a “soft power,” as the Soviet Union was in the 1980 and 1990ies.
The idea that the United States was a world power, even in the absence of communism, was a fundamental part of American foreign policy and one that had long been rejected by its own allies.
The policy also did nothing to stop the rise of ISIS, which is largely a creation of the Assad regime in Syria.
The White House also underestimated the strength of ISIL’s propaganda campaign.
While the group had made its name by being highly efficient at capturing and disarming Western troops, it also had its own propaganda campaign that was designed specifically to convince Western audiences that the Islamic State was a terrorist group.
ISIL had an international reach.
Its fighters could reach anywhere in the Western world.
They could also be recruited overseas by the United Nations, as well as by other radical Islamist groups.
The group also had a number of operatives who could communicate directly with ISIS, according to former intelligence officials.
“When the idea was put forward to the president, he had to understand, ‘We have this opportunity to really win this war,'” said C. William Crocker, a professor at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.
“But it took time to build a strategy around it.”
In his first speech as president, Trump focused on how the United Kingdom, Canada, France and Germany could help defeat ISIL, a policy that he called a “game changer” in the fight against terrorism.
Trump even named Canada’s prime minister, Justin Trudeau, to be his “coordinator of the coalition.”
But this strategy had one major flaw: It didn’t take into account the capabilities of the Islamic States.
It didn, in fact, leave out a key element of ISIL: the ability of its leaders to recruit, train and direct new members.
While many U.K. intelligence analysts agree that the U.k. is capable of taking on ISIL militarily, the intelligence and military communities do not believe that the country has the capacity to defeat the terrorist group militarily on its own.
The Trump administration has since acknowledged that it needs more U.s. help in the battle against ISIL.
“To defeat ISIL militationally is a two-pronged strategy,” Catton said.
“One is to defeat them militarily in Iraq and in Syria, and then also the infrastructure and infrastructure support.”
“The second component is to disrupt their recruitment and radicalization,” said James F. Rowland, a retired U.N. special envoy for Iraq.
“They’re recruiting people to go into the region to fight for them.”
This strategy requires the U