By Mark Turon
Between 2014 and 2015, the Islamic State held territory roughly the size of the United Kingdom. According to Reuters in January, ISIS territory shrunk by 40 percent in Iraq and about 20 percent in Syria, with the Syrian army finally beating ISIS in what was a tremendous victory for President Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Palmyra.
Although Palmyra is a vital control point for any group, it revealed just how reliant the Syrians are on the Russians. That same day, Russian warplanes carried out bombing runs that killed 100 targets within a day.
The Islamic State’s territory, factored in with Palmyra and Iraqi advances beyond Ramadi, has shrunken by a combined 22 percent of its total unofficial territory.
Following the losses suffered on the territorial front, the Islamic State carried out attacks in Iraq, Syria, Turkey, France, Belgium, Thailand, Afghanistan, Nigeria, Pakistan, Niger, Tunisia, Egypt, U.S., Libya, Cameroon, Somalia, and Yemen, among others.
Considering that dozens to hundreds of innocent people were killed and hundreds were more injured, the victories against the territorial caliphate is less of a success compared to expanded terrorist strikes. The casualties suffered by the warring parties in Syria and Iraq among the Kurdish peshmerga, the most effective force taking the fight to the Islamic State, should be factored in. Of the peshmerga, 1,345 soldiers lost their lives leading the attacks against the Islamic State, according to the Atlantic. Further plans are developing between the Iraqi security forces and the peshmerga to lead another series of coordinated offensive tactics to sever supply lines to Fallujah while liberating Mosul.
While the Kurdish peshmerga along with the Iraqi security forces fight the Islamic State on the ground, the United States continues to support them with airstrikes and confirming the killing of ISIS targets almost every day.
The Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said last December that 2016 will be the year of “final victory” against the extremist group.
The victory at Palmyra was a great success as Syrian government forces supported by Russian warplanes reclaimed the historic city. However, casualties were not the only cost of the battle, as the 2000-yearold Temple of Bel and the Arch of Triumph, both UNESCO World Heritage Sites, were destroyed