15:34 GMT24 October 2020
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    Violence Erupts as Islamic State Rises (1881)

    Daesh has gone to great lengths to present itself as a legitimate force, rather than a terrorist group and the establishment of a quasi-state has been instrumental in these efforts. But as the militants continue to lose ground in Iraq and Syria, Daesh leaders have started to prepare their supporters for the caliphate's impending demise.

    The Daesh caliphate was declared two years ago when the brutal group that aptly calls itself the Islamic State seized almost all of eastern Syria, as well as large swathes of land in northern and western Iraq. The territory under Daesh control has been shrinking for month, thanks in large part to Russian and the US-led multinational campaigns aimed at degrading and destroying the terrorist organization.

    Latest estimates by IHS Jane's show that Daesh-controlled territory shrank by 12 percent in the first six months of 2016 and this trend is unlikely to be reversed.

    The terrorist group has already tried to offset its battlefield losses with major attacks in the Middle East, Europe and elsewhere.

    "As [Daesh's] caliphate shrinks and it becomes increasingly clear that its governance project is failing, the group is re-prioritizing insurgency. This is leading to an increase in mass casualty attacks and sabotage of economic infrastructure, across Iraq and Syria, and further afield, including Europe," Columb Strack, a senior analyst at IHS, said.

    Recent developments reinforce this view.

    Two weeks ago the group claimed responsibility for the worst terrorist attack in Iraq's history following the 2003 US-led invasion. On July 3, coordinated car and suicide bombings claimed the lives of more than 300 people, including children, in the capital, Baghdad. Five days earlier, Daesh suicide bombers killed more than 40 people at the Atatürk airport in Istanbul, Turkey.

    On Thursday, Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, a dual French-Tunisian national, drove a truck into a crowd celebrating Bastille Day at a world-famous waterfront in the French city of Nice. More than 85 people were killed in what became the worst terrorist attack in Nice's history and the third major attack in the country in the last two years. Daesh claimed responsibility for the July 14 horror.

    "The successful attacks abroad are an indication of deep worry at home," Will McCants, a researcher at Brookings Institution, told the Washington Post. Daesh leaders are "really trying to prepare their followers to cope with a caliphate that is no longer a caliphate," he added.

    Interestingly, Daesh, including its official spokesman Abu Muhammad al-Adnani, has markedly shifted its narrative away from claiming that the group is invincible to admitting that it is suffering battlefield losses. 

    Cole Bunzel, a PhD candidate in Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University, emphasized this development in an opinion piece for Jihadica.

    "It is still too early to predict the collapse of [Daesh], but it is telling that the group's own media, which usually keep to a narrative of unstoppable progress and battlefield success, have begun signaling decline," he said.

    Violence Erupts as Islamic State Rises (1881)


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    anti-Daesh coalition, Russian aerial campaign, Islamic extremism, radical Islam, terrorist attack, counterterrorism, caliphate, Nice Truck Attack, Ataturk airport attack, Daesh, Syria, Iraq
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