Despite claiming responsibility for terrorist attacks the world over, including Tuesday’s truck attack in New York City, ISIS has been on the run. In October, coalition forces, including militias backed by Iran and the Russian air force, struck one of their biggest blows against ISIS when they liberated the Syrian city of Raqqa after a multi-month campaign. ISIS has now lost its last major stronghold in Syria after the Syrian army recaptured Deir al-Zour this week.
ISIS had controlled Deir al-Zour, strategically important because of its proximity to the Iraqi border, since 2014. At the height of their occupation, ISIS had trapped some 200,000 civilians in the city, forcing the UN to deliver relief supplies by plane. Located on the Euphrates River, ISIS used the city as a hub for transferring soldiers between Syria and Iraq, where ISIS has now lost around 95% of the territory it once held. While out of the city, ISIS still controls much of the surrounding territory and is still able to access the oil deposits in the area. The self-described caliphate has shrunk, but it still holds Bukamal, a border town between Damascus and Baghdad.
However, as ISIS is cleared out, sectarian fighting could flare up as rival Syrian factions converge. The United States and Russia have already accused each other of firing on the groups they support. Kurdish troops are also trying to shore up the territory they’ve taken over, as well.