In August, I wrote an analysis on an increasingly evident aim by the Islamic State (ISIS) “to establish a more substantial base in the Philippines.” My assessment was based on recent events in the country, the most notable of which being the July 31 suicide bombing by Moroccan fighter “Abu Kathir al-Maghrebi” on Basilan island, which ISIS claimed. The attack was a landmark event for the Philippines: for the first time, a foreigner fighter from outside of the Southeast Asia region had been attributed to an attack in the Philippines—the first suicide operation there, at that.
During the last year, the Islamic State’s (ISIS) presence in the Philippines has fallen into the emerging narrative of the group’s defeat. Filipino forces ended ISIS’ months-long siege on the city of Marawi in October of 2017, just three months after the group’s loss of Mosul and roughly a week after its loss of Raqqah. From here, the comforting narrative sold itself: the mess of ISIS in the Philippines, like in other countries, was finally being cleaned up.
But perhaps not.