U.S.-backed Forces In Syria Declare Victory Over Islamic State Terror Group
After a months-long assault on the Baghouz enclave in eastern Syria, the US-backed, predominantly Kurdish-staffed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have announced the “liberation” of Islamic State’s final stronghold in the war-torn country. This effectively brings an end to the terror group’s so-called caliphate following a five-year campaign by a coalition of more than 70 countries. Prior to the September 2014 launch of military operations against it, ISIS controlled territory spanning hundreds of thousands of square miles across Iraq and Syria in which some 8 million people were subjected to its brutality based on an extreme interpretation of the Koran. Notable events ultimately leading to ISIS’s decline include the recapture of Mosul, Iraq, in July 2017, and the fall of its self-declared capital of Raqqa, Syria, a few months later. Thereafter, “core” ISIS members scattered throughout remote desert regions of Syria, reverting to more traditional terror tactics such as ambushes, booby-trappings and suicide bombings. Many Islamic State fighters have escaped to neighboring Iraq, where intelligence suggests that leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi remains in hiding despite reports of his death numerous times in the past. Analysts repeatedly have warned that ISIS still poses a significant threat, given that many of its foreign fighters have returned home, primarily to Europe, while the terror group has made inroads in other places, such as Libya and the Sinai Peninsula. Presently topping the agenda is what to do with hundreds of ISIS terrorists captured in Syria, along with thousands of their family members. The SDF has called on their home nations to repatriate them and put them on trial, a position that US President Donald Trump has supported.