What Al Qaeda Had That ISIS Doesn't | KERA News

What Al Qaeda Had That ISIS Doesn't

Sep 11, 2014

Yesterday, President Obama announced plans for air strikes in Syria and Iraq against the terrorist group ISIS - and today marks 13 years since the 9/11 attacks. The question has resurfaced: how similar is ISIS to Al Qaeda? Two foreign policy experts debated that today on Think ahead of a panel discussion at SMU.

ISIS does have roots in Al Qaeda. It rose up from a sect of the group after the US invaded Iraq in 2003. But ISIS was publicly disowned by Al Qaeda’s leader last February.

Besides, Joshua Rovner of SMU says, there are important differences for the U.S. to consider.

"Al Qaeda in the 1990s did have a friendly government providing sanctuary. It was removed from American air power by and large during the 1990s, and American force," he says. 

"ISIS right now is surrounded by people that hate it. From the Syrians, to the Kurds, to the Iranians to the Shia in the South of Baghdad, right. So despite its size and despite its wealth, it does have this very serious problem that it is essentially boxed in by people who would like to see it gone."

With estimated 10,000 fighters, the size does worry US leaders.

Hal Brands of Duke University says that if ISIS acts like an army, the U.S. will respond like it is one. 

"The more conventional you are, the easier it is for a country like the United States to target you from the air. So if ISIS wants to hold territory, if they want to move relatively large numbers of troops and vehicles or through other means across Iraq or into Syria, it just makes it easier for us to spot them from the air and to hit them with U.S. air power."

Last night President Obama promised that this time, fighting will stay in the air.

Listen to the full conversation again on Think at 10pm or on the show's page.