The terrorist group ISIS once seemed to be a distant threat in a foreign land, but it is now a household name after it claims to have carried out the recent attacks in Brussels, Paris and inspired the San Bernardino shooting in the U.S. To some this rise may seem sudden, but journalist Martin Smith says tracing its origins is far easier than planning its defeat.
“You think we would learn a lesson that when you create instability in a country and a regime becomes weakened that it creates wide open lawless spaces,” said Smith, a producer and correspondent for PBS Frontline. “And into those lawless spaces come groups like ISIS.”
Smith is behind a series of Frontline documentaries that follow the rise of the terrorist group. He says eliminating ISIS as a threat is not as simple as attacking from the air.
“If you look at Raqqa, there are a lot of houses so unless you’re willing to kill a lot of civilians who are essentially hostages, you’re not going to be able to defeat them,” he said of the Syrian city that ISIS has claimed as its capital. “You’re also not going to be able to defeat the ideology.”
Congress, the White House and military officials have long debated the best strategy to defeat extremism in the Middle East, but Smith says there may not be one.
“There’s no easy answer here, it’s a long-term battle,” Smith said.
Editor’s Note: This segment has been updated to include the latest information.