It has been three years since the Islamic State’s self-proclaimed caliphate was wiped off the global map. Yet, thousands of Islamic State fighters and tens of thousands of the group’s adherents, including a large number of women and children, remain detained in inhumane and insecure conditions in Syria and Iraq. In Syria, the al-Hol camp alone is estimated to contain 65,000 individuals, including more than 10,000 foreigners representing roughly 60 different nationalities.
Although the Islamic State is relatively new on the global scene, the international community has more than 30 years of experience in the reintegration of insurgents and civilians who lived under their control through formal disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) programs. The problems presented by the caliphate’s collapse are not entirely new. Many participants in DDR initiatives were violent extremists, and some insurgent groups like the Islamic State were defeated through military victory. In a forthcoming report for the United States Institute of Peace highlighted in the recent RESOLVE Forum, I review more than 300 articles, reports, and books on DDR and summarize their implications. This literature presents clear lessons for managing the postconflict situation in Syria and Iraq.