Some Pentagon officials have been insisting for awhile that the defeat of ISIS would ultimately also mean the total extermination of ISIS, but even in Iraq, where the last meaningful swathes of ISIS territory are falling, the group doesn’t appear anything close to defeated, and Pentagon officials are starting to recognize that fact.
Rather than ISIS being a defeated state without territory, the reality is that ISIS will just default back to what they were before they got that territory, a very powerful, and very dangerous, insurgency. The Pentagon confirms they’re expecting a big change in tactics as they move from fighting over land to dealing with landless insurgents.
What’s not clear is what the Pentagon plans to do about that, as if 16 years in Afghanistan and past forays into Iraq have proven anything, it’s that the US military really doesn’t have a cohesive strategy for eliminating a determined insurgent force, or even containing them effectively.
This of course was part of the reason the Pentagon began talking up a permanent US military presence in Iraq after the ISIS war: the reality of the situation has always been that the return of the insurgency just means going back to the same Iraq War they couldn’t win the last time, and taking a timetable off the board before it’s even started is the easiest way for the Pentagon’s leadership to avoid admitting failure when that time inevitably comes.