This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.
The Islamic State (IS) extremist group may be based mostly in Iraq, but the covert network is poised for an eventual resurgence, a group of UN experts told the international body’s Security Council this week.
Their assessment is based on a 24th quarterly UN report on the extremist group that says its “center of gravity” remains in Iraq, where its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is based, Syria, and “areas of the immediate neighborhood.”
After being ousted in March from Baghuz, its last stronghold in Syria, the leadership of IS now “aims to adapt, survive, and consolidate in the core area and to establish sleeper cells at the local level in preparation” for a comeback, the report said.
IS uses “propaganda” to maintain its reputation as the “leading global terrorist brand,” according to the report.
International attacks will be launched once IS “has the time and space to reinvest in an external operations capability…in addition to the [IS]-inspired attacks that continue…in many locations around the world.”
U.S. intelligence and diplomatic officials have shared the same view of IS.
After the fall of Baghuz, James Jeffery, the U.S. special envoy to Syria, said, “this is not the end of the fight.”
Citing a recent report by the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War, Voice of America reported that the IS comeback “could be faster and even more devastating” than before.
It will first commence in the heartlands of Syria and Iraq, the UN report said.
About 10,000-15,000 fighters are believed to be in Syria and Iraq as part of clandestine cells.
IS has between $50 million and $300 million left in revenue, but “is reported to lack liquid funds” for carrying out operations, the report said.
Meanwhile, Al-Qaeda’s future is uncertain given that its leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, is “reported to be in poor health and doubts as to how the group will manage the succession.”
U.S. media reported on July 31 that Hamza bin Laden, the son of Al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden, had died. He was known as an emerging leader in Al-Qaeda.