Here are 6 of the Toughest Battles Still to be Fought Against the Islamic State

Here are 6 of the Toughest Battles Still to be Fought Against the Islamic State by Liz Sly - Washington Post

Image: The Washington Post

The battle of Mosul is over, but the war against the Islamic State is far from done. The militants have lost some 60 percent of the territory they controlled at the peak of their expansion, but that leaves a sizable area, mostly in Syria but also Iraq, to be recaptured. Much of it is uninhabited desert, but significant towns and cities in both countries, and almost a whole province in Syria, remain in the militants’ hands. Among them are staunch Islamic State strongholds, located in some of the most remote terrain of the war. In some instances, it isn’t yet clear which forces will undertake the battles, and potential local and international flash points lie ahead as competing powers vie for the chance to control territory.

Here are six of the toughest battles still to be fought.

In Syria

Raqqa: The five-week-old battle for the Islamic State’s self-proclaimed capital of Raqqa is getting underway, launched by a U.S.-backed force of Kurds and Arabs known as the Syrian Democratic Forces and aided by U.S. Special Operations troops…

Deir al-Zour: The city of Deir al-Zour is the capital of a province of the same name, both of which are almost entirely under Islamic State control. ISIS commanders and fighters have been relocating there for months from other front lines, and this is likely to be where they make their last stand…

Bukamal (also known as Abu Kamal): This town on the Iraqi border is the southeasternmost of the Euphrates valley towns in Deir al-Zour province. The U.S. military has been trying to build a force of Syrian rebels capable of taking the town from a remote desert base 200 miles away…

In Iraq

Tal Afar: This mid-sized town around 30 miles west of Mosul is expected to be the next target of the military campaign in Iraq. It is renowned one of the Islamic State’s most die-hard strongholds, with a long history of insurgency and is likely to put up stiff resistance…

Hawija: Located in an isolated pocket of mostly rural territory southwest of the Kurdish-controlled city of Kirkuk, Hawija is the easternmost of the Islamic State’s territories. It is also known as an early outpost of Islamic State sympathies…

Al Qaim: Located just across the Iraqi border from Syria’s Bukamal, Al Qaim is the most significant town left under ISIS control in the desert province of Anbar. It is surrounded by a large sweep of desert terrain and is another of the locations where the Islamic State is thought to have relocated many of its leading commanders…

Read on.

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