Sunday, 19 January, 2020

ISIS down to half a square kilometer in Syria: commander

ISIS down to half a square kilometer in Syria: commander ISIS down to half a square kilometer in Syria: commander
Deanna Wagner | 18 February, 2019, 09:04

Votel has said he does not expect President Donald Trump's withdrawal of more than 2,000 troops from Syria to significantly alter USA troop levels in Iraq, where the United States has more than 5,000 forces.

President Donald Trump said the White House will make an announcement about Syria and the fight against ISIS by the end of Saturday.

US -backed fighters in Syria are poised to capture Islamic State's last, tiny enclave on the Euphrates, the battle commander said on Saturday, bringing its self-declared caliphate to the brink of total defeat.

The Kurdish-led SDF fighters are busy clearing improvised explosives from the area while staying on the lookout for any IS suicide bombers, he added.

"The area of Baghouz has many tunnels, which slows operations".

A spokesman for the United States coalition, which has been backing the SDF with air strikes, said IS was using these women and children as "human shields".

On Friday U.S. Army General Joseph Votel, who oversees U.S. forces in the Middle East as head of Central Command, said the end of the territorial caliphate would lead to a more dispersed, harder-to-detect network of fighters waging guerrilla warfare.

Furat specified "military end", because even us-led coalition officials have said the terror group will remain a threat as an underground insurgency - which raises important questions about when america's 2.000 troops will withdraw.

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Kobani put forth that the SDF's efforts would not conclude with the removal of ISIS' presence "on the ground". Once in control of about a third of Syria and Iraq, the militants are now down to what SDF officials say is no more than 700 square meters.

"We are dealing with this small pocket with patience and caution".

Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) has said most of the fighters left in the town of Baghuz are foreigners, among the thousands drawn by IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi's promise of a new jihadist utopia straddling the Iraqi-Syrian border and expunging national borders.

"The tempo of battle must not be dictated by political imperatives - it must, first of all, protect civilians and possible hostages", HRW's director of counterterrorism, Nadim Houry, told the AFP news agency. Bali added that the SDF believes that ISIS gunmen are also holding previously kidnapped Syrians in the area.

Those attacks followed an unsuccessful assault Friday by IS fighters on an oil field near Baghuz, which was also eventually pushed back.

In Deir el-Zour, the SDF and the US -led coalition have battled to uproot the militants from a series of small villages and towns on the eastern banks of the Euphrates since September.

Advancing SDF fighters have been met by "large numbers" of civilians, to the surprise of commanders who had thought the exodus of recent days had emptied the remaining IS pocket of all but die-hard fighters, an SDF spokesman said.

"The defeat of Daesh will come within days", Furat said, using the Arabic acronym to refer to the group. "They have got to be held while they are talked to and if there is sufficient evidence against any of them, or many of them, they have to be put through due process and imprisoned if that is the right thing to do", he said.