Baghdad (GPA) – Iraqi forces have liberated the city of al-Qaim, the last border crossing with Syria controlled by Daesh.
Iraqi forces retook Al-Qaim, the last urban stronghold of Daesh, earlier today. The city was also the last Daesh stronghold in Iraq as a whole, meaning this liberation has officially crushed Daesh in the country.
Iraqi Army units led the operation along with Counter Terrorism Service (CTS) joined by the Hashd Shaabi militia as well as several groups of Sunni tribal militias.
Al-Qaim, located on the western side of Anbar province, has a border crossing two kilometers outside the city. This border crossing sits in a critical position for Daesh between Anbar and the province of Deir Ezzor in Syria.
Liberating this critical crossing has stripped Daesh of their ability to transfer fighters and supplies freely over the border. According to Army Colonel Walid al-Duleimi, Daesh saw the end coming in al-Qaim leading “large numbers” of fighters to flee into eastern Deir Ezzor.
Deir Ezzor on the Verge of Liberation
The good news is that the Daesh fighters who have managed to flee to Deir Ezzor cane at a bad time since the Syrian Army is currently smashing the militants everywhere west of the Euphrates. The al-Qaim border crossing is included in this area as a crossing between Iraq and Syria on the western bank of the river.
The Syrian Army has also declared the city of Deir Ezzor proper liberated earlier this week, depriving Daesh of their last urban base of operations in Syria. Combine this with the securing of the borders with Iraq and the only territory left for Daesh to flee to is the area between the Iraqi border and the eastern bank of the Euphrates.
This area is currently controlled by the US-backed, Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), where Daesh has been sheltered for most of the Syrian offensive on Deir Ezzor. With the threat of Daesh almost eliminated outside of SDF territory, the real question now is what will happen once the takfiris have been completely wiped out inside this area.
Obviously, Damascus should have control of the region returned since it is part of Syria, yet the SDF still hasn’t issued any explicit proclamations on what their next steps will be. The Syrian Army may end up having to fight the SDF (which would be a poor choice on the Kurds’ part), but either way, the day isn’t far off when Iraqi and Syrian forces will meet at the border, having retaken their territory after years of darkness under Daesh control.
Also published on Medium.