BEIRUT, LEBANON (7:45 P.M.) – The Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL/IS/Daesh) is on the verge of suffering a devastating defeat at the hands of the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in the eastern region of the Euphrates River Valley.
While this may seem like the end of the terrorist group’s reign over any part of Syria, it is in fact far from the truth.
Badiya Al-Sham Region
The Islamic State controls a significant portion of territory in the vast Syrian Desert, which is also known as the Badiya Al-Sham region.
In particular, the Islamic State has carved out a niche in the Al-Sukhnah countryside near the strategic Humeimah region.
This desert region in eastern Syria is located between the provinces of Deir Ezzor and Homs (depicted in the map below):
Off the Grid
As the map above shows, the Islamic State has a significant presence in this desert region; however, what the photo above does not display is the several small pockets in eastern and southern Syria that have ISIS fighters are currently hiding in.
Due to a large number of caves in this desert region, the Islamic State has managed to evade capture and disappear from the map altogether.
The Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and their allies learned the hard way about these hidden ISIS fighters, as the terrorist group carries out sporadic attacks to close the highway between the provincial capitals of Homs and Deir Ezzor, and temporarily seize government-held towns in order to resupply.
In the map above, the Iraqi-Syrian border looks like it is completely ISIS-free; however, this is far from reality.
The Islamic State is hidden in several caves and often travels at night to cross the border to rendezvous with their allies in Iraq’s Al-Anbar Governorate.
Hashd Al-Sha’abi Operation
Iraq’s Hashd Al-Sha’abi forces are well-aware of the Islamic State’s presence along the border, as they often report of attacking the terrorist group in the Al-Anbar and Deir Ezzor provinces.
Despite these attacks, Hashd Al-Sha’abi has been unable to fully clear the border region; this has prompted them to plan an operation alongside the Syrian Arab Army and Iranian-backed forces in Syria.
The upcoming operation is expected to kick off in the coming days, as Hashd Al-Sha’abi focuses on ridding the Iraqi border region of the terrorist group.
Future of ISIS in Syria
These offensives are meant to clear the terrorist group from Syria, but the reality is that these operations may take a great deal of time.
Furthermore, with Turkey threatening to launch a new military operation east of the Euphrates, the Islamic State could resurface in several areas controlled by the Syrian Democratic Forces.
A source from the Syrian Army told Al-Masdar News a few weeks ago that even their troops assigned to clear out the Islamic State dens are struggling due to the amount of time it takes to clear a small portion of the desert.
The source added that ISIS has many complex supply routes that can stretch for hundreds of kilometers into some of Syria’s biggest cities.
As long as Syria remains in a state of war, the Islamic State will continue to operate throughout the country.