Check out my new ‘Policy Watch’ for the Washington Institute: “A Year Since Baghuz, the Islamic State Is Neither Defeated nor Resurging (Yet)”

A lot has happened for the Islamic State since it lost its last sliver of territory in Baghuz, Syria, a year ago this week. Most notable was the death of its first self-declared caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who was killed in a U.S. Special Forces raid in Barisha, Syria, last October. IS subsequently announced his successor as Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Quraishi, and thus far, there have been no signs of any disruption in its activities as a result of this transition. Indeed, despite the U.S. government’s boisterous pronouncements that IS was defeated after the fall of Baghuz, the organization remains active.

Yet it is also too early to state that IS has rebounded. Rather, it is surviving and waiting for the right moments to take advantage—and not necessarily in the same manner it did in 2004-2006 (when it first became relevant) or 2012-2014 (when it resurfaced after major defeats in Iraq). Even so, many of the underlying sectarian and governance dynamics that led to its reemergence eight years ago persist in both Iraq and Syria.

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