When the Islamic State was pushed out of Mosul and Raqqa, many analysts noted that it would not represent a complete defeat for the group, but rather a return to a different level of insurgency. Such arguments also implied that IS may take advantage of future cleavages and vacuums in Iraq and Syria just as it previously did in 2009-2012, the interregnum between its tactical defeat as “the Islamic State of Iraq” and its reemergence in April 2013. What led to this reemergence, and how does the current environment compare to that of the group’s first “defeat”? Answering these questions can shed light on the trajectory of any future IS comebacks and the related debate about the future of U.S. troops in Iraq and Syria.
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