ISIS might have lost Mosul in Iraq, but an ISIS 2.0 is taking shape globally

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi on 10 July declared that Mosul, which was once the defacto capital of Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), has been recaptured from the dreaded terror outfit.

But this has come with an enormous cost both to the city and the Iraqi forces. The city of Mosul has been battered and bruised in the war. According to an estimate [pdf], as many as 700 soldiers of the Iraqi Special Forces have been killed in the battle for Mosul.

Even as Iraq declared victory on ISIS in Mosul, Rukmini Callimachi, a Correspondent with the New York Times, who has extensively covered the war between the Iraqi forces and the terror outfit ISIS, says that it is premature to conclude that the operation against the terror outfit in Iraq is over. Earlier the Syrian Democratic Forces had wrestled control over Syrian city of Raqqa from the ISIS.

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Both Iraq and Syria still have vast stretches of safe havens for the ISIS. But its core narrative of building an “Islamic State” is in tatters after the ISIS’s defeat in Mosul and Raqqa. However, the ISIS is not dead yet.

ISIS has declared to build a “religious government” in Iraq on the lines what Taliban did in Afghanistan. The Islamic State still has a powerful presence in Iraq’s Anbar province and in the city of Tal Afar. Reports suggest that after the terror outfit lost the territory of Mosul, the ISIS now considers Tal Afar, located west of Mosul, as its alternative headquarters.

The rank and file of Islamic State leadership has a number of core leaders from Saddam Hussein’s Baathist organisation, who are known for their survival skills and the wave of jihadi networks they built.

“To survive whether Allah blesses us with consolidation or we move into the bare, open desert, displaced and pursued.” This was what ISIS senior spokesperson Abu Muhammad Adnani said before he was killed in a US airstrike last year.

The top guns of the dreaded Islamist outfit are reportedly preparing a roadmap for Islamic State 2.0. According to an Associated Press report, the ISIS is rebranding itself through a mix of a local insurgency and digitally-connected global jihadis as it wants to maintain both local and global support base. The ISIS is drawing new territories, inducting thousands of new recruits, apart from reviving its source of funding.

A UN report, released last week, suggests that a first group of Islamic State fighters from Syria and Iraq, numbering more than 100, arrived in Afghanistan at the beginning of February, followed by a smaller group of around 20 at the end of March. According to reports, each terrorist of the group receives a handsome payment of $500 to $600 per month from Islamic State’s central command and that is triple the amount being offered by Taliban.

It could be noted that the ISIS, the richest terror outfit of the world, earns millions of dollars from oil money, ransoms and extortion. But with its Iraq and Syria operations in doldrums on the wake of mounting counter offensive from US, Iraq and Syria forces, the Islamic State reportedly told its Afghanistan contingent that it needs to be “self-financing.”

To be in business, the Islamic terror outfit are trying to make their ways to Europe or North Africa to plot terror strikes. In Europe, the ISIS cadre are reportedly hiding among the influx of migrants. Last month’s attack at London Bridge, which the ISIS called  as a “revenge” against the US-backed coalition is just an indication. The terror outfit vows more violence in the days to come. These incidents of terror could help the outfit extort more money and finance its operations.

Colin Clark, an analyst with American policy think tank RAND was quoted as saying, “Islamic State is a global group but it is more regionally anchored. I do not see them taking up and travelling wholesale to another place. They are going to go where they have roots. They are going to insinuate themselves in local conflicts.”

In India, the ISIS is selling its dreams of Islamic caliphate in Kashmir based on eighth-century Islam and Sharia law. A recent publication of the dreaded terror outfit disclosed its nefarious game-plan about Kashmir. It is not just Kashmir, the ISIS eyeing Kerala as a potential territory for its operation. There are reports that 21 youth from Kerala, who went missing since 2016, might have joined the ISIS. Recently, a lady from Kerala – who was converted to Islam from Christianity – has reportedly gone to Afghanistan along with her husband to join the dreaded terror outfit.

Political writer, policy observer.

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