ISIS was on the decline recently. The euphoria of having defeated this massive terrorist organization, after the fall of Raqqa, capital of the self-defined Islamic caliphate, could be sensed through media coverage of the event and the reaction of people. The general opinion was that the caliphate was over.

The dream of the caliphate, however, is far from over. Only yesterday, ISIS massacred 300 Egyptians in Sinai.

There is a need to understand ISIS. It runs a digital caliphate. It is a sophisticated outfit that uses websites and social media to recruit members. Until recently, ISIS had a proper structure of the organization with Baghdadi having a cabinet as well that had the power to remove him, including two more tiers of the group.

ISIS began to burgeon under the umbrella of al-Qaeda. While al-Qaeda was liquidated very much by America, the defected members of it joined the ranks of ISIS. However, it later split with it because the leadership of al-Qaeda protested on the tactics used by Abu Musab al Zarqawi, the founding member of AQI, parent organization of ISIS, to achieve their common end – establishment of an Islamic caliphate.

ISIS’s, anti-Shia, anti-Sufi outfit pretending itself a Sunni organization, aim is to overthrow taghut (illegitimate governments) that are ruling Muslim countries today and establish a Muslim caliphate. Even at the time of fall of Raqqa in October this year, many who claimed that ISIS’s ambitious project was over could hardly argue that it had vanished. The question is: Why do these organizations keep coming back after being declared defeated and destroyed?

Western interventions led by the United States of America have always met with disastrous ends. In 2011, at the time of withdrawal from Iraq by US forces, US claimed that Al Qaeda International was over. Zarqawi was killed in 2006. Rest of the leadership was droned too. US had annihilated the organization. Did those killings make any significant difference? While the skeptics were not sure of the desired results, Iraq was claimed to be in safe hands.

The vacuum created with the intervention of US in Iraq and dividing the country along sectarian lines gave rise to another phenomenon: IS. The organisation didn’t fill the space instantaneously. From 2010 till 2013, ISIS took time to reorganize itself and came back stronger than ever before. It no more relied primarily on foreign fighters. Instead, it built itself on Iraqis frustrations. Former members of Saddam Hussein’s army also defected to ISIS. It attacked prisons under US control and evacuated their comrades who later joined the organization, thus making it the group to reckon with.

Now in 2017, once again, we came to a point where we felt that ISIS was over. Absolute farce! ISIS only afforded the time to reorganize. And there they came yesterday! There is a need to decipher the situation and ask the fundamental question. Syria has taken the position of former Iraq. Iraq was claimed to be in safe hands but what hands is Syria in? Assad allowed ISIS to grow to stay in power. The strategy was simple: Keep the international community busy with fighting the ever-growing terrorist organization while he continued his suppression. After all, in any case, Russia and Iran would take care.

Unless Syria remains ruined as it is, unless US does not change its policy from not bothering Assad while targeting ISIS, the problem will remain in one form or another. The road to ISIS’ destruction goes through Syria. There is an urgent need to come to terms on the future of Syria. With Assad in power and rebels silenced, we will only witness amassing grievances. Many then would defect to ISIS, as happened in 2013, as happened after liquidation of al-Qaeda’s leadership in the subcontinent.

A stable Syria coupled with a massive crackdown on local elements that contribute to ISIS in other countries will be a way towards dealing with ISIS effectively. There is a need for global consensus where governments domestically and internationally hold the same line of action: complete destruction of ISIS.

Two such elements that require a seizure are, a) financial resources of ISIS b) recruitment to ISIS. For example, the group operates as ISIS Khorasan in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India. It has claimed multiple attacks in these countries. Its greatest strength is in Afghanistan. And that is the next target of ISIS. Before they get there, the global community needs to do something. Modus Operandi should be ‘Grab them before they grab you.’

Secondly, the US till recently was planning to leave Afghanistan. However, Obama’s plans for decreasing troops were reversed when Donald Trump, added 4000 more troops to Afghanistan. That decision was right. Afghanistan cannot be left to deal with the situation on its own. That will only afford ISIS time to regrow. Before ISIS’ ranks swell again, US needs to stay intact in Afghanistan.

Thirdly, local terrorist organizations need to be chased before they become readymade personnel providers for ISIS. For example, only in Pakistan ASWJ, Lashkar-i-Jhangvi, Sipah-i-Sahaba, Swat-al-Ummah, Ahrar ul Islam have been involved with ISIS at one point or another. People like cleric Maulana Abdul Aziz of Jamia Hafsa and Lal Masjid have blatantly sworn to ISIS’ agenda. Grab them too!

ISIS is not dead. It is playing us again, and it is not a terrorist organization next door. It is a sophisticated, well funded, well organized, backed by a sizeable network of ideologues and scholars providing intellectual justifications for their actions, and a modern organization. They will come back better than before. Grab them already for the battle has just begun.