BEIRUT, LEBANON (12:50 A.M.) – The Syrian Arab Army’s liberation of Albukamal on Wednesday night may have marked the end of the Islamic State’s control over a major Syrian city, but the terrorist group still maintains several small pockets across the country.
While these pockets of resistance may be small, they will prove to be far more costly for the Syrian Arab Army and their allies as the Islamic State has nowhere to retreat and will likely not surrender.
ISIS in Southern Syria
The Islamic State still maintains a large presence in southern Damascus and southwestern Dara’a; these two regions are filled with terrorist combatants and several other parties that add to the complexity of these battles.
In particular, the Syrian Army may find themselves in a difficult battle to retake the Yarmouk Camp, as they face hostility from all parties inside this large district in southern Damascus.
Among the major players still active in the Yarmouk Camp are several rebel groups, including the Free Syrian Army (FSA), Jaysh Al-Islam, Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham, and Aknef Beit Al-Maqdis.
All of the aforementioned rebel groups have clashed with the pro-government Palestinian paramilitaries (PFLP-GC, PLA, Fatah Al-Intifada) at one point or another.
The government has attempted to negotiate with the armed groups in the Yarmouk Camp and at one point achieved a consensus agreement to have all the parties leave the district; however, the rebels and ISIS later reneged.
ISIS in Eastern Syria
Most of the Deir Ezzor Governorate has been liberated, yes, but the Islamic State still maintains a large presence in the western part of the province.
The Syrian military and their allies were able to expel the Islamic State from Albukamal, but they did not clear the territory between the aforementioned city and Al-Mayadeen.
Moreover, it is important to remember that the Islamic State has thousands of fighters scattered across the Deir Ezzor Governorate; these combatants will continue to wreck havoc on the Syrian Army’s supply lines to the province (ex. recent attack on Shoulah-Sukhnah Road).
The likelihood of these ISIS terrorists surrendering to the government is very slim, making the battle against them that more difficult.
ISIS in Central Syria
Not much is reported from central Syria these days, aside from the Islamic State’s surprise occupation of Quraytayn last month.
However, the Islamic State still has several small pockets in the Homs Governorate that are proving to be a thorn in the government’s side and as if these pockets of resistance weren’t enough, the terrorist group also has many sleeper cells in the province that are causing serious security problems.
For instance, the loss of Quraytayn may have been temporary, but the operation to retake the city was costly for the Syrian Army; they were forced to redeploy several units to this front in order to retake it from the Islamic State.
In the future, the Syrian Army will have to rely on poorly armed locals and reconciled rebel fighters to defend these areas, meaning this will not be the last time ISIS sleeper cells take over towns in central Syria.