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Schilling made it his mission to lead from the front. While the character of Captain Miller is fictional, he and Walt Schilling represent the hundreds of Captains and Lieutenants who went ashore on D-Day with the mission of leading their men onto the beaches.

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This proved to be an enormous task with communications almost non-existent and German defenses preventing any type of coherent advance. The surviving officers rallied what men they could, and lead them in the destruction of German emplacements and the eventual exit from Omaha Beach. Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment.

Notify me of follow-up comments by email. Notify me of new posts by email. Company D landed just behind A Company on Omaha Beach and suffered a similarly large number of dead and wounded. Its success sent shockwaves throughout the Islamic world. What al-Qaida , founded by Osama bin Laden in Pakistan in , had talked about doing decades or centuries in the future, an upstart breakaway faction had done in months.

In and , I interviewed young men, and some women, who had found the call of Isis irresistible. They came from Belgium and the Maldives, both thousands of miles from the Levant.

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A few returned to their homelands to proselytise or, in Europe, to carry out some of the most infamous terrorist attacks ever. Isis inspired others who had not travelled to execute their own attacks, too. From Bangladesh to Florida, hundreds died in a new wave of terrorist acts. Yet this vast and ambitious project has been reduced to rubble. As many as 60, Isis fighters have died since , according to senior US military officials. The leadership has shrunk to a rump — although al-Baghdadi survives.

Raqqa: a journey into the destroyed heart of the Islamic State capital

The administration is no more. The training camps are gone.

In mid-September it ended entirely. If the defeat of Isis did not come easily, three inherent weaknesses of its project always made it likely in the long term. Expansion also meant new recruits to replace combat casualties, arms and ammunition to acquire, archaeological treasures to sell, property to loot, food to distribute and new communities and resources, such as oil wells and refineries, to exploit. But once it had occupied its Sunni-dominated heartlands, further expansion was unlikely. If it was easy to sweep aside a border of a shattered state such as Syria , the frontiers of stronger states such as Turkey, Israel and Jordan proved resistant.

There was no way even Isis, a Sunni Arab Muslim force, was going to fight its way deep into Shia-dominated central and southern Iraq. Second, the violent intolerance of dissent and brutality by Isis towards the communities under its authority sapped support. Its rule brought relative security, a rude form of justice, and defence against perceived Shia and regime oppression.

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And assent to Isis takeover also ensured, or at least made more likely, their own survival. In , with a weakened Isis unable to offer anything other than violence, the defections started and rapidly snowballed. A collective yearning to restore the military, political and technological superiority over the west enjoyed by Islamic powers a millennium ago — or the conviction that the end times are near — proved insufficient to convince communities to fight and die for the Isis cause.

At the very end, the hospital and stadium in Raqqa were defended by foreign Isis fighters. Any remaining Syrian militants had surrendered days before. Third, Isis took on the west. This was a conscious decision, hard-wired into the movement, and not taken in self-defence as some have suggested.

The first terrorist attackers were dispatched by Isis to Europe in early , before the US-led coalition began airstrikes.


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The combination of western firepower and funding for local forces has repeatedly proved a potent one in Pakistan, Nigeria, Somalia, Libya, Mali and elsewhere. Outright victory against jihadis is difficult to achieve, but militant organisations targeted by the west are usually forced at the very least to abandon territorial gains, particularly urban centres.

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It is clear that any victory over Isis is partial. The recent military offensive has not been accompanied by a parallel political effort. There are still deep wells of resentment and fear among Iraqi Sunnis, and the Syrian civil war grinds on. Isis will now return to the vicious and effective insurgency it ran before the spectacular campaigns of The project of constructing an Islamic state has been defeated, but the organisation has not.

Yet there is still cause for optimism. The three key challenges that undermined the Isis state-building project also face every other militant group, and always will.