Analysis & Opinions - Foreign Policy

ISIS is a Survivor

| Aug. 27, 2019

Donald Trump claims to have defeated the Islamic State—but the group was designed to prove him wrong.

Back in February, U.S. President Donald Trump declared that the Islamic State was "100 percent" defeated and took full credit for the alleged victory. Unfortunately, the president and the truth seemed to be on different planets once again. National Security Advisor John Bolton quickly corrected Trump's boast, telling ABC News that "the ISIS threat will remain." U.S. Defense Department reports emphasized that remnants or offshoots of the group remained active in several places, including Afghanistan, and last week, a lengthy New York Times article reported that the group was regaining strength in Iraq and Syria.

Trump was obviously wrong to claim the Islamic State had been totally defeated, but its persistence and partial recovery are not surprising at all. On the contrary, to believe that such a group could be totally defeated in the short to medium term was never a realistic goal. Eliminating the Islamic State's territorial control over a significant part of Iraq and Syria (much of it empty desert) was a feasible objective, and the United States and its local partners did that job pretty effectively. Eradicating the organization in its entirety was never in the cards, at least not anytime soon....

For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Walt, Stephen M.“ISIS is a Survivor.” Foreign Policy, August 27, 2019.

The Author

Stephen Walt