ISIS, aka Daesh, has adopted a strategy carrying out small operations to threaten European countries since it has lost its last stronghold in Syria. However, a number of analysts called on world governments to take these threats seriously.
It has been months since the Islamic State was expelled from its territorial control in Iraq and Syria, but the brutal terrorist outfit continues to wreak havoc in the lands it once deemed its “caliphate.”
“Depriving ISIS of its territorial control in Iraq and Syria is a positive step, but ISIS as a terrorist organization and ideology is by no means defeated,” Bradley Bowman, Senior Director of the Center on Military and Political Power (CMPP) for the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told Fox News.
“The sustainable defeat of ISIS will require a comprehensive strategy—working with our allies—to kill irreconcilable terrorists, address the underlying ideology, and promote inclusive governments in Damascus and Baghdad.”
And while the whereabouts of the elusive ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi – the most wanted man in the world – remains unknown, Iraqi intelligence believes he continues to bark orders to the various cells disseminated across remote regions.
Ambassador James Jeffrey, top US envoy to Syria and the counter-ISIS coalition, said the US withdrawal from Syria as President Donald Trump tweeted in December “is continuing”.
However, no coalition or partners showed commitment to send additional troops to fill the gap after the US withdraw its troops. That could create a security loophole, of which terrorist groups, especially ISIS, would take advantage.
Germany and France refuse to send additional troops to backfill the US forces.
ISIS leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi has successfully shifted ISIS’s focus from its center to its branches, which has enabled the group not only to survive but to spread geographically.
Bruce Hoffman, a counterterrorism specialist at Georgetown University and author of the book “Inside Terrorism,” said: “Killing a terrorist group’s leaders or diminishing the physical territory that it controls “is not the same as undermining its ideology or destroying its raison d’être. Revenge and retaliation arguably infused ISIS with newfound purpose and energy.”
ISIS still has its brand and an ability to inspire, Ali Soufan, a former FBI counterterrorism specialist and the author of “Anatomy of Terror: From the Death of Bin Laden to the Rise of the Islamic State,” said.
Even though more than a hundred of its senior leaders have been killed, and tens of thousands of its fighters and followers have been captured, the movement knows how to exploit local tensions for its own purposes. “Most ISIS provinces across the world build on pre-existing conflicts with sectarian, ethnic, and religious divisions,” he said. “This is true from Boko Haram in Nigeria to Ansar Bayt al Maqdis in the Sinai to Abu Sayyaf in the Philippines.”
In 2018, ISIS was linked with at least three thousand attacks worldwide, according to the BBC monitoring service. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for more than three hundred attacks in Afghanistan, more than a hundred and eighty in Egypt, about six dozen in Somalia, more than forty each in Nigeria and Yemen, and twenty-seven in the Philippines.
Since the fall of Baghouz, the last Islamic State stronghold in Syria, in March, at least a thousand militants are suspected to have crossed into Iraq.
Gilles de Kerchove, the EU’s counterterrorism co-ordinator, said about 45,000 children born in Iraq but denied citizenship because they were in areas controlled by Islamic State risk becoming “the next generation of suicide bombers. “This is a ticking time bomb,” he said.
National Intelligence Director Dan Coats said that ISIS still commands thousands of fighters. Coats said that ISIS will continue to pursue external attacks from Iraq and Syria against regional and Western adversaries, including the United States.