A protracted-awaited navy marketing campaign is underway to retake the important thing northern Syrian metropolis of Raqqa from the so-called Islamic State (IS). With the group apparently dropping territory and its de facto central hub now underneath heavy assault, there arises an apparent query: is this the tip of IS?
Alas, the reply must be a powerful “no”. There is rising proof that IS is remodeling itself right into a long-term insurgency in Iraq and Syria, but additionally creating right into a motion with worldwide attain.
The seriousness of the issue might be gauged by the dimensions of the assault on Raqqa, which is underway at the same time as IS stubbornly clings on to the Iraqi metropolis of Mosul. The US-led navy coalition, with all its sources, is now enjoying a way more substantial function in each battles.
The Raqqa operation’s frontline paramilitaries are organised by the Syrian Defence Forces (SDF) and drawn from Kurdish militias of the People’s Protection Units (YPG) along with a spread of Syrian non-Kurdish militias, each strongly supported by the US. The stage of assist has elevated considerably in current months; Reuters has reported that because the opposition forces transfer slowly in direction of Raqqa, they’re having to intently coordinate with the US to keep away from “friendly fire” casualties.
Their ways concentrate on the cautious motion of forces, typically on foot, in direction of the interior metropolis areas IS has fortified and protected, with coalition air energy and artillery fireplace clearing the way in which. The anti-IS forces are being met with sniper and mortar fireplace, despite the fact that the town’s outer districts are solely evenly defended.
The extent of the coalition forces’ involvement is solely now turning into clear. The West is now immediately and intently concerned within the struggle on the bottom in addition to within the air; many of those troops is likely to be particular forces preferring to maintain a low profile, however nonetheless, the Middle East is as soon as once more turning into host to hundreds of Western “boots on the ground”.
On the march
US forces are deeply concerned within the battle for Mosul. As Military Times recently reported:
As the battle to liberate Mosul in Iraq moved deeper into the town, Navy SEALs started carrying black fatigues to mix in with Iraqi counter-terror operatives going road by road, and home by home, to flush IS fighters into the open.
The similar source stories that US particular forces are immediately engaged alongside the SDF in Raqqa. Part of the explanation for this, in addition to the intensive use of air energy and artillery assist, is that IS is proving tenacious within the excessive when defending its predominant bases.
The under-reported battle for Mosul stays the prime instance. In March 2017, when the operation had already lasted greater than twice so long as anticipated, I questioned what may come subsequent: “Is the looming loss of the Grand Mosque the beginning of the end for IS – or is it just another turning point in a long drawn-out war?” Three months later, the “end” is nowhere in sight.
IS forces are nonetheless laagered within the outdated metropolis, and even management three outer districts. During the combating, they’ve crippled the Iraqi Army’s Counter Terror Service, or Golden Division – the very power the Baghdad authorities will rely on to regulate an anticipated post-Mosul insurgency.
Sometime later this 12 months, IS will more than likely lose Raqqa and Mosul, however it can have already got moved in direction of long-term guerrilla campaigns in each international locations. And much more considerably, it can have quickly prolonged its world attain.
All of 2016’s six US fight deaths in Afghanistan have been sustained whereas combating the native IS affiliate, the Islamic State in Khorasan, not the Taliban. The group is additionally believed to be liable for among the high-profile assaults in Kabul, including to an general deterioration within the nation’s safety scenario.
But the issue goes even additional. In the Philippines, president Rodrigo Durtete was so fixated on his struggle in opposition to medication that he ignored the rise of the IS-linked Maute Group close to the southern metropolis of Maerawi. The group subsequently took over the town, igniting an intense battle that has lasted three weeks. Because of the extent of the issue, US surveillance plane, drones and particular forces are actually supporting the Philippine military because it tries to take again management.
This rise in IS affect is a part of a wider concern on the progress of paramilitary actions throughout South-east Asia, not least in Indonesia and Thailand.
Meanwhile, IS is additionally rising its makes an attempt to encourage, incite and even assist organise assaults on the “far enemy” states, particularly in western Europe, in addition to “near enemy” states corresponding to Iran. IS just lately made a present of claiming accountability for lethal assaults in Manchester, London and Iran – a part of a method to sign that its much-vaunted “caliphate” in Iraq and Syria is not its solely objective.
IS and its associated teams are in it for the lengthy haul. Any concept that navy suppression by the US or anybody else will work is wishful pondering.
Paul Rogers, is a Professor of Peace Studies on the University of Bradford
This article was initially printed on The Conversation.