Once a model colony for extremist terror, the Islamic State group’s capital Raqqa begins its descent into the hands of opposing forces. The fall of the Islamic State's last stronghold in the Levant represents a watershed moment for the region, leaving behind the terrorist group’s monstrous yet effective social experiment of sharia-enforced assimilation.
Raqqa was once touted as the IS basis for sovereign legitimacy, proving its ability to effectively govern a major urban center following conquest. With its crown jewel gone, it feels as though it is time to celebrate. However, larger threats loom as consequences of the Islamic State's encroaching collapse.
The Islamic State's troop contingency prepares for its final stand down in the heart of the West, evolving into a far more sinister and sneaky enemy. The global community remains woefully unprepared to contain resulting blowback from the caliphate’s collapse and to combat IS defectors hidden amid the growing crowds of war-weary refugees.
Unique to the IS is its ability to command what it has captured. A feat reached by few invaders of past, the caliphate brought law to the most lawless of lands in the Middle East.
Iranian-backed rebels have remained by far the most effective fighters against IS troops, second only to the Kurdish Peshmerga. As tensions intensify between Iran and the United States, historically weak U.S.-backed rebels stand a good chance of either capture by the more dominant Iranian and pro-Assad forces, or execution.
Given that direct U.S. intervention without full-blown conventional warfare remains impossible due to Russian and Iranian command within the battlespace, the United States is left to either conform to the situation or to stand behind in Syria and lose ground unabatedly. Whether cooperation with Russian- and Iranian-backed forces is given, the United States will stand idly as multiple anti-United States sides clash for the caliphate’s lost belongings.
The destruction of the Islamic State's crown jewel represents less of a defeat for its followers and more of a coming-of-age as fighters dig their final resting place in foreign lands. Following the collapse of Mosul in July, FBI analysts repeatedly warned European officials that thousands of IS soldiers might cross into Europe as they defected from their weakened commanders.
With fighter evacuations from Mosul occurring as early as January, it was not too much later that the world witnessed fatal terrorist attacks in the United Kingdom and elsewhere.
Driven by a far less optimistic outlook than world domination, the routed defenders of Raqqa began their descent into terrorist cells hidden within the United States and its allies.
As the IS evolves within its host countries, a nastier, sneakier enemy presents itself, one that is able to continue radicalization and acts of terror to a degree not seen before. The organization’s financiers, hidden under the guises of Saudi and Qatari princes, will continue to send money unabated as the administration prefers a cozier, passive relationship with these countries, rather than slamming the hammer down. Only time can tell what horrors these barbaric defectors will soon bring.
Former President Barack Obama's administration’s lack of decisiveness on Syria has unequivocally landed the United States in a far worse situation than in the past. If earlier hawkish actions were undertaken by the United States to show its refusal of a foreign invasion into U.S.-backed rebel territory, cooperation with pro-Assad forces would be reprehensible.
However, given the current environment, this cooperation must be considered as the United States and its allies remain vulnerable to the whims of foreign state actors.