George Mason University Distinguished Professor and Director of the International Security Program Audrey Kurth Cronin writing on Obama’s televised national speech last September where the president claimed that ISIS is “a terrorist organization, pure and simple,” explains:
This is a mistake; ISIS hardly fits that description, and indeed, although it uses terrorism as a tactic, it is not really a terrorist organization at all. Terrorist networks, such as al Qaeda, generally have only dozens or hundreds of members, attack civilians, do not hold territory, and cannot directly confront military forces. ISIS, on the other hand, boasts some 30,000 fighters, holds territory in both Iraq and Syria, maintains extensive military capabilities, controls lines of communications, commands infrastructure, funds itself, and engages in sophisticated military operations. If ISIS is purely and simply anything, it is a pseudo-state led by a conventional army. And that is why the counterterrorism, counterinsurgency strategies that greatly diminished the threat from al Qaeda will not work against ISIS.