After Mosul, Daesh plans to abandon military-style formations and instead operate in cells, the officials said.
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With Daesh's (ISIS) "caliphate" seemingly nearing its downfall in Iraq, the country's security agencies are preparing for a different fight against the militants, shifting away from ground offensives to a focus on intelligence work, surgical airstrikes and a higher level of cooperation with the West. The new strategy is designed to counter an expected move by Daesh away from holding territory and back to a more classic role as a dispersed, underground terror organization after it loses Mosul, its last major urban center in Iraq. Already, the militants are laying the groundwork for a strategy of hiding in remote areas, carrying out attacks in Iraq and abroad, and resorting to organized crime to bankroll operations, intelligence and counterterrorism officials said. The immediate priority for Iraqi officials is to limit the number of militants who escape Mosul to go into hiding, they said. Longer term, they said, the fight against post-Mosul Daesh can only succeed if the border with Syria is secured and the Shiite-led government in Baghdad addresses longtime grievances by Iraq's Sunni Arab minority that fueled support for the militants. Iraq also wants to intervene against Daesh in Syria to ensure the group's de facto capital there, Raqqa, is retaken, a senior counterterrorism official said.
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