In major strategy shift, ISIS no longer willing to 'fight till death'

By Javed Mahmood


Members of the Syrian Democratic Forces dance as they hold a position on the eastern front line of al-Raqa September 24. Syrian fighters backed by coalition forces are battling to clear the last remaining ISIS members holed up in their crumbling stronghold of al-Raqa. [Bulent Kilic/AFP]

ISLAMABAD -- A recent shift in strategy by the "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS) indicates the terror network is on its last legs on the global level, according to a report published by the Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad (ISSI).

"ISIS which once vowed to fight till death is now witnessing a shift in its strategy," the September 15 report said, pointing to a recent battle on the border of Lebanon and Syria.

During a six-day battle in August on the Lebanese-Syrian border, ISIS suffered a humiliating defeat, the report said.

The surviving ISIS members -- numbering more than 300 -- and about as many of their relatives negotiated a safe passage for themselves to the town of Deir al-Zour in Syria, near the Iraqi border, Public Radio International reported.

"This shift in strategy from 'fight till death' to surrendering and demanding a safe passage marks a strategic shift in the policy of ISIS," the ISSI report said.

"The group ... is now caught in a struggle to survive," according to the report's author, ISSI Research Associate Muhammad Abbas Hassan.

The negotiation brings "ISIS one step closer to elimination", he said. "The deal has also given hopes to the forces that are engaged against the group that it can now finally be defeated."

'A blow to the might of ISIS'

"Intervention by a few international powers has dealt a blow to the might of ISIS in Syria that has further weakened this militant organisation globally," Brig. (ret.) Mehmood Shah of Peshawar, former security secretary for the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), told Pakistan Forward.

Iraqi and Syrian security forces have acted boldly against ISIS, he said. "That is another reason the notorious militant outfit is now facing difficulty in surviving."

"Bloody clashes between ISIS and the Taliban in Afghanistan in April were another indication that ISIS was in trouble and would not be able to sustain itself there for a long time," Shah said.

More than 70 Taliban and 15 ISIS fighters were killed in a clash over territory in Jawzjan Province, Afghanistan, he said.

Because the Taliban have neither joined ISIS nor accepted its ideology, ISIS's survival in Afghanistan -- and its ability to penetrate Pakistan -- have been imperilled, he said.

The counter-insurgency Operation Radd-ul-Fasaad, which began in February, has already broken the back of the militant organisations in Pakistan, Shah said, adding that if "ISIS is facing a tough time at the global level, it can be said that this international terror outfit will dissipate sooner or later".

Defeats to ISIS in Syria and Iraq will discourage young, misled Pakistanis from migrating to those countries to fight on behalf of the insurgents, he said.

Extinguishing ISIS once and for all

Although ISIS does not have a presence in Pakistan, the group has inspired some local partners and "lone wolf" sympathisers outside its strongholds in the Middle East, said Abdullah Khan, managing director of Islamabad-based security think tank Pakistan Institute for Conflict and Security Studies.

"ISIS may lose in Iraq and Syria as a central caliphate, but its franchises will remain a source of trouble in different parts of the world, including Pakistan and Afghanistan," he told Pakistan Forward.

"ISIS will remain a global threat, and people inspired by its ideology will keep attacking here and there," he said.

For those reasons, negotiating with ISIS should be discouraged, the ISSI report said.

"If allowed to restructure, the group might come back again with a more brutal force," it said. "To stop such incidents and as a prerequisite to peace, ISIS needs to be eliminated altogether."

"The dwindling flame of [the] self-proclaimed caliphate needs to be extinguished," the report concluded.

"International powers should join hands to discourage proxy wars, militancy and to launch an offensive against ISIS to end bloodshed across the world," Mubasher Mir, security analyst and resident editor of the Daily Pakistan in Karachi, told Pakistan Forward.

"Without unanimous efforts by the international community, militancy cannot be eliminated from the world," he said.

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Awsome analysis and reality of paid mercenaries and proxy wars is just a sort of franchise like a terrorism market and come under one umbrella to destabilize the region