The Pentagon has tended to see victory as imminent in a lot of its really long wars lately, and nowhere has that been more true than in Iraq, where ISIS, and its predecessor al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) have been labeled defeated several times. Brig. Gen. Gary Volesky appears to be the latest taking that position, insisting the conquest of ISIS will mean the end of the ISIS caliphate.
“There’s not going to be a caliphate, if there ever really was one,” Volesky insisted, “so for ISIS, this is going to be a key loss for them and it will be a loss.” He added that Iraqi forces have the momentum and want to capture the city “as quickly as they can.”
The reality, however, is that while Mosul is indeed a hugely important city for ISIS, and the loss will be a major blow, ISIS retains a significant amount of territory, particularly in Syria, and has broad capabilities to launch attacks worldwide.
There are also growing concerns that, if territory is lost by ISIS to the point where they cannot style themselves as a “state” they will go back to a more diffuse group, as they were for most of their existence, focusing more heavily on terror attacks against enemies around the world.
This could prove a huge problem for countries like the US, as they’ve struggled to adapt to ISIS’ change from such a group into a de facto state, and are likely to have just as much trouble adapting as pressure forces ISIS to change its operations again.
ISIS has morphed several times in its existence, and has time and again shown a level of flexibility that has often put its enemies at a disadvantage. Whatever that means in the post-Mosul period, it’s safe to say that ISIS will, in some form, remain a huge and dangerous worldwide force.
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