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Islam,Terrorism and Jihad (18 May 2016 NewAgeIslam.Com)

How Close Are We To Defeating Daesh?

By Osama Al Sharif

18 May 2016

It has been more than four years since Daesh first appeared on the scene in Iraq and later in Syria, making spectacular territorial gains in both countries and presenting itself as a powerful radical organization that posed an unprecedented geopolitical challenge to the region and to the world.

Daesh has used sectarian infighting to its advantage in Iraq; finding refuge among disgruntled Sunni tribes who had suffered under the pro-Iran Baghdad government and the confessional system that the US had imposed after its 2003 invasion. Born out of Al-Qaeda, it quickly replaced it and was able to wage a cyber recruiting campaign that attracted thousands of militants from Europe, North Africa, central Asia and elsewhere.

In Syria, Daesh was able to occupy large territories in northern and eastern Syria, turning Raqqa into its de facto capital with land links to Mosul, which it had captured two years ago. The radical group committed atrocities against religious and ethnic minorities and soon began to establish footholds in countries such as Egypt, Libya, Tunisia and Yemen. It sent suicide attackers to spread terror in Europe. At one point in time the group appeared invincible even as a US-led coalition began to wage an air campaign against it in Syria and Iraq.

But after more than two years of concentrated bombings and special operations targeting key Daesh leaders, signs of a crushing defeat of the group are nowhere to be seen. Even as the US declares that Daesh’s territory is shrinking, the group is able to reach the heart of Baghdad and is wedged in areas not far from Damascus. Recently it has managed to occupy fresh territory in Homs, including oil fields, and is yet to be defeated in Fallujah, Rutba and other areas in Anbar province in Iraq. The battle for Mosul promises to be hard, long and costly, hampered by a political stalemate in Baghdad. And in the past few days Daesh has carried out a number of suicide attacks in and around the capital of Iraq, taking advantage of the political turmoil that has crippled the country’s institutions.

Farther away, Daesh affiliate in Sinai has been locking horns with the Egyptian Army for more than two years without a sign that it is on the retreat. Fears that the radical group will move operations into the Nile Valley were realized when Daesh claimed responsibility for a lethal attack against police in the Cairo suburb of Hilwan last week. The war against Beit Al-Maqdis group in Sinai has drained Egyptian resources.

Daesh has also taken territory in Libya, close to the borders with Tunisia, in addition to the city of Sirte. It is being backed by local tribes opposed to the Tripoli government and parliament in Tobruk. It has used the political vacuum— and groups’ infighting — in Libya to its advantage and while its threat is contained, for now, there are reports that it might be looking to expand into eastern Tunisia.

So far the international military campaign against Daesh has not extended into Libya. But some European countries, like Italy, are worried that unless the group is targeted it will continue to be a source of threat to European southern shores. France is also worried that the Libyan branch of Daesh is trying to build bridges with Boko Haram, the extremist group that is wreaking havoc in Nigeria and neighbouring African countries.

And recently in Yemen Daesh left its bloody mark in Mukala where suicide bombers attacked regime forces killing many. As Al-Qaeda militants retreat they are being replaced by Daesh fighters in Yemen.

Daesh is not the only radical group on the scene. The fight against Al-Qaeda and its affiliates continues in Afghanistan and Syria. And reports say that Al-Qaeda is now trying to branch into Syria through Al-Nusra Front. It is often difficult to draw a clear line between so-called moderate militants and those who are labelled as extremists. But what is clear that radical fundamentalist groups, both Sunni and Shiite, continue to evolve in many regions of the Muslim world and beyond.

The phenomenon is complex and sometimes difficult to explain. But what is clear today is that combating this phenomenon requires regional and international effort, both on the military and ideological fronts. What is also clear is that crushing Daesh will not necessarily defeat the reasons for its existence. Political instability, sectarian violence, foreign interventions, official corruption and economic inequity are among the many factors for the spread of radical ideas in the name of religion.

This is perhaps why Daesh remains a regional and international challenge even as its infrastructure is being degraded. A solid regional and international coalition against Daesh, and others, requires that both the US and Russia move beyond their disagreements on Syria, which has become a polarizing case for the region and the international community.

Complex regional problems need to be resolved from Syria to Iraq and from Yemen to Libya. At this juncture this looks like an impossible task. But it’s the only way to contain and suffocate radicalism in this part of the world. The task is daunting and will take time to achieve.

Source: arabnews.com/news/how-close-are-we-defeating-daesh

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/islam,terrorism-and-jihad/osama-al-sharif/how-close-are-we-to-defeating-daesh?/d/107333


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