ISIS ‘caliphate’ crumbling?

The Guardian reports that as military pressure continues against ISIS in Syria foreign fighters are trying to get out of the caliphate.

Isis faces exodus of foreign fighters as its ‘caliphate’ crumbles

Large numbers of foreign fighters and sympathisers are abandoning Islamic Stateand trying to enter Turkey, with at least two British nationals and a US citizen joining an exodus that is depleting the ranks of the terror group.

Sources within Isis have confirmed that the group’s ranks in its last redoubt in Syria have rapidly shrunk as a ground offensive has edged towards Raqqa and Tabqa in the country’s north-east, where foreign fighters had been extensively deployed over the past four years.

Officials in Turkey and Europe say an increasing number of Isis operatives who have joined the group since 2013 have contacted their embassies looking to return. Other, more ideologically committed members are thought to be intent on using the exodus to infiltrate Turkey and then travel onwards to Europe to seek vengeance for the crumbling caliphate, raising renewed fears of strikes on the continent.

Among them, western intelligence agencies believe, are prominent members of the group’s external operations arm, who joined Isis from numerous European countries including Britain, France and Belgium, as well as Australia. At least 250 ideologically driven foreigners are thought to have been smuggled to Europe from late 2014 until mid-2016, with nearly all travelling through Turkey after crossing a now rigidly enforced border.

So good news perhaps for Syria, but potentially bad news for Europe and elsewhere.

Masrour Barzani, chancellor of security for the Kurdistan Regional Government in northern Iraq, said: “The nature of the fight against Isis will change into an intelligence war. Defeating Isis militarily deprives them of territory and prevents them attracting and recruiting foreign fighters. This in turn discourages foreign fighters from staying in the so-called Islamic State and they will eventually try to escape or surrender.

“However, the threat foreign fighters can still pose upon returning to their countries should not be underestimated.”

That’s likely to be difficult to deal with.

Up to 30,000 foreign fighters are thought to have crossed into Syria to fight with Isis. The US government estimates that as many as 25,000 of them have since been killed. Around 850 British fighters have joined Isis or other jihadi groups such al-Nusra Front and in some cases the war against the regime of the Syrian leader, Bashar al-Assad. It is believed around half of these fighters have returned to the UK and around 200 have died.

Maher said a military defeat of Isis would cripple the group’s recruitment ability. “Islamic State has projected a narrative of momentum and success,” he said. “Their slogan has been ‘remaining and expanding’, and a lot of young people bought into that. As the caliphate begins to crumble, that same appeal simply isn’t there any more. It’s potency and relevance has been diminished.

“What you will now see is the most hardened and committed members of the group retreat to the desert as Islamic State prepares for its next phase, as an aggressive insurgency in Syria and Iraq. However, a significant proportion of its recruits from Europe and the west will lose confidence in the group and defect or surrender.”

So they are losing a lot of soldiers and their support looks like crumbling, but it doesn’t take many to cause problems if they spread out around the world.


  1. Gezza

     /  April 27, 2017

    The actual Islamic State is being eliminated, but the core Islamic extremist intelligentsia won’t go away imo – they’ll probably reach an accommodation with Al Qaeda & both will continue to feed anti-Shiite & anti-non-Muslim insurgencies & terrorist attacks in the Middle East, North & Central Africa, Eurasia & Asia, & Europe. Saudi Arabia will continue to provide recruits for them worldwide with its ongoing programme of funding Wahabism in Madrassas, as will the actions of Western & Russian governments in the Middle East.

    • Corky

       /  April 27, 2017

      Translation: we are stuffed. I see we may implement security measures that could cost us airline routes to the middle east.

      • Brown

         /  April 27, 2017

        Pete should sponsor them to live here because he knows not all Muslims are terrorist and he’s happy to take a chance because there’s more chance of accidentally getting your willy caught in a mouse trap (or something equally irrelevant) than being killed by someone who deliberately goes out of their way to do it.

        • MaureenW

           /  April 27, 2017

          There’s a new expression that needs adding to my own collection 🙂

  2. Alan Wilkinson

     /  April 27, 2017

    As I said a long time ago, military defeat will be a big blow to their prestige and attractiveness. There will need to be a big cleanup in Europe of the dregs remaining and returning.

    There will be attempts to regroup in other hell-holes. Saudi Arabia will need continued pressure to reform and suppress their religious extremists.

  3. Indeed it is a case of following the money and historical associations. Iran as the leader of the Shia states is a major funder of the anti-Sunni Muslim versus Muslim struggle for preeminence. We need to think of Saudi Arabia as being two-faced. Its relationship with the US is vital to its interests as far as the Saudi establishment is concerned and so it presents an accommodating face to the Western interests. However there remains extremely rich Saudi’s who are determined to impose their Wahabbi or Sufi doctrine. Sufis themselves claim that Tasawwuf is an aspect of Islam similar to Sharia, inseparable from Islam and an integral part of Islamic belief and practice. Classical Sufi scholars have defined Tasawwuf as “a science whose objective is the reparation of the heart and turning it away from all else but God”.

    However Saudi Arabia has real problems. The competition with Iran for supremacy of Islamic doctrine, failing oil sales, over investment in major projects that it can’t fund from income, involvement in the Yemen and elsewhere in the Middle East.
    The group of Sunnis constitutes by far the biggest denomination in Islam, comprising about 85% of the global 1.6 billion Muslims. Sunni-majority countries are mostly found in Southeast Asia and in the Arab World.

    Even though only about one percent of all Sunnis live in Saudi Arabia, the kingdom conducts itself as the leading and protecting Sunni power. The royal House of Saud has converted the ultraconservative Islamic school of Wahhabism into a quasi-fascist state ideology and is ruling its population with systematic violation of human rights. There is growing dissatisfaction with the Royal Family and intrigue against the court is a fact of life. The number of casualties from the border conflicts with Yemen and the continuing subversion within Kuwait are matters of concern to them.

    Israel seems to be playing the old British technique of playing Iran against Saudi Arabia as contestants for Arab power in the ME, and as long as Netanyahu keeps his temper, they stand to gain the freedom of action to continue their strategic goal of cementing their presence in the West Bank that they continue to assert historical rights to the former provinces.

    Is there an end in sight? To Daesh/ ISIS/ the Caliphate, the military forces are defeated and the mopping up stages continue. This will take a lot of time ans will mean many more casualties because of the tactics ISIS is using civilians to shield their defensive manoeuvres. The question is whether or not the US and others have the stamina to see out the costly war, and what their game plan is for Iraq after ISIS go underground.

    • Gezza

       /  April 27, 2017

      Speaking of their long term game plan … if they even have one, which seems unlikely:

      Today’s Al Jazeera: Inside Story discussion
      Is Afghanistan new battlefield for traditional rivals?

      Russia denies US accusations of funding and sending weapons to the Taliban.

      Presenter: Martine Dennis
      Mark Jacobson – former adviser to US Secretary of Defence Ash Carter
      Massoumeh Torfeh – research associate at London School of Economics and former UN director of strategic communications in Afghanistan
      Sergey Strokan – political analyst and columnist at Russian newspaper Kommersant

      Haven’t watched it yet. Just about to. Caught the tail-end this morning. Sergey was explaining how the US is making things up to justify pursuing their own agendas & screwing things up with Russia despite Russia’s bein willing to work with them, and their allowing the US an air corridor over in Afghanistan to fight the Taliban, and Mark was explaining what Putin is really up to by distracting the US in the Middle East & stretching their strategic Military command & resources

      • Just a comment about the fact of the Texan oil and gas industry making significant inroads into the Saudi oil wealth which is changing the face of the global industry. This may be an incentive for Iran to up the stakes in its eternal conflict with Saudi Arabia for hegemony in the Middle East. The relationship between Iran and Turkey is likely to strengthen as well given the current politicak scene there.

  4. Blazer

     /  April 27, 2017

    the U.S have an inexhaustible supply of ‘pop up’…bad guys.

    • Name them

      • Blazer

         /  April 27, 2017

        the War on Terror…pick your terrorist……the axis of evil,whose turn to be demonised,-folks that are jealous of our …freedom and democracy…that enough for…starters?

        • Kim Jong Un has pop up bad guys. Everybody has them. Viewed from middle ground many are strawmen, but that’s the way the world goes round.
          Difference is, that in some people’s worlds everybody else’s “pop up bad guys” are illusory, the accusers paranoid, while those they similarly label antagonists are justifiably despotic/dangerous(insert own hyperbolic description).

          • Blazer

             /  April 28, 2017

            I have a reserve of hyperbolic expressions,but to my dismay appear to have run out of… hominem…epithets!

  5. Kitty Catkin

     /  April 27, 2017

    I could see the deserters learning a hard lesson and becoming modest, quiet citizens who don’t draw attention to themselves. There’d be little point in leaving ISIS and carrying on its activities-that would be futile. They’d just be making targets of themselves. Terrorism needs to be united, stragglers going on could well be picked off-and ISIS would be after them if they became known. I don’t envy these deserters.

    • Gezza

       /  April 27, 2017

      One of the interesting comments that Sergey, a perennial Kremlin supporter despite his claim otherwise, makes in that 30 minute Inside Story discussion clip I posted above is that many members of the Taliban are now joining ISIS. This is interesting because I have seen/heard this from other sources, they are both Sunni muslim groups, and 2 or 3 years ago when ISIS first showed up in Southern Afghanistan they were challenging the local Taliban & executing captured leaders.

      What was also interesting were the claims made by commenters on the panel that the Taliban now control, one claimed, 50% of the country, and the other claimed, at least a third already and on the verge of controlling another third.

      Also, that Pakistan is far and away the principal conduit for Taliban jihadist fighters, arms & funding.

      • Gezza

         /  April 28, 2017

        Aljaz tv. Police have confirmed the man arrested *was known to security services*.

        • Gezza

           /  April 28, 2017

          (the above was a cock up – went in the wrong thread: don’t tell anyone)

  1. ISIS ‘caliphate’ crumbling? – NZ Conservative Coalition