Brookings Institution

The ‘caliphate’ is all but lost, yet Islamic State’s threat remains potent

The ‘caliphate’ is all but lost, yet Islamic State’s threat remains potent

For a time, the caliphate really did exist: a terrifying medieval prophecy sprung to life and captured in the pitiless freeze-frames of propaganda videos. Even as U.S.-led forces in Iraq and Syria deal decisive blows to Islamic State, the group remains a potent threat.

In 2014, ensconced amid the looted bank vaults of Mosul and on the killing fields of Raqqah, Islamic State was at the apex of its strength. From its twin bases in Iraq and Syria, it subjugated millions, dispatched operatives to strike the capitals of Europe, bestrode the cyberspace battlefield, and beheaded captive Americans and other foreigners whom the world’s mightiest militaries were powerless...

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