The New New Jihadist Thing
Meeting the ISIS Challenge
The Myth of the Caliphate
The Political History of an Idea
Collateral Damage in Iraq
The Rise of ISIS and the Fall of al Qaeda
State of Confusion
ISIS' Strategy and How to Counter It
The Women of ISIS
Understanding and Combating Female Extremism
Syria's Democracy Jihad
Why ISIS Fighters Support the Vote
How ISIS Makes Bank
ISIS Sends a Message
What Gestures Say About Today’s Middle East
Syria and the Violence in Iraq
Why Turkish Citizens are Joining ISIS
Turkey's Kurdish Buffer
Why Erdogan Is Ready to Work With the Kurds
ISIS Enters Egypt
How Washington Must Respond
ISIS' Next Prize
Will Libya Join the Terrorist Group's Caliphate?
Crime and Punishment in Jordan
The Killing of Moath al-Kasasbeh and the Future of the War Against ISIS
This is What Détente Looks Like
The United States and Iran Join Forces Against ISIS
ISIS Goes to Asia
Extremism in the Middle East Isn't Only Spreading West
Measuring the Threat from Returning Jihadists
Don't Hype the Threat of Returning Jihadists
ISIS' Gruesome Gamble
Why the Group Wants a Confrontation with the United States
ISIS' Worst Nightmare
Why the Group Is Not Trying to Provoke a U.S. Attack
Staying Out of Syria
Why the United States Shouldn't Enter the Civil War—But Why It Might Anyway
The Hollow Coalition
Washington's Timid European Allies
Hammer and Anvil
How to Defeat ISIS
ISIS Is Not a Terrorist Group
Why Counterterrorism Won’t Stop the Latest Jihadist Threat
ISIS on the Run
The Terrorist Group Struggles to Hold On
Ready for War With ISIS?
Foreign Affairs' Brain Trust Weighs In
The Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) is starting to show some wear and tear. True, it pulled off the gruesome execution of Jordanian pilot Moaz al-Kasasbeh; true, it has attracted jihadists from across the world; and true, it still holds swaths of Iraq and Syria. But cracks are appearing in the self-styled Caliphate.
One reason is that, starting in the late summer, the U.S. intervention in Iraq helped stall the ISIS advance. Since then, troops have been able to go on the offensive and start expelling the terrorist group from the territory it holds; it has already lost Kobani, the north Syrian border town where much of the violence is centered, and has also suffered significant defeats in Bajyi, Jurf al-Sakhar, Diyala, and the Mosul Dam. In the grand scheme of things, this does not translate into much: Of the 55,000 square kilometres of territory ISIS controls, it has lost only 700—around one percent. But at least the momentum has been checked.
Now, a planned spring offensive, a joint U.S.-Iraqi effort to retake the Sunni capital of Mosul, could be a watershed moment. Iraqi Security Forces, Kurdish Peshmerga troops, and Sunni tribes—backed by U.S. air support and military advisers—will look to end ISIS’ reign in the north and west Iraq, restoring government leadership in local towns and cities.
There are risks in this strategy. ISIS finds it easiest to take over Sunni areas where there is a looming threat of Shia or Pershmerga involvement. To retake Mosul, then, the coalition will have to avoid sending Peshmerga and Shia militias into the fray. The further these forces penetrate the Sunni enclave of Mosul, the likelier they are to push Sunnis into armed resistance.
Absent any Shia or Pershmerga threat to exploit, ISIS quickly loses tactical alliances, such as the Ansar al-Sunna, Army of the Men of the Naqshbandiyah Order (JRTN), and the 1920 Revolutionary Brigades. And when it fights alone, it loses. For example, ISIS had
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