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After Mosul

"Impressive results", that's how Maj. Gen. Naeem al Jabouri of the Iraqi military described the first day of the Battle for Mosul, the largest city under ISIL control. The first towns and villages in the outskirts of Mosul are already under government control, and 2/3 of the land-mines around town have been disabled. Speakers for the Iraqi military have reported that the first hours of the operation had seen vast territorial gains and little resistance.

The battle itself is going to be long and bloody, and the international aid organisations warn of a huge refugee crisis coming up. But the bigger problem is that noone could anticipate what ISIL's future will be. There are all sorts of predictions, none of them too good. Because a victory in Mosul doesn't mean the job would be done. In Iraq and the Middle East, and now in the West too, the threat of the ISIL followers will persist, albeit in a different form.

Sure, the jihadists will no longer be able to claim they've got a "state", a "caliphate" or anything like that. But they won't disappear. They'll simply change their structure, because they're adaptable enough. Their organisation will not crumble. They'll become a Sunni terror organisation just as it used to be before – only, this time with enhanced operative capabilities.

It's likely that the terrorists will be doing their job ad hoc in the future, and pick their targets more carefully. The situation in a number of Middle Eastern countries is such that it provides fruitful soil for extremism – Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Libya have virtually become failed states now. Their governments are incapable of providing security and even the most basic social services to their citizens. And this will be winning more hearts and minds for ISIL. And a ceaseless influx of new recruits.

Naturally, the territorial losses will drastically decrease ISIL's capabilities, but its ideology will survive, and keep attracting disenfranchised people both from the region and abroad. ISIL will mostly move to the Internet. Even now they have tens of thousands of Twitter accounts that keep vomiting tons of extremist stuff daily, including the calls of the late chief ISIL propagandist Abu Muhammad al-Adnani, who urged his followers to use all means available to hurt the evil West: guns, knives, stones, torching houses, anything. "No one is innocent. It's better to attack civilians because that would hurt them more", he barked in his propaganda videos. And his followers have followed.

There's no reason to expect that such propaganda wouldn't continue to motivate many unorganised terrorists, or as they're called, lone wolves. Along with well-planned big operations like Paris 2015, or Charlie Hebdo, the downing of the Russian plane in Sinai or the Istanbul airport bombing a few months ago, we could expect more of the same. None of these are centrally planned by ISIL, they're only inspired by it. The list could go on: South Germany earlier this year, Orlando, the Nice truck, etc, etc.

As the FBI chief James Comey has admitted, the Caliphate may be defeated, but that process of dismantling will put hundreds of extremely dangerous people on the road, and they won't just stick to operating in the Middle East. So we'll end up with a terrorist diaspora of unprecedented proportions for the next 5 to 10 years.

We should add one more threat to this mix. The first generation of ISIL children, born on ISIL-controlled territory, are already out there. It's a new generation who've known nothing but terror and violence, and they'll be a permanent threat.

So, the taking of Mosul won't end this conflict. It'll be just one turning point in it. In fact it could bolster extremism even more. Because Mosul may become a symbol that's even more horrifying than Aleppo. A danger much bigger than ISIL may rise from the ashes of Mosul.

Source: Talk politics.

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