Syria’s government and its allies, with so many different enemies in the complicated civil war, have time and again shifted priorities, focusing on areas of particular near-term value, or sites they believe to be vulnerable, in the course of trying to reclaim as much of the country as possible.
This appears to be happening again in recent weeks, with Syria making a decisive shift eastward, with an eye toward pushing deep into ISIS held territory, particularly within the oil-rich Deir Ezzor Province.
This comes amid the US-backed Kurdish invasion of the ISIS capital of Raqqa, which is forcing ISIS to commit a lot of resources to that city’s defense, and has thus made its southern flank at least a bit more vulnerable, giving Syrian forces a chance to drive therein.
Even there, however, Syrian military officials say that the ISIS forces are putting up serious resistance, giving the impression that they are “fearless” and willing to fight to the death. This has been a recurring theme in fights with ISIS, often leading to large bodycounts, or to flagging morale among ISIS’ opponents.
Even in places where ISIS has effectively lost, as the Salamiyah area, ISIS presence continues, with smaller groups continuing to rampage, attacking villages and departing before the Syrian military is able to muster a defense.
This could be a severe problem for Syria in the long term, as the push eastward greatly adds to the amount of former ISIS territory they hold, and necessarily to the problem of remnant ISIS insurgents in the remote deserts this area includes.