Victory over Islamic State declared, worry is now guerrilla warfare

Victory over Islamic State declared, worry is now guerrilla warfare
From CBC - December 11, 2017

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Victory for now

The battle against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria is now officially over.

But has the war just begun?

On Saturday, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared an end to three years of bloody combat with ISIS, saying the group has been vanquished and no longer controls any territory.

And this morning, Russian President Vladimir Putin paid a surprise visit to an airbase in Syria to order his own troops home.

"The task of fighting armed bandits here in Syria, a task that it was essential to solve with the help of extensive use of armed force, has for the most part been solved and solved spectacularly," Putin said in a televised speech.

At its peak in Iraq, the extremist Sunni terror organization, also known as Daesh, had seized almost a third of the country. Some 10 million people were living under its brutal rule. While in Syria, the group controlled vast portions of the east and north, from Iraq to the Turkish border.

Liberating those territories has been costly, in all senses of the word.

Exact casualty figures are hard to come by, but the best estimates seem to be that the Iraqi Army, Peshmerga and other anti-ISIS militia groups lost around 25,000 soldiers about the same number as Daesh.

In Syria, where the Assad regime has been fighting a civil war on multiple fronts against different opposition forces, the government is believed to have lost as many as 100,000 troops since 2011.

Estimates of the number of civilian dead in Iraq range from 30,000 to almost 67,000. And some three million people remain displaced from their homes.

The number of civilians killed in Syria is much higher, with some estimates claiming as many as 500,000 have died.

The U.S.-led coalition, which conducted 25,000 airstrikes against ISIS targets in Iraq and Syria, has spent more than $14 billion US to date an average of $13.6 million a day.

Is Abadi is about to have his own "Mission Accomplished" moment in Iraq,la George W. Bush?

President Bush's May 2003 declaration of victory in Iraq proved to be terribly premature, as heavy combat gave way to a grinding insurgency. The resistance first rallied around the flag of al-Qaeda, and later gave birth to the Islamic State.

Daesh has known for a while that it was destined to lose its caliphate in Iraq and Syria. And many of its fighters melted away, or as was the case in Raqqa, cut a deal allowing them to escape and fight another day.

In fact, the same day Abadi declared victory, Iraqi security forces reported a skirmish near Kirkuk in which they killed what they said were 10 Daesh suicide bombers hiding in a tunnel.

And the group has a surprising array of weapons in its arsenal, including improvised rockets loaded with crude chemical warfare agents.

Today's Iraqi Army is clearly a far more effective force than the one that basically threw down its weapons and ran away as ISIS advanced in 2014. But even the most powerful forces can find it difficult to deal with guerilla tactics.

"They will try to hide with the population. Their cells will get smallerinstead of companies and platoons, they will go to squads and cells, much smaller elements hiding in the population," Lieutenant-General Steve Townsend, commander of the U.S.-led coalition, told reporters this weekend. "Our Iraqi security force partners will have to engage in counterinsurgency-style operations at some point, and we are already making efforts now to start shaping their training towards that next ISIS tactic."

In a little over three years, ISIS transformed itself from ragtag resistance to a global force, claiming attacks directed or inspired in more than 30 countries.

Daesh has active offshoots in Libya, Algeria, Tunisia, the Sinai, Mali, Yemen and Nigeria. And there are groups that aspire to carry the black banner in Bangladesh, Indonesia and the Philippines.

And, it seems, closer to home...

Attack in New York

(Warning, graphic images.)

The explosion, inside a cramped passageway that links New York's Times Square and Port Authority subway stations, could easily have proven deadly.

Surveillance video shows a steady flow of commuters heading in both directions when the puff of smoke appeared just after 7:20 a.m. this morning.



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