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Erbil, Kurdistan Region – Over the last two months, the Islamic State group (IS/ISIS) has started to suffer gradual collapse in the countryside of Aleppo and Raqqa, in northeastern Syria, according to military sources.
Although the group has shifted from an offensive to a defense tactic for the first time since its control over those territories, it still enjoys considerable power with control over more than one-third of Syria and Iraq as the U.S. Department of Defense (Pentagon) reported earlier.
The Pentagon also pointed out that the hard-line group’s influence started to decline with the onset of the international coalition’s airstrikes, which culminated in its first painful defeat in the Kurdish city of Kobane (Ain al-Arab) in northern Syria,–a defeat that cost the radical group more than 1000 militants.
The Kurdish fighters directed what was described as a ‘severe blow’ to the jihadists, and expelled them from the city of Kobane and large areas of its countryside, where the Kurdish forces of the People’s Protection Units (YPG) and the Peshmerga –in cooperation with the FSA– regained at least 229 villages.
The IS group also suffered internal disputes between its foreign leaders and its local ones (mostly Iraqis and Syrians) after un unprecedented decline in many areas, as they were engaged in battles on many fronts against several opponents.
Speaking to ARA News, Syrian activist and former member of the IS group Abu Yazan, based in Turkey after escaping IS-held city of Jarablus, said that rifts emerged between IS leading members (mostly foreigners) after they received orders of withdrawal from Aleppo while many others opposed this decision.
“The orders came from the leadership of the group to withdraw from Aleppo’s countryside,” the source added.
However, local militants of the IS refused the orders of withdrawing from Aleppo, because of the promises made by the group’s leadership of advancement towards the city of Azaz –northern Syria.
“These local militants expressed their desire to continue battles against the Syrian opposition fighters, until taking full control of the northern countryside of Aleppo was achieved,” the former IS member told ARA News.
The source pointed out that the IS foreign militants withdrew from areas such as Hatimlat, Dabiq and Turkman, while the group’s local militants remained stationed in those towns, refusing to leave these areas to the rebels.
“The local IS militants in turn, demanded the leadership of the group to review the decision, and argued not to abandon the city of Aleppo, expressing their willingness to defend it with all their capabilities,” the source added.
Abu Yazan pointed out that many Syrian members of the IS left their posts for fear of being targeted by the U.S.-led coalition warplanes and liquidated “after refusing to follow the foreign fighters of the group”.
Noteworthy, the Islamic State is still battling against the Syrian armed opposition fighters, and some Islamic battalions in the northern countryside of Aleppo, near the towns of Hatmilat and Dabiq.
A military source from the Free Syrian Army (FSA) in the IS-held city of Manbij in northern Syria has talked to ARA News (under the condition of anonymity) earlier this month about the decreasing number of IS militants in the city.
“The IS group is even afraid of sending their gunmen on missions and patrols outside Manbij,” the source reported. “Those militants, who are supposed to perform military missions and come back to their bases, mostly do not return, as in the recent cases in IS-held Amarna and Jazira checkpoints on the road to Jarablus.”
In the meantime, the town of Ain Issa, in southeastern Kobane (Ain al-Arab), was reported free of IS militants on Sunday evening. The group has transferred its Sharia Court and headquarters to the nearby town of Sulug, amid the escape of large numbers of militants towards the Turkish territory across Tel Abyad in the Raqqa countryside, in northeastern Syria.
Reporting by: Sarbaz Yusuf
Source: ARA News