The coalition fighting Islamic State is closing in on key ISIS territory, but would a military success for the good guys be the end of ISIS?
International headlines make for pleasant reading right now:
- The Islamic State is about to lose Falluja in Iraq. The Mosul area is almost entirely ISIS free.
- ISIS declared a state of emergency in its self-declared capital Raqqa, in Syria.
Sounds like Islamic State will soon be a thing of the past. Right?
As the Taliban, al-Qaeda, Hezbollah and others proved over the years, terrorist organizations are hard to put down permanently.
But in ISIS’ case, the battle to eradicate is even tougher. Recruitment of soldiers means Islamic State has vets in countries around the world – many of them in the West. That means even a fully-successful operation in Iraq and Syria would leave ex-officers and former foot soldiers untouched in Holland, Tunisia and in dozens of other states.
Beyond that, Islamic State has affiliates in other parts of the world – with fighting forces in places like the Philippines and Bangladesh in Asia, and Libya and Nigeria in Africa.
In addition to affiliates, ISIS has active cells in other countries.
Then, of course, there are the lone wolves inspired by ISIS.
But let’s assume for a minute an international coalition, incorporating armies, spy agencies, police forces and more, manages to successfully coalesce and defeat ISIS in every area listed above, could we then declare victory?
ISIS is not just an organization. It’s an ideology.
Violent Islamism predates ISIS by decades, but ISIS turned it into an industry (think of 9/11 as a reference point).
That means even a root and branch clear-out of ISIS operatives will not be 100 percent successful in eradicating the ideology – it still exists in madrasas in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia and in mosques in Egypt, Europe and yes, the United States.
Destroying ISIS in Syria and Iraq has myriad benefits, but don’t be fooled into thinking that an end to the wanton destruction of these countries and their citizens will signal an end to the nightmare that is ISIS.
As for the solutions? Keep watching this space.