Syria, ISIS and the Long War

By Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt, US Army (Ret.)

Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt, US Army (Ret) was the Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs from 2008-2009. Prior to that, he was the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Middle East Affairs from 2006-2008. These positions followed a 30-year career in the military with service as Deputy Director for Strategy and Plans at US Central Command, Deputy Director of Operations for Coalition Forces in Iraq and significant command assignments worldwide. He currently leads a private consulting business for US clients in the Middle East and provides regional security commentary on Arabic, Turkish and English-speaking media channels worldwide.

On 23 March, the Syrian Democratic Forces announced the capture of Baghouz, the last remaining ISIS stronghold in Syria. This may arguably mark the end of the physical caliphate, but the question of whether ISIS is defeated in Iraq and Syria remains a point of heated debate. Too much of the dispute, however, has posed this as a binary argument: yes (for defeat) or no (undefeated), worthy of an Oxford Union debate. Yet, the answer is far more nuanced, and far less important than the news would suggest. Whatever side of the argument one sits on regarding Syria, the Long War is far from over.

The proponents of “yes” have plenty of evidence to support their argument.  The territory is liberated, ISIS is no longer capable of mounting large-scale military operations, its command and control seems broken and the videos showing hundreds of prisoners and thousands of women and children leaving the shattered Caliphate is a clear rebuke to the glorious victories proclaimed for years in propaganda videos.

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