🏅Has ISIS been defeated?

Has ISIS been defeated?

Look at this map.

The land you see here covers roughly 34,000 thousand square miles of land and was home to as many as 12 million people.

ISIS proclaimed the area to be its own state, which is called its “caliphate.”

Four years later, ISIS has lost almost all of this territory — leading some to claim the group has been defeated.

TRUMP said: “And we have won against ISIS.” “Today, we have liberated virtually all of that territory from the grip of these blood-thirsty monsters.”

“ The United States military, our coalition partners and the Syrian Democratic Forces have liberated virtually all of the territory previously held by ISIS in Syria and Iraq

 

But… is that actually true? 🙂

Has ISIS really been defeated? 🙂

The answer… isn’t that simple.

Today, ISIS has lost all but one percent of the territory that it once controlled.

This is why you’ve probably heard President Trump repeatedly claim ISIS has been defeated.

But, some like New York Times correspondent Rukmini Callimachi point out that while ISIS no longer has control over a state-like entity, we shouldn’t equate that with the group’s defeat.

Has ISIS been defeated?

ISIS now finds itself returning to its roots in guerilla warfare

— focusing more heavily on targeted attacks and inspiring “lone-wolf” attacks like we’ve seen it do abroad

— and less on claiming territory. Despite this, President Trump has called for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria

— something he claims was a campaign promise of his.

He’s used the group’s quote “defeat” as justification for this move.

But is it fair to say –

Has ISIS been defeated?

If we look at the group’s recent history, the answer might not be so clear.

Here’s why: 🙂

The militant group in Iraq and Syria commonly referred to in the west as ISIS and across the Middle East as Daesh

— first emerged as an offshoot on Al Qaeda in Iraq, known as AQI.

After the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, AQI became the leading Sunni insurgent group in the country.

It not only targeted American forces there but also the country’s Shia population.

In the years of war that followed, AQI faced serious setbacks and was all but defeated by 2009.

All the while, the U.S.-backed Prime Minister of Iraq, Nouri al-Maliki, was running the country towards collapse in 2010.

By this point, U.S. troops in the country were also largely viewed as unpopular occupiers by Iraqi citizens

  • — in part, due to the rising civilian death toll of the war.
  • — now let’s rewind in time two years before.. to this moment in 2008.

No, it’s not important because of the shoe.

But because of what then-U.S.president George W. Bush and the Iraqi Prime Minister had just agreed to.

They signed something called a Status of Forces agreement, which planned for the withdrawal of all American troops from Iraq by the end of 2011.

At this point, most fighters in AQI, the group that was eventually renamed ISIS in 2013, were either dead or in prisons.

Has ISIS been defeated?

U.S. officials estimated the group only had about 700 fighters left at the end of 2011.

So in December of that year, under then-president Barack Obama, the U.S. followed through on the 2008 agreement to officially withdraw troops from Iraq.

With U.S. forces gone and a deteriorating Iraqi government, the small number of AQI fighters left there were able to almost immediately regroup in divided Iraq.

Then in 2012, the group’s leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi called on his followers to do something drastic.

Between 2012 and 2013, they staged several major attacks on Iraqi prisons where insurgents were being held.

Roughly 1,000 inmates were freed as a result.

Officials believe this contributed to the group’s momentum in gaining territory

— not only in Iraq but also in Syria which was now in the midst of its own civil conflict.

Then, on June 29th, 2014

— Baghdadi declared the territory ISIS controlled his quote “caliphate.”

Days later, he rose from the pulpit of Mosul’s Great Mosque and asserted his control over the pseudo-state.

ISIS continued to fight and gain more territory in both Iraq and Syria.

It even ran the “caliphate” as its own state-like entity.

It collected taxes, had its own court system, issued birth certificates, and more.

At its largest, it controlled land the size of Britain

  • — making up about one-third of Syria and one-third of Iraq.

It ruled with extreme brutality

  • — violently executing many who broke its rules.

But that didn’t last for long.

When ISIS tried to expand into Iraqi-Kurdistan in August 2014, Kurdish groups fought back.

And that’s when the U.S.-led military coalition started airstrikes against ISIS in Iraq, and then Syria shortly after.

By early 2015, ISIS began losing key territories

  • — a trend that would continue the next few years.

Now

  • — despite its territory loss
  • — three different reports estimate there are between 20,000 to 30,000 ISIS fighters remaining in Iraq and Syria alone.

This matters, because ISIS was able to rapidly grow from the mere estimated 700 fighters it had left in Iraq when the U.S. withdrew in 2011.

Another thing to keep a close eye on if the U.S. does withdraw from Syria, are the Kurdish-run prisons that have been indefinitely detaining ISIS fighters and sympathizers.

It’s uncertain how much longer the Kurds would be able to continue running the prisons if the U.S. withdraws.

It’s an area of real concern, given ISIS’ previous targeting of prisons to release its detainees.

On top of that, the Pentagon recently released a report that said ISIS could make a comeback within only 6 months to a year of the U.S. pulling out of Syria

— if there isn’t a quote “sustained [counterterrorism] pressure” against the group.

So

Has ISIS been defeated?

Territorially speaking as a self-governing, pseudo-state?

Yeah, pretty much.

But as a violent guerilla group that could pose a serious threat to people in Iraq & Syria and around the world?

No, not even close.

 

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AUTHORNishant Chandravanshi

Nishant Chandravanshi is the founder of The Magadha Times & Chandravanshi. Nishant Chandravanshi is Youtuber, Social Activist & Political Commentator.

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