Despite the defeat of ISIS in Syria, the terrorist group is attempting to perpetuate its activities in hidden sleeper cells.
According to the Mustafa Bali, the Director of the SDF’s media centre, the SDF has received reliable intelligence that has led them to uncovering ISIS sleeper cells remaining in the outskirts of Baghouz.
Their operations have been successful in destroying these cells, according to Bali.
Upon the defeat of ISIS in Baghouz on the 23rd of March, the SDF announced that a new phase of the conflict had begun, which involves the dismantling of ISIS’ cells and countering the group’s ideology to prevent people from sympathising and joining them.
According to Scott Rawlinson, the Spokesperson for the International Coalition, ISIS continues to have some influence and resources in the region, and these operations are aimed at ending this.
Experts agree that the battle with sleeper cells is a lengthier battle to wage against the militants because it requires retrieving powerful intelligence that can only be disclosed if locals are cooperating with the authorities.
In Iraq, the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) have been using this tactic to wage a battle against sleeper cells since the militant group’s defeat in Iraq in December 2017. Gaining the trust and cooperation of locals has proved to be a successful method in hunting down remaining ISIS sleeper cells and finding the group’s remaining weapons’ arsenals and factories used for explosive manufacturing.
Furthermore, close cooperation between the ISF and SDF has resulted in intelligence sharing, leading to more ISIS arrests, especially on the Iraq-Syria border.
While the militant group continues to pose a threat to the region due to the sporadic attacks that it can potentially launch on civilians, the efforts of the security forces in Iraq and Syria can largely reduce these threats.