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National Security

Victory Over ISIS?

The caliphate may be gone, but the toxic and radical ideology remains a threat.

Nate Jackson · Mar. 22, 2019

The Islamic State’s “caliphate” in Iraq and Syria was the physical — and temporary — manifestation of what we’ve long called Jihadistan — a borderless nation of Islamofascists with global reach. America’s long war with these asymmetric adversaries arguably began in 1993 with the first bombing of the World Trade Center, and it continues today. Its very asymmetry is part of why the fight has been so difficult.

It’s important to keep this in mind when reading reports such as this from Fox News: “The caliphate has crumbled, and the final offensive is over.” Embedded journalists in Baghouz, Syria, report that the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) has waged a successful campaign against the last stronghold of ISIS. “This final corner of the caliphate was in the far eastern desert of Syria,” Fox reports. “It was where ISIS first captured territory, and it is where they finally lost.”

Reuters reports, “U.S.-backed Syrian forces were sweeping on Thursday through the final enclave that had been held by Islamic State fighters, and said they would declare the group defeated once a search for hidden mines and jihadist holdouts was complete.”

ISIS was driven out of Iraq in December 2017.

We’d caution against declaring any final victory for the reasons stated above. ISIS may indeed have lost its territory, but its twisted and radical ideology is still alive and not bound by geography. Nevertheless, President Donald Trump has implemented a remarkable turnaround in American national-security policy. Whereas Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton effectively created the Islamic State, Trump — albeit with a rather schizophrenic approach to action in Syria — has worked to bring about its territorial destruction. That’s worth celebrating.

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