The U.S.-led coalition said Friday that the capture of the Islamic State’s onetime de facto Syria capital of Raqqa marked a turning point in the fight against the extremist group, effectively declaring an end to the military operation there.
A U.S.-backed force known as the Syrian Democratic Forces, or SDF, has been clearing the final pockets of the resistance in the city since declaring victory over the Islamic State on Tuesday.
“Daesh’s loss of Mosul and now Raqqah are turning points for the terrorist organization whose leaders grow ever more distant from a dwindling number of terrorist adherents,” said the coalition in a statement, using an Arabic acronym for the Islamic State.
Three years after seizing a swath of land the size of Belgium across Syria and Iraq, the Islamic State no longer holds any major cities and is clinging to only one sizable stretch of territory spanning the border between the two countries.
The group had used its self-declared caliphate to raise revenue through taxes, extortion and the sale of oil. Analysts said the group would now shift back to its guerrilla roots, seeking to capitalize on unresolved social divisions across Syria and Iraq, a strategy that allowed it to win a degree of popular support in the first place.
The battle for Raqqa began in June, with the SDF advancing on foot as U.S.-led coalition airstrikes pummeled Islamic State positions from above.
Much of the city now lies in ruins. According to monitoring groups, more than 1,000 civilians have been killed in the fight.
(c) 2017, The Washington Post · Louisa Loveluck