With the recent loss of their capital city in Raqqa, Syria, ISIS has been all but exterminated on the ground in both Iraq and Syria. However, the loss of territory has also meant an extreme loss of life.
According to NY Post and forces on the ground in Syria, Kurdish and Arab fighters have received orders to kill all foreign ISIS fighters when they find them.
Ever since the battle of Raqqa, which saw US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces take the city, international news agencies have reported that foreign jihadis were committed to fighting to the death.
Unlike their Syrian or Iraqi peers, foreign ISIS fighters essentially have nowhere else to go. Europe, North Africa, North America, and Asia do not want these fighters to return home.
As such, American and Coalition advisors have told their Kurdish, Arab, Armenian, Turkmen, and Assyrian charges to kill foreign jihadis — rather than capture them.
“Our mission is to make sure any foreign fighter who is here, who joined ISIS from a foreign country and came into Syria, they will die here in Syria,” said Brett McGurk, the top American envoy for the Coalition forces currently supporting operations in Syria and Iraq.
Increasingly, thanks to victories on the ground by the Syrian Arab Army, Hezbollah, and Russian advisors, ISIS has all but been removed from southern and southwestern Syria.
In the north, the SDF have not only taken Raqqa, but they are moving south in order to encircle ISIS in a ring of steel that includes not only the SDF, but also those forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
To the East, the Turkish Army has re-entered Syria in order to support pro-Turkish units of the Free Syrian Army in their fight against those Islamist forces that currently control Idlib Province.
While not officially aligned with ISIS, Ahrar al-Sham, Jaysh al-Islam, and Tahrir al-Sham do have connections to Al-Qaeda and are considered a serious threat by governments in the region and by the United States.
Turkey also hopes that by knocking Al-Qaeda out of Syria, they can de-escalate their conflict with Russia.
In Iraq, ISIS’ loss of power and prestige can be seen by the fact that the Iraqi Army and its Iranian-backed militias are now more concerned about taking Kurdish territory than knocking out the last few remaining ISIS outposts in Anbar Province.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has told the Shi’ite militias supported by Iran to “go home,” while simultaneously encouraging the Sunni state of Saudi Arabia to get more involved in Iraqi affairs.
So far, some Western media outlets have written stories about how ISIS recruits have yet to return back home in numbers that could constitute a serious threat to governments in Europe and Asia. However, although they’ve lost their “caliphate” in the Middle East, ISIS fighters can still carry out terror attacks all over the world.
While continuing insurgencies in Libya, Yemen, Somalia, and the Philippines could still draw foreign recruits to ISIS, there seems to be a consensus that ISIS 2.0 will be a guerrilla movement along the lines of Al-Qaeda.