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2018 Annual Assessment

The past year marked the nearly complete defeat of ISIS. The organization’s failures pierced its aura of invincibility and eroded its attractiveness to young Muslims across the globe. It is likely that the organization will try to intensify its terrorist activity, to compensate for its weaknesses. The terrorist entities associated with ISIS are still active in the Sinai Peninsula and are directing most of their attacks against the Egyptian army, though they have already carried out attacks against Israel and may try to do so again.

Successful efforts against ISIS do not ensure eradication of the social and religious infrastructure that gave rise to the organization. There is still substantial support for the ideas and attitudes ISIS represents – in the Middle East and outside the region. Just as ISIS flourished in the aftermath of the U.S.–Al-Qaeda war, one cannot rule out the emergence of a new jihadist entity from the ruins of ISIS. Many ISIS fighters in Syria and Iraq can be expected to return to their countries of origin, where there is large-scale interest in the organization’s message. The fall of ISIS brings urgency to the question of whether the entities filling the vacuum left in Syria and Iraq will succeed in achieving order and stability.