BEIRUT, LEBANON (4:00 P.M.) – Two years ago, the Islamic State (ISIL) was wrecking havoc all over Syria, capturing large chunks of territory from all parties involved in this six year long conflict.
However, the first four months of 2017 have proven to be a critical time frame in the war against ISIL, as the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), government-backed Syrian Arab Army (SAA), and US-backed rebels retake territory from the terrorist group.
The Islamic State is on the verge of losing their three year long de facto capital in Syria, Raqqa City, thanks in large part to the large-scale offensive carried out by Syrian Democratic Forces.
In a matter of 45 days, the Syrian Democratic Forces have liberated most of western and eastern Al-Raqqa, cutting off the terrorist group from their main supply route to the Deir Ezzor Governorate.
Now, the Kurdish forces have managed to encircle the key city of Tabaqa in western Al-Raqqa, despite constant bombardment from the Turkish Army.
Tabaqa is expected to fall to the Kurdish forces in the coming days, as the Islamic State struggles to hold ground at this front.
In late December, the Islamic State once again seized the ancient city of Palmyra and threatened the Syriac town of Al-Quraytayn in the southeastern countryside of Homs; this forced the Syrian Arab Army to redeploy their forces to this front in order to retake the territory they lost.
Within one month of losing Palmyra and all of its nearby gas fields, the Syrian Arab Army launched an important offensive that was spearheaded by their 5th Legion.
Not only did the Syrian Arab Army reclaim Palmyra and much of the lost gas fields, but they also liberated territory they conceded during the Islamic State’s first east Homs offensive in April 2015.
The US-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA) forces have managed to capture a significant amount of territory in Syria’s southern countryside over the last three weeks, including much of eastern Al-Sweida and southern Homs.
Launching attacks in conjunction with the Jordanian Air Force, the Free Syrian Army are pushing north towards the ancient city of Palmyra, marking the first time any entity outside of the the government or ISIL has advanced this deep into the Homs Governorate.
ISIL’s New Capital
The Islamic State moved their de facto capital from Raqqa City to the Deir Ezzor town of Al-Mayadeen, the Pentagon claimed last week.
This latest move by the terrorist group came just days after the Kurdish forces encircled Tabaqa, which is considered the Islamic State’s second most important city in northern city.
With Tabaqa on the brink of capture by the Syrian Democratic Forces, the Islamic State has been forced to move much of their fighters from nearby Raqqa City to the Deir Ezzor Governorate.
Why Deir Ezzor? Unlike Al-Raqqa, the Islamic State enjoys control over the important Al-Qa’im Border-Crossing, which links Syria’s Deir Ezzor Governorate with Iraq’s Al-Anbar Governorate.
As long as ISIL controls this border-crossing, they can reinforce their fronts in Iraq and Syria, which is something they cannot do from Al-Raqqa.