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Is IDF gearing up to fight the Islamic State?

Israeli military personnel disagree on whether a decision to unite commando units into a single brigade is driven by the Islamic State threat or the need to adapt to the changing reality of the battlefield.
An Israeli special forces member looks on during a visit by U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel (not pictured) to a military K-9 unit training site at an army base near Tel Aviv April 23, 2013. REUTERS/Jim Watson/Pool (ISRAEL - Tags: POLITICS MILITARY) - RTXYWQZ

Barely five months into his new job, Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eizenkot has already made two significant strategic decisions. The first, announced June 15 and discussed in Al-Monitor, involved the establishment of a “cyber branch.” The second, announced July 6, concerns the establishment of a commando brigade to be headed by a colonel. This latter decision is said to be designed to bring the IDF up to speed with the modern battlefield — which no longer consists of clashes between two large armored forces, but a struggle between asymmetrical forces — with an emphasis on anti-terror warfare in densely populated areas.

The IDF has evolved as an unplanned military, formed on the go, with units established to address ad hoc needs. Its first commando units — the venerated Unit 101, founded by the late Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, and the 890th battalion of paratroopers — were set up in the 1950s. They were designed to address infiltration from Egypt, Jordan and Syria by Palestinian fedayeen and their attempts to commit acts of terror. This impromptu approach remained the norm for years. During that time, the IDF never created a commando unit the size of a brigade.

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