Foreign Policy Digital

What Comes After ISIS?

The United States is good at using military might to defeat terrorists—but without a plan for clean, competent governance in areas once ruled by the Islamic State, the threat will remain.

Over four years ago, in June 2014, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi proclaimed a caliphate in Iraq and Syria with himself as the caliph. His group, which he renamed the Islamic State to mark this momentous occasion, controlled territory the size of Britain and a population of 10 million people, dwarfing the accomplishments of al Qaeda and other jihadi groups.

By taking sex slaves, sponsoring terrorist attacks, videotaping the beheadings of hostages, and relentlessly pressing its case on social media, the Islamic State horrified and captivated the world. In the United States, fears of terrorism surged, helping propel the presidential campaign of Donald Trump. But that was then. Today, the caliphate is gone, with its last territory being conquered by U.S.-backed Kurdish forces. There is much to learn from the Islamic State’s initial success and its rapid downfall.

Holding territory is both

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