ISIS surrenders Syrian city, preparing for guerrilla war

US-backed Kurdish and Arab forces are in control of Tabqa, a key Syrian city, after the surrender of ISIS forces that held the city. I discussed this development a few minutes ago with host P.J. Maloney on KQV Radio in Pittsburgh.

This is important for three reasons:

  • Tabqa controls the main road into Raqqa, the ISIS “capital” in Syria, about 50 Tabqa air basekilometers (30 miles) to the east. That’s the next target of the rebel forces. When ISIS captured Tabqa in 2013, it took control of a main Syrian government army base, giving ISIS large quantities of weapons and ammunition.
  • As part of the surrender, ISIS dismantled its explosives that threatened to destroy the Tabqa dam, flooding a large area and depriving many of drinking water, electricity and irrigation for agriculture.
  • Probably most importantly–this shows that fanatic as ISIS might be, its forces will not fight to the death. They have other ideas. As in Iraq, where they’ve been losing territory–they’re likely to regroup outside the cities and pursue a guerrilla war.

The takeaway from this is the same as it’s always been: There will be no decisive military victory over ISIS. The days of generals riding up on horseback, handing over their personal weapons, signing a surrender agreement, and sending their solders home doesn’t work in the 21st century.

We need to get with the program and realize that “winning” against ISIS requires a humanitarian effort more than a military one–starting with helping the millions of refugees who are suffering terribly in camps outside Syria and in makeshift accommodations inside the country.

The US is the number one world contributor of aid to the refugees. That’s worth noting and praising–but the corner will be turned only when the emphasis is on humanitarian aid, not military action. That will be the day that the US can start rebuilding its reputation in the Mideast after decades of misguided military operations that have killed tens of thousands, destroyed countless buildings and hundreds of villages, and alienated an entire generation of people over here.


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