The Islamic State is seeking a possible resurgence
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- Islamic State ISIS is an Islamic extremist terrorist organization controlling territory in Iraq...[+]
Some assessments suggest it has increased its manpower and resources while opposing foreign forces have withdrawn or downsized their capabilities. This has been particularly noticeable in Iraq where France, Spain and the Netherlands have announced that they would temporarily withdraw their forces while the UK and Germany indicated they would downsize their presence.
Contacts between the US forces in Iraq and the Iranian Popular Mobilisation Units, highlighted by the death of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani in January, have also been a distraction with US forces increasingly deploying from confronting the Islamic State.
Nor has Iraq’s political situation helped in confronting the Islamic State. The government collapsed in December following a series of economic and political crises, and the recently formed government is most likely going to be distracted by an increasing protest movement, a lack of reforms and a weakening economy as well as having to contain the COVID-19 crisis.
The situation in Syria, particularly with American disengagement in the north and recent Syrian deployments to defend Kurdish regions against Turkish incursions, has allowed the Islamic State to regain territory.
A recent UN assessment also suggests the Islamic State has over 20,000 fighters with access to hundreds of millions of dollars. This has allowed it to increase its activities with more frequent attacks.
This situation is likely to continue, resulting in a greater threat not only in local and regional terms but also potentially at the international level. Neighbouring regional countries such as Jordan, Iran and Lebanon, which previously were confronted by Iraqi based Islamic State units, are likely to experience a similar outcome.
As Stratfor Global and Security Analyst, Thomas Abi-Hanna, has stated, such actions are also likely to inspire other militants outside the region who may have no direct connection with the group. While it is difficult to identify where such attacks will take place, it is possible that they will occur when such attacks were carried out when the Islamic State was at its peak in 2014 and 2015.
These included a number of countries in Western Europe such as France, Belgium, Germany and the UK while, in the Middle East, Jordan, Morocco, Lebanon, Tunisia, Libya and Saudi Arabia could be involved. In Egypt, despite operations by the Egyptian military, sometimes supported by the Israeli Air Force, a group remains active.
Of course, the Islamic State has also formed branches that have continued to operate across much of West Africa and Afghanistan.
In the Philippines, despite the deaths of over 900 insurgents in 2017, following the capture of the town of Marawi, the local Islamic State franchise remains active and recently burnt a Catholic church.
While the Islamic State is a long way from being able to recapture the territory it previously held when it established a so-called caliphate, this may well remain its ultimate goal and indications are that it is moving to achieve this outcome.
Source: Future Directions