NOTHING GOOD: What Happens After ISIS Goes Underground.
Taking away territory from ISIS is a temporary stopgap that will merely push the group toward more clandestine activity in the near term, as Craig Whiteside, a professor at the U.S. Naval War College, and other terrorism experts have repeatedly noted. In conjunction, the group will probably shift the locus of its activities to other enclaves where it continues to hold power and can remain capable of resupplying its organization with weapons and other materiel. And, the organization will undoubtedly redouble its efforts and presence in cyberspace, where for years it has enjoyed relative sanctuary in the conduct of offensive and support operations.
How else might ISIS seek to regain momentum once its caliphate is gone?
One concern is that a successful attack on American soil could invite a prompt military response, further galvanizing ISIS and its supporters and making it seem both more powerful and relevant than it actually is. The recent attack in Manchester, England demonstrates ISIS’ reach—it retains a remarkable capability to inspire or direct attacks abroad, including in the West.
ISIS has also proved highly adept at capitalizing upon sectarian tensions in the Muslim world to burnish its image as a protector of Sunnis. This is part of its strategy in Egypt, where recent ISIS attacks have targeted Coptic Christians. If this strategy is deemed successful, there is little doubt that ISIS will replicate this behavior in other countries where it retains a presence, including Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Still, if ISIS is close to being defeated—as many analysts have claimed in recent months—why is there heightened concern about its potential to conduct attacks?