BEIRUT, LEBANON (5:45 P.M.) – Since the beginning of 2018, lingering Islamic State forces in Syria’s eastern desert region have reminded the Syrian Army of their presence by launching multiple assaults against key government-held cities and towns along the western Euphrates shore.

It needs to be understood that maps showing a perfectly defined ISIS presence in the east Homs and west Deir Ezzor regions are somewhat inaccurate (as if it were possible for perfectly straight and continuous frontlines to exist in the desert) because in reality the zone of insurgency is much more vaguer – the idea that there is a ‘blockade’ of this area is something of a myth.

Whilst Islamic State militants do occupy definable positions in the desert (namely positions within canyons and caves as well as tunnels) at the same time they do not; for the Syrian Army to seize a hilltop or isolated town in the middle of the desert does not mean that ISIS has somehow lost the ability to mobilize within the area (if anything, it makes government forces vulnerable in that they can be attacked from any direction).

In such an environment, a group of ISIS fighters can spot the movement of government forces towards their position well in advance and then chose to simply slip away (most likely through tunnels) to another location.

What is today known as the ISIS militant group was born in the desert of Iraq’s Anbar province fifteen years ago; from its earliest days the insurgent faction learned how to operate from within a virtually featureless and barren landscape – something which even the most powerful and experienced conventional armies have never truly mastered themselves.

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The key to defeating, or at least greatly suppressing such a mode of operations as used by ISIS in the Syrian desert is through a greater troop presence, regular patrols and constant surveillance. The same applies to the lingering terrorist insurgency in the mountains of northeastern Homs province.

It is, however, a long term game – the results of success take time to show and new lessons constantly need to be learned.

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9 Comments on "Understanding how the ISIS insurgency in Syria’s eastern desert works and solutions to it"

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You can call me AL
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A difficult one, but drones everywhere in the day and at night, whether it be taking 1 or 20 out daily will whittle the numbers down and demotivate the vermin.

It’ll come good, however long it takes.

Flash
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Flash

Totally agree. Constant patrolling, with drone surveillance to collect intelligence for a few weeks. Will probably create a good plan for realistic takeover.

The SAA does not need to take over the whole territory, just do the usual thing: Divide the territory in few pieces, take out as many equipment and fighters as you can and they will get desperate. Eventually, they will starve and there will surrender or make a suicidal last stand.

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Stern Daler

The problem and solution is IMHO how to cut off supplies.
Modern guerilla warfare in the desert needs fuel etc.
As long as the US are there to supply moderate jihadi this will supply the IS fighters too. And it also weakens the SAA and NDF – that must fight these US vetted creatures too.

p.s. Several EU governments and even some US services pointed to this connection. See CAR reports on IS weapons supply. http://www.conflictarm.com/publications/

Peter Wallace
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Peter Wallace

Lots of interesting reading , thanks.

RomeSPQR
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RomeSPQR

Good analyzis. However, you forgot to mention another important element on ISIS supply lines : the corruption of some (minority though) SAA fighters who allow a safe passage for ISIS in exchange of $$

Similar scenario happened also elsewhere in Syria

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Stern Daler

@RomeSPQR – You made an absolutely valid observation IMHO but it is not restricted to the SAA/NDF- All factions are into it & by force. Since their wages do not afford a decent living. And often none at all.

jojo
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jojo

Are they getting continuous supplies from eastern Iraq?

jojo
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jojo

I meant western Iraq.

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Stern Daler

No problem IMHO all understand,