The Syrian army’s capture of ISIS’ last main town in Syria, known as Albu Kamal, marked the end of its so-called caliphate and the final demise of its territorial ambitions.
“There [are] some fighters left but they’re few. Small numbers is all I can say,” said a Syrian army commander of the remaining militants near Albu Kamal, Reuters reported. “Some were killed and some ran away. They went towards eastern or northern villages.”
This victory sealed “the fall of the terrorist Daesh organisation’s [ISIS’] project in the region,” an army statement said.
However, Reuters notes that this particular success will open up new doors for further confrontation in the country as the different entities vie for control of disputed territories. According to Reuters, “Syrian officials and a senior advisor to Iran have indicated the Syrian army will now stake its claim to Kurdish-held territory.”
The drums of war are currently beating against Iran and Hezbollah, two entities that have significantly bolstered the Syrian army. A Syrian allied commander told Reuters that Hezbollah fighters played “the key role” in defeating ISIS in Albu Kamal, yet Washington and its allies continue to view Hezbollah as an arch-rival even as it wages Donald Trump’s supposed anti-terror campaign for him.
In July of this year, a senior Kurdish official also warned that ISIS’ defeat as a territorial entity would, in fact, entail its transformation into something akin to “al-Qaeda on steroids.”
Clearly, ISIS’ defeat is something worth celebrating in both the local and international spheres, but it is what is coming next that should put ISIS’ defeat in perspective. The U.S. appears to have laid the groundwork for something worse than ISIS to take its place considering the scale of civilian suffering it helped inflict in its efforts to take down the group.
Further, a think tank founded by the Tony Blair Foundation concluded in December 2015 that if ISIS were defeated, there are at least 65,000 Syrian rebels who share its ideology and would gladly take its place.
Rather than Russia and the U.S. making agreements to defeat a terror group that is almost all but defeated by the local militias taking part in the battle, perhaps their focus could instead turn to how best the international community can serve Syria after leaving such a criminal legacy of death and destruction in the country.