Spearhead Special Report – 23.01.2018
By Fatima Ayub
Research Analyst, Spearhead Research
When commanders of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), waved the victory flag of their forces at the iconic Al-Naim square in Raqqa, celebrations across the world ensued. ISIS, the global jihadist caliphate had been defeated. At its peak in 2014, the self-proclaimed Islamic State ruled over approximately nine million people across Syria and Iraq — equal to the entire country of Jordan. The group striking semblance to a nation state as the strongest, best-resourced and most ideologically potent terrorist quasi-state of the post-9/11 era. The organization that had taken the world by storm was going to find that defeating ISIS was to require the coming together of international powers, a multi-pronged military strategy, consistent monetary and on-ground assistance in droves and a concerted effort to understand the dynamics of the terror group that unilaterally declared a state in its name.
Today, its territory is all but gone — According to a June 2017 estimate by IHS Markit, a defense analysis firm, ISIS has lost 60 percent of its territory and a whopping 80 percent of its revenue since January 2015.
Thus, as the defeat of ISIL in Mosul in 2016 and Raqqa in October, 2017 to SDF forces garnered world attention solely by virtue of being the group’s first headquarters and strategic capitals, the celebration appears premature. In essence, loss of these territories remains only an emblematic loss of the terror group’s capital and strategically, the military defeat in either capitals as key operational centers for the group does not translate into minimizing the group’s thriving capacity.