The Evolution of Islamic State’s Strategy

Despite having a vast number of forces arrayed against it – the United States-led coalition, Putin’s Moscow, Iran and its proxy, Hezbollah, Kurdish Peshmerga and the regimes in Baghdad and Damascus – Islamic State (IS) has expanded into other areas. Despite losing territory in Iraq and Syria, IS is growing in the Far East, the Caucasus and Africa. Reasons for the resilience displayed on the part of the jihadis are encouraging polarisation between groups and then benefiting from this process. Its diverse funding sources from oil sales to the trafficking of antiquities and narcotics have allowed IS to build a war chest in excess of US$ 2 billion. With these funds, IS has deployed soft power – digging sewage systems and providing stipends to families – to earn the loyalty of its ‘citizens’. IS has also displayed superior military strategy combining conventional military doctrine with asymmetric warfare. As IS are confronted with superior conventional forces in their heartland, however, they embrace more asymmetric warfare.

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