Small Wars Journal

Beyond Syria and Iraq, Faraway ISIS ‘Provinces’ Fight On

Thu, 07/20/2017 - 5:55am

Beyond Syria and Iraq, Faraway ISIS ‘Provinces’ Fight On by Yaroslav Trofimov - Wall Street Journal

In the three years since it proclaimed a world-wide caliphate, Islamic State has become a global franchise—which means that the loss of its core in Syria and Iraq won’t pacify the far-flung conflict zones where the group’s affiliates operate.

Regional “provinces” of Islamic State have sprung up from West Africa to the Philippines after the group’s self-appointed “caliph,” Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, seized the Iraqi city of Mosul in 2014 and demanded allegiance from Muslims world-wide.

Most of these “provinces” grew out of existing insurgent organizations, such as Nigeria’s Boko Haram or Ansar Beit al-Maqdis in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula. These groups simply reflagged with Islamic State’s new brand—then seen as uniquely appealing to recruits and donors because of Islamic State’s seeming invincibility.

Other “provinces” were breakaways from relatively more moderate groups, such as Islamic State Khorasan, which absorbed the most violent elements of the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Some groups, like Boko Haram, controlled huge territory. Other Islamic State “provinces,” such as the one in Russia’s North Caucasus, consisted of scattered militants on the run.

In any case, the conflicts in which all these “provinces” thrived preceded Islamic State’s 2014 proclamation. And even after the recent liberation of Mosul and the impending collapse of Islamic State’s second-largest stronghold of Raqqa, in Syria, these distant conflicts will persist, following their own individual dynamics…

Read on.