Can the Islamic State ever be defeated?


The Syrian regime army will soon push into the village of Tafas and find itself face-to-face with ISIS fighters.

This week a delegation of US senators, including Lindsey Graham and Elizabeth Warren, toured the Iraqi city of Mosul. After seeing some alleyways festooned with rubble from last year’s battle with Islamic State, they saw the historic al-Nuri Mosque that ISIS destroyed last June.

Even though bodies are still be found in the rubble of Mosul and bombs left behind by ISIS are still a threat, the senators walked without body armor alongside Iraqi officers, including Nineveh plains commander Gen. Najim al-Jabouri.

The tour was optimistic and illustrated the continued US commitment to the battle against ISIS. Across the border in Syria warplanes from the anti-ISIS coalition and fighters from the Syrian Democratic Forces are bearing down on the last pockets of ISIS in an operation called Roundup. According to the coalition ISIS has lost 300 square kilometers of ground over the last months, as the operation enters “phase two.”

However, ISIS is still active in a swath of territory that stretches from the Sahel in Africa all the way to the Philippines. It exploits ungoverned spaces, weak governments and ill-defended borders to percolate among existing extremist groups that have sworn allegiance to it.

These include Boko Haram in Nigeria, an ISIS affiliate in Niger that killed four US soldiers last year, “Sinai Province” in Sinai, the Khalid bin al-Walid faction in Syria next to the Golan, increasingly deadly fighters in Afghanistan and other affiliates throughout the world.

The 70-member anti-ISIS coalition that the US helped put together starting in August 2014 has an impressive list of members. But its mission is less clear today. The coalition recently met in Morocco, where 52 delegations, including 24 from Africa, attended. Brett McGurk, the special presid



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