“France is at war,” President François Hollande of France declared on Monday, November 16, 2015, and has called for an amendment the French Constitution to fight potential terrorists at home and for an aggressive effort to “eradicate” the Islamic State abroad. In the aftermath of the terror attacks in Paris that had killed 129 people Friday night in Paris, France has begun attacking the Syrian targets, home to ISIS that is believed to be behind the brutal murders of innocent civilians across this City of Lights.
“The deadly attacks across Paris last week that claimed 129 lives were planned and organised from Syria,” French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said on Monday. “The attack was organised, conceived, and planned from Syria,” CNN quoted Valls as saying in a radio interview. The prime minister said more than 150 raids were conducted on militant targets in different areas of France earlier in the day.
At least nine people have been arrested so far. Five of the detainees were identified over the weekend, and on Monday another two were named by the Paris prosecutor as Ahmad al-Mohammad and Samy Amimour, a BBC report said.
President Obama on Monday stressed solidarity with the French people after deadly attacks rocked that nation and defended his administration’s policy in fighting ISIS. “ISIS is the face of evil,” Obama said at the conclusion of the G20 summit in Antalya,Turkey. “Our goal is to… destroy this barbaric organization.”
Three teams of terrorists — all outfitted with suicide vests and armed with Kalashnikovs — swarmed six locations in Paris on Friday night and killed 129 people in a spree of shootings and explosions. France’s president called the attacks — which ISIS claimed responsibility for — an “act of war” and on Sunday night launched airstrikes on the terror group’s de facto capital of Raqqa, Syria.
Meanwhile, most Americans feel despair, and a presentiment that it is only a matter of time before something similar happens here, media reports here suggest. Even as Americans have felt the pain of the French, they have worried, not surprisingly, considering 9/11, about whether their country is next.
Law-enforcement officials and transportation agencies in major U.S. cities stepped up security measures over the weekend in the wake of the Paris terrorist attacks. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Saturday that he has directed state agencies to be on high alert following the attacks and has beefed up security protocols on trains, bridges and popular tourists locations.
New York City Mayor Mayor Bill de Blasio said in an interview with NBC New York on Friday that the New York Police Department is on high alert. The NYPD’s antiterrorism officers have been deployed to the United Nations and at the French Consulate. “Thank God there’s no specific threats toward New York City that we know of,” de Blasio said. “We believe this…is isolated to Paris. But it is a very, very painful thing to see Paris go through this again.”
According to analysts, the terror attacks in France depended on four things: easy access to Paris, European citizens happy to massacre their compatriots, a Euro-jihadist infrastructure to supply weapons and security agencies that lacked resources to monitor the individuals involved. These are problems the United States does not have — at least not nearly to the degree that Europe does, undermining its ability to defend itself. American policy makers have eyed Europe’s external border controls skeptically for many years: The Schengen rules, which allow for free border-crossing inside most of the European Union, have made life simple for criminals.
Complicating matters is the ease with which a terrorist might slip out of Syria, cross through Turkey and enter Greece and the European Union, as at least one of the Paris killers appears to have done. Counterterrorism often boils down to a search for a few individuals, and the chaos surrounding the flood of refugees — a record 218,000 entered the European Union just last month — has exacerbated the difficulty of keeping track of such incoming security threats.
But the United States is faced more with the domestic challenge. It appears the Paris attacks involved both Middle Eastern operatives and Muslims from France and Belgium. Americans have traveled to ISIS-controlled territories at a rate of roughly a third that of their European Union coreligionists.
The United States may have some advantage: an intelligence, law enforcement and border-control apparatus that has been vastly improved since the cataclysm of 9/11. Post-9/11 visa requirements and no-fly lists weed out most bad actors, and both the Bush and Obama administrations demanded that countries in our visa waiver program provide data on extremists through information-sharing pacts called HSPD-6 agreements. Improvements continue, like an advance passenger information/passenger name recognition agreement with the European Union of 2012.
ISIS has neither an air force nor a navy. It cannot directly confront the military forces arrayed against it by the West in the aggregate. So it strikes back in the only way it can, with terrorist attacks on the civilian populations of the sponsoring nations, such as what happened in Paris on Friday night. These tactics are as predictable as they are horrific.
It is time for the world community to form something comparable to a NATO alliance for antiterrorist activities in the Middle East. The member states could determine from their military officials what military force would be required to surround Raqqa, Syria, and totally eliminate the ISIS presence in that city. When that is completed, the new coalition should pursue a similar strategy with respect to Mosul in Iraq and other ISIS strongholds.
The combat troops and the military resources for that alliance should predominantly come from Middle Eastern countries including Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Iraq, United Arab Emirates, Qatar and so on. The United States and European countries should provide training, equipment, intelligence, transportation and perhaps a small contingent of special forces.
The choices available to the United States, and our European allies, in response to such actions are equally stark: either vastly engage our troops in the field to defeat ISIS (“boots on the ground”), or end our military involvement and rely on the countries in the region to resolve what is essentially an outbreak of an old religious civil war using 21st-century weapons and media.
Obama underscored that the wave of terror attacks in Paris and the fight against ISIS necessitate that the two nations work more closely together to share intelligence — efforts that are currently underway. “Paris is not alone,” Obama said highlighting attacks in Beirut, Turkey and Iraq.