Losses in Syria, Iraq push IS to the brink

Self-pro­claimed caliphate re­duced to a pair of bor­der towns

Global Times - Weekend - - FRONT PAGE -

Is­lamic State (IS)’s self-pro­claimed caliphate was all but re­duced on Fri­day to a pair of bor­der towns at the Iraq-Syria fron­tier, where thou­sands of fighters were be­lieved to be hold­ing out af­ter los­ing nearly all other ter­ri­tory in both coun­tries.

Forces in Syria and Iraq backed by re­gional states and global pow­ers now ap­pear on the cusp of vic­tory over the group, which pro­claimed its au­thor­ity over all Mus­lims in 2014 when it held about one-third of both coun­tries and ruled over mil­lions.

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.

On the Iraqi side, pro-govern­ment forces said they had cap­tured the last bor­der post with Syria in the Euphrates val­ley and en­tered the nearby town of al-Qaim, the group’s last Iraqi strong­hold.

A US-led in­ter­na­tional coali­tion which has been bomb­ing IS and sup­port­ing ground al­lies on both sides of the fron­tier said the mil­i­tant group now has a few thou­sand fighters left, mainly holed up at the bor­der in Iraq’s al-Qaim and its sis­ter town of Albu Ka­mal on the Syr­ian side.

“We do ex­pect them now to try to flee, but we are cog­nisant of that and will do all we can to an­ni­hi­late IS lead­ers,” spokesper­son US Colonel Ryan Dil­lon said.

He es­ti­mated there were 1,500-2,500 fighters left in al-Qaim and 2,0003,000 in Albu Ka­mal.

But both the Iraqi and Syr­ian gov­ern­ments and their in­ter­na­tional back­ers say they worry that the fighters will still be able to mount guer­rilla at­tacks once they no longer have ter­ri­tory to de­fend.

“As IS con­tin­ues to be hunted into th­ese small­est ar­eas... we see them flee­ing into the desert and hid­ing there in an at­tempt to de­volve back into an in­sur­gent ter­ror­ist group,” said Dil­lon. “The idea of IS and the vir­tual caliphate, that will not be de­feated in the near term. There is still go­ing to be an IS threat.”

Driven this year from its two de facto cap­i­tals – Iraq’s Mo­sul and Syria’s Raqqa – IS is pressed into an ev­er­shrink­ing pocket of desert strad­dling the fron­tier.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from China

© PressReader. All rights reserved.