We should welcome the news that ISIL is slowly but surely being contained in Iraq and Syria. According to a report by IHS Conflict Monitor, the amount of territory controlled by the extremist group has reduced by a quarter since January last year, when it was 90,800 square kilometres. It was in June 2014 that ISIL declared its “caliphate” and made outrageous claims that it would conquer the Arab and Muslim worlds, and much of Europe too. Many lives have been lost in the effort to push them back, and we must be thankful for the sacrifices of those who have fought for their countries and to preserve the integrity of their religion. However, this is not a time for complacency.
ISIL still controls large tracts of land, is clinging on in Mosul, and has outposts along the borders of Jordan and Turkey, posing a potential threat to those countries. It has killed thousands of innocent people, some of them in horrific executions broadcast on the internet, and left permanent scars on cities and populations. Its members have destroyed priceless ancient artefacts and buildings, such as those in the historic city of Palmyra.
Moreover, ISIL is changing its tactics. No longer seeking to expand its territory on the ground through conventional military means, it is enabling and encouraging its members and their fellow travellers to carry out acts of terrorism. Recent attacks in France, Russia, Egypt and the United Kingdom have been attributed to members of ISIL or people who were influenced by its terrifyingly effective internet and social-media messaging. While investigations are continuing, German police suspect an ISIL connection to the bomb blast on the Borussia Dortmund football team bus on Tuesday night. A letter claiming responsibility for the attack, in which one player was injured, referred to German involvement in bombing ISIL targets in Syria.
ISIL’s presence on the ground in Syria and Iraq may be diminishing but this evil organisation remains a real and present global threat. We must remain vigilant in weeding out its pernicious influence wherever and whenever it is found.