US-led coalition: Daesh has lost 95% of its ‘caliphate’

US-led coalition: Daesh has lost 95% of its ‘caliphate’
Smoke rises after Syrian regime airstrikes in Eastern Ghouta, near Damascus, Syria. (AP)
Updated 16 November 2017

US-led coalition: Daesh has lost 95% of its ‘caliphate’

US-led coalition: Daesh has lost 95% of its ‘caliphate’

AMMAN/ISTANBUL/BEIRUT: Daesh has lost 95 percent of the cross-border “caliphate” it declared three years ago in Iraq and Syria, the US-led coalition fighting it has said.
“Since our coalition was formed in 2014, ISIS (Daesh) has lost 95 percent of the territory it once controlled in Iraq and Syria,” Washington’s envoy to the coalition, Brett McGurk, said late Wednesday after a meeting in Jordan.
“More than 7.5 million people have now been liberated from ISIS,” McGurk said in a statement, adding that the group’s finances are now “at their lowest levels to date.”
McGurk insisted that flows of foreign Daesh fighters into Syria have “nearly stopped,” and that militants are increasingly being picked up as they cross borders.
“We are enhancing cooperation and border security, aviation security, law enforcement, financial sanctions, counter-messaging, and intelligence sharing to prevent ISIS from carrying out attacks in our homelands,” he said.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, meanwhile, said that recent developments in Syria’s Raqqa show that the Kurdish YPG militia (People’s Protection Units), backed by the US, is more concerned about capturing territory than fighting Daesh,
Turkey has expressed anger that a convoy of Daesh fighters was allowed to withdraw from Raqqa last month as part of an agreement with the YPG, saying it was “appalled” by the US’ stance on the issue.
Ankara was also infuriated by Washington’s support for the Syria Kurdish fighters, seen by Turks as an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has fought a decades-long insurgency in Turkey and is designated a terrorist group by Ankara, the US and EU.
Turkish procurement of US defense equipment is being delayed in the US, according to the text of Cavusoglu’s speech, and Turkey is developing alternative solutions for this sector.
“We are unfortunately facing important delays in the procurement of defense equipment we urgently need in the fight against terror from the United States due to US internal practices,” the text said, without elaborating.
“Evidently, as these periods are prolonged, we are developing alternative means to acquire the equipment and systems we require, primarily through our own national resources.”
Turkey recently completed the purchase of Russian S-400 surface-to-air missile systems, a defense deal that Turkey’s Western allies see as a snub to the NATO alliance as the weapon cannot be integrated into the alliance’s systems.
Separately, President Bashar Assad’s army on Thursday entered Albu Kamal, the last town in the country held by Daesh, several days after the terrorist recaptured it, a monitor said.
The town in the eastern province of Deir Ezzor on the border with Iraq was initially captured by the army and allied forces a month ago but Daesh retook it in a counterattack.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the new offensive had successfully penetrated the town, with troops backed by Russian airstrikes advancing from the west, east and south.
“Fighting is ongoing inside the town, there is artillery fire and there are Russian airstrikes,” observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman said.
The first assault on Albu Kamal was spearheaded by Syrian regime allies, including Iraqi and Lebanese fighters, and advisers from Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, the observatory said.
“This time, the military operation is being led directly by regime forces,” Abdel Rahman said, adding that troops had taken the town’s eastern, southern and western suburbs.
Daesh still holds around 25 percent of the countryside of Deir Ezzor province but are under attack not only by regime forces but also by US-backed Kurdish-led fighters.
In another development, Syrian activists and a monitoring group said that almost two dozen civilians have been killed in the last three days of fighting in the suburb of the capital, Damascus, along with dozens of members of regime forces and opposition fighters.
The Britain-based Syrian observatory said that since Tuesday, 22 civilians died from regime shelling and bombardment of the opposition-held Eastern Ghouta suburb.
It said 29 pro-regime fighters have been killed while scores of opposition fighters were killed or wounded. The fighting is the latest breach of a local truce, brokered by Russia, Turkey and Iran.
The activist-run Ghouta Media Center said 15 civilians were killed on Wednesday, when Ahrar Al-Sham faction penetrated a military compound in the area to battle pro-regime fighters there. The fighting is still under way.