It possessed territory, access to sources of revenue like oilfields (in Mosul), a fighting army, and administrative and police structures.
While the Russian claim that ISIS chief Abu-Bakr al-Baghdadi was killed in one of its recent air attacks needs corroboration, it is confirmed that Islamic State or Daesh, as the outfit is known in Arabic, has been driven out of Mosul in northern Iraq, its command headquarters, by government troops. Iraqi forces took control of the al-Nuri mosque in central Mosul, historically one of Islam’s most iconic sites, from Daesh after fierce fighting towards the end of June. It was from this famous shrine that al-Baghdadi had on June 29, 2014 declared himself as the “caliph”, or leader, of all Muslims and founded Islamic State. With the Iraq Army mounting a heavy campaign to capture Mosul, the so-called caliph fled his headquarters, leaving its defence to local commanders.
Is ISIS finished as an organisation, and have those who spread terror in its name been defanged? Probably. But this should be said with the proviso that ideological currents take time to fully abate even when the organisational structures that prop them up are dismantled.
It will help if the government in Baghdad adopts policies that are perceived as respectful of Iraq’s Sunni minority. With ISIS-dominated areas of Iraq falling, it is unlikely that the contiguous region around Raqqa in Syria, which is ISIS’ administrative capital so to speak, can hold out. In that sense, the organisational dismemberment of ISIS in the foreseeable future can be said to be on the cards.
ISIS was a far more deadly organism than Al Qaeda, the killing of whose chieftain Osama bin Laden at a safe house at Abbottabad, Pakistan, was greeted with relief across the world. While Al Qaeda operated on the basis of individual cells, that were at the heart of its existence, and had no headquarters, ISIS possessed the trappings of a state.
It possessed territory, access to sources of revenue like oilfields (in Mosul), a fighting army, and administrative and police structures. These attributes drew to it young recruits even from Europe and the United States, not to say Muslim countries and India, who responded to its ideological call of returning to the roots of Islam by imitating the way of life of early Muslims centuries ago.
It was the frightening and extremely rapid military rise of ISIS, which threatened the regional interests of great powers like Russia and the US, that led to its downfall, with Russian forces tilting the balance in the end. The American attitude toward ISIS was one of horror at its countless atrocities, but also a seeming soft-peddling in light of regional priorities in the wider West Asian theatre.
Daesh had emerged as a force in Afghanistan and its removal or depletion will benefit the Taliban, which calls for careful calibration of policy by India.