As Mosul continues to fall to members of Iraq’s U.S.-backed special forces, ISIS’ so-called caliphate faces collapse. For the people of Asia, Europe and the United States, however, the terrorist organization is likely to remain a threat.
ISIS controls less than a square mile of land in Mosul right now, and displaced people are flowing out of that territory on foot, sometimes carrying severely wounded civilians with them as they escape.
Roughly 300 Islamic State fighters remain in Mosul’s Old City, according to a report by The Associated Press.
Concerns are rising that the rush to fill the vacuum left behind by the terror group could spark an even greater conflict across the region.
Furthermore, ISIS’ tactic of pursuing smaller attacks in Western cities, like those that have recently unnerved London, is likely to continue, and could increase in intensity, if their fighters in the region return home to the West.
People have different predictions about when the battle will be officially “over” but some expect that a formal announcement will be made in the coming days.
ISIS holdouts in western Iraq and Syria, as well as a number of other countries, may continue to attack and bomb after any declaration of victory on the part of special forces in Mosul.
For now, there’s a humanitarian crisis that has affected survivors of the battle.
Thousands of people have fled their homes during the fighting. Many of them have no houses to return to after the relentless aerial bombing that has taken place there.
Mosul residents are traumatized, and the scene bears similarities to what happened to Dresden at the end of World War II when allied forces liberated Germany from the Nazis.
The U.S.-trained, -equipped and -backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) are moving forward and have entered the capital of the “caliphate” from a number of sides. The group is a mix of Arabs and Kurds known as the People’s Protection Units, or YPG.
The YPG has been fighting ISIS for years and is now considered to be a battle-hardened opponent to the group.
Based solely upon its physical makeup, Raqqa is likely to be an easier victory over ISIS than in Mosul. There is far less terrain in the city, and fewer residents are holed up inside of it.
ISIS controls a swath of territory, towns and cities along the Euphrates River Valley, an area that snakes southeast from Raqqa toward the Iraqi border.
Questions persist about what groups will take the fight to ISIS in this region: The Pentagon seems reluctant to send U.S. troops, effectively ceding territory to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Key points of conflict in this region include Deir ez-Zour, Mayadin and Tanf, all areas that are flashpoints in the fight against ISIS.
There have been few conflicts since the end of World War II, where so many national and international players were vying to control territory and interests.
The race in the eastern Syrian desert is where this diverse collection of parties is converging.
In Syria, there is Assad’s regime, along with Iranian, Russian and Lebanese (Hezbollah) fighters. The Syrian Democratic Forces, Kurdish and Syrian rebels form another side of this conflict, and are backed by Western allies including the United States.
Islamist Syrian rebels also have a presence. This group includes ex-al-Qaeda fighters, and Turkmen, backed by Turkey and Qatar and supported by sympathetic Sunni Muslims across the region.
In Iraq, there are potential conflicts between Kurdish groups, between the Kurdish group, and the Iraqi government in Baghdad, and between Shia militias.
The situation is messy, meaning that long after Mosul falls, the territory now claimed by ISIS’ caliphate will likely long be in dispute.