ISIS after Mosul

Hassan Hassan writes: As an alliance of Iraqi and Kurdish forces pushes to retake the city of Mosul from the Islamic State, there should be no doubt about what the group plans to do next. It will fight to the bitter end to defend its most populous and symbolic stronghold. After all, it was in Mosul that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi — the city’s leader for two years before he became the Islamic State’s leader in 2010 — declared a caliphate from the pulpit of an iconic 12th-century mosque.

If the Islamic State loses Mosul, the group has a clearly articulated contingency plan, a strategy it has frequently broadcast on multiple platforms for the past five months: inhiyaz, or temporary retreat, into the desert.

The word “inhiyaz” appeared in May, in the last speech delivered by Abu Muhammad al-Adnani, the group’s spokesman who was killed by an American airstrike in August. Mr. Adnani explained that territorial losses did not mean defeat and that militants would fight until the end and then retreat to the desert, preparing for a comeback, just as they did between 2007 and 2013.

Various Islamic State outlets picked up the theme. Al-Naba, the group’s newsletter, ran an article about the subject in August, recalling how the militants of the Islamic State of Iraq, the Islamic State’s predecessor, survived after they were driven out of Iraqi cities following the 2007 American troop surge and the tribal insurrection known as the Awakening. [Continue reading…]

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