The end of the ‘caliphate’ does not mean the end of Daesh

Source: Arab News

Daesh’s defeat in Mosul — from where it proclaimed its “caliphate” three years ago — and its impending defeat in its capital Raqqa have bred a sense of triumphalism. But this euphoria may be misplaced and is certainly premature, given the grave threat Daesh continues to pose in Iraq and Syria — whose territories formed the “caliphate” — as well as regionally and internationally.

The “caliphate” was always doomed, its collapse a matter of when, not if. But its downfall does not mean the end of Daesh. The terrorist group existed prior to its “caliphate,” and will continue to do so afterward, reverting back to guerrilla-style militancy in Iraq and Syria, and undertaking business as usual further afield.

Of course, running a pro-state came with benefits, but also responsibilities and burdens. The absence of the latter might be something of a blessing for a group that was never going to have the necessary manpower, regional alliances or international acceptance to run an effective state. For one thing, state institutions and forces are far easier to identify and target than an insurgency — in that sense, defeating the “caliphate” was the easy part.

It will not impact the “lone-wolf” attacks that have been its hallmark internationally. Furthermore, the region and the world will likely face a dispersal of extremist, violent, battle-hardened fighters that will be difficult to track.

Daesh, like its estranged parent Al-Qaeda, is a franchise rather than a centralized organization. This means the defeat of the “caliphate” will not significantly hinder Daesh’s various branches beyond Iraq and Syria, which may benefit from a subsequent influx of experienced fighters.

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Categories: Asia, Middle East

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