The Islamic State terrorist group is preparing for its collapse after losing a series of decisive battles in the last few months. The self-proclaimed caliphate has lost vast areas of territory in Iraq and Syria, shrinking by 12% in the last six months. Offensives by the Iraqi army and semi-autonomous Kurdish forces have eroded ISIS control in the region.
Hundreds of ISIS fighters have abandoned the jihadist group and surrendered to Iraqi and Kurdish forces. These fighters’ reports of ISIS’ poor organisation and lack of central planning have encouraged ISIS’ regional enemies to push further into the extremists’ territory.
According to media reports, ISIS leaders are privately admitting losses on the battlefield and preparing fighters still loyal to the self-styled Islamic state for its collapse. While defections from ISIS continue and its control has wavered, it may be difficult to finally rout loyal ISIS supporters once they are penned in.
Despite the series of losses ISIS has suffered, the terrorist organisation is planning even more attacks across the Middle East and possibly beyond. Lists of potential targets, ‘kill lists’ and warnings against its enemies have convinced many analysts that the group won’t go down without a fight.
Recent ISIS-inspired terrorist attacks in France, Belgium and Florida have shown the influence ISIS has on home grown jihadis throughout the western world. The threat of attacks directly organised by ISIS will rise as the territorial core is threatened and its leaders’ lives endangered. Russian, Syrian and US airstrikes against the caliphate’s inner leadership have prompted reprisals.
The success of anti-ISIS operations in Iraq and Syria should not be overestimated, however. The Islamic state’s rise out of the chaos created by the Iraq and Syrian Civil War was unprecedented and their global reach has proven very real. The caliphate has won the loyalty of disparate groups in Mali and Libya and has inspired several recent domestic terror attacks.