WASHINGTON — ISIS has been put down by the U.S.-led coalition in eastern Syria, but as Pentagon officials have predicted it is far from dead in the western part of the country.
Over the weekend, ISIS units attacked Syrian army elements and killed at least 35 soldiers, Reuters reported.
The attacks came as an analysis released Monday by the Institute for the Study of War said ISIS is now into its new plan of creating “control zones,” “support zones” and “attack zones.”
“ISIS lost its last zone of territorial control in Syria on March 23, 2019, but its resurgent campaign continues to gain momentum across Iraq and Syria,” the analysis said. “ISIS is expanding its support zones and scaling up its attack campaign in key cities including Ar-Raqqa City, Mosul, and Fallujah as well as rear areas in Northern Syria and Iraqi Kurdistan.”
The analysis is called “ISIS Resurgence Update.” It covers the time frame from December 19, 2018, to April 16, 2019.
Pentagon officials said Monday that they were not aware of the details of the ISIS attack on Syrian forces. However, in interviews on Monday, they spoke to the merits of the U.S. strategy in Iraq and Syria against ISIS — defeat ISIS on the battlefield, establish a force to guard against any resurgence and eliminate conditions that breed support for the terrorists.
The Washington-based Institute’s analysis said ISIS’s recent consolidation has included its “leveraging of existing support networks across Syria and Iraq to shift fighters and material out of its final zone of territorial control in Syria.”
It also said that an ISIS resurgent campaign “is accelerating in the urban centers of Ar-Raqqa City, Mosul, and Fallujah.”
The analysis did not comment on discrepancies between the map brandished by President Donald Trump on March 20 that indicated diminished areas of ISIS control and the conclusions of the Institute’s analysis of ISIS control.
“The DIA’s [Defense Intelligence Agency] assessment lacks nine key support zones assessed with moderate confidence by (the Institute),” it said.
“There are multiple possible explanations for why the DIA does not depict these operating areas held by ISIS in Iraq and Syria,’ the Institute said. “The DIA may be unable to assess these operating areas through unclassified means. ISW [the Institute] may also have misattributed attacks conducted by other insurgents such as former Ba’athists operating outside the control of ISIS.”
The Institute also said the DIA mapped operating areas for ISIS near Aleppo City, Qamishli in Northern Syria, and Rutbah in Western Iraq not depicted by them. “ISW does not possess sufficient evidence from the open-source to assess these zones as of April 2019,” it said.