Backed Kurds launch final attack against IS in Syria

Hugh Fox
February 12, 2019

US -backed and Kurdish-led Syrian forces said Sunday they are locked in a fierce battle to take over the final territory controlled by ISIS in eastern Syria.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based war monitor, said the alliance of Kurdish and Arab fighters had pressed forward in the face of tough obstacles.

A fighters from the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces as a grim battle takes place for the last ISIS-held enclave in Syria.

Bali did not say how long they expect the battle to last.

The SDF, backed by a US -led coalition, began the assault on Saturday, seeking to wipe out the last remnants of the jihadist group's "caliphate" in the SDF's area of operations in eastern and northern Syria.

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But Votel acknowledged that putting pressure on ISIS will be made more challenging without the presence of the over 2,000 USA troops now in Syria, forces that President Donald Trump has ordered to be withdrawn.

The official also warned that the Islamic State would benefit from any U.S. withdrawal of over 2,000 troops from Syria. He has said repeatedly that he doesn't want the be the world's policeman and that he intends to bring the 2,000 USA troops home.

The final territory controlled by fighters of the so-called Islamic State was in the small town of Baghouz Al-Fawqani, just west of an earthen berm on the outskirts of the village where US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces started their push.

CBS News correspondent Charlie D'Agata reports on Monday ISIS fighters launched a fierce counterattack from the village of Baghuz Fawqani, seizing back territory from Kurdish-led forces.

A battle has been going on for hours, with US-led coalition air strikes and artillery fire pounding IS positions.

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Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman said the SDF was "advancing slowly" on the edges of Baghouz, but cautioned landmines, snipers and tunnels dug by ISIL fighters were hindering progress. The Kurdish Hawar news agency also reported heavy fighting in Baghouz.

The Kurdish-led force lost nine fighters during battles with jihadists, the Observatory said.

A USA official confirmed that target date to Reuters, saying the withdrawal included a pull-out from the US military base at Tanf, near the Syrian border with Iraq and Jordan.

US Central Command head Gen. Joseph Votel testifies before a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Capitol Hill, on February 5, 2019, in Washington. Some civilians are believed to be still in the area.

Estimates of the number of fighters remaining in the pinprick of territory vary wildly from dozens to hundreds, but they are thought to include some of the most die-hard and committed extremists who have remained with the group to the bitter end.

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A United Nations report seen by Reuters last week estimated there are up to 18,000 ISIS terrorists in Iraq and Syria, including up to 3,000 foreign fighters.

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