02 November 2016
The loss of Mosul will be a huge setback for the self-proclaimed Islamic State group, posing it an existential threat. However, confusing the loss of territory with the defeat of IS will be premature and over-simplistic.
In the last few months, the self-styled Islamic State (IS) group has suffered significant territorial losses in Iraq and Syria. Most recently, the Turkish forces retook the Syrian town of Dabiq from IS—the name of its flagship monthly English language magazine. Similarly, in Iraq after retaking the Sunni-majority Anbar province from IS in July, the Iraqi forces have launched the much-touted operation in Mosul. Currently, Mosul is the last stronghold of IS in Iraq, its strategic cities in Syria, Aleppo and Raqqa are also being targeted. IS is in retreat as the anti-IS forces expand the offensive to cross over into Aleppo.
In the context of the anti-IS operation in Mosul and Aleppo, three important questions beg answers. First, will the loss of territory in Mosul and similar territorial setbacks in Syria defeat the IS? Second, what is the military strategy that will be adopted by the anti-IS coalition—comprising of the Iraqi military and police, Shia militias known as the Popular Mobilisation Units (PMU), the US advisers and the Kurdish Peshmergas? Will it be counter-terrorism (CT) or counter-insurgency (COIN)? Third, if IS implodes, has the international community deliberated and worked out the strategy to deal with the aftermath of such a development?
… Abdul Basit is an Associate Research Fellow (ARF) at the International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research (ICPVTR) of the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Singapore.
ICPVTR / Online
Last updated on 03/11/2016