The final days of the Islamic State group may be nearer than ever. Nearly three years after the founding of its caliphate, ISIS faces almost total expulsion from Iraq and a formidable showdown with forces backed by the U.S. and Russia in its two remaining hubs of control in Syria.
In Iraq, ISIS is poised for defeat in the city of Mosul despite having its roots in the war-torn Middle Eastern nation. An alliance of the Iraqi military, Kurdish forces, Iran-backed Shiite Muslim militias and a U.S.-led coalition designed to defeat the group have pushed ISIS closer to the city’s western outskirts, where surviving fighters will likely be forced into neighboring Syria.
ISIS, which began as Al-Qaeda’s Iraqi franchise, controlled 40 percent of Iraq in 2014. After taking major cities in 2014, the jihadists faced consecutive defeats nationwide and by the end of March, they controlled less than seven percent of Iraq, according to Brigadier General Yahya Rasool, Iraqi spokesperson of the Joint Operations Command.
That means ISIS’ territory in Iraq has largely been reduced to the city of Mosul, by far the largest population center under the group’s control and the venue from which the group’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, made his only known public appearance to call all Muslims to join his global jihadist network in 2014. But Iraqi troops and their allies have in recent months ousted ISIS militants from the eastern section of the city and pro-government forces were on the verge this week of retaking the al-Nuri mosque where Baghdadi made his iconic declaration, signifying another symbolic and strategic blow for ISIS.
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