Captured Islamic State militants in Mosul Martyn Aim/Getty Images

ISIS After Mosul

As ISIS's dreams of a caliphate slip away, its hold over the hearts and minds of frustrated young potential fighters may be weakening. But, unless a concerted effort is made to discredit jihadists and strengthen political systems, the cycle of terror and violence in Iraq, Syria, and elsewhere in the Middle East will remain unbroken.

RAMALLAH – Last week, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared that the Islamic State (ISIS) had been driven out of Mosul, the city where the group first announced its self-styled caliphate three years ago. Before long, ISIS is expected also to lose Raqqa, its last stronghold, on which its grip is already slipping. But it would be a mistake to assume that these defeats will spell the demise of ISIS or similar violent extremist groups.

A group like ISIS relies on its ability to attract young people to join its ranks, by offering frustrated individuals an ideologically charged sense of purpose. And ISIS has proven adept at doing just that, drawing fighters from all over the world who are willing to die for its cause – to create an expansive caliphate – and inspiring many more to carry out attacks in their home countries.

Recapturing territory from ISIS – particularly the cities that have served as “capitals” of their self-proclaimed caliphate – goes a long way toward weakening it, by sending the message that the group cannot, in fact, translate its religious ideology into a real geopolitical force. And, indeed, US intelligence estimates indicate that, by last September, the flow of foreign recruits crossing from Turkey into Syria to join groups like ISIS had dropped from a high of 2,000 per month to as few as 50.

To continue reading, please log in or enter your email address.

Registration is quick and easy and requires only your email address. If you already have an account with us, please log in. Or subscribe now for unlimited access.


Log in;
  1. China corruption Isaac Lawrence/Getty Images

    The Next Battle in China’s War on Corruption

    • Chinese President Xi Jinping knows well the threat that corruption poses to the authority of the Communist Party of China and the state it controls. 
    • But moving beyond Xi's anti-corruption purge to build robust and lasting anti-graft institutions will not be easy, owing to enduring opportunities for bureaucratic capture.
  2. Italy unemployed demonstration SalvatoreEsposito/Barcroftimages / Barcroft Media via Getty Images

    Putting Europe’s Long-Term Unemployed Back to Work

    Across the European Union, millions of people who are willing and able to work have been unemployed for a year or longer, at great cost to social cohesion and political stability. If the EU is serious about stopping the rise of populism, it will need to do more to ensure that labor markets are working for everyone.

  3. Latin America market Federico Parra/Getty Images

    A Belt and Road for the Americas?

    In a time of global uncertainty, a vision of “made in the Americas” prosperity provides a unifying agenda for the continent. If implemented, the US could reassert its historical leadership among a group of countries that share its fundamental values, as well as an interest in inclusive economic growth and rising living standards.

  4. Startup office Mladlen Antonov/Getty Images

    How Best to Promote Research and Development

    Clearly, there is something appealing about a start-up-based innovation strategy: it feels democratic, accessible, and so California. But it is definitely not the only way to boost research and development, or even the main way, and it is certainly not the way most major innovations in the US came about during the twentieth century.

  5. Trump Trade speech Bill Pugliano/Getty Images .

    Preparing for the Trump Trade Wars

    In the first 11 months of his presidency, Donald Trump has failed to back up his words – or tweets – with action on a variety of fronts. But the rest of the world's governments, and particularly those in Asia and Europe, would be mistaken to assume that he won't follow through on his promised "America First" trade agenda.