Civilian children stand next to a burnt vehicle during clashes between Iraqi security forces and ISIS in the northern Iraq city of Mosul, June 2014.

Since October, the Islamic State (or ISIS) has appeared to be on the verge of defeat. Yet even if ISIS were never to reemerge, the United States is no more secure against the jihadist threat than it was in the past. ISIS is just one of hundreds of Islamist extremist groups that have formed since 2011. All of these groups have similar goals centered around creating a transnational caliphate using military force, and all of them see the United States as standing in their way. In the event of ISIS’ defeat, numerous additional Salafi jihadist organizations will be ready to take its place as long as the conditions that gave rise to the group persist.

One of the major trends over the last six years has been the rise of Islamist extremist groups fighting in civil wars in Muslim-majority countries. By 2016, Salafi jihadist groups made up approximately 35 percent of all major

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  • BARBARA F. WALTER is Professor of Political Science at the University of California–San Diego’s School of Global Policy and Strategy.
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