Iraqi forces have successfully wrestled control of the Mosul from ISIS in a grueling battle that was not seen since the start of the 21st century. But while the terrorist group’s foothold in Northern Iraq is slowly crumbling, its global presence has been growing to encompass nearly every continent.
According to the Independent, the battle for Iraq’s second largest city has been a ferocious one. It has been raging for 265 days, two months longer than the Battle of Stalingrad, and while the numbers are considerably smaller, the outcome is just as important.
Mosul has served as the group’s secondary capital alongside the group’s political capital of Raqqa in Syria. The group’s leader, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, has spent time in Mosul to escape the coalition bombing of Raqqa during the early days of the caliphate.
However, its role as the economic center of the caliphate has made that much more important. Oil from captured refineries in the city has been used to fund the group’s activities. The city’s dangerous proximity to the Mosul Dam also posed a huge threat to the settlements on the banks of the Tigris River, including Baghdad.
Recapturing Mosul could cripple the ISIS political and economic machinery and pave the way to the group’s eradication. Without the city, the group’s funding will quickly dry out and will make it harder for them to continue their activities in the region.
After nearly nine months of fighting, the group has been reduced to a small pocket in Mosul’s Old City. The tight confines of the streets make it the perfect location for the group’s way of fighting, preventing the Iraqi forces to enter the area, at least for now. The Guardian reports that civilians are also trapped in extremist-held areas making it hard to retake these areas without endangering innocent lives.
Iraqi forces have captured the ruins of the al-Nuri mosque where Baghdadi, now believed to be dead, declared the establishment of the caliphate three years ago. But whatever the state of the fighting is in the city, the group’s presence in Northern Iraq is slowly being smashed.
But even as the group’s grip on Iraq and Syria is slowly coming to an end, eradicating the organization itself is another matter. The group has been fostered in the shadows for years while their overconfident adversaries celebrated their exaggerated victories.
The group waited patiently for the right time to strike, and strike they did. From out of nowhere, they carved out vast areas of territory that would put any conqueror of the past to shame.
By destroying the group’s stronghold in Iraq and Syria, the group will simply return to the shadows where it will wait once more, observing and preparing, always on the lookout for its enemies to show weakness.
But unlike its rise in 2014 where only jihadists in Iraq and Syria held collective goal of establishing a caliphate, the next rise of the Islamic State will be grander and much more terrifying. And the free world will have no one to blame but themselves.
By allowing the group to exist virtually unchallenged for three long years, they have allowed it to sow the seeds of another global caliphate. In those three years, nearly every continent in the world has experienced the bitter taste of terrorism. The Internet has been the workhorse of the group’s political machine recruiting eager fighters to fight and radicalizing others to do their bidding. The Internet has also made them the extend their reach in ways never thought possible for a terror group. Suddenly, every radical Islamist wanted to be with allied Islamic State, wanted to be recognized by the Islamic State, and wanted to be part of the Islamic State.
In three years, the group has gained a following. From South-East Asia to the streets of Europe, and to the Suburbs of the United States, disenfranchised Muslims everywhere now brainwashed to do their bidding. While a global terror network is not new, the seeds planted by ISIS do not owe allegiance to any man like Osama Bin Laden or Al-Baghdadi, they owe allegiance to the caliphate.
So even if the group is stamped out of the Middle East and Africa, the group will remain, its ideologies will remain, and its goals will remain, waiting for the perfect time. Osama Bin Laden showed the world what terrorism is like, now the Islamic State will bring it to their doorstep.
Yes, Mosul will fall, and Raqqa, and every city where the ISIS flag has been flown, the Islamic State will fall. But the ideology, the reputation, and the name will not fall. As long as there are people who are willing to die for the cause that is the establishment of the caliphate it will rise from the ashes like a phoenix and spread the flames of terror once more except this time, its reach will cross continents not countries.
[Featured Image by Khalid Mohammed/AP Images]