When Will ISIS End?
The Syrian army said Thursday it would capitalize on a string of recent victories against the Islamic State group, also known as ISIS, in the Aleppo countryside as Iraqi troops clashed with the militants in a separate battle to recapture the city of Mosul. Syrian troops, backed by Russian airstrikes and allied militias, have rapidly advanced against ISIS in the past two weeks and retaken dozens of rural settlements in both the Aleppo and Homs regions. Turkey has been involved in a nearby campaign against ISIS since last summer, backing Islamist rebels opposed to Syrian President Bashar Assad in their own struggle to wrest territory from ISIS.
The Syrian government opposes Turkey's intervention and has called on Ankara to withdraw its forces as well support for rebels, indicating Thursday that forces allied to the government were the only legitimate powers in the conflict. "This achievement widens the secured areas around Aleppo city and is the starting point for (further) operations against Daesh," a military spokesperson told Syria's state-run television network Thursday, using the Arabic-language acronym for ISIS. The spokesperson added that the army "confirms its commitment to ... protecting civilians and maintaining the unity of the territory of the Syrian Arab Republic," according to Reuters.
Russia, which supports Assad, has also coordinated with Turkey against ISIS. The two nations, along with Syrian government supporter Iran, opened peace talks last month in Kazakhstan in an attempt to end the nearly six-year conflict that has killed hundreds of thousands of Syrians and displaced millions more.
On the eastern extreme of ISIS' beleaguered, self-proclaimed caliphate, the Iraqi army repelled an amphibious ISIS attack from the Tigris river in Iraq's second city, Mosul. Iraqi forces have led a coalition comprising of allied Western nations — including the U.S. — and Iran-backed, Shiite militias attempting to defeat the last remaining ISIS-held pockets in the country.
ISIS militants have reportedly put up strong resistance, but Iraqi troops have already taken the eastern half of the city and have pressed on despite suicide bombs, snipers and psychological warfare.
"They made announcements from the minaret loudspeakers saying, 'God is on our side not on yours', but we just laugh at this because God is for everyone — not just for them," an officer identified as Hassan in Iraq's elite Golden Division told Middle East Eye.
ISIS originated from Al-Qaeda in Iraq, a jihadist group known for its violent attacks aimed toward inciting sectarianism between the country's Shiite majority and Sunni minority. The militants capitalized on the chaos following the U.S.' 2003 invasion of Iraq and toppling of President Saddam Hussein before expanding into Syria and declaring a global Islamic caliphate in 2014. ISIS coordinated terror attacks around the globe and took large swathes of territory in Iraq and Syria before being beaten back by national and international forces in recent years.