The Islamic State is likely to continue external attack plots on the West in the coming year to make up for its loss of territory in Iraq and Syria, U.S. based security advisory firm the Soufan Group noted Thursday.
The U.S. backed Iraqi Security Forces declared victory over ISIS in Mosul Monday, marking the official loss of the largest population center ever controlled by the terrorist group. The group still controls some territory in Iraq and retains its capital city of Raqqa in Syria, but is under intense pressure by the U.S. military and its allies on the ground.
“The group’s ability to plan and execute external attacks will not end with the fall of Mosul,” the Soufan Group explained. “There will likely be continued external attacks—mostly by supporters, but some by cells—as people continue to act in the group’s name.”
Beyond the terrorist group’s ability to inspire or direct attacks in the West, it will likely be operative in some way in Iraq and Syria in 2018. Many of the external plotters based in the city of Mosul fled some time ago, Operation Inherent Resolve commander Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend explained to Pentagon reporters Tuesday. Townsend also warned that an ISIS insurgency in parts of Mosul and throughout Iraq is likely to materialize in the coming year.
ISIS will also likely retain a robust insurgency and control some Syrian territory in 2018. U.S. backed operations to retake the city of Raqqa have only just begun. The city remains cut off by the Syrian Democratic Forces accompanied by U.S. special operators. “Retaking Raqqa is far more complicated in that it is unclear—and contentious at every level—exactly who will be ‘retaking’ the city and its surrounding areas,” the Soufan Group warned.
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