One must not underestimate the enemy. This video has a great deal of shock value to it, but it is also a valuable tool to assessing the development of tactics and techniques employed by ISIS. It is also worth noting the age of the children being trained. I would like to briefly mention a few things in the video that I think demonstrate ISIS’ long term capacity to fight.
It is obvious from the offset that ISIS has learned from their engagements in large urban centers such as Aleppo, Ramadi, and Mosul, to name a few. Moreover, it appears that they have learned to train stable firing positions, nonverbal communication, accurate shooting and moving, and basic principles of CQB. The children demonstrate (for the most part) good trigger discipline, and individual and team movement. Muzzle discipline, however, is consistently poor.
Although the video is clearly well-produced – and therefore well-rehearsed prior to filming – there seems to be a good grasp on troop leading procedures, recon and rehearsals, and basic raid theory. ISIS has also learned from American filmmakers to utilize emotionally provocative images – such as a boys shattered home – to justify their war effort.
It is also apparent that these children are being bred for a singular purpose, under far more disciplined conditions then Joseph Kony’s famed “child soldiers” in Uganda. This is no doubt due to the difference in acquiring the children – there is no evidence that these children are kidnapped. Volunteers make better soldiers then conscripts. As a result, the idealogical training mixed with the combat training is more effective in creating long-term soldiers. We can expect this reality to make more effective combat troops and operatives.
The hand-to-hand combat training is, in typical ISIS fashion, flashy and impractical. As well as poor muzzle discipline, the children consistently spend their time in the fatal funnel and in danger areas during urban movement and building clearing. This is either due to the director of the film making an artistic choice, poor tactics, or both. Many of the specific tactics – again, possibly for the theatricality – appear to be more cruel then practical. The children do, however, appear to use accurate, single fire instead of full-auto, both with their carbines and pistols.
While the children and their instructors are not overly skilled, they do appear to have a basic command of military tactics and proficiency with their weapon systems. They seem to be acquainted with discomfort and privation and are prepared to operate with discipline. They are not disorganized. As we move forward and learn to combat this threat, we must be careful not to think of ISIS as – in the words of our former President – a JV team.