The Coming ISIS Jailbreak

The Strategy That Enabled the Caliphate’s Rise Just Became Viable Again

ISIS fighters parade through the streets of Raqqa, June 2014. Reuters

U.S. President Donald Trump just handed the Islamic State (ISIS) a literal get-out-of-jail free card. On October 6, he announced the withdrawal of U.S. forces from northeastern Syria in order to make way for a Turkish invasion. The Turks had in their sights the Kurdish forces with whom the United States partnered to topple ISIS’ territorial caliphate only seven months prior. Trump’s decision was a betrayal of these partners, whose ties to militants on the Turkish side of the border threatened Ankara. More ominously, the decision was a gift to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, and the biggest single boost to his organization since it captured a large swath of Iraq and Syria in 2014.

Remarkably, ISIS won’t even have to adjust its strategy to seize this opportunity to rebuild. It can merely reuse the playbook that enabled its initial rise: a systematic campaign of jailbreaks that yielded

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