Islamic State Set-backs

The Islamic State is on the run in four areas of combat.  It is being defeated by a variety of forces and this may be the beginning of its end as a coherent force occupying large swaths of territory.

In Libya, the Islamic State affiliate, with weapons transported from Iraq, took advantage of the upheaval and confusion after the overthrow of Muammar Qaddafi to insert itself and managed to take over the city of Sirte, which was Qadaffi’s hometown.  After several months, during which it was using Sirte, a port on the Mediterranean to, among other things, send infiltrators across the sea to Italy and Europe, the IS is now almost completely defeated in Sirte.  Forces from Misrata, that played an important role in the defeat of the Qaddafi regime, have attacked Sirte and have surrounded it.  With unexpected speed they have captured most of the town and have surrounded the remainder of the IS fighters in the downtown and port area.  It is estimated that this center for IS in Libya will soon be eliminated and with it a definite threat to Europe.

In northern Syria, there are advances on two fronts.  Forces loyal to the Assad regime supported by the Russians are advancing against the IS in Raqqa province and are making headway en route to Raqqa city that it is its main capital .  Along the Turkish border, forces of the Pesh Merga Kurdish fighters allied with anti-regime Syrian Arab forces and supported by the US have captured Maqbul, a key communications center for access to Turkey, and are now moving south also towards Raqqa.

Meanwhile in Iraq, a large force of the Iraqi Army supported by a US special forces unit have surrounded the city of Fallujah.  They have captured the outskirts and have surrounded the IS forces in the town center.  There were ca. 80,000 civilians in Fallujah, but only a fraction of them have been able to escape the conflict.  Fallujah has been fought over three times in recent years, in the Gulf War when it was captured by US forces, during the occupation when it was taken over by anti-US forces and was recaptured and now.  It is a ruined city, but hopefully this will see the end of IS in that area.  The major campaign against IS must now take place further north in Mosul.

Although the outcome of each of these areas of battle against IS forces are not conclusive, they represent a significant defeat for IS in several key areas.  It may be the beginning of the end for IS, given that now a renewed Iraqi Army with active US support (boots on the ground) is taking the initiative, and in Syria and Libya the prospect of IS defeat is nearer. This may be the reason why they are turning more and more to recruiting adherents in their home countries and relying more on terrorism.

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