ISIS not in retreat, war in Libya could make matters worse – security expert

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Claims that Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) is in retreat are mistaken and misleading, according to a prominent British professor of security studies.

Professor Paul Rogers, of Bradford University, an expert in the politics of war and peace, says that claims the jihadist group is being defeated by the West should be “treated with caution.”

In a piece for The Conversation, Rogers said that while “IS has lost some territory in Iraq” many of the battles have resulted in “pyrrhic victories” – meaning the cost to the victor is so serious as to make it a loss.

“Ramadi and other liberated towns and cities have been largely wrecked, and IS remains entrenched in Mosul and much of northern Iraq,” Rogers said.

Not only has the supposedly failing group mounted and sustained a “lethally effective campaign of suicide bombings in Shia population centers,” it had benefited massively from the “political instability that wracks the Iraqi government.”

“It also still controls almost all its self-proclaimed caliphate in northern Syria,” Rogers said.

He also pointed out that, like Al-Qaeda after 2001, IS has become a transnational group and mounted “anti-Western attacks in Tunisia, Belgium, France and Turkey.”

He warned that although he could appreciate the West’s urge to intervene forcefully in Libya, where IS now has a foothold, the question of whether such a course of action would will work “is another matter.”

“IS flourishes in the face of attacks from the West, which help it present itself as the one true guardian of Islam under attack from the Crusader/Zionist axis,” he said.

“The more it is attacked, the stronger its image.”

Despite media reports giving the impression that “Islamist paramilitary movements are in retreat, and that an end to the Western wars against them is at last in sight,” the reality is simply “not so,” Rogers said.