The Rawda mosque attack showed a wounded beast is the most vicious. Now that their Syria/Iraq caliphate is gone, top ISIS priorities include Egypt’s Sinai, Libya, East Africa and the Khorasan insurgency in Afghanistan.
JCS Chairman Gen Joe Dunford spoke on Oct. 24, 2017 of Egypt's efforts to deal with “an ISIS concentration in Sinai.” Dunford says their new strategy is to leverage local insurgencies to rebrand and stay relevant.
Egypt with its population of 97 million would be a prize. Since 2011, ISIS Sinai has targeted mainly Egyptian military and security forces. ISIS operatives at Sharm al Sheikh airport in southern Sinai planted the explosives that downed a Russian charter jet in 2015, killing all aboard. Then in early 2017, the group added bloody sectarian attacks. ISIS Sinai murdered a Sufi cleric, attacked Coptic Christian churches on Palm Sunday, and hijacked Christian pilgrims on a bus trip.
But in Egypt, as with the Philippines, this ISIS strategy is doomed to fail.
In military terms, the Rawda mosque attack used more complex, small unit tactics with coordinated vehicles movement, explosions and gunfire from 30 men. Tragically these tactics increased the carnage but they also made ISIS Sinai vulnerable. Egypt’s air force tracked the vehicles down fast. Egypt can now enhance surveillance and data processing to detect the patterns of ISIS activity. Overwatch and air-ground coordination will give Egypt’s military the upper hand especially if ISIS tries the larger attacks again.
The anti-ISIS coalition includes 69 countries, plus the Arab League, the EU, Interpol, and NATO. Some of them may help. “It’s military support, it’s counter-finance, it’s counter foreign fighters, it’s counter-messaging and it’s humanitarian stabilizations,” in the words of Brett McGurk, US Special Presidential Envoy.
The Raqqa caliphate arose in part because the US vacillated as local forces became overwhelmed. Under Mattis and Dunford, that won’t happen again.