IS forces isolated, near defeat
ISLAMIC State’s self-proclaimed caliphate is on the verge of defeat, with Syrian forces capturing its last major city on one side of the border and Iraqi forces taking its last substantial town on the other.
The losses on either side of the frontier appear to reduce the caliphate that once ruled over millions of people to a single Syrian border town, a village on the Euphrates in Iraq and patches of nearby desert.
Officials on both sides of the border said victory could come swiftly, although they feared IS would reconstitute as a guerrilla force.
Iraq’s Prime Minister Haidar Abadi announced on Friday that government forces had captured al-Qaim, the border town where the Euphrates spills from Syria into Iraq.
That leaves just the village of Rawa further down the river on the opposite bank still in the hands of the ultra-hardline militants, who swept through a third of Iraq in 2014.
On the Syrian side, government forces declared victory in Deir al-Zor, the last major city in the country’s eastern desert where the militants still had a presence. Government forces are now about 40km from Albu Kamal, the Syrian town across the border from alQaim, and preparing for a final confrontation.