The US-led coalition in Syria is making up for lost time in its fight to drive the Islamic State (ISIS) out of its last bastion; the fighting has reduced the terror group’s territory to tents and buildings over just 1.5 square miles in the war-ravaged country.
Forwarding the coalition’s cause is the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) with
In September 2018, the SDF launched a major offensive in a small area along the Euphrates river to defeat ISIS; the terror group has continued its insurgency despite the US’s claims of having vanquished it.
After a 10-day truce to evacuate women and children from the town, the offensive restarted last weekend; it was at a pace unlike any of the earlier major battles for Mosul and Raqqa. The ongoing battle will likely end in a few days with the complete erasure of ISIS from Syria; however, a number of villages and civilians are already in the middle of the heavy crossfire.
Divisions within the pan-Arab
What’s happening in Baghouz?
As soon as the coalition launched the offensive, militants began fighting back with snipers, suicide bombs and booby traps.
But ISIS’s territory shrank considerably over the last few months, courtesy coalition forces’ continuous onslaught; it led thousands of fighters, followers, and civilians to retreat to the river’s eastern side near the Iraqi border.
More than 10,000 pro-ISIS supporters are now crammed into a pocket near the village of Baghouz. The Independent reports that while the ISIS caliphate has been reduced to a few dozen tents in Baghouz, a few hundred fighters are holding an unknown number of civilians hostage and refusing to surrender.
Trapped from the east and the west by advancing SDF and the Syrian regime, and with Russia on the other side of the river, the ISIS caliphate is a hellscape of smoke and fire, reported the Guardian. The fighters have nowhere left to go.
Scenes from what could be the last war on ISIS in Syria
According to Al Jazeera, US-backed Kurdish forces say they are currently locked in heavy fighting with ISIS fighters in northeast Syria, using artillery fire and air raids; the forces are pressing ahead to capture the armed group’s final patch of territory in the country.
An SDF soldier reported back to CNN from the wreckage of Susa, one of the latest villages liberated from ISIS: “Within 10 days, God willing, we will finish.”
A mix of Kurdish and Arab forces reclaimed Susa at night. The fighting and bombing from the coalition aircraft, which resumed at dawn, have largely destroyed the village.
Human Rights Watch has expressed concern for civilians fleeing the area or still in ISIS holdout, even though the SDF had said it would try to evacuate them before launching an attack. In a report last month, HRW noted that constant artillery and air strikes had completely destroyed the town.
This proves that although the end of the war against ISIS is in sight, the current battle will have
On the political front
Since September, political considerations included a Turkish threat to launch operations against the SDF in northern Syria in October, causing the operation to stop.
In December, the US announced full withdrawal from Syria, throwing the anti-ISIS operation under the bus.
In addition, US President Donald Trump had repeatedly insisted ISIS is defeated. Most recently, while returning from the North Korea summit in Vietnam, he claimed that ISIS is “100% defeated”.
In February, the US reversed Trump’s order and decided to leave a “
“This decision may encourage other European states, particularly our partners in the international coalition against terrorism, to keep forces in the region,” Abdulkarim Omar, co-chair of foreign relations of the political wing of the SDF had told The Independent.
Will Syria write a new history?
Things are changing in Syria. As the Syrian government is close to declaring victory, refugees are beginning to return. Meanwhile, a growing number of Arab states have voiced support for Syria’s return to the Arab League; it had suspended the country’s membership in November 2011.
On Sunday, Syrian MP Hammoudda Sabbagh attended a meeting of Arab states in the Jordanian capital for the first time since the war broke out in 2011.
His Jordanian counterpart, Atef al-Tarawneh, called on all middle-eastern nations “to work towards a political settlement to the Syrian crisis … and for Syria to regain its place” in the Arab world.
Why it’s important
The campaign may prove to be momentous for Syria, notwithstanding the nation rebuilding that will follow once ISIS is ousted. The creation of a constitutional committee will bring peace to Syria, says peace-keeping officials in the region.
But experts also note that even if ISIS might lose its last sliver of territory, it will not disappear.
The militant group has transformed and, according to some sources, has been regrouping to stage a return to its original structure, before ISIS leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi declared his so-called caliphate in 2014.
ISIS had pledged allegiance to al-Qaeda and participated in the Iraqi insurgency following the 2003 invasion of Iraq US-led western forces. After the group proclaimed itself a worldwide caliphate, it claimed religious, political and military authority over all Muslims worldwide.
Meanwhile, ISIS-led insurgency continues in the far-flung corners of the globe—Nigeria, Libya, Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, Afghanistan,
Why India should care
In India, last December, the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) in association with the Anti-Terrorism Squad of the Uttar Pradesh Police raided 16 locations, detaining 10 suspects involved in a new Islamic State-inspired module operating out of UP and Delhi.
According to a 2017 report by the Ministry of Home Affairs, the NIA had arrested as many as 103 in connection to cases against ISIS cadres, most of them from UP.
Prarthana Mitra is a staff writer at Qrius
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