US-backed forces admit to ‘difficulties’ beating ISIS in Syria

After earlier reports that the battle against ISIS has been concluded, U.S.-backed forces now say that their effort has been slowed.

By Associated Press

U.S.-backed forces fighting to take back the last Islamic State group outpost in Syria say they are facing difficulties defeating the group.

A spokesman says their effort is being slowed by mines, tunnels and the possibility of harming women and children still in the village.

Dozens of men and women were seen walking around the besieged ISIS encampment in the village of Baghouz Sunday, as fighters from the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) watched from a hilltop close by.

SDF spokesman Kino Gabriel said the camp was approximately 250 kilometers in size, much the same area that it was five weeks ago when the SDF said it was going to finally conclude the battle.

“We are facing several difficulties regarding the operations,” Gabriel told reporters outside Baghouz Sunday.

These difficulties contrast sharply with the report earlier this month of people leaving the last area held by Islamic State in eastern Syria. Under the cover of heavy coalition bombing on March 1-2, SDF forces had advanced on the besieged tent encampment, leaving a corridor for residents to leave.

However, while many thousands of residents and many fighters evacuated Baghouz over the next several days, many others remained behind, leading to speculation that another battle was about to begin.

A U.S. senior defense official said in Washington earlier in the month that it would not come as a surprise, based on the current conditions, if it were to take another week or two to finish “mopping up” the ISIS enclave. Amid the latest difficulties, it would appear that the assessment might have been too optimistic.