Paris fallout: Why the West has to recalculate its ISIS strategy

Updated 2:19 PM EST, Tue November 17, 2015
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The Belgian Interior Ministry's Crisis Center has released two new stills of the Paris attack suspect, Salah Abdeslam, who is still at large and is the subject of an international arrest warrant.
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TOPSHOT - A doll crying is seen among flowers at a makeshift memorial in tribute to the victims of the Paris terror attacks, on January 4, 2016, outside the Bataclan concert hall in Paris, ahead of the one year anniversary of the jihadist attack on French satirical weekly newspaper Charlie Hebdo.
Eight Charlie Hebdo staff were among the victims of the January 7, 2015 assault which brought millions of people onto France's streets in protest and transformed a fading publication into a global symbol of freedom of expression. / AFP / JOEL SAGET        (Photo credit should read JOEL SAGET/AFP/Getty Images)
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TOPSHOT - A doll crying is seen among flowers at a makeshift memorial in tribute to the victims of the Paris terror attacks, on January 4, 2016, outside the Bataclan concert hall in Paris, ahead of the one year anniversary of the jihadist attack on French satirical weekly newspaper Charlie Hebdo. Eight Charlie Hebdo staff were among the victims of the January 7, 2015 assault which brought millions of people onto France's streets in protest and transformed a fading publication into a global symbol of freedom of expression. / AFP / JOEL SAGET (Photo credit should read JOEL SAGET/AFP/Getty Images)
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A policeman stands guard in Molenbeek, Brussels, on March 19, 2016, after Paris attacks suspect Salah Abdeslam was arrested.
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Belgian police forces stand guard in a street during a police action in the Molenbeek-Saint-Jean district in Brussels, on March 18, 2016. 
Belgian police arrested five people in counter-terror raids in Brussels on March 18, including Paris attacks suspect Salah Abdeslam and the family who sheltered him, prosecutors said. Special federal police forces arrested Abdeslam, who has been on the run since the deadly November 13 attacks, wounding him lightly in the leg during an afternoon raid in the capital's gritty immigrant neighbourhood of Molenbeek. / AFP / BELGA / NICOLAS MAETERLINCK        (Photo credit should read NICOLAS MAETERLINCK/AFP/Getty Images)
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Belgian police forces stand guard in a street during a police action in the Molenbeek-Saint-Jean district in Brussels, on March 18, 2016. Belgian police arrested five people in counter-terror raids in Brussels on March 18, including Paris attacks suspect Salah Abdeslam and the family who sheltered him, prosecutors said. Special federal police forces arrested Abdeslam, who has been on the run since the deadly November 13 attacks, wounding him lightly in the leg during an afternoon raid in the capital's gritty immigrant neighbourhood of Molenbeek. / AFP / BELGA / NICOLAS MAETERLINCK (Photo credit should read NICOLAS MAETERLINCK/AFP/Getty Images)
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Undated picture obtained by AFP on December 29, 2015 shows Frenchman Charaffe al Mouadan.
Charaffe al Mouadan, an Islamic State group leader with "direct" links to the alleged ringleader of the Paris attacks was killed in an air strike in Syria as he was plotting additional attacks, the Pentagon said on December 29, 2015. / AFP / - / --/AFP/Getty Images
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Undated picture obtained by AFP on December 29, 2015 shows Frenchman Charaffe al Mouadan. Charaffe al Mouadan, an Islamic State group leader with "direct" links to the alleged ringleader of the Paris attacks was killed in an air strike in Syria as he was plotting additional attacks, the Pentagon said on December 29, 2015. / AFP / - / --/AFP/Getty Images
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Security forces stand guard at the entrance of the United Nations headquarter in Geneva on December 10, 2015 after Swiss police declared actively searching the city for suspects who may be linked to last month's attacks in Paris. / AFP / Richard Juilliart (Photo credit should read RICHARD JUILLIART/AFP/Getty Images)
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This undated image taken from a Militant Website on Monday, Nov.16, 2015, shows Belgian Abdelhamid Abaaoud. A senior police official said on Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2015, that he believed the Belgian Islamic State militant was inside an apartment in the Paris suburb of Saint-Denis with other heavily armed people. A French official said Monday that Abdelhamid Abaaoud is the suspected mastermind of the Paris attacks was also linked to thwarted train and church attacks. (Militant video via AP)
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A body is removed from the apartment raided by French Police special forces earlier in the northern Paris suburb of Saint-Denis, on November 18, 2015, hunting those behind the attacks that claimed 129 lives in the French capital five days ago. French police said the assault had concluded on an apartment in northern Paris in which at least two jihadists were killed and seven arrested. AFP PHOTO / ERIC FEFERBERG        (Photo credit should read ERIC FEFERBERG/AFP/Getty Images)
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Heavily armed New York city police officers with the Strategic Response Group stand guard at the armed forces recruiting center in New York's Times Square, Saturday, Nov. 14, 2015.  Police in New York say they've deployed extra units to crowded areas of the city "out of an abundance of caution" in the wake of the attacks in Paris, France. A New York Police Department statement released Friday stressed police have "no indication that the attack has any nexus to New York City." (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
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Story highlights

Gohel: ISIS convinced West doesn't have the appetite to send in ground troops to defeat it

Western strategy to defeat ISIS has depended virtually on the air war

Air strikes have not stopped or deterred ISIS from replenishing their ranks

Editor’s Note: Sajjan M. Gohel is International Security Director for the London-based Asia-Pacific Foundation, a policy assessment think-tank monitoring emerging geopolitical threats and analyzing the radical ideologies that feed violent extremism. The opinions expressed here are his own.

(CNN) —  

The timing of the Paris attacks was perhaps deliberately orchestrated to coincide with an anniversary that serves part of ISIS’s propaganda machine. In November, 1914, as World War I raged, the religious ideologue Sheikh-ul-Islam declared jihad on behalf of the Ottoman Caliphate, urging his followers to take up arms against several countries including France, Russia and the United Kingdom. That conflict eventually resulted in the defeat and collapse of the Ottoman Caliphate – a grievance frequently cited by al-Qaeda and ISIS.

In addressing the French nation and the rest of the world about the Paris attacks, President Francois Hollande commented, “It’s an act of war, committed by a terrorist army Daesh [ISIS], an army of Jihadists, against France.” He added, “We will lead the fight and we will be ruthless.” The French President’s bold declaration was followed up by statements of support and unity from U.S. President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron.

Paris suicide bomber identified

However, strongly worded statements of solidarity and vows to defeat ISIS by Western leaders are simply platitudes and soundbites unless they’re actually converted into a tangible strategy – which is currently not the case. Up until the Paris attacks, ISIS has successfully called the West’s bluff. They are convinced that the West doesn’t have the appetite to send in ground troops into Iraq and Syria to dismantle the ISIS infrastructure. The terror group also believes the West will not go beyond the current campaign of air strikes.

A bomb disposal police officer (R)checks a car in a sealed off area on the Champs-Elysees avenue in Paris, on June 19, 2017 after a car crashed into a police van before bursting into flames, with the driver being armed, probe sources said. 
A source close to the investigation said the driver was "seriously injured".  / AFP PHOTO / Thomas SAMSON        (Photo credit should read THOMAS SAMSON/AFP/Getty Images)
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A bomb disposal police officer (R)checks a car in a sealed off area on the Champs-Elysees avenue in Paris, on June 19, 2017 after a car crashed into a police van before bursting into flames, with the driver being armed, probe sources said. A source close to the investigation said the driver was "seriously injured". / AFP PHOTO / Thomas SAMSON (Photo credit should read THOMAS SAMSON/AFP/Getty Images)
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