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Rudaw

Syria

Inside Baghouz: SDF closely watch weakened, exhausted ISIS

By Hunar Ahmed 10/3/2019
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BAGHOUZ, Syria – Painted on the side of a building in Baghouz village is the phrase ‘We did not lie to God when we declared the Islamic State.’

The Islamic State group (ISIS) once controlled swathes of territory across Syria and Iraq. It is now besieged in a tent camp covering a 500 square metre scrap of land near Baghouz on the banks of the Euphrates River in Syria’s Deir ez-Zor. 

The militants holed up in the besieged tent camp are weakened. They have little food and no reinforcements.

“My comrades are in front of us on three sides. The river is also there. Behind the river is where the [Syrian] regime is stationed. That means they are encircled,” Abu Kurdo, a member of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) explained. 

In the past two and a half weeks, nearly 20,000 people have evacuated Baghouz – including 3,500 to 4,000 adult males, a Pentagon official told Associated Press. 

The SDF are holding about 5,000 ISIS fighters in detention centres. Most are Iraqis and Syrians, but about 1,000 are foreigners from dozens of countries around the world. 

The Kurdish administration of northern Syria has appealed to Western governments to take responsibility for their nationals, warning they will not prosecute the foreigners and cannot hold them indefinitely. 

A major concern is the possible eruption of a security risk from these fighters when the United States pulls out the majority of its troops, expected to begin in a matter of weeks. A token 200 to 400 soldiers will stay in the country.

“The SDF needs more support right now, not less,” tweeted Brett McGurk, the former US representative to the global coalition fighting ISIS. He resigned from the post in protest of US President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from Syria. 

The US pull out “makes no sense,” he stated. 

The women who have evacuated from Baghouz in recent days are defiant. They say ISIS lives on their hearts and they vow to raise a new generation loyal to the vision of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. 

The territorial so-called state Baghdadi created, however, is all but dead. Its black flags can be seen fluttering above the ragged tents housing exhausted-looking men, women, and children. 

Though militants are clearly in their scopes, the SDF has does not open fire out of concern for civilians. The Kurdish-led force is patiently waiting. 

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