Conflict and Fragility

Policy briefs

A stubborn threat: Islamic State in Iraq in early 2022

17 May 2022 - 10:41
Source: A man rides a bicycle near buildings destroyed during past fighting with Islamic State militants, in the old city of Mosul, Iraq February 1, 2022. REUTERS

In the four years since its territorial defeat, Islamic State (IS) has proved to be resilient as it continues to mount attacks across Iraq. Analysis of IS activity from September 2021 to February 2022 (six months) shows that the geography, type and targets of IS attacks remained broadly similar to the year preceding this period. The volume of IS attacks increased but this mostly took the form of small-scale and local incidents. By and large, the group seems to be stable and shows neither decline nor growth. It operates nimbly and is mostly active in the arc between Sinjar and Baghdad. Counter-terrorism (CT) operations decreased in volume over the same period but are nevertheless keeping IS in check. However, as CT operations are mostly tactical affairs that remain inadequately coordinated and low on intelligence in some aspects, they have not been able to eliminate IS capacity to mount major operations, or to remove it from entire areas. Broadly speaking, IS attacks and CT operations are in a state of equilibrium. As Iraqi CT efforts emphasise security interventions over socio-political remedies, conditions for IS survival, as well as future revival, remain relatively favourable.

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