It appears that ISIS is all but defeated in Iraq and it is not looking good in Syria…..so when the end arrives…..what then?
The Islamic State appears to be nearly ousted in the Iraqi city of Mosul, and now US-backed forces have the last 2,500 ISIS holdouts trapped in the group’s other stronghold of Raqqa, Syria, reports the New York Times. The militants are cut off from supplies, though the final battle to defeat them promises to be a difficult one that plays out building by building. ISIS leaders already have fled the city, and the group maintains control over smaller towns in both Syria and Iraq. Related developments:
- The plan? Once ISIS is routed from Syria and Iraq, then what? The Los Angeles Times reports that the US doesn’t seem to have a clear strategy yet for the aftermath, one that takes into account factors such as Iran, Russia, reconstruction, safe zones, troop numbers, etc. Without “rules of the road,” it’s “a dangerous situation,” says one analyst.
- Assad’s role: One particularly thorny problem for the US is whether to try to keep Syria’s Bashar al-Assad in check as he seeks to reclaim territory abandoned by ISIS. The AP has an analysis.
- ‘Mom, I’m exhausted’: What’s it like for civilians still in Raqqa? “Mom, I’m exhausted and the situation is horrible, I can’t bear this life anymore,” writes a 23-year-old daughter to her mom. CNN takes a look at WhatsApp messages.
- A leader emerges: Iraq’s success in Mosul has turned the spotlight on Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi. In a profile, the Wall Street Journal reports that the 65-year-old former electrical engineer has emerged as a genuine leader after three years, to pretty much everyone’s surprise.
- Premature? But at BuzzFeed, Nancy A. Youssef writes that Abadi and other Iraqi leaders may have made a mistake in declaring the end of the ISIS caliphate last week. Too much fighting remains, in Mosul and elsewhere.
- Abuses in Iraq:Human Rights Watch says it has reports of Iraqi soldiers beating and executing unarmed men fleeing Mosul.
The better plan is to start planning for ISIS 2.0……..it will be back and back with a vengeance…..
Lt Gen Stephen Townsend told the BBC Iraqis needed to unite to ensure IS was defeated across the rest of Iraq.
He also urged the government to reach out to the Sunni Arab minority.
“If we’re to keep… ISIS 2.0 from emerging, the Iraqi government is going to have to do something pretty significantly different,” he said.
“They’re going to have to reach out and reconcile with the Sunni population, and make them feel like their government in Baghdad represents them.”
With the defeat…..does anyone know what ISIS thinks of the future?
In a conversation I had with a fellow university student in Damascus in 2000, he made curious remark. “Ana mubayie,” he said. The sentence, which translates into “I owe a pledge of fealty”, was a reference to a supposed secret oath he made to Mullah Omar, then the emir of the Taliban in Afghanistan. In a secular country like Syria, the lack of context for young students meant nobody made much of it beyond observing its oddity.
When I wrote about the anecdote for The National three years ago, ISIL’s announcement of a “caliphate” was widely dismissed as comic and a delusional ambition. Many hoped that ISIL’s military campaign soon would be reversed once the Iraqi army recovered from the initial shock. Even more than the military challenge, moreover, it was harder for politicians, clerics and observers to grasp the implications of the declaration on the region and the world, and the subsequent evolution of ISIL from a local insurgent group into a global organisation.
The consensus seems to be that ISIS may be beaten but it is not yet defeated…..plans should be drawn up now that has an approach that will prevent a repeat of the last 4 years.
With the battles of Mosul and Raqqa dislodging the Islamic State (ISIS) from its strongholds in Syria and Iraq, and the Syrian civil war becoming a war of attrition, the Middle East’s most acute conflicts are evolving fast. But that doesn’t mean they will soon be resolved.
ISIS’s self-proclaimed caliphate was never a state that could be driven to unconditional surrender, meaning that the battles of Mosul and Raqqa were never going to be decisive, even if they did eliminate ISIS sanctuaries. As ISIS’s spread into Libya and Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula underscores, there are plenty of loosely controlled areas available to be penetrated.
But with everything said maybe there is a rule of thumb they should adhere to……one question they should ask after the debacles of Syria and Libya……
Then what about all those “terrorists” that did not die defending the “caliphate”? What will become of them?
The fall of Mosul and the likely fall of Raqqa won’t be the end of the Islamic State. The group has already reverted to its insurgent roots in some of the areas that have been lost. It also still controls some territory. The Islamic State will continue to function as a guerrilla army, despite suffering significant losses. In May, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) assessed that even though it was losing significant ground, the Islamic State “will likely have enough resources and fighters to sustain insurgency operations and plan terrorists [sic] attacks in the region and internationally” going forward. Unfortunately, I think ODNI’s assessment is accurate for a number of reasons, some of which I outline below. I also discuss some hypothetical scenarios, especially with respect to returning foreign fighters or other supporters already living in Europe or the U.S.
We will see….the world is watching…….