London, 12th September 2019
It is five years since the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, made its sensational appearance on the international scene, capturing swaths of Iraq and Syria, two countries reeling from years of war, terror and insecurity.
Indeed, ISIS’s emergence helped push Iraq to the brink of splitting into three separate states as they expanded their stronghold in the north and west of the country. ISIS declared itself a caliphate in June 2014 and controlled large parts of northern and western Iraq and much of eastern Syria. The 2014 advances by ISIS, including capturing the cities of Tikrit and Fallujah, strengthened the group and it appeared that ISIS would even threaten Baghdad and Damascus eventually.
Despite its demise as a territorial power, since its 2015 high point, ISIS has remained a threat. Its online presence, the continued appeal of its ideology and the large number of western ISIS fighters, already radicalised, who have and will target cities around the world in terrorist atrocities all constitute serious security threats that require coordination between governments.
Although the United States declared victory over ISIS in March 2019, seeing that the caliphate in iraq and Syria was over, the group has continued to expand in other ways and in other countries.
ISIS is able to earn money and recruit combatants. A Pentagon report issued this year estimatesd that between 14,000 and 18,000 ISIS combatants remain in Iraq and Syria, carrying out suicide attacks, assassinations, crop burnings, and ambushes.
The report stated that President Trump’s decision to reduce troop numbers in Syria and withdraw diplomatic staff from Iraq has increased instability and allowed the militants to regroup. It also stated that ISIS now has a foothold in Afghanistan.
Tactics Institute for Security and Counter Terrorism believes that the scourge of ISIS should not be allowed to consolidate power in fragile Middle Eastern states. Particular attention must be paid to the sources of ISIS’s income and any backing it receives from powerful states who have vested interests in destabilising the region. The fight against ISIS was never a purely military one; societies and economies across the Middle East should be supported in building infrastructure and recovering from years of conflict to ensure that the ISIS brand becomes less appealing.
Tactics Institute for Security and Counter Terrorism is an independent, non-partisan, think tank. Tactics researches terrorism to identify its causes and best possible remedies, always bearing in mind the protection of individual liberties and the human rights of all those affected.
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