Small Wars Journal

U.S.-Backed Forces Launch What Could Be the Last Major Battle Against ISIS in Syria

U.S.-Backed Forces Launch What Could Be the Last Major Battle Against ISIS in Syria by Liz Sly – Washington Post

U.S.-backed forces have launched what they hope will be the final battle for territory in the four-year-old war against the Islamic State with an assault on the militants’ last major bastion in the eastern Syrian desert, the U.S. military said Tuesday.

Ground forces with the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces began the offensive Monday night, advancing toward the town of Hajin aided by U.S. airstrikes, U.S. and SDF officials said.

Hajin is the largest town in an approximately 95-square-mile stretch of mostly desert terrain along the Euphrates River’s east bank. The conquest of this territory would mark an effective end to the Islamic State’s “caliphate,” which at its peak in 2014-2015 spanned vast areas of Syria and Iraq.

The battle, however, won’t spell an end to the threat posed by the militants, who are already regrouping in pockets of territory in Iraq and also maintain cells scattered across the vast desert area to the west of the Euphrates, which is under Syrian government control.

U.S. military officials say they are anticipating a tough fight for the Hajin area, which has served as the final retreat for Islamic State fighters who chose not to surrender or flee earlier battles…

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U.S.-Backed Forces Take Aim at Last ISIS Remnants in Syria by Gordon Lubold – Wall Street Journal

U.S.-backed forces in Syria have begun targeting the last pockets of Islamic State fighters in the country.

The U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces launched what officials consider to be the third and final phase of an anti-Islamic State operation that started in May. The latest phase aims to clear Islamic State elements in and around Hajin, in the Deir Ezzour area of eastern Syria, near Syria’s border with Iraq.

U.S. military officials expect that this phase—which when complete would conclude a three-year effort to remove Islamic State from Syria—could take months.

The SDF, an amalgam of Kurdish, Arab and other fighters, are conducting the operations, with U.S. forces supporting them, U.S. military officials said.

“We will continue to support our SDF partners in our shared fight against ISIS in Syria, and we thank the SDF for the incredible contribution and sacrifices they have made on behalf of the international community,” said Maj. Gen. Patrick Roberson, who oversees the operation.

The operation is taking place at the same time that the U.S. and others are watching to see if the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and its allies launch a large-scale attack on antigovernment rebels in Syria’s northwest…

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