'Islamic State' left clinging to scraps in Iraq and Syria
AMMAN -- The Iraqi army on Friday (November 17) retook the last town in the country still held by the "Islamic State" (IS), driving another nail into the coffin of the militants' dreams of statehood.
IS has lost 95% of the cross-border "caliphate" it declared in Iraq and Syria in 2014, according to the US-led coalition fighting the militants.
The group is now clinging on to just a few small pockets of territory in Iraq and Syria, a far cry from the vast stretches it controlled after rampaging across the region.
After the loss of the small Euphrates valley town of Rawa in a lightning offensive launched by Iraqi forces at dawn Friday, scraps of desert are all that remain under IS control in the country.
Baghdad's forces are waging a final push along their side of the frontier with Syria to wipe out the last remnants of IS territory.
The operation is the last leg of a punishing campaign that saw Iraq reclaim Mosul in July after ferocious urban combat.
The border area of Iraq's Anbar Province is dominated by a handful of powerful Sunni tribes, some of which have dispatched fighters to battle IS alongside government forces.
Beyond the the border town of Albu Kamal, IS controls some two dozen desert villages along the Euphrates river in the surrounding oil-rich Deir Ezzor Province that once provided a major source of the group's illicit income.
Militants there are confronted both by Syrian regime forces and a coalition of Kurdish and Arab fighters supported by a US-led coalition.
Away from the barren frontier region, IS retains a presence in the Yarmuk refugee camp and the Hajar Aswad district just south of Damascus, where the group is battling other militants and pro-regime forces.
In the central region of Homs, IS is being squeezed by troops loyal to President Bashar al-Assad as it struggles to maintain its grip on a few small areas.