There are some positive signs, according to the FT, that ISIS’ morale is cratering:
Activists and fighters in parts of eastern Syria controlled by Isis said as military progress slows and focus shifts to governing the area, frustration has grown among militants who had been seen as the most disciplined and effective fighting force in the country’s civil war.The group hurtled across western Iraq and eastern Syria over the summer in a sudden offensive that shocked the world. Isis remains a formidable force: it controls swaths of territory and continues to make progress in western Iraq. But its fighters have reached the limit of discontented Sunni Muslim areas that they can easily capture and US-led coalition air strikes partnered with offensives by local ground forces have begun to halt their progress.
The shift from spearheading a triumphal blitz to governing a ruined economy in the middle of a grinding war of attrition is testing the capacity of ISIS as nothing has before. Splits between foreign fighters and locals, between the truly nut job fanatics and regular people caught in the crossfire, and the general hassle of inconclusive fighting, logistical problems, and other issues that Clausewitz grouped together under the heading of “friction” is now taking its toll.The question for this insurgency, as for every other insurgency that has had some success since time immemorial, is whether it can weather the strain of transition. It is a good time for the coalition to keep on pounding, and to hit the organization wherever and whenever it can.But we should, for now at least, keep our gloating in check. ISIS has so far demonstrated a knack for repeatedly solving problems that others assumed were insoluble. It has conquered much more territory much more quickly than anyone expected, it has established a global presence and a successful brand, it has attracted and organized huge numbers of foreign fighters and has made inroads among rival Sunni tribes in both Syria and Iraq. We can hope that the stresses under which it now labors will cause it to fragment and fail, but we should certainly not count on it. This is an extremely dangerous organization, and the problems it now faces are, we should not forget, the results of its startling successes.