0437 GMT February 18, 2020
On Friday, Iraq’s Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced that government forces liberated the border town of al-Qaim in Anbar province, presstv.ir reported.
The fresh gain means that the Daesh terrorists in Iraq are now in control of just the smaller neighboring town of Rawa and surrounding pockets of barren desert along the Euphrates River.
Also on Friday, Russian-backed Syrian forces declared that they recaptured all of Dayr al-Zawr, noting that the city “was the headquarters of the organization’s leadership, and in losing it, they lose their capacity to direct terrorist operations.”
Syrian forces broke Daesh’s three-year siege of government-held parts of Dayr al-Zawr after they entered the city in September.
Government forces are now about 40 km away from the eastern border town of Bukamal, preparing for their final confrontation with remnants of the terrorist group.
The twin losses on both sides of the frontier reduces the former self-proclaimed caliphate that once ruled over millions of people in a large swath of territory into a single Syrian border town, a village on a bank of the Euphrates in Iraq and some patches of nearby desert.
Officials on both sides of the border predict that they would not face fierce resistance in their final battle against Daesh, as many of the militants, who are already besieged from all directions, have started surrendering due to lack of supplies, destruction of all organizational elements of strength and a collapse in morale.
A Syrian military source told Reuters that once Bukamal is liberated, “Daesh will be an organization that will cease to exist as a leadership structure.”
“It will be tantamount to a group of scattered individuals, it will no longer be an organization with headquarters, with leadership places, with areas it controls,” he said.
The Iraqi and Syrian officials, however, are still concerned over the likelihood that the remnants of Daesh militants can re-shape as a guerrilla force, capable of waging attacks without territory to defend.
According to informed sources, Daesh has just a few thousand militants left on both sides of the border, many of whom are fleeing into the desert and hiding in an attempt to devolve back into an insurgent terrorist group.
The Takfiri terrorists swept through parts of northern and western Iraq in June 2014. They then began a reign of terror across the captured areas, committing crimes against all ethnic and religious communities in Iraq, including Shias, Sunnis, Kurds, Christians and others.