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Described as defeated, Islamic state is stopped with guerrilla tactics

For three years, terrorists controlled much of the territory in Iraq and Syria. They ran their own state and collected tens of millions of dollars in taxes and used the proceeds to correct gaps, issue birth certificates, fund attacks and recruit supporters from around the world.

All but 1 percent of this area is now gone, which has caused the White House to describe the Islamic state as "annihilated", "completely destroyed" and "in its end". But to suggest that ISIS was defeated as President Trump did when he announced plans to pull US troops out of Syria, ignoring the experience of recent history.

The group has been declared convinced before, only to prove the politicians wrong and to rise stronger than before.

Last week's attack by a suicide bomber outside a shawarma restaurant in the Syrian town of Manbij, killing at least 15 people, including four Americans, is an example of how the group is still a serious, violent threat.

"People make the mistake of believing that when you leave territory, it's linear – they will continue to lose," says Seth G. Jones, Senior Adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and the author of The Center's latest study of ISIS & # 39; troop force.

"When you lose territory, smart groups change to guerrilla strategy and tactics, including targeted murders, ambushes, attacks, bombings," he added. "You are carrying the enemy down."

Mr. Trump's statement that ISIS has been defeated is the second time the group has been described in this way.

A decade ago, the group, known as the Islamic state in Iraq, was so heavily pomped that officials considered it down to its last 700 fighters. During a 90-day period, US forces have arrested or killed 34 of the group's top 42 leaders.

With their troops exhausted and superior, the terrorist group's emir complained privately that they could no longer hold the ground.

"We now have no place where we can stand for another quarter of an hour," says the emir Abu Omar al-Baghdadi that he has told his deputies under the group's own account for the period before the US The troop's withdrawal from Iraq was completed in 2011.

But after this withdrawal, the group quickly set out, and only four years later succeeded in taking a territory the size of Britain.

The latest estimates show that the Islamic state has more than 20 to 30 times the warriors had the last time it was sentenced.

Although many of its leaders have been killed, the group's caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and several of his supreme deputies are believed to be alive.

But the crumblin g of the state has made it difficult to recruit, and only one river of new members is believed to be heading to the region from abroad, down from the thousands crossing their territory before.

Meanwhile, attacks have fallen in some critical places like Iraq. It does not mean that the group does not remain deadly there. In 2018, in the months after Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared ISIS victory, the group carried out more than 1,200 attacks in Iraq according to a data set.

Also, the group's acoustics continue to kill around the world, including last month at one of Europe's Christmas markets in Strasbourg, France, where a weapon who had left ISIS despite a USB stick killed five people and a trail in Morocco's atlas mountains, where a group of men who had also recorded a promise killed two Scandinavian tourists

. With the attack on the Syrian restaurant, the world was once again reminded of the group's ability to carry out deadly attacks.

"When Obama enlightened America's flight from Iraq, the fire of our war burned only in Iraq," he says, according to a translation from the SITE Intelligence Group, which oversees extremist content. "Today, the war lamps are still burning in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Yemen, Sinai, East Africa and Libya," he said, naming the other countries where ISIS branches have flourished.

"It is quite obvious that the group today is far stronger than the Islamic state in Iraq, then," said Brian Fishman, a former research director at the Fight Terrorism Center at the US Military Academy in West Point and the author of Book created by ISIS. [19659002] Experts say the White House mistakenly matches the group's shrunk territorial attitudes with its overall strength.

Mr. Hassan documented how the group drew up hit-and-r in early 2016 un-attacks in the cities it had lost. These rapid operations proved to cause damage to the new rulers of these cities without the intention of regaining territorial control.

Michael Knights, a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, documented how throughout Iraq the group has focused on laser-like precision by killing "mocha" or village chiefs as well as tribal age and local politicians.

On average, there were 15 attempted murders on local leaders each month in the first 10 months of 2018 by Mr. Knights


These targeted killings were a little cover in the international news media, however, they have helped to put confidence in the Iraqi place in their government's ability to protect them – and drive young men back into the ISIS fold, Mr. Knights said.

"If ISIS can get to your city and kill the most important person in your city some of the year, do you feel liberated?" He asked. 9002] The current tactics of the group reflect the ISIS & # 39; strategy a decade ago, which led to rebirth.

"They realized you didn't have to mount 6,000 attacks per month," said Mr Knights. "Just kill the real 50 people every month."

In its own literature, the Islamic state tells of being in a "rage" or surveillance phase.

"They spend time learning the routine of the new security forces in the city," said Mr Hassan. "They look for security gaps. They look for patterns."

"When you see gaps, you begin to work through those gaps," he added. "They don't just have a crazy guy out, start shooting and being killed."

It is in this context that analysts see the deadly attack last Wednesday on US forces in Manbij.

With its tiled walls, shiny tables and tasty shawarma sandwiches, the restaurant Palace of Princes became a favorite haunt of the 2,000 US troops stationed in Syria. They would come in to pick up the pickup orders before coming back on the patrol. Other times they parked their armored cars in front and sat at a table.

The soldiers seemed to have made a little effort to hide their presence or vary their routine to make it harder for enemies to track them.

In a newsletter ISIS released shortly after the attack, the group quoted a member of its "subject" or intelligence and security department based in Manbij, explaining that the militant group regularly tried to beat US forces in rural Manbij. Their bet failed until last week.

In the article, the ISIS operator explained the monitoring that the group had used, as the US forces were located on three small bases on the outskirts of Manbij. He said US troops regularly moved between these bases in convoys with five to 10 armored cars escorted by guard vehicles belonging to a US-backed Kurdish militia.

Although it is impossible to verify claims in the ISIS newsletter – and the Pentagon has not released further details of the attack – the monitoring described in the article is consistent with what is known about how the group is performing its rebellion.

He explained that American soldiers entered the city in convoys of Land Cruisers, but rarely appeared outside their armored cars, according to a translation from the SITE Intelligence Group, which oversees extremist content.

"To make an attack like this means that ISIS carried out intelligence and reconnaissance on US soldiers' movement and had someone preset in the city, so when they got information about timing and placement they could get someone on the spot pretty fast," said Mr . Jones of t he strategic and international study group. "It means that in Manbij they have a cell structure."

Mr. Jones said the US soldiers demand that militants carry intelligence, build the bomb, transport the bomb, and deploy a suicide bomber.

"It shows that they have an illegal network," he said.

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