On the face of it, the Islamic State is already in retreat. Over the past year, the militant organization lost territory and key bastions in Iraq and Syria, and is being squeezed out of its greatest prize, the northern Iraqi city of Mosul. Its ranks are dwindling, its access to illicit smuggling networks have shrunk and its viability as a rogue political project is evaporating. But its capacity to launch brazen terrorist attacks around the world and inspire extremists through the Internet means that it is far from finished.
Even if the Islamic State loses all or most of its territory, suggests a new study, “ISIS would still be able to exploit Sunni discontent and foment sectarian tension over the next five to ten years in Iraq, Syria, Libya, and potentially beyond.” The report, titled “The Jihadi Threat: ISIS, Al Qaeda, and Beyond,” was published Dec. 12 by the United States Institute of Peace, a nonpartisan, federally funded organization based in Washington. (ISIS is another name for the extremist group.)
President-elect Donald Trump signaled throughout the election campaign his intent to wholly destroy the Islamic State. But as the study reveals, truly quashing extremism would require a level of engagement in the region and policy nuance that Trump has so far not demonstrated.
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