âAll of these conditions in the end form the basic environment for the group,â said Hassan Abu Haniyeh, a Jordanian expert in extremist groups. âThey formed the environment for it to start and spread, and now they are increasing, not decreasing.â
The caliphate also lives on in the virtual realm, as its operatives and supporters churn out propaganda, bomb manuals, encryption guides and suggestions for how to kill the largest number of people with trucks.
Its members have played down their losses, portraying them as mere setbacks in the long-term, worldwide battle against those who reject their ideology.
âO brothers, I call upon you to rise up wherever you are and to surround them and monitor them, then attack them and kill them,â a Chechen suicide bomber said in a video released posthumously last month. âThe disbelievers have gathered today from every faith and attacked the caliphate, but this had only added to our faith and courage.â
American officials acknowledged the difficulty of fighting the group online.
âWe spend an inordinate amount of time and resources as the United States, but also as our partners, trying to not only defeat ISIS and their control of the physical caliphate, but their virtual space that they own,â Thomas P. Bossert, Mr. Trumpâs Homeland Security and counterterrorism adviser, said last Sunday on ABCâs âThis Week.â âTheyâre proselytizing. Itâs troubling.â
Still, many Syrians and Iraqis whose lives the jihadists have ravaged are glad to see them chased out, despite worries about the future.
âI am happy that Daesh is dying, but the fear of what might come next is killing this happiness,â said Ahmed Abdul-Qadir, a Raqqa native who was running an anti-jihadist media group in Turkey when gunmen he believes belonged to the Islamic State shot him in the jaw. He is now in France, and he communicated via Facebook chat because he is between surgeries that have made it hard to speak.
âIt makes me wish that this whole organization would vanish and that no one who believes in its doctrine would remain alive,â he said.