Ten years after ISIS caliphate declared, its ideology remains despite territorial defeat

Ten years ago, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the self-proclaimed caliph of ISIS, declared the establishment of the so-called Caliphate from the Al-Nuri Mosque in Mosul, Iraq.

In quick order, the group went on to seize large areas of Syria and Iraq, imposing harsh punishments, including executions they broadcast on social media, attracting thousands of jihadists from around the world.

However, in 2019, the US-backed International Coalition managed to expel ISIS from its last stronghold in Baghouz in eastern Syria. The physical caliphate was dismantled, but its ideology persisted.

A senior official in the British government described ISIS’s current status as diminished but not eradicated. He noted that while the group’s core leadership remains in Syria, ISIS has expanded its influence across several continents.

When ISIS had a physical base in Syria and Iraq, it easily attracted recruits who traveled to Turkey, took buses to the border, and were smuggled into Syria. Many of these recruits had no military experience and little understanding of the war ravaging Syria, often coming from backgrounds of petty crime and drug use.

In the mid-2010s, ISIS terrorists were able to launch major attacks in Europe, resulting in significant casualties. The perpetrators of these operations had trained in Syria, highlighting the enduring threat posed by the group’s ideology even after the loss of its territorial caliphate.