The operation to demolish Islamic State’s final remnant of rule in Iraq and Syria hit a stumbling block on 21st February, as a likely evacuation of the remaining noncombatant from its last enclave in eastern Syria couldn’t be carried out.
The U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which has firmly pushed the jihadists down the Euphrates, has encircled them at Baghouz near the Iraqi border, but does not want to stage a final assault until all civilians are taken out.
On Thursday, Iraqi sources stated that the SDF transferred over 150 Iraqi and other foreign jihadists to Iraq, under a pact including a total of 502. The SDF had envisioned removing the last civilians from Baghouz on Thursday, but trucks that it had sent in left empty.
In the Euphrates valley region, Baghouz is all that remains for the Islamic State. It is Islamic State’s last populated bastion in Iraq and Syria after it lost its important cities of Mosul and Raqqa in 2017.
The U.S.-led coalition battling with Islamic State was substantiating whether Wednesday’s air strike in Baghouz killed French jihadist Fabien Clain, who spoke in a recording asserting about the November 2015 assault on Paris, according to the U.S. and French sources. French Defense Minister Florence Parly on her Twitter account stated that during coalition operations to reclaim the Islamic State’s last stronghold, it is possible indeed that Fabien Clain might have been killed.
The seize of Baghouz will poke the eight-year-old Syrian war toward a new phase, with U.S. President Donald Trump’s vow to pull out troops leaving a security void that other powers are looking forward to fill.
Though the collapse of Baghouz marks a breakthrough in the campaign against IS and the broader conflict in Syria, Islamic State is still considered as a security threat.
The group has regularly turned to guerrilla warfare and still holds territory in a distant, moderately populated area west of the Euphrates River, a part of Syria in another way managed and supervised by the Syrian government and its Russian and Iranian allies.
According to sources, the SDF would attack Baghouz once the evacuation is complete. However, he didn’t mention the time-frame for it.