The presence of Islamic State (ISIS) in Syria is at a dead-end after US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) announced on Wednesday that the remaining encircled jihadists had stayed on to “fight to the death” on the eve of a defeat.
According to the coalition, “the most hardened ISIS fighters remain in the village of Baghouz”, which is near the Iraqi border and the last ISIS enclave in the country. The US-led SDF coalition is being supported by warplanes watching the area closely.
Mustafa Bali, head of the SDF media office, stated, “The terrorists are entrenched inside (Baghouz) and are still betting on ending it militarily.”
Concerns over ISIS fighters fleeing the region
Bali also reacted to concerns over ISIS fighters possibly fleeing from the region among the civilians being evacuated by assuring that security forces were checking the identities of every person leaving the village. “We can’t storm Baghouz before confirming all civilians have been evacuated,” he added.
Approximately 2,000 civilians have been forced to leave the village of Baghouz in the eastern part of Syria where it is completely surrounded by SDF and where the clashes with ISIS are continuing.
SDF plea to allow US force members to stay on in the country
US President Donald Trump tweeted on Saturday that the planned withdrawal of American soldiers will take place after “100% victory” against ISIS. It is not certain yet if Trump sees the capture of Baghouz from militants a “victory,” as many believe that this move is not enough to neutralize all active members of ISIS.
On Monday, SDF urged the international community to allow 1,000-1,500 force members to remain in the country to ensure a complete defeat of ISIS. The head of the US Army Central Command, General Joseph Votel, however, said he was implementing Trump’s withdrawal order of around 2,000 American troops in the region.
The US-backed forces’ call is contrary to Ankara’s thesis, which argues the Kurdish YPG militia, the leading group in SDF, is an extension of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has fought a three-decade insurgency in Turkey.
In an effort to curb Turkey’s rage, YPG invited Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad to take over the western part of its territory near Manbij. The Kurdish group is seeking a broader agreement with Damascus over the area.