After the “Caliphate” The Metrics of Daesh and the Ongoing Challenge of Extremism

Part One: Daesh, Syria and Iraq



The Burke Chair at CSIS is issuing the first report in a three-part survey of metrics that address the fighting in Iraq and Syria, the ongoing challenge of extremism. This series is titled After the “Caliphate”: The Metrics of Daesh and the Ongoing Challenge of Extremism. Part One is now available on the CSIS web site at

The two additional parts that follow will include:

  • Part Two - The Changing Threat – will survey the broader trends in Islam, and in Islamic extremism. It then focuses on these trends in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), and the scale of the continuing threat they pose to the stability of the MENA region.
  • Part Three – Key Factors that Seem Likely to Lead to Continuing Violent Extremism, and Conflicts in the MENA Region – will explore metrics that portray the broader causes of instability and possible future conflict in the region.

The Metrics of Daesh and the Ongoing Challenge of Extremism

Part One contains some 60 different metrics that cover the trends in war on Daesh in Syria and Iraq, the outcome of the fighting, and the remaining threat.

These metrics show that the Assad regime’s state terrorism has caused more casualties than the fight against Daesh, and that the breakup of the Daesh “state” left major areas where Daesh and other extremist fighters are still present. Other metrics show that Iraq was dependent on U.S. air power, and train and assist effort in defeating Daesh, and that Iraq will need substantial U.S. support in creating forces that can ensure that Daesh or some similar threat does not reemerge.

The final metrics in Part One show that both Syria and Iraq still have critical weaknesses in terms of governance, corruption, economic development, and internal divisions that make them the equivalent of “failed states.” While these challenges are much greater in the case of Syria – which remains deeply divided and involved in a civil war, both nations must cope with rebuilding their economies, creating more effective political structures, and improving their levels of Governance. They also must deal with ethnic and sectarian tensions that can lead to renewed civil conflict, Iran’s efforts to win added influence, the impact of Russian presence in Syria, and tensions with Turkey.

Taken as a whole, these metrics warn that breaking up Daesh’s attempt to create a state or pseudo state – what Daesh called a “caliphate” – has not defeated Daesh or put an end to the much broader patterns of extremism, terrorism, and instability in Syria and Iraq . They also warn that the U.S. must look beyond Daesh and Iran, and develop a strategy, plans, programs, and budgets that address all of these issues in spite of the breakup of Daesh’s attempt to form a state.

Anthony H. Cordesman holds the Arleigh A. Burke chair in Strategy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C. He has served as a consultant on Afghanistan to the United States Department of Defense and the United States Department of State.
Anthony H. Cordesman

Anthony H. Cordesman

Former Emeritus Chair in Strategy