The remnants of ISIS in Iraq claimed 100 attacks across the embattled country over the past month alone, according to an assessment by the Terrorism Research and Analysis Consortium (TRAC) released on Thursday – marking a 25% uptick from July.
The TRAC underscored that the attacks were primarily concentrated in “areas previously deemed liberated” from the presence of the radical outfit.
The increase in assaults signals a worrying trend that ISIS is steadily re-emerging – via an array of sleeper cells – which is a cause for both regional and global concern, despite being territorially defeated in Iraq just over three years ago.
Flag of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant on military uniforms. Flag of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant on soldier arm. (collage).
Ahead of a highly anticipated trip to Washington last month, Iraq’s newly installed Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi told the Associated Press that his country still needs U.S. help in combatting the threat of the terrorist group, although the White House has remained committed to drawing down its presence in the conflict-strewn nation.
“In the end, we will still need cooperation and assistance at levels that today might not require direct and military support, and support on the ground,” al-Kadhimi stated, underscoring that the cooperation “will reflect the changing nature of terrorism’s threat,” including continued training and weapons support.
Similarly, in neighboring Syria, which was once the hub of the self-styled ISIS “caliphate” until an official defeat was announced in March last year, clusters of jihadi loyalists continue to launch deadly and brazen assaults. Four U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) fighters were killed by ISIS near the al-Dashisha area close to the Iraqi border on Friday, the SDF announced on Sunday.
“Sleeper cells” of the terrorist organization launched another attack, targeting the defense units stationed in al-Dashisha area of Deir al-Zor, four fighters of which were “martyred,” the SDF media center said in a statement.
A day after the onslaught, ISIS claimed responsibility for another attack in Tuwaymin, close to the Iraq border, which allegedly slain five SDF fighters, but that claim has not been confirmed.
The Rojava Information Centre (RIC) published a report on Aug. 10, surmising that 79% of ISIS attacks in July took place in Deir al-Zor, with the rest taking place in either Raqqa or Manbij – all once strongholds for the groups.
Smoke rises from the last besieged neighborhood in the village of Baghouz, Deir Al Zor province, Syria, March 18, 2019. REUTERS/Stringer – RC17D06F0850
Marine General Kenneth McKenzie, the top U.S. military authority presiding over the Middle East, expressed additional concerns last month that the large al-Hol refugee camp in northern Syria – overstuffed with families of former ISIS fighters – had become a potential breeding ground for extremism and future terrorists given the poor conditions and easy recruitment.
Speaking during a virtual event hosted by the Washington think tank U.S. Institute of Peace, McKenzie urged partner countries to repatriate their citizens – especially children – being held at the SDF-run facility or risk “doing this all over again” in 10 to 15 years.
And according to the United Nation’s counter-terrorism chief, Vladimir Voronkov, there are more than 10,000 ISIS fighters actively operating in Iraq and Syria.
Voronkov told the U.N. Security Council last month that thousands of more operatives have emigrated to join the group’s different regional associates across the world – including the West Africa Province (ISWAP) affiliates, estimated to have more than 3,500 armed ISIS fighters.