Al-Qaeda To ISIS And Beyond, The Battle Is Not About To End

Still image from a propaganda ISIS video
Still image from a propaganda ISIS video
Stuart Richardson


The Islamic State is now on the run in Syria and Iraq. Following the terror group's defeat this summer in its self-declared Iraqi capital of Mosul, ISIS has now been driven from its Syrian stronghold of Raqqa. This comes more than four years after ISIS chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared his "Caliphate" from the pulpit of the al-Nuri mosque in Mosul.

ISIS's aim was a break from the more amorphous strategy of al-Qaeda, with the Caliphate meant to be a reestablishment of the Prophet Muhammad's theocratic state that would now extend out from the territory it was rapidly conquering in the war-torn areas of Iraq and Syria.

Now, the territory is being ceded just as quickly, a major blow to al-Baghdadi's ambitions. But ISIS was always more than just a land grab. The movement has simultaneously been invading the minds of Muslims around the world, inspiring unflagging devotion to the Salafist cause. Through social media and the Internet, al-Baghdadi's message has given rise to ISIS offshoots in all corners of the globe, where local military forces have had varying success in defeating jihadist insurgents.

In the Philippines, where for decades Muslim insurgency groups based predominantly in the southern islands have challenged Manila's authority, government forces have been battling ISIS rebels in the city of Marawi since May. Last Tuesday, the military declared victory.

Even when fighting together, Afghan and American forces are "not enough" to defeat the rebels.

The win came at a high cost. According to the Indonesia-based media outlet KBR, the violence in Marawi displaced some 400,000 residents, approximately 90% of the city's population. The displaced will have difficulty returning to their homes, as the city now lays in ruin. Moreover, the long-term battle against Islamic insurgency is bound to return to the region.

A similar story repeats around the world. It's the result of the franchise model that the Islamic State adopted and expanded from al-Qaeda. It surprised many Americans, in the midst of the media circus surrounding the deaths of four U.S. soldiers in Niger, that ISIS had taken up residence in the West African nation.

To bring it full circle, the French daily Le Figaro features a reportage on the fortunes of ISIS In Afghanistan, the former home base of al-Qaeda. There, a branch of the group is gaining ground in the mountainous zone of Tora Bora, where Osama Bin Laden had sought refuge after orchestrating the 9/11 attacks.

"We're dealing with an ideological force that wants to expand at any cost," a Western diplomat told Le Figaro, adding that even when fighting together, Afghan and American forces are "not enough" to defeat the rebels.

Indeed, beyond what we call it or how it looks on a map, it is the idea of the Islamic State that is the hardest to defeat.

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A Mother In Spain Denied Child Custody Because She Lives In Rural Area

A court in Spain usurps custody of the one-year-old boy living with his mother in the "deep" part of the Galicia region, forced to instead live with his father in the southern city of Marbella, which the judge says is "cosmopolitan" with good schools and medical care. Women's rights groups have taken up the mother's case.

A child in Galician countryside

Laure Gautherin

A Spanish court has ordered the withdrawal of a mother's custody of her one-year-old boy because she is living in the countryside in northwestern Spain, where the judge says the child won't have "opportunities for the proper development of his personality."

The case, reported Monday in La Voz de Galicia, has sparked outrage from a women's rights association but has also set off reactions from politicians of different stripes across the province of Galicia, defending the values of rural life.

Judge María Belén Ureña Carazo, of the family court of Marbella, a city on the southern coast of 141,000 people, has ordered the toddler to stay with father who lives in the city rather than with his mother because she was living in "deep Galicia" where the child would lack opportunities to "grow up in a happy environment."

Front page of La Voz de Galicia - October 25, 2021

Front page of La Voz de Galicia - Monday 25 October, 2021

La Voz de Galicia

Better in a "cosmopolitan" city?

The judge said Marbella, where the father lives, was a "cosmopolitan city" with "a good hospital" as well as "all kinds of schools" and thus provided a better environment for the child to thrive.

The mother has submitted a formal complaint to the General Council of the Judiciary that the family court magistrate had acted with "absolute contempt," her lawyer told La Voz de Galicia.

The mother quickly accumulated support from local politicians and civic organizations. The Clara Campoamor association described the judge's arguments as offensive, intolerable and typical of "an ignorant person who has not traveled much."

The Xunta de Galicia, the regional government, has addressed the case, saying that any place in Galicia meets the conditions to educate a minor. The Socialist party politician Pablo Arangüena tweeted that "it would not hurt part of the judiciary to spend a summer in Galicia."

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