Wednesday, 20 February, 2019

Backed forces lead final push against ISIS in Syria

Kurds in Iraq say US withdrawal from Syria a mistake Peshmerga fighters say they captured these ISIL armoured vehicles that were filled with explosives
Jeannette Daniel | 10 February, 2019, 05:57

(AP) The US military is reportedly planning to withdraw all US forces from Syria towards the end of April.

Asked about the WSJ report, a spokesman for the US-led coalition fighting Islamic State in Syria and Iraq referred Reuters to comments by Pentagon spokesman Commander Sean Robertson, who declined to discuss the pull-out timeline.

In a surprise move in December, U.S. President Donald Trump sidelined his own national security team and allies by announcing the end of the U.S. troops' presence in Syria, declaring that the ISIL had been defeated there.

But the chancellor said Germany and allies will face an uphill battle to ensure its defeat as the group has not disappeared and in her words "we remain a long way from peace in Syria".

Four years ago, ISIS controlled territory the size of Britain and administered millions of people, but the USA coalition fighting the group said 99.5% of it has been clawed back in successive offensives.

Two months later, they took Hajin, which was the last town of note still under IS control and left the jihadists fighting over a few scattered hamlets in the Euphrates Valley.

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Back in December 2018, Trump announced a plan to withdraw the US military in Syria, . a decision that unsettled its allies at the time.

Since then, thousands of suspected IS group fighters have attempted to blend in with civilians fleeing the jihadists' last bastion, including a large number of foreigners.

The jihadists are now clinging on to a small sliver of land near the village of Baghouz in eastern Syria and many residents are fleeing and turning themselves in ahead of a final offensive.

He said that when the SDF detects movement from IS fighters, they bomb them, but added: "There have not been any major changes".

Turkey considers the Kurdish fighters to be a terrorist force and wants to create a Turkish-controlled buffer zone to keep them away from its border. But activists and residents say IS still has sleeper cells in Syria and Iraq, and is laying the groundwork for an insurgency.

According to the Observatory, more than 37,000 civilians, including dozens of IS militants, have fled the last IS-held pocket to areas controlled by the SDF in the eastern Euphrates region since last December.

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