American President Donald Trump is getting ready to declare the “victory” of the anti-Daesh coalition in Syria and Iraq. The terrorist organization will eventually lose all the territories that they previously controlled. The military aspect of the coalition forces’ struggle against Daesh can be considered as a success story but to what extent the coalition partners consider this success as the ultimate result of the struggle or the beginning of the new phase in the fight against Daesh is a significant decision. Whether it is going to be the end of the terrorist organization or it will turn into the beginning of a new and more complicated problem is the central question for analysts and policymakers.
It seems that the outcome will be somewhere in between those two options. In any case, the worst decision may be to abandon or neglect the struggle against Daesh completely. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that “our struggle will not end but change shape” and we do not have a clear idea about the U.S. strategy against Daesh for the moment, but the Europeans are more confused about how to deal with the challenge. They do not have a coherent plan on how to handle Daesh militants that were captured in Syria and Iraq who are their citizens. They have been focusing on prevention strategies against homegrown radicalism and extremism, but the borders can hardly be sealed. What will happen to these returnees is another critical question for Europeans and other countries.
The terrorist organization has lost almost all the territories it controls. The devastation that was the residue of Daesh is still haunting Iraq, Syria, Libya and other places. The organization formed alliances with smaller militant groups as well as intelligence units. The terrorists who survived may be even more dangerous; they have the knowledge, know-how, experience and existing ties and relations. This struggle may be challenging since they are fragmented and the militants can be difficult to track.
We are at a critical juncture, and what will be decided as the strategy to deal with Daesh and its residues today may either lead to normalization of the political context and lead to reintegration, and/or the political reconciliation process will turn into the seeds of a cycle of a new operation. Political means to engage the problem are insufficient; economic development and social reconciliation needs to be designed to balance the tension.