As far as the average person is concerned, ISIS has only been around for about two or three years. That’s when the radical group started making headlines for their stunning military victories, as well as their jaw dropping atrocities. In reality though, the terror group has been around a lot longer than most people realize.
The founding members of ISIS came together in 1999, and first made a name for their organization after the invasion of Iraq in 2003. At the time they were simply one of many insurgent groups, whose names most Westerners couldn’t be bothered to keep track of. Like most insurgents, they spent the early years of that war attacking Shia mosques, Iraqi government buildings, and coalition soldiers.
Another thing that most people don’t know about ISIS, is that the group almost didn’t survive the occupation of Iraq. During the troop surge of 2007 and 2008, the group suffered heavy losses and many of their highest ranking members were killed. They were almost completely obliterated. But as US troops withdrew and Iraqi forces failed to pick up the slack, they managed to recoup their losses, and they eventually established their wretched caliphate.
Now, more than two years since they first started making headlines, ISIS appears to be on the brink of destruction once again. With Iraqi and Kurdish forces bearing down on them in the east, and Syrian forces backed by Iran and Russia pummeling them in the west, ISIS territory is being chipped away a little more everyday. In fact, ISIS is beginning to admit to its followers, that their caliphate is not long for this world.
More signals of a coming downfall are contained in statements issued by Islamic State officials over the past six weeks, a period that saw the group’s fighters retreating across multiple fronts, from Fallujah in central Iraq to the Syrian-Turkish border.
A remarkable editorial last month in al-Naba, the Islamic State’s weekly Arabic newsletter, offered a gloomy assessment of the caliphate’s prospects, acknowledging the possibility that all its territorial holdings could ultimately be lost. Just two years ago, jihadist leaders heralded the start of a glorious new epoch in the world’s history with the establishment of their Islamic “caliphate,” which at the time encompassed most of eastern Syria and a vast swath of northern and western Iraq, a combined territory roughly the size of Great Britain.
The editorial, titled, “The Crusaders’ Illusions in the Age of the Caliphate,” sought to rally the group’s followers by insisting that the Islamic State would continue to survive, even if all its cities fell to the advancing “crusaders” — the separate Western- and Russian-backed forces arrayed against them.
In the big scheme of things, ISIS has totally shifted gears. They know that the end is coming soon, and the forces that they still have on the battlefield are providing a last-ditch rear guard defense, to give the organization enough time to prepare for their next move after their collapse.
And that next move will be to go underground and engage in the same guerrilla tactics and terrorist attacks that they utilized at the height of America’s Iraq occupation. Except this time, their attacks will not be limited to the Middle East. ISIS is now world renown, and they have built up terror networks everywhere.
“We do have, every day, people reaching out and telling us they want to come to the caliphate,” said the operative, who agreed to speak to a Western journalist on the condition that his name and physical location not be revealed. “But we tell them to stay in their countries and rather wait to do something there.”
Once ISIS loses its territory, and they can no longer raise so much money or draw so many recruits, their ability to strike will be diminished. However, they’re not going anywhere. They’ve been brought to their knees before, and they know how to slink away without being annihilated. And since their organization is decentralized in nature, they’ll be able to set up shop anywhere in the world. In other words, ISIS is a cancer, and they’re about to metastasize.
And just like that, America gets to battle another terrorist boogeyman for the next few decades.
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