Why Defeating the Islamic State Won’t Be All Good News for the U.S.

Why defeating the IS won't be all good news for the U.S.

Why defeating the IS won’t be all good news for the U.S. by  Steven Metz Friday, Jan. 6, 2017

The battlefield defeat of the self-styled Islamic State in eastern Syria and western Iraq is far from certain but increasingly likely. Iraqi government forces, in conjunction with Shiite and Kurdish militias, are slowly liberating Mosul, the largest city the Islamic State has conquered. While the Syrian government is less concerned with the group than with other rebel forces it faces, a Kurdish-Arab militia alliance called the Syrian Democratic Forces is pushing toward Raqqa, the Islamic State’s most important stronghold after Mosul. 

In parallel, a global coalition led by the United States is undercutting the group’s economic base. The extremists still control significant funds, but their profits and revenues have dropped dramatically. This has not stopped the Islamic State from coordinating terrorist attacks but is eroding its conventional military power. …


The Islamic State and the fight against it has become so deeply ingrained in the politics of the Islamic world and the global security system that its battlefield defeat will see both winners and losers.


Nonstate groups would also benefit from the battlefield defeat of the Islamic State. The militias undertaking much of the fight against the extremists and which would largely be responsible for local order if the Islamic State was, in fact, expelled from Iraq and Syria would be big winners, becoming a permanent part of the security architecture of their nations. It would take years to replace them with government security forces, if it could be done at all.

Al-Qaida would win big from the battlefield defeat of the Islamic State, regaining its position as the leading voice of Islamic extremism which it lost to the Islamic State due to the latter’s greater brutality and psychological savvy. Some of the violent Muslims that are currently part of the Islamic State or at least supporting it are likely to shift back to al-Qaida in the event of its defeat. For the United States, of course, this means the global war with violent Islamic extremism would not end with the defeat of the Islamic State but simply shift to a new phase.

Without the group as a battlefield rival, their patrons may lose interest. In particular, the Kurds—who face hostile or unfriendly governments in Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria—might be in trouble if the U.S. concern for the Middle East wanes after the Islamic State is defeated.


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Why defeating the IS won’t be all good news for the U.S. 
Why defeating the IS won’t be all good news for the U.S. 
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