Yesterday, US-backed Syrian rebels attacked the key border town of al-Bukamal, along the Iraqi border. Overnight, they briefly entered the town and took control of parts of it, but by this afternoon, ISIS had totally recovered the town and expelled the rebels.
Bukamal is along the main border crossing between Iraq’s Anbar Province and Syria’s Deir Ezzor Province. Both provinces are held in large measure by ISIS. The rebel faction, the New Syria Army, had previously taken the ISIS-held border crossing further south, at Tanf.
But Tanf, which largely links empty desert on both sides of the border, was never anywhere near as important, and with US airstrikes backing them, the rebels recovered the sparsely guarded crossing in pretty short order.Bukamal, it seems, is much more important to ISIS, and they were quick to muster reinforcements.
The New Syria Army claimed it was “surprised” by ISIS forces waiting in ambush, and was forced to retreat, though they did claim to have “liberated” a lot of empty Syrian desert from ISIS in the area south of the crossing.
That may be the last thing they do, however, with reports that they are struggling to reorganize after the ambush, and some analysts suggesting that the faction might never recover its modest amount of power, and eliminate yet another US-backed faction.