We’ve been facing the threat of islamist terrorism for a long time — 9/11 was far from the first time al Qaeda had attacked us, for example. But, the emergence of Islamic State’s self-proclaimed caliphate in 2014 took the problem to a new level. For the first time, jihadis controlled a large land area with access to oil wealth and a large supply of modern weapons. The new rogue state was also aggressive and shockingly brutal; within months it had seized control of large parts of Syria and a third of Iraq, and was terrorizing their populations with a barbaric system of law. It was ISIS’s utter savagery that mobilized the world against them — and now, 5 years after the caliphate was established, President Trump has announced that it’s been crushed.
The White House announced in a press release Friday that “…ISIS caliphate has crumbled and last stronghold liberated.” This marks the end of the key phase in a 5-year battle against the Islamic State that’s seen some unlikely allies working together to crush a common enemy of humanity.
- ISIS began in 1999 as a splinter group of al Qaeda, but it only really became prominent in 2006 during the war in Iraq. By 2014, as Barack Obama tried to wind down US operations in the Middle East, the group was strong enough to start seizing territory in Iraq and Syria.
- By the end of 2014, ISIS controlled a large land area that took in a third of — including the strategically important city of Mosul — and a similar percentage of Syria. Around 8 million people lived under the group’s dictatorial rule — and while millions fled from their genocidal assaults on religious minorities, tens of thousands of foreign islamists flocked to ISIS territory to live out their fantasies of true Islam.
- However, the group’s brutality turned out to be its undoing, turning most of the world against it. The Iraqi military, with US assistance, started to drive the jihadis out of their country in 2015. In Syria, ISIS came under attack on two fronts: an alliance of Russia, Iran and Syrian government forces on one side, and a US-led international coalition working with local Kurdish militias on the other.
- Since then the territory of the wannabe caliphate has been shrinking steadily, although ISIS has continued to brutalize the people under its control.
- Now the White House has reported that, according to western journalists on the ground, the last ISIS stronghold in Syria has fallen. The town of Baghouz was where the remaining Islamic State units, abandoned by their leaders, made their final stand — and now they’ve been defeated by Syrian militias backed up by American special forces and air power.
- The threat of ISIS hasn’t disappeared — thousands of its members, mostly foreign turncoats — have scattered, and are capable of carrying out terrorist attacks around the world. But the group’s days of being able to put a conventional army in the field and control territory are over, and President Trump plans to leave up to 1,000 US troops in Syria to make sure it stays that way.