While Islamic State (IS) still controls pockets of territory in northeastern Syria, its “caliphate,” which at its height also included much of northern Iraq, has been destroyed. But IS still has numerous branches everywhere from West Africa to the Philippines and has not lost its will to fight on. Lawrence Franklin explains:
[M]embers of IS were defeated geographically, but may not feel eviscerated ideologically. Rather, the organization is in a state of flux, in which IS fighters must face the new realities of a post-caliphate era in their jihad. Some IS veterans remaining in or near villages in northeastern Syria will continue to engage in skirmishes against Syrian-government, Kurdish, and foreign forces rather than surrender. A portion, however, are surrendering to the U.S.-backed, mostly Kurdish, Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF); still others may try to blend in with the local population.
Many foreign IS fighters, particularly from European countries, may have migrated back to their homelands or have been captured or killed. Others have apparently followed the directive of IS’s Caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi to migrate to Pakistan and Afghanistan, Baghdadi himself having reportedly fled to the latter.
Islamic State’s leaders, after the roll-up of the caliphate, may have decided that they had to prove to their fighters that their organization is still very much alive—possibly the reason for its recent suicide-bombing operation in Manbij, Syria, in which four American nationals were killed. The operation also may have been, in part, a response to President Donald Trump’s statement, and those of other officials, asserting that IS had been crushed in the region. . . .
In addition, Islamic State continues its traditional [activities] on social-media platforms, with messages as well as videos for Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube. However, the terrorist group’s propaganda themes have altered significantly. Gone are the sensational videos of battlefield victories and executions of captured “apostate” Muslim warriors. . . .