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Down, but not out: On Islamic State

  • 26 August, 2020

  • 5 Min Read

Down, but not out: On Islamic State


  • Political instability in parts of West Asia and North Africa is allowing the IS space to operate.
  • The U.N. counterterrorism chief’s statement to the Security Council on the continuing presence of Islamic State (IS) terrorists in West Asia, Africa and elsewhere should be seen as a serious warning by the countries in these regions.


  • Two years after the Sunni jihadist group was declared defeated, more than 10,000 IS fighters remain active in Iraq and Syria.
  • IS-driven terror attacks are on the rise.
  • Besides these two countries, where the IS had established a proto-state in 2014 — destroyed by multilateral war efforts that lasted four years — the terror outfit has a “province” in West Africa with nearly 3,000 fighters, according to the UN.
  • In war-torn Afghanistan, it continues to stage attacks, targeting ethnic and religious minorities.
  • The IS may no longer control any big city, but its rise from a breakaway faction of al-Qaeda in Iraq to one of the world’s most potent terrorist groups should be a lesson for all stakeholders.
  • Ever since they lost territories, IS fighters withdrew from the front lines and started operating in cells in the deserts, mountains and hinterlands of conflict-ridden countries.


  • Iraq and Syria are particularly vulnerable to the IS’s resurgence as these countries are yet to be fully stabilised after the wars.
  • In Syria, the Bashar al-Assad government has practically won the civil war.
  • But Syria is now a divided country.
  • While the government controls most of the territories, a coalition of jihadists and rebels is running the Idlib province.
  • In the northeast, the Kurdish rebels have declared autonomy.
  • On the Syrian-Turkish border, Turkey, backed by pro-Turkish rebels, has carved out a buffer and has been in permanent conflict with the Kurds.
  • Though there is an uneasy quiet in Syria, the situation is inflammable.


  • Iraq, after months of protests and instability, has finally got a government.
  • But Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi is torn between the U.S. and Iran.
  • Pro-Iran Shia militias continue to target U.S. troops inside Iraq, which could turn the country into a battlefield between Washington and Tehran.


  • The story is not very different in Africa.
  • Libya has two governments, which were fighting each other till last week’s ceasefire.
  • The Libyan conflict has spilled over into Mali and Burkina Faso, where jihadists have established a solid presence.
  • Chaos breeds militancy, and as the main group here is the IS, it would remain active as long as these countries remain unstable.


  • The IS has its roots in the U.S. invasion of Iraq.
  • It started growing by exploiting the civil war in Syria. The regional governments as well as their international backers (and rivals) should be mindful of this fact.
  • If they fail to address the regional fault-lines and continue to fight each other, the jihadists could emerge winners once again.

Source: TH


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