Each Time We Chop Off an ISIS Head, Another Grows Back
World leaders have assured us on several occasions that ISIS is dead. That efforts to dismantle this terrorist group were successful. That we don't have to be afraid of them anymore.
But if that's the case, why are the United States and other countries continuing to target ISIS leaders?
Last month, President Donald Trump announced that ISIS kingpin Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi died during a U.S. Special Forces raid in northwest Syria.
Al-Baghdadi was killed when he detonated his suicide vest while trapped in a tunnel.
'Died Like a Coward'
"Al-Baghdadi was vicious and violent, and he died in a vicious and violent way," Trump said.
"He will never again harm another innocent man, woman or child. He died like a coward. The world is now a much safer place."
Trump gave credit to nations including Russia, Turkey, Syria and Iraq for providing support in the raid.
Al-Baghdadi has been the subject of an international manhunt for a number of years. Several times he was incorrectly identified as dead.
Some U.S. Troops Staying in Syria
So, now can we claim that ISIS is dead? I don't think so.
As long as there are people bent on trying to destroy the concepts of freedom and liberty, ISIS will remain alive. If not well.
Recently Trump announced a reduction in U.S. troops stationed in Syria. But some remain, mainly for the purpose of protecting oil installations.
Those living in northeastern Syria are happy for that. They see the troops as protection from a variety of forces. Including ISIS, Turkish forces, Arab mercenaries and even the Syrian regime of Bashar Assad.
ISIS Brutality Is Well Chronicled
A little background on ISIS is in order here. The letters stand for the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. But it's also known as ISIL (the Islamic Sate of Iraq and the Levant).
ISIS (or ISIL) actually formed back in 1999. But it was not well known around the world until 2014 when the group captured the city of Mosul in northern Iraq.
That was also when ISIS conducted what became known as the Sinjar massacre. They abducted and killed thousands of Yazidi men, women and children.
ISIS soon became known for its brutal and very public videos. They did not spare anyone. They killed civilians, journalists, aid workers and many other non-combatants.
Losing Ground, But Not Their Will
ISIS is a fluid group that moves wherever they believe they can inflict the most damage with as little resistance as possible.
In 2015, they had estimated funds of about $1 billion and a force of more than 30,000 fighters.
Over time, they lost much of the territory they had gained. Including Mosul and Raqqa, Syria.
That led to statements from various world leaders that the group had been defeated. But they keep coming back. Replacing al-Baghdadi was Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurashi. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.
Turkey-U.S. 'Friendship' Strained
Both Democrats and Republicans expressed concerns that ISIS would grow once Trump removed U.S. troops from Syria.
That remains to be seen. Trump has attempted to downplay that possibility by insisting that the U.S. and Turkey still have a strong relationship.
Recently Trump hosted Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the White House. That was for the purpose of talks about Turkey's incursion against Kurdish forces in Syrian.
Those Kurdish forces – known as the Syrian Democratic Forces – have been U.S. allies in the fight against ISIS. But Turkey considers them terrorists.
Syrian Ceasefire Iffy at Best
Trump invited several prominent Republican senators to be part of the meetings. Including Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Jim Risch of Idaho. Plus Joni Ernst of Iowa, Rick Scott of Florida and Ted Cruz of Texas.
As of this moment, there is a cease-fire. But it's on shaky ground. No one would be surprised if it were broken with more hostilities.
The U.S-Turkey relationship is also tenuous. The U.S. is not happy about Turkey's recent purchase of a Russian S-400 missile system. Trump says it's a threat to NATO aircraft.
Trump responded to that by barring Turkey from getting U.S.-made F-35 fighter jets. The president has been publicly upbeat about the Turkish relationship. But he admits there are "serious challenges."
Countries Denying Re-Entry
Back to ISIS. One of the reasons this terrorist group won't disappear, despite losing territory, is because their fighters keep coming back.
Recently Turkey announced it will start returning captured ISIS fighters to their home countries.
Many of these ISIS soldiers are from Europe. Not surprisingly, many countries don't want them back.
So, they are stripping the ISIS fighters of their citizenship and denying them entry. Eventually, they may find their way back to Syria.
One example is Hoda Muthana, 25. She was a student at the University of Alabama. She traveled to Syria and joined ISIS. Now she wants to return to America. But a judge has declared she is no longer a U.S. citizen.
Southeast Asia New ISIS Hotbed
Perhaps these ISIS soldiers will try to get to Southeast Asia? Self-radicalization is becoming a big problem there.
In the Philippines, ISIS militants are wreaking havoc. Three would-be suicide bombers were recently killed by the Philippines government.
In Indonesia, a self-radicalized couple tried to assassinate the Indonesian security minister with a knife.
These loosely-connected ISIS fighters are getting their ideas and ideals from social media.
ISIS has been weakened, for sure. But nobody is calling them "dead" anymore. The fight continues.