ISIS is Hurt But Its End Is Not In Sight

By John McLaughlin

John E. McLaughlin is the Distinguished Practitioner in Residence at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS).  He served as Acting Director of Central Intelligence from July to September 2004 and as Deputy Director of Central Intelligence from October 2000 to July 2004. He was a US Army Officer in the 1960s, with service in Vietnam.

This is a good moment to assess the state of ISIS – its strengths and weaknesses – given that America is heading into a bruising presidential campaign during which all sorts of claims will be made about the ISIS challenge. Looking at all that has occurred since the group’s 2014 advances in Syria and Iraq, it’s fair to say that coalition actions have weakened ISIS in some key respects.  At the same time, ISIS retains strengths that keep it very dangerous and give it greater global reach than any other terrorist group. 

It’s impossible to quantify our progress, but without wanting to appear overly precise – and recognizing that experts will differ widely on this — I would venture the guesstimate that we are perhaps 25 percent of the way toward neutralizing the worst threats ISIS poses.  But the remaining 75 percent will be harder, for reasons spelled out below.

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