ISIS Branches Grow as ‘Caliphate’ Fades in Syria, Iraq by Yaroslav Trofimov – Wall Street Journal
In its former heartland of Syria and Iraq, the once mighty Islamic State has turned, at least for now, into little more than a nuisance.
But that’s not the case for the self-declared caliphate’s far-flung “provinces,” from West Africa to Afghanistan to Southeast Asia.
There, local insurgencies that adopted Islamic State’s brand and ideology in its heyday in 2014-2015 keep up the fight, gaining new ground and perpetrating new massacres. Some are also attracting a new influx of foreign fighters.
“For now, it is really in the peripheries that everything happens,” said Prof. Mathieu Guidere, an expert on Islamic extremism at the University of Paris VIII. “The peripheral branches of Islamic State have become much more important and much more active than its original central organization.”
Last year, U.S.-backed campaigns by the Iraqi government and by predominantly Kurdish fighters managed to seize Islamic State’s two main cities of Mosul and Raqqa, liberating a territory that once spanned a landmass the size of Great Britain.
The only remaining areas controlled by Islamic State there are in the vicinity of al-Bukamal on Syria’s border with Iraq and a handful of other small isolated pockets in Syria…