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ISIS/Daesh, the so-called Islamic State, is forecast to lose most of its remaining territory in Iraq and Syria before long. That will be a success for the international coalition and a blow for ISIS: holding territory means revenue and a big propaganda advantage. But questions remain about what will happen to the organisation and its present and potential personnel if and when the group no longer holds any territory to call its state.

There is the problem of what will happen in Sunni-majority areas in Iraq and Syria once ISIS no longer controls them. Establishing legitimate governance in those areas has been an elusive goal in Iraq, despite an elected government and years of military and other contributions from Western countries

Then there is the question about what will happen to ISIS operatives. They may turn to more ‘traditional’ terrorist activities – focusing more on inspiring, facilitating and organising attacks in the Middle Eastern and European countries that most of its fighters came from.

Victory in the ground war in Iraq and Syria could also lead to growth in ISIS outpost ‘provinces,’ such as in Egypt’s Sinai or in Afghanistan.

Leaders are well aware of the dangers of dispersal, but success in detaining ISIS fighters in Iraq and Syria as the so-called caliphate disintegrates is likely to be patchy at best. Could the end of the ‘Islamic State’ mean more lone-actor terrorist attacks such as in Westminster in March 2017? There have been suggestions that ISIS had a more direct role than previously thought in recent attacks, such as the lorry driven through a crowd of civilians in Nice.

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