The Atlantic

The ‘Caliphate’ Is Dead, but Americans Might Not Be Any Safer

Why a terrorist group with land looked so threatening to the United States
Source: Felipe Dana / AP

The Islamic State is gone, even if only in strict geographic terms. Once estimated to span territory up to about the size of Maine, the group’s self-declared caliphate in Iraq and Syria has disappeared entirely in less than five years. As of early February, the group held just about a square mile on the Syrian border, and though the final assault took six weeks, the U.S.-backed Kurdish forces conducting the operations announced the collapse on Saturday.

The collapse is a major achievement for the U.S. and its allies, even though it won’t stop the group from conducting attacks in the region or inspiring them overseas. At its peak strength in 2014 and 2015, ISIS was considered unique among terrorist organizations for controlling so much territory. But that very distinction underscored how terrorist groups throughout history have waged violence perfectly well without states of their own. So why did territory in particular help make ISIS look so

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