by WorldTribune Staff, October 30, 2017
With its self-proclaimed caliphate obliterated, Islamic State (ISIS) has fled for the caves and rugged mountains deep in the vast Syrian desert.
Analysts say the terror organization has retreated to the desert, known as Badiyat al-Sham, to “regroup and prepare their next incarnation.”
The terror group’s leaders, analysts say, had contingency plans for pulling back into the desert from which jihadists would plan and execute guerrilla-style attacks and suicide bombings.
Dana Jalal, a Sweden-based Iraqi journalist who closely follows jihadist groups in the Middle East, said ISIS “will become an underground terrorist organization. The lone wolf has nothing to lose. They have nothing to defend now.”
Analysts say it would take hundreds of thousands of troops to mount search operations in the desert, which encompasses 500,000 square kilometers (200,000 square miles) across parts of southeastern Syria, northeastern Jordan, northern Saudi Arabia, and western Iraq.
ISIS “loves fighting battles in the desert and they will go back to the old ways,” said Omar Abu Laila, a Europe-based opposition activist originally from Syria’s eastern province of Deir el-Zour, which lies in the heart of Badiyat al-Sham.
The terror group is increasingly reverting to its weapon of choice – suicide attacks. A suicide attack killed nearly 20 people at a Damascus police station earlier this month. In late September, ISIS gunmen emerged from the desert and hit government forces in central Syria, cutting their supply lines for days. ISIS has also carried out deadly attacks in Baghdad, and in western Iraq’s Anbar province.
“The angry, disfranchised base that the group exploited is still there, so getting rid of the caliphate will not mean getting rid of the threat this group poses,” said Mutlu Civiroglu, a Washington-based Kurdish affairs analyst.
Brett McGurk, the top U.S. envoy for the anti-ISIS coalition, said ISIS is down to the last 10 percent of the territory it once held in Iraq and Syria.
“ISIS is on their heels right now and our job is to make sure they don’t recover,” said Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff.