US-Backed Forces Launches 'Final Attack' On Last ISIS Stronghold
Forces from the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have now launched their final assault to destroy the last ISIS stronghold in Syria. During its peak, ISIS-held large territories in both Syrian and Iraq. The Islamic militant group held various villages and cities, leaving residents with no other recourse but to live under their rule. Now, the last remaining members of the jihadist group are huddled up into their last caliphate, located in the eastern part of Syria in the province of Deir Ezzor.
According to reports, there are still around 500 ISIS fighters located in the village of Baghouz Al-Fawqani, which is close to the border of Iraq. The Syrian government gave residents seven days to evacuate the area. Tens of thousands of civilians fled the town over the week, with SDF forces closely monitoring the exodus.
The SDF's final attack is reportedly meant to completely rid the area of all existing ISIS members. Over the weekend, strikes from the United States-led coalition forces and the SDF filled the skies over Syria, destroying buildings and establishments believed to contain ISIS fighters.
According to SDF commanders, ISIS members have also launched their own counterattacks using heat-seeking missiles. So far, two members of the coalition have been killed after their vehicle was hit by one of the ISIS missiles. ISIS has reportedly created a network of tunnels under the town, making it hard for coalition forces to pinpoint their exact locations.
President Donald Trump previously announced at the recent Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS summit that the US-led coalition forces should be able to eliminate all ISIS forces in just one week. Unfortunately, the president didn't give a lot of insight behind the reason why the United States was going to withdraw its troops from Syria. War experts believe that ISIS may eventually regain their lost territory in less than a year if the US was going to withdraw its troops.
At the height of its power, ISIS earned hundreds of millions of dollars from extorting residents within their territories in Syria and Iraq. Many of those under the Islamic Militant group's rule had to pay expensive group taxes and fees. Despite already losing a lot of its territory, and therefore its main source of income, ISIS still remains to be a great threat in the Middle East. According to a UN report published last year, there may still be around 20,000 to 30,000 active ISIS members in Iraq and Syria. A significant amount of those members are believed to be foreign nationals who have traveled to the Middle East to join the Islamic militant group.