Bottom line up front: One of the United States’ objectives in battling ISIS (ISIL) has been to rob the organization of resources. In fact, some U.S. airstrikes into ISIS-held territory in past months have actually targeted ISIS financial institutions. The campaign, along with gains on the ground, appear to be working: What once was the world’s richest terrorist organization is slowly dying, economically speaking.
But what marked the organization’s peak of power became precisely three years later a symbol of its crushing defeat. In late June, 2017, nine long months after coalition forces led by the Iraqi army (and backed by American arms, equipment, intelligence and money) began the campaign to liberate Mosul, Iraqi troops notched an impressive achievement in recapturing the A-Nur mosque – the icon of ISIS’s victory. In an attempt to prevent a picture perpetuating its jarring loss (and with a keen awareness of public relations), ISIS members rushed just moments before their withdrawal to spike the holy, historic mosque with hundreds of kilograms of explosives and razed it to the ground. Indeed, the image of the Iraqi army within the iconic symbol was partly blunted and the Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi settled for a Twitter post in which he declared “the end of the fake Daesh state”.
The final declaration of the total liberation of Mosul would come some two weeks later and mark another milestone in the shocking collapse of the Islamic state. Al-Baghdadi was killed in or escaped from Raqqa, ISIS’s capital and center of operations, and the infamous terrorist organization now holds only 55% of the city. Elimination of the organization’s infrastructure in Iraq and Syria, and seizure of the territories that it has held, are only a matter of time. And if its ultimate defeat still lies far in the future, at this point even its leadership knows that its end in its current configuration is closer than ever.
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