President Trump has effectively accomplished a major campaign goal and few in the media are talking about it.
According to The Washington Times, a major victory was achieved Tuesday against ISIS. US-backed forces seized control of ISIS’ last remaining stronghold and its capital, the city of Raqqa. ISIS is no longer a “state.”
According to Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) spokesman Talal Sello, despite a few hiding militants, the fight in Raqqa is over. “Everything is finished in Raqqa. Our forces have taken full control of Raqqa,” he said.
Raqqa was one of the first major cities to fall into the hands of the terrorist organization when it rose to power in Syria and Iraq. It was a major stronghold that acted as a hub for the organization’s activities and power.
But on Tuesday, Syrian Democratic Forces, backed by the US, ended a four-month campaign to take the city of Raqqa. According to military officials, the loss of Raqqa is disastrous for ISIS. It effectively cuts off their ability to raise funds, recruit followers, and launch attacks against their enemies. Additionally, it denies their claim of statehood.
Though the fall of Raqqa represents a major victory and has dealt a strong blow to an already weakened ISIS, they still pose a lingering threat.
This is the warning US military spokesman Army Col. Ryan Dillon gave reporters after the taking of Raqqa. “Even after the … military defeat of ISIS there’s still going to be work to be done. ISIS will be defeated militarily, but we know that there still is going to be the ideology and the continued insurgent activity as they devolve into that.”
The concern is that with the fall of the ISIS state in the Middle East, remnant forces will spread far and wide to create smaller cells to continue acts of terror, particularly in Southwest Asia, North Africa and parts of the Pacific.
US Rep. Michael T. McCaul (R-TX), Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, says these smaller cells remain a continued threat: “While their territory continues to shrink, they remain a credible terror threat both at home and abroad, so we must continue to fight against the affiliate groups and their networks that carry out and inspire terror around the globe.”
Newsweek reports that the United States Institute of Peace released a report revealing that they believe ISIS, due to its ideological traction abroad, will remain a threat for “years to come as a pure insurgency using terrorist tactics.”
According to the report, “Eliminating an extremist group physically does not defang its ideology or change the underlying circumstances that allowed the group to gain traction in the first place.”
With its defeat in Raqqa, ISIS can no longer be seen as a “state.” Is ISIS now a dysfunctional and splintered organization?
The only way to truly defeat ISIS, according to the Institute, is to attack its cultural roots. “Reconstruction, rehabilitation and particularly reconciliation are just as important as counterterrorism campaign in building societal resilience against the appeal of extremism. Failure to carry out these steps has been a recurrent problem,” members of the Institute point out.
The seizure of Raqqa and other military victories achieved under President Trump have gone a long way in eliminating the threat of ISIS. That said, as long as ISIS members remain–and the toxic ideology is spread–ISIS will continue to be a threat long after their organization crumbles. Lone operators and smaller terror cells will continue waging war from the shadows.