WASHINGTON (CNN) – They’re vicious, battle-hardened, and maybe most frighteningly, they learn fast. That’s the word from U.S. officials, who tell CNN; ‘ISIS’ is getting better on the battlefield.
One U.S. official says they show “uncanny discipline.” A Pentagon official says ISIS is a “learning, adapting, reacting” organization.
Douglas Ollivant, an Iraq veteran, said, “Their battlefield discipline continues to surprise us, to show us that they’re really a first-tier force, that they’re trained.”
Ollivant says on the battlefield, ‘ISIS’ is likely using what he calls a “react-to-contact drill.” That means in a firefight, they make initial contact against their enemy- using the smallest number of fighters possible, maybe three or four.
“Then put down fire. Cause those three or four guys can then keep 20, 30 of the enemy focused on them,” said Ollivant. He added, a larger group of ‘ISIS’ fighters comes around, flanking the enemy on one side, finds a weakness, attacks it. “This is something the U.S. army ranger regiment has really practiced for years. It’s been their hallmark.”
‘ISIS’ has demonstrated it has a powerful arsenal. An American Howitzer Cannon, according to this video, posted by ISIS, which claims they’re firing on a military base in Syria.
And even unmanned aerial vehicles. This propaganda video shows aerial footage of a Syrian military base, and brags the drone is deployed from “The army of the Islamic State.”
The ranks of ‘ISIS’ fighters are building, in-part due to their savvy use of social media. Experts say their outside supporters use social media to help them recruit and promote.
Peter Neumann of the Intl. Centre for the Study of Radicalization, said, “What makes it so powerful is that there are hundreds of people out there on twitter, on Facebook, on instagram that are forwarding their messages, disseminating them, re-publishing them.”…and selling them.
Isis t-shirts, hoodies, even toys are marketed online by its supporters, and sold in shops around the Middle East. “That all started with the now-well-known black flag, which experts say is an important tool in the branding of ‘ISIS.’ We’ve seen this all over the areas they’ve captured, including the Mosul Dam.
One Islamic scholar told CNN that symbol is another ‘ISIS’ distortion of Islam. They’ve simply taken the ‘Shahabad,’ the declaration of faith in the Quran saying ‘there is no god but God, and Muhammad is the messenger’, they’ve placed it on a black background, and created an enduring, evil symbol.