The IS is strategically on the retreat in the Levant (Syria-Iraq Theater of War). It is reeling under the unrelenting onslaughts from the multitude of forces pitched against it. It has lost moral and physical ascendancy and control of the region ceding about 50,000 square kilometers to US-Iraqi forces. It has suffered debilitating reverses in the major areas of Mosul in Iraq, Raqqa, Aleppo and Palmyra in Syria and thereabouts with about 2.5 million people being freed from its diabolical stranglehold. It is displaying signs of acute desperation as it seeks to relocate and reinvent itself in other regions like the Afghanistan Pakistan Region - APR (aka Islamic State’s Khorasan Province - ISKP) Europe, Africa, South Asia, Far East etc.

It can sense its hold in the Levant weakening and the tides of war turning away from it as its position there becomes incrementally untenable by the day. It is clearly displaying strategic weaknesses. Its center of gravity, it’s so-called Caliphate, is under mortal threat and on the verge of collapsing. Its decimated leadership is under constant danger of total obliteration. Its core leadership could actually be on the run. Its declared aim of imposing its version of the Sharia on the world is in doldrums. It is on the retreat physically on the battlefield and ideologically as well. It is fast losing its credibility and notoriety as a potent savage coercive force.

It is ripe for the taking.

This is then the most opportune moment to unleash the coup de main against it.

The future strategies of both belligerents are gradually crystallising. The IS will aim, henceforth, to preserve its strength and viability avoid decisive defeat and total destruction in the Levant. It will seek to achieve a clean break and escape in strength to relocate, regroup, reinforce, replenish and continue its battles elsewhere while the forces arrayed against it will aim to maintain contact and the momentum of their offensive, isolate, fix and annihilate it in situ.

A fascinating albeit deadly battle of stratagems, nerves, wits and valor is in the offing.

A two pronged mutually supporting strategy needs to be employed. First, a vital and critical disconnect, a definitive severing of all types of linkages between the IS in the Levant and its various regional bastions around the globe must be ensured obviating all forms of mutual support. Simultaneously, within the regional bastions the linkages between the militants and their respective support groups must be decisively rend asunder. Thus inter and intra regional isolation and fixing of the IS in situ must be ensured. Second, in swift, focused military operations employing overwhelming force, the IS must be reduced, defeated and destructed piecemeal and in detail.

A series of well coordinated, synchronised and synergised military and intelligence based operations at the international level will be the need of the hour. The US, Russia, Turkey, Iraq, Syria, GCC, various militias and NATO must fix and destroy the IS in the Levant. The US, Russia, China, Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan, the CARs, NATO etc must launch joint operations to root out and destroy the IS in the ISKP/APR. India, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Indonesia etc too need to act against the IS, post haste, in their respective territories. The US and Russia must jointly lead these international efforts!

Russia has already had a series of consultations with regional countries particularly China and Pakistan to forge a coalition and evolve a joint strategy to defeat the IS in the ISKP/APR. It needs to secure its southern under belly and the CARs from the IS while China wants to deny the IS any access or linkage to the ETIM in Xinjiang Province. Russia is holding further consultations next month which the US has declined to attend. Afghanistan and Pakistan will obviously have a major role to play in these military and intelligence based operations. For Pakistan Operation Radd ul Fasaad could not have come at a more appropriate time. By targeting the support groups/sleeper cells of the IS in various parts of Pakistan it is actually creating the desired operational environment and ensuring that vital disconnect - the prerequisite to the destructing of the IS.

Russia (and Iran?) are engaging the Afghan Taliban and apparently want to pitch it against the IS. It is a smart strategy whereby both militant groups fight and weaken one another. The Russians (and Iran?) want to kill two (both) birds with one stone. This will allow Russia (and Iran?) to later move in to either annihilate the weakened victor or whatever remains of the two belligerents. However, they could end up having to deal with a victorious and rejuvenated Afghan Taliban who could even feel emboldened enough to take on the US/NATO/ANSF with renewed vigour! This Russo-(Iran-?) strategy is fraught with dangers if implemented without US/NATO concurrence and participation. This approach must be given up to allow for a broader based regional strategy to deal with the situation/IS.

The US too has initiated consultations to forge a Coalition to defeat the IS in the Levant comprising mostly Western and Arab allies. It could include other regional/extra regional countries as well. The US is already there on the battlefield in the Levant and in the air space above it. It may now decide to become more proactively and decisively involved to comprehensively seal the defeat and destructing of the IS.

The international community’s interests converge splendidly in defeating the IS. This is a classic and strategic opportunity in the making and must not be lost. The need now is to synchronise and synergise these US and Russian initiatives to deliver a collective and decisive blow to destruct international terrorism in general and the IS in particular. These efforts must reinforce one another, regardless of conflicting and contesting national interests. Parallel efforts or those at cross purposes will be self defeating. And that is something the peoples of the world can ill afford, not now nor ever!