Conflict

What Remains of ISIS One Year After its Final Defeat in Syria?

Syria

A year has passed since the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) defeated ISIS in the town of Baghouz, eastern Syria, which was the last remaining territory of the group's so-called caliphate.

For the people of Baghouz, a town located in eastern Syria on the Syrian-Iraqi border, it has been one year since the so-called Islamic State was defeated. However, locals and authorities remain aware of the threat posed by ISIS militants who still maintain a dangerous presence in the region.

On March 23rd, 2019, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) declared the defeat of ISIS in Baghouz. The defeat was announced by General Commander of the SDF, Mazlum Abdi, who also noted the need to continue the fight against ISIS sleeper cells. The victory came after months of fighting in the region. The defeat marked the end of ISIS’ territorial rule in Syria, and the fall of its so-called caliphate.

The Syrian Democratic Forces capturing territory encompassing 5 million people in its defeat of ISIS in North and East Syria. Around 19,000 terrorists have been arrested during the fighting between the SDF and ISIS, dating back to late 2015, while their families have been placed in camps across the region.

Since the defeat of ISIS rule in March 2019, the SDF has killed around 140 IS militants in anti-sleeper cell operations. For SDF fighters, the battle against ISIS is not over until its presence in the region is completely eradicated.

Despite these operations, for the people of Baghouz, fears of attacks by ISIS militants and sleeper cells remain. After their defeat, ISIS militants dispersed into rural hideouts. Whilst regional authorities deem Baghouz secure, they remain on high alert as ISIS cells continue to operate in nearby villages, such as al-Shaafa and al-Sousa. Some nearby SDF-held areas witness minor yet near-daily attacks.

Despite fears, many Baghouz residents have returned to the town in recent months, contributing to a slow return to life before ISIS control. However, as SDF fighters remain vigilant in their patrols and access to electricity and running water is sparse, it will be a long road to normal life.