Small Wars Journal

Washington's Worst Kept Secret: The Islamic State Isn't Defeated

Washington's Worst Kept Secret: The Islamic State Isn't Defeated by Daniel R. DePetris - The National Interest

Many of the extremist group's fighters will now become insurgents but that is not something America can solve.

It took a lot more time, patience, and ordnance than expected, but after a two-month offensive in the dusty, Syrian border village of Baghouz, the U.S.-supported Syrian Democratic Forces finally made the announcement the world was waiting for: the Islamic State’s caliphate is history. For the millions of Iraqis and Syrians who were subjected to the group’s brutality and dogmatic extremism, the SDF’s final clearing operation in the Islamic State’s remaining speck of land in the Mediterranean must have come as a cathartic moment.

Governments the world over are gushing with celebration. President Donald Trump, who days earlier unveiled a map for reporters showing how little land the Islamic State occupied, will likely claim all the credit for himself. British prime minister Theresa May issued a statement calling the capture of Baghouz “a historic milestone.” German foreign minister Heiko Maas and French president Emmanuel Macron issued their own congratulations to forces on the ground. And the Kurdish fighters who did most of the fighting and the dying capped off their success in celebratory fashion, complete with a parade and a marching band, musical instruments in tow.

One can’t blame them for basking in their success. The road between the Islamic State and the defeat of the caliphate has been a long and windy one, with its fair share of rubble along the way. The four and a half years of combat against the caliphate entailed incredible sacrifices from the Iraqi soldiers, militias, and Kurdish fighters on the front-lines. Tens of thousands of them were killed in the combat and the Iraqi Counter Terrorism Service—the Iraqi military’s cream of the crop—suffered 40 percent losses during the 2017 battle for Mosul, the most vicious urban combat since U.S. troops stormed Fallujah more than a dozen years prior. And then there were Iraq and Syria’s ethnic minorities, who were imprisoned, exiled, tortured, killed, and sold into sexual servitude. For all of them, the end of the caliphate could not have come soon enough…

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