Recap: “ISIS without the Caliphate: What Happens Now?”

Author Graeme Wood and George Washington University research fellow Devorah Margolin speak onstage at the Museum auditorium.
Author Graeme Wood and George Washington University research fellow Devorah Margolin talk about the future of the Islamic State during a public program at the Museum auditorium. Photo by Monika Graff.

Graeme Wood, author of The Way of the Strangers: Encounters with the Islamic State, and Devorah Margolin of George Washington University’s Program on Extremism took part in a public program at the 9/11 Memorial Museum on Tuesday, October 29, about the future of ISIS.

From 2017–2018, U.S.-backed forces gradually liberated Iraqi and Syrian territory occupied by ISIS and its so-called caliphate. Although its caliphate is gone, ISIS still remains active and has sympathizers around the world.

“When ISIS thinks about how well things worked out—how well did it work out to declare a caliphate and to be extremely intolerant of even other Muslims—they will be able to say, correctly, that it worked out way better than anything that al-Qaeda tried before,” Wood said.

Among those who still sympathize with ISIS are some women left behind in camps after the dissolution of the caliphate. Margolin said that women who joined ISIS aren’t all the same and must be evaluated on a case by case basis.

“Some of them were naive and some of them were coerced, and so to paint every individual with the same paintbrush would be doing more harm than good, either if you’re painting them all as victims or all as perpetrators,” Margolin said.

Author Graeme Wood and George Washington University research fellow Devorah Margolin talk about the future of ISIS.

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Nevertheless, Margolin says there are still women in the camps who remain loyal and believe in the caliphate—and ISIS knows this.

“[Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi] in his last known speech, I believe, made a call to break these women out so they could restart the caliphate,” Margolin said.

Wood and Margolin also talked about the future of ISIS without its caliphate and what will happen to ISIS fighters, some of whom have returned home to Europe and the U.S.

You can view the full program hereFind out more about the fall 2019 public programming season at the 9/11 Memorial Museum.

By 9/11 Memorial Staff

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