Last week’s defeat of ISIS (al-Qaida 2.0) at Mosul, Iraq, and the expectation that the insurgent group will soon lose its “capital” of Raqqa, Syria, has led many to wonder what will follow the fall of ISIS.
I was in Iraq in 2008-09 after the defeat of al-Qaida 1.0, and it looked like peace. Killings were down substantially, Sunni and Shi’a were working together in the Council of Representatives to pass legislation, and — boosted by the oil price rise beginning in 2009 — the economy was in a construction-led boom.
But the peace was short-lived.
There were political, diplomatic and military obstacles that led to the collapse of Iraqi optimism and the rise of al-Qaida 2.0. But even if these problems can be avoided after the expected defeat of ISIS, failure to deal with the problem of rapidly growing youth unemployment will create a fertile environment for the rise of al-Qaida 3.0.
Iraq is a young country and each year over 800,000 Iraqis become old enough to seek employment. Even after adjusting for the retirements and extremely low labor force participation by women, the Iraq economy must create about 340,000 additional jobs each year simply to keep the number of unemployed — mostly uneducated, unskilled young men — from growing. Unemployed young men have little chance of becoming married and therefore are not only a burden on their families but are looked down upon in Iraqi society.