War and Conflict, World

Islamic State Loses Ground in Iraq and Syria

On Wednesday, the far-flung enemies of Islamic State in Iraq and Syria pressed ahead with major advances on several fronts. This has put the ultra-hardline Islamists under great pressure since they declared their caliphate two years back. A spokesman representing a US-based alliance in Northern Syria said that they were ready to enter the city of Manbij. This comes a week after an assault was launched for cutting off the last area of the Turkish frontier that was still under the control of the Islamic State. Further west at a short distance, rebels who were fighting against the government of President Bashar-al-Assad as well as the Islamic State revealed that fighters of the IS had also pulled out of an area close to the border.

Last week, backed by the airpower of the Russians, Assad’s forces had also launched an offensive against Islamic State and have advanced further south in their territory. The Iraqi government forces that are 750 kilometers down from the Euphrates River and at the opposite end of the self-proclaimed caliphate stated that they had made their way into the areas of Falluja. This is the closest bastion of the Islamic State to Baghdad and is also the second-biggest city in Iraq that’s under control of the militants.

The Shi’ite militia and the US air power both back the Iraqi government against Iran, Washington’s regional foe. It has become difficult for the world powers and their allies to conduct a proper campaign against the militants due to the weakness of the government in Iraq and the five-year civil war ongoing in Syria. Nonetheless, the militants have found themselves under unprecedented pressure because of the simultaneous attacks carried out on several fronts. The Islamic State has made enemies of all regional and global powers and have also imposed harsh rule over the territory they control where millions of inhabitants reside.

Syria Democratic Forces is the name of the US-backed alliance campaign, which is currently the most ambitious and has been waged in Syria with the help of the United States, something that hadn’t been previously possible as Washington didn’t have allies on the ground. The SDF is getting assistance from a small contingent of US Special Forces. The SDF had been formed last year for combining the military success of the Kurdish militia with that of the Arab allies who are more acceptable to Turkey, Washington’s NATO ally.

Launched in the previous week, the primary purpose of the offensive is to control the area west of the Euphrates around the town of Manbij for sealing off the last 50 mile stretch of the Turkish-Syrian border that’s still in the hands of the Islamic State. The Islamic State has used this frontier for years as their primary supply route for manpower and arms. More recently, they utilized this route for sending their followers to Europe for carrying out attacks like those in Paris and Brussels since last year. The SDF has reached Manbij’s outskirts, but hasn’t entered the city as yet to prevent the civilians from harm.       

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