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Situation, Facts and Events
19.01.2023

The Outcomes of the US Fighting Against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria

U.S. forces eliminated almost 700 suspected Islamic State (banned in Russia) fighters in 2022 in Syria and Iraq, according to US Central Command releases.


It is emphasized that operations against IS continue, despite their loss of physical control over the areas and the renewed attention of Washington to its rivalry with Russia and China.


In Syria, the US has conducted 108 joint operations and 14 independent operations against IS, while in Iraq it has conducted 191 joint operations. A total of 374 IS fighters were detained, the report stated.


“The emerging, reliable and consistent ability of our Iraqi and Syrian partner forces to conduct unilateral operations to capture and kill Islamic State leaders allows us to maintain constant pressure on the Islamic State network,” said Maj. Gen. Matt McFarlane, commander of Combined Joint Task Force overseeing these operations.

 

General Michael “Eric” Kurilla, the commander of US forces in the Middle East, divided the US campaign against IS into three categories: targeting IS leaders and fighters within the region, detaining them, and countering the radicalization of children.


The US has been successful in working with local partners to eliminate and arrest IS militants. In 2022, the US eliminated a number of IS leaders in Syria, both in ground raids and drone strikes. However, the escape of IS fighters from Hasakah prison in January 2022 highlighted the issue of guarding arrested IS members. The escape resulted in days of fighting that left over 420 IS fighters and 120 members of the local forces dead.


“There is literally an army of IS fighters being held in custody in Iraq and Syria. Presently, more than 10,000 IS leaders and fighters are kept in detention facilities across Syria and more than 20,000 IS leaders and fighters are kept in detention in Iraq,” the statement said. In addition to prisons, the huge al-Roj and al-Hawl camps in northeastern Syria host tens of thousands of people, mostly wives and children of IS militants.


Kurilla pointed out that the camps host “a potential next generation of IS members,” noting that there were more than 25,000 children in al-Hawl camp alone: "Those children in the camp are prime targets for IS radicalization. The international community must join efforts to take these children out of this environment by repatriating them to their countries or communities of origin while improving conditions in the camp.”


Experts point out that the US model of countering IS in the region will face new challenges in 2023 as Turkey threatens a new invasion of Syria, targeting the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the main US partner in the fight against IS.


Turkey sees the SDF as a continuation of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has waged decades of war for greater autonomy for the Kurds living in Turkey's south-eastern areas. The US considers the PKK a terrorist organization but distinguishes it from the SDF.


Despite the loss of its physical “caliphate”, IS keeps operating. In Iraq, IS is allegedly behind a string of attacks that killed at least 14 military and police personnel and 11 civilians in December.


Syria is also experiencing a surge in violence. Recently, SANA public agency reported that ten people were killed in a “terrorist attack” targeting three buses transporting workers from an oil field in Deir Ezzor. The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights suggested that it was the “Islamic State cells” that carried out this attack. Six Kurdish militants were killed during an attack by IS supporters on a prison in Raqqa.

 

On December 29, the SDF announced that they had launched an offensive against IS, although no visible offensive actions have been recorded so far.


Source: Институт Ближнего Востока