Late last month, ISIS blew the symbolic mosque where the caliphate was declared in 2014. Mosul was finally conquered. Its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, was allegedly killed last May. Raqqa, ISIS' "capital" is surrounded and its fall is just a matter of time.

What has to happen to declare ISIS as defeated? E.g. which are the conditions needed so that the Wikipedia entry can be changed from "ISIL is ..." to "ISIL was ..."?

To avoid opinionated answers, I would like answers to be based on historical experiences, for instance, in comparison with organisations like ETA, IRA, etc.

Naturally, there are always dissident opinions that would declare organisations like ETA or IRA still active, but I think a sort of consensus (or maybe the authoritative opinion of some international or multilateral body) is enough for our purposes.

Update: given recent developments (i.e. the almost complete wipe-out of the territorial caliphate in Syria and Iraq), it's increasingly evident that Isis will remain a force to be reckon, at least in the sense of standard terrorist acts. As an ideology, it might never, at least any time soon, be defeated.

  • 6
    ISIS is not a country, it's a terrorists organization. Kill one, there's three waiting to take his place.
    – Noah
    Jul 9, 2017 at 0:32
  • 4
    I note that wikipedia says the IRA is and ETA is. Both are extant organisations, but not engaged in armed confict now.
    – James K
    Jul 9, 2017 at 6:57
  • Holding territory is a fairly interesting distinction, but at least some of their declared goals don't seem dependent on it.
    – user9389
    Jul 9, 2017 at 16:28
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    What exactly is meant by "defeated" here? If ISIS the organization dissolves, but the surviving members form new jihadist groups, recruit new members, and keep on with the jihad, has it been defeated? For a parallel, was the IRA "defeated" because it mostly chose to re-form itself as a political party? Or has it just chosen to use different tactics?
    – jamesqf
    Jul 9, 2017 at 18:14
  • Only way to "defeat" these organizations is to change their mindset and view of the western world. So far the west has not done a good job of this.
    – Noah
    Jul 9, 2017 at 21:41

1 Answer 1


There is no internationally agreed list of terrorist organisations. Individual countries maintain lists of "proscribed organisations" (the term used in the UK). But organisations may remain on such lists even after they have ceased to exist. For example, Saor Éire is a proscribed organisation in the UK despite its disbanding in 1975. It is likely that many of its members joined the Provisional IRA.

So, to declare an organisation defeated one would have to witness the cessation of organisation. By which I mean, if people are meeting under the name IS (or Daesh etc) then the organisation exists. This can either be because the members join another organisation, or because the members believe that they can achieve their goals without violence.

For historical context, look to the Anarchist movements of the 19th and early 20th century. They were "defeated" when the causes of their anger stopped. They were defeated by paying workers more, allowing trade unions and stopping the worst abuses of working conditions.


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