ANALYSIS: ISIS problem growing despite defeat of Caliphate

ISIS is making “calculated” moves aimed at maintaining the ability to continue the Jihad against “apostates” and “infidels.”

Yochanan Visser,

On Saturday, Kurdish officials said that the last part of the Islamic State Caliphate, a village by the name of Baghouz in eastern Syria, will be wiped out in three days, but the war against the Jihadist organization seems far from over.

The announcement of members of the Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) came after tens of thousands of civilians, but also ISIS members and their families, fled Baghouz ahead of the final offensive which is expected to be extremely bloody.

Most of the new refugees, between 20,000 and 25,000 people, have fled to the al-Hol camp thereby exacerbating an already dire humanitarian crisis in the camp.

“The conditions are definitely dire in the camp ... the problem is nobody was expecting these kinds of numbers so it has been overwhelming and it hasn’t stopped,” Misty Buswell of the International Rescue Committee told reporters.

She added that barefooted and sparsely dressed children were among the refugees while local media reported that diehard ISIS terrorists also escaped to the camp.

The exodus of the thousands of Syrians wasn’t expected since observers estimated that only a few hundred civilians remained in the last pocket of territory under ISIS control. It caused a temporary stop in airstrikes on Baghouz.

Among those who fled Baghouz was ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, reported to have been killed or severely wounded on several occasions.

The Pentagon recently analyzed a new audio recording with Baghdadi’s voice and came to the conclusion that al-Baghdadi is alive and apparently kicking.

Local Iraqi media reported on Sunday that the ISIS leader is now hiding in Iraq, while Iraqi security forces think al-Baghdadi has singlehandedly executed eight members of ISIS since he arrived in the country.

The ISIS terrorists were found shot in the head in an area between Hit and Haditha in the Sunni dominated Anbar Province.

Two weeks ago, Al-Baghdadi issued a new hit list ordering the liquidation of hundreds of ISIS members, including top commanders, who he claimed had been disloyal to him and betrayed the Caliphate.

Experts now say that the war against ISIS is “far from over” although US President Donald Trump declared victory over the organization months ago.

Trump’s premature optimism led him to announce the immediate withdrawal of all US Special Forces, a move which hasn’t been carried out until now after the President faced stiff opposition from his own staff, Congress and his military brass.

After reversing course several times Trump now says he’s willing to maintain a force of roughly 400 American soldiers in Syria who will be stationed at the At-Tanf base on the border-crossing between Syria and Iraq.

General Joseph Votel of the US Central Command in the Middle East (CENTCOM) last week told the House Armed Forces Committee that “the fight against ISIS and violent extremism is far from over.”

“We will need to maintain a vigilant offensive against this now widely dispersed and disaggregated organization that includes leaders, fighters, facilitators, resources and of course their toxic ideology,” Votel warned.

He added that ISIS is making “calculated” moves aimed at maintaining the ability to continue the Jihad against “apostates” and “infidels,” as the group calls fellow Muslims and everyone who’s not - or not enough - Muslim.

"What we are seeing now is not the surrender of ISIS as an organization but a calculated decision to preserve the safety of their families and the preservation of their capabilities by taking their chances in camps for internally displaced persons and going to ground in remote areas and waiting for the right time to resurge," the CENTCOM commander concluded.

One of these remote areas is Mount Sinjar in the Nineveh Province in Iraq.

Observers say that ISIS is building new supply lines and communication infrastructure south of its former bastion Mosul in Iraq while it has already begun the resurge.

ISIS’ newsletter Al-Naba claimed last week Islamic State terrorists in Iraq carried out 156 attacks since the beginning of March. They listed The Muslim Brotherhood, Turkish Islamist leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the governments of Saudi Arabia and Egypt, among others, as “apostates”.

The attacks in Iraq are directed not only against the US-Iranian backed Iraqi security forces but also at the Iranian-founded Hashd al-Sha’abi umbrella organization of predominantly Shiite militias.

In Syria, ISIS is also re-emerging as a classic terrorist organization and is attacking the SDF while engaging the army of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad in fierce battles, not only in the Eastern Province of Deir Ez-Zur but also in eastern Homs.

“(The infidels) faces are displeased seeing (ISIS’) strength and steadfastness in their jihad, and their hearts are filled with anger at the news of ongoing attacks against the infidels from the east of the earth to the west,” ISIS wrote in the Al-Nab newsletter.

As I reported in October 2018, ISIS as a Caliphate is on the verge of demise but the organization is expanding its influence all the time and not only in the Middle East where Islamic State has affiliates and sleeper cells in countries like Egypt, Libya, Yemen, and Saudi Arabia.

The number of active ISIS members is now estimated at 270,000 while worldwide one million Muslims adhere to the Jihadist ideology of the organization.

The organization takes pride in the growing number of countries, among them the largest Muslim country Indonesia, where terror organizations swore alliance to Al-Baghdadi last year.

In the Sahara desert, for example, the mujahedeen of Al-Sahra al-Kubra are operating as an ISIS branch while in Somalia the Islamic State of Somalia (ISS) is increasingly forming a threat and is competing with local Al-Qaeda branch Shahaab for the title of the country’s most brutal terrorist group.
The deadliest attack ISIS carried out in March thus far was in Afghanistan where the local branch has an estimated 4,000 fighters at its disposal. There, a terrorist cell carried out an attack on the airport in Jalalabad killing 64 “apostates” according to Al-Naba.

Other countries where Islamic State’ affiliates carried out deadly attacks recently are Tunisia, Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Somalia and France where an ISIS terrorist stabbed two security guards in apparent retaliation for the killing of Cheriff Chekatt, another Islamic State member, who murdered five people at a Christmas market in Strassbourg.
"The infidels and hypocrites are watching the clash (al-marka) between the slaves of Allah, the monotheist soldiers of Daesh (Islamic State for Iraq and the Levant) and His enemies, the polytheists, crusaders (Westerners) and the apostates," ISIS wrote in Al-Naba.