Having lost the vast majority of their territory across Iraq over the past year, official statements on ISIS have presented their defeat as virtually decisive, suggesting that their ouster from Mosul will effectively amount to an end to their presence in Iraq.
At the same time, “liberated” cities across Iraq are reporting that ISIS is very rapidly restoring its presence locally, bribing their supporters out of prison and blackmailing political officials in an attempt to rebuild their substantial financial warchest.
Some are describing ISIS paying bribes as small as $20 to get people released, and in other cases the evidence against detainees going suddenly missing, leading to the release of suspects.
The hopes for a decisive victory remain for Iraq’s top leadership, but many analysts have long warned it wasn’t realistic, and local officials are now echoing that sentiment, saying that ISIS is very effectively adapting itself back into the landless insurgent force it once was.
That ISIS already survived years as such a force, and managed to parlay the still serious sectarian tensions in Iraq into major territorial gains in the past has some provincial officials in Anbar fearing that before long they’ll be back to square one, and ISIS will be back in charge of their cities.
This was always a danger with no real effort made to resolve sectarian unrest in Iraq, and with the US continuing to urge the Iraqis on into new military offensives, Iraq has never taken the time after its “liberation” to try make reforms that would prevent an ISIS resurgence.