ISIS lost – but is still a threat?

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UNITED STATES (VOP TODAY NEWS) — US-backed Democratic Syria says it has seized control of the last enclave of an Islamic state in the eastern province of Baguoz, ending the state of the “caliphate” that the organization has declared and has extended to one-third of Iraq and Syria That there was almost a general agreement that the organization was still a threat.

What did the defeat of the organization achieve on the ground?

It was the organization’s control over an area of ​​land in Iraq and Syria that distinguished it from other similar organizations such as al-Qaeda, and that control became central to his message when he declared the establishment of the Caliphate in 2014.

The elimination of this entity deprives the organization of the most powerful propaganda and recruitment tools in its arsenal and of a logistical base that can train combatants and plan coordinated attacks abroad.

The defeat also brought his former subjects to death without trial and harsh penalties for violating his hardline laws and freed some minorities from sexual slavery and murder.

The war has destroyed thousands of organization fighters. On the financial front, the defeat deprived him of resources greater than any resources available to another modern jihadist movement, including the taxes he imposed on the inhabitants of the areas under his control and the proceeds of oil sales.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] What is the danger that the organization still represents in Iraq and Syria?

In its previous form as a branch of al-Qaeda in Iraq about 10 years ago, the organization managed to avoid adversity by clandestine work and the right time to attack.

Since the organization suffered massive losses on the ground in 2017, it has once again turned to such methods. Sleeping cells in Iraq have launched a spate of kidnappings and killings to weaken the government.

The group also carried out many bombings in northeastern Syria, which is controlled by US-backed Kurdish forces, including a operation in which four Americans were killed in January.

Kurdish and US officials say the threat of organization in the region remains.

In Syria, there are still fighters in a small enclave west of the Euphrates River in an area controlled by the Syrian government.

A Pentagon internal oversight committee issued a report last month saying the Islamic state was still an active militant group and was regaining its capabilities and functions in Iraq faster than Syria.

“In the absence of continued pressure (on combating terrorism), the Islamic state will probably return to Syria within six months to 12 months and prepare limited territory,” the report said.

Q: What happened to his leaders, fighters and followers?

The fate of the organization’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, remains a mystery. US sources said recently that senior US government experts strongly believe he is still alive and may be hiding in Iraq. Other leaders of the organization have been killed in air strikes.

Thousands of his fighters and civilian followers have been killed and thousands more have been captured. An unknown number of them are still at large in Syria and Iraq.

Iraq is working to bring detainees from the organization to trial and imprisonment and often executed some of them.

US-backed democracy forces are holding hundreds of al-Qaeda fighters and their followers, but numbers have increased as Syria’s democratic forces advance in the area near Baguz.

The Syrian Democratic Forces said that over the past two months more than 60,000 had left the Baguoz enclave, including 29,000 supporters of the Islamic state, who surrendered, including 5,000 fighters.

Many of the residents who collaborated with the organization were released at the local level in Syria.

Syria’s democratic forces complain that Western countries refuse to accept the return of foreign fighters, widely regarded as a security threat, but it may be difficult to bring them to trial according to law.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] Is the organization still able to orchestrate attacks abroad or to suggest them?

As the organization clings to the last piece of land under its control, the head of Britain’s MI6 warned that he would launch various attacks.

Even after the organization began to inflict military losses on the ground, it still claimed responsibility for attacks in different countries, although these attacks were often attributed to individual operations without guidance.

The organization had begun years ago to call on its supporters abroad to plan attacks rather than focusing solely on attacks by trained members supported by the organization’s structure.

In early 2018, the commander of the US Central Command said that the organization of the Islamic state was flexible and was still able to “suggest attacks across the region and outside the Middle East.”

What does the fall of the organization mean to the future of Islamic militancy in the world?

Although the core territory of the organization was in Iraq and Syria, it has been supported by militants in other countries, particularly in Nigeria, Yemen and Afghanistan.

The question remains unanswered. Will these groups continue to wear the mantle of organization, especially if Baghdadi is captured or killed? However, there seems little chance that these groups will stop their campaigns soon.

Al-Qaeda also maintains branches throughout the world and other hardline Islamic groups operate in countries where regimes have collapsed.

It has been long established that hard-line ideas can mutate as circumstances change, and wars, injustice, oppression, poverty, sectarianism and even explicit religious hatred are not regulated.

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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