Why Raqqa won’t be the end of the road for ISIL

First, the win against ISIL would be purely tactical: the removal of ISIL militants from Raqqa will not damage the group’s image, as it should ideally have been designed to do. If policymakers involved in the campaign think the demise of the group in Raqqa in this manner will undermine its narrative, they will be mistaken and out of touch with reality.

Both Mosul and Raqqa are missed opportunities in this sense. The US could has used them to jump-start a policy or a road map that put an end to the cycle of violence in the two countries, and ensure these groups are fatally discredited.

Instead, the campaign in the two ISIL strongholds have turned into pure counterterrorism and military operations. As a counterterrorism operation, the US has done an impressive job in Mosul. But that does not necessarily translate into a serious damage to the group’s narrative and image – a core objective of Operation Inherent Resolve.

Second, the decision to dismiss such concerns and move into Raqqa with the same force that the previous administration relied on elsewhere disrupts a nascent positive trend in northern Syria. More and more members of the Syrian opposition are noticeably buying into the idea of fighting ISIL as a politically expedient project in and of itself, unlike previously when they wanted to focus on the regime of Bashar Al Assad – something the previous administration hoped to do, with no success.