Backed fighters launch final push to defeat IS in Syria
10 February, 2019, 13:29 | Author: Taylor George
US-backed and Kurdish-led Syrian forces have launched a final push to defeat the ISIS group in the last tiny pocket the extremists hold in eastern Syria.
In recent months, the SDF forces have launched concentrated efforts, backed by airstrikes by the US-led coalition to rout the remaining fighters from the final patch of territory in Syria's eastern province of Deir Ezzor.
Islamic State is far from defeated, and instead is morphing into an asymmetrical warfare force after the militant group lost nearly all of the territory it once controlled in Syria, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Friday.
In a surprise move in December, U.S. President Donald Trump sidelined his own national security team and allies by announcing the end of the U.S. troops' presence in Syria, declaring that the ISIL had been defeated there.
Maj. Gen. Christopher Ghika, the coalition's deputy commander, described the size of the last IS pocket as "now less than 1 percent of the original caliphate".
SDF spokesman Mustafa Bali told the AFP news agency: "The battle has started".
Nobody here wants to predict yet when that end will come, but ISIS as a territorial force has entered it's final days.
Bali did not say how long they expecte the battle to last.
Thousands of suspected IS fighters have attempted to blend in with civilians fleeing the jihadists' last bastion, including a large number of foreigners.
"Remnants - that's all they have, remnants - but remnants can be very risky", Mr Trump said.
On Thursday, the coalition said the "caliphate" had massively shrunk.
More than 37,000 people, mostly wives and children of jihadi fighters, have fled IS territory since the SDF intensified its offensive in December, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
"We remain a long way from peace in Syria", said Merkel, adored by numerous more than 550,000 Syrians who have found refuge in Germany after she decided in 2015 to open the country's borders to nearly a million asylum seekers.
The SDF, which includes the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), backed by Americans, has been a bone of contention in Washington's ties with Ankara.
The country's Kurds have largely stayed out of the civil war, instead of developing semi-autonomous institutions in northern and northeastern Syria.
In December 2018, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that Ankara's armed forces were ready to initiate a campaign in eastern Syria if the U.S. didn't remove its Kurdish allies from the region.
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