Defeated ISIS has set up a new jihadist proto-state
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- Islamic State ISIS is an Islamic extremist terrorist organization controlling territory in Iraq...[+]
On 28 February, President Donald Trump declared: “We just took over 100 percent caliphate.” He was talking about the lands that ISIS controlled in Syria and Iraq, although he wasn’t exactly right. But now the Pentagon’s Africa Command (Africom) says that ISIS is already reconstituting itself in West Africa, even to the extent of setting up a new caliphate. So far it is much smaller than the former Middle Eastern territory – but there are some worrying comparisons to be drawn.
The original manifestation of ISIS came out of nowhere between 2011 and 2014, originating in the remnants of al-Qaida in Iraq and using the chaos in Syria and the despair of the Iraqi army to take control of a swathe of land from Raqqa in northern Syria to Mosul in Iraq. At its peak it controlled an area almost as large as the UK with a population of six million.
The brutality of the regime, not least against minorities such as the Yazidis, was apparent early on. However, it was also notable for its technocratic competence and maintenance of order. If people accepted the rigidity of the rule and did not step out of line, their lives were at least more ordered and predictable than the chaos of post-war Iraq.
It wasn’t that different to the way in which the Taliban had established a brutal yet coherent order across much of war-torn Afghanistan in the mid-1990s. In the case of the ISIS caliphate it was much aided by a cadre of Iraqi technocrats who had run many of the public services under the pre-war Saddam Hussain regime in Iraq. Many of these were then summarily dismissed by the US Coalition Provisional Authority in 2003 because of their membership of the Ba’ath Party, and it was these people who were willing to throw in their lot with ISIS.
For a few years the caliphate survived and was the core symbol of the ISIS approach. Where al-Qaida was all about establishing Islamist rule by overthrowing existing regimes, ISIS chose to capture territory across two countries and establish its version of ‘boots on the ground’. It did not last as the US established a new military coalition in 2014 and started a four-year air war that killed over 60,000 ISIS supporters and enabled Iraqi, Kurdish and other forces to overrun the caliphate.
Source: Open Democracy