Gen. Joseph Votel, head of U.S. Central Command, which oversees military operations in the Middle East, acknowledged Islamic State’s loss of territory does not mean it is on the verge of collapse.
The group will continue to coordinate and inspire attacks from its online “virtual caliphate,” he said in an email interview.
“The military defeat of ISIS is essential but not sufficient,” he said, using an acronym for Islamic State. “As we continue to degrade ISIS’ physical capability they will shift more of their attention to the virtual realm and we will need to do whatever we can to stay ahead of them.”
U.S. efforts to counter extremist messaging has largely failed so far, said Thomas Joscelyn, a senior fellow at the nonpartisan Foundation for Defense of Democracies in Washington.