What does a terrorist network with nearly $430 million worth of stolen moneybags filled with cash and gold bullion do?
That's the question on the minds of security experts after a mere 800 fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) overpowered nearly 30,000 U.S.-trained Iraqi troops in Mosul. While robbing Mosul's central bank and a number of others in the region, the Sunni militant group also managed to steal U.S.-made vehicles, arms, and ammunition--which arguably present a much more powerful international message than their stunning amount of cash now on hand.
More than a week after the siege in Mosul, the ISIS fighters claim sway over a giant swatch of land stretching from Aleppo to Fallujah, and promise to march on to the Iraqi capital of Baghdad.
On Sunday, ISIS took to Twitter, claiming to have massacred 1,700 Iraqi Shia air force recruits in Tikrit (former President Saddam Hussein's hometown). The State Department, in a statement, said that "one of the primary goals of ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) is to set fear into the hearts of all Iraqis and drive sectarian division among its people." The statement went on the promise that the U.S. will "do its part to help Iraq move beyond this crisis."
But just what the U.S. administration is prepared to do remains an open – and hotly debated – question. As he weighs his options, President Obama has ruled out U.S. boots on the ground inside Iraq but still is considering a return, at least temporarily, to some form of combat posture even though his rise to national political prominence was defined by his promise to end U.S. military involvement in the country where what he calls George W. Bush's misguided war of choice cost the lives of 4,487 U.S. military personnel and over $1 trillion.