UNITED STATES, WASHINGTON (VOP TODAY NEWS) — Long before the fall of its last bastion, the Islamic State prepared the switch from its activity to the clandestine insurrection. Although weakened, the terrorist organization retains a strong capacity for harm, as shown by the regularity of its attacks in the Levant.
Five months after Baghouz’s resumption of Daesh forces and Donald Trump’s triumphant declaration of “100%” victory over the caliphate, the terrorist organization remains threatening. A report from the US Department of Defense, published August 6, recalls the solidification of insurgency capabilities of the armed group in Syria two weeks after a report the UN warning on its possible resurgence.
Throughout Syria and most of Iraq, the Islamic State has lost control of its territories, and the organization has gone into hiding. She traded her conventional military operations against punch operations: bombings, assassinations, ambushes.
The Pentagon report mentions the multiplication of dormant cells of the organization in Syria, “according to the same strategy that has been deployed in Iraq since 2017”. This process of reconversion of IS terrorist activity is more advanced in Iraq, where part of the Anbar desert is still controlled by the caliphate, and where its leader, Abu Bakr-al-Baghdadi, and his lieutenants are probably hiding.
“Prepare a possible resurgence of the caliphate”
For the Pentagon, the strategy of the Islamic State is clear: to adapt, survive and strengthen in the Levant to prepare a possible resurgence of the caliphate. In Iraq, IS maintains a stable chain of command and has the ability to conduct asymmetric operations.
Jihadists are interethnic tensions between Kurds and Arabs, and interfaith between Shiites – in power – and Sunnis, removed from decision-making since the fall of Saddam Hussein.
In Syria, the Islamist group takes advantage of the fragmentation of the country to release a margin of maneuver. In Kurdish-held areas in the north-east of the country, the partial withdrawal of US troops has weakened the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which is struggling to ensure the security of these territories.
This army, mainly led by its Kurdish elements, is poorly accepted in the Arab-majority provinces of Raqqa, Hasakah and Deir Ezzor, where Daesh depicts them as an occupying force.
Jihadists enjoy many family and tribal relays in Sunni regions. They continue to recruit, particularly in rural areas, and IDP camps that host many ISIS families, including thousands of young people.
In Al-Hol, in northeastern Syria, nearly 70,000 people are crowded into the unhygienic camps of the camp (against 10,000 in December), of whom 50,000 are under 18 years old. These young people without families are a prime target for the Islamic State.
The organization has set up fundraising campaigns to help these populations, and at the same time orchestrates ground-breaking propaganda aimed at rallying these forces, as when the video of an IS flag fluttering at the top a pole had gone around the canvas.
— Wassim Nasr (@SimNasr) July 16, 2019
This situation pushes Islamic State specialist Matteo Puxton to worry about the situation.
“The Islamists are in a better position today than they were in the years 2007-2008, he is alarmed. Today, they are certainly weakened, but they have considerable resources, in terms of money, clandestine networks, propaganda”.
A rocker long anticipated
The insurgency operations intervene very quickly after the fall of bastions held by the Islamic State. In Syria, the first bombing claim was disclosed in June 2018 for an attack on Raqqa, just six months after the city fell into Kurdish hands.
For Matteo Puxton , the insurrectional seesaw has been prepared for a long time. “From April-May 2016, there were already clues in the propaganda of Daesh, he says Le Figaro.
In May 2016, Abu Muhammad al-Adnani, the former IS spokesman, was already explaining in a speech that one day the caliphate would lose the cities and that it was necessary to prepare to return to the desert.
As a result, ISIS has been preparing to maintain its nuisance capacity. It has secured a portion of its financial resources – between 30 and 50 million dollars, according to the UN report – through intermediaries and shell companies, but also through remittances abroad and especially in Libya, where the group is very active.
The IS then secured conditions for the maintenance of the chain of command, including the installation of hideouts in the Badiya, the desert on horseback between Syria and Iraq, for Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and the main IS leaders can hide and continue to give their orders.
The hunt for the so-called caliph continues, and its location remains largely mysterious. Recent rumors claimed in Libya, but in an interview given to the Iraqi press, Abu Ali al-Basri, leader of the Falcons, the Iraqi counterintelligence cell, located him in Syria, in the Badiya, this vast desert that extends from the center of Syria to Iraq, very sparsely populated and difficult to control.
Risks of attacks
The Islamic State retains a strike force thanks to its foreign fighters, many of whom have been able to return to their country of origin, to Europe or elsewhere. According to the UN report , between 24,000 and 30,000 foreign fighters are still alive today.
“The de-radicalization programs have not proved their full effectiveness, the report notes. The most hardened fighters who have been sentenced to long prison terms are not about to leave.”
Still, the Islamic State does not have the means to foment major attacks abroad. The UN report agrees and reminds us that while attacks such as those in Sri Lanka at Easter were “inspired” by Daesh, “the IS command was not informed at the time. ‘advanced”.
For Matteo Puxton, “the current period is not conducive. The priority remains the recovery of the Levant situation”. He adds, however: “In other IS provinces, as in West Africa, where France has many nationals and companies, there French interests could be targeted.”
This article is written and prepared by our foreign editors writing for VOP from different countries around the world – edited and published by VOP staff in our newsroom.
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