Sudden retreats don’t mean that ISIS is defeated

Hassan Hassan writes: On Friday, Hasaka became the second Syrian province to be fully liberated from ISIL in two years, after Idlib around this time in 2014. According to local reports, the group’s withdrawal from its last stronghold in Hasaka was “swift and surprising”. This sudden defeat, which follows similar ones in recent months, raises questions about the group’s current capabilities.

ISIL’s loss of Shaddadi, its last outpost in Hasaka, is significant and symbolic. This was the town from where, in 2014, the group planned much of its effort to take or secure its control of Syrian territory. Jabhat Al Nusra, Al Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria, crumbled there after most of its fighters switched sides when Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi announced the formation of ISIL. The city was the planning centre for ISIL, and there were rumours that Mr Al Baghdadi had visited it a few times.

The defeat is also operationally remarkable. The group has now lost control over oilfields – about 200 small oil wells and major oilfields such as Jibisa and Kabibah – and critical areas that could potentially weaken its defences in Deir Ezzor, Raqqa and even Mosul. [Continue reading…]

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