In the end the “caliphate” was very little additional than a sprawling expanse of rubble and mangled autos, strewn with the corpses of ISIS fighters.

But it was not the closing struggle. We were wrong.

Countless numbers of ISIS fighters surrendered, and several 1000’s extra — their widows and orphans, their wives and youngsters — ended up in SDF-run prisons and detention camps.

Nonetheless just days soon after the Turkish army and its Syrian allies invaded northeastern Syria previous 7 days, hundreds have escaped, and as the offensive proceeds and the SDF comes underneath ever better force, far more will likely split out of captivity.

A number of months before the drop of Baghouz, I interviewed one particular of the ISIS gals.
“God is testing us,” she explained. “The unworthy will go away, and the righteous will keep on being.”

Few of the ISIS females or the fighters we interviewed conceded defeat.

Omar, a Palestinian refugee who grew up in Syria, instructed me: “Possibly the People rule the environment these days, but God Almighty promised the Muslims that, in the finish, the entire world will be dominated by Islam.”

It was, they insisted, a momentary setback. ISIS, they vowed, would return.

And they were possibly suitable.

ISIS fighters on the unfastened

In September, ISIS chief Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi urged his followers in an audio message to breach the partitions of the prisons and the camps and totally free their brethren. And so it has come to pass. As Turkey presses its offensive, the SDF will be compelled to pull its adult males and girls away from guarding the prisons and camps and deliver them to the front strains.

In al-Hol camp, exactly where hundreds of ISIS relatives members are remaining held, already the inmates are placing on the strain. An SDF formal instructed CNN Friday the gals there were burning tents, and attacking SDF personnel and administrative workplaces. Weapons have been smuggled into the camp, where by radical inhabitants have continued to enforce the draconian rules of the former so-identified as caliphate, meting out from time to time deadly punishment to those who tumble out of line.

And assistance is close by.

Pentagon officials have reported for months now that thousands of ISIS fighters and sympathizers are on the unfastened throughout Syria and Iraq. They carry out standard strike-and-operate assaults. They are down, but not out.

ISIS has lengthy excelled at exploiting ability vacuums, and now just one is opening up.

The war versus ISIS, joined by then-US President Barack Obama and carried on by his successor President Donald Trump, was all for naught.

We noticed, as the struggle for Baghouz raged, US, British and French unique forces manning artillery and mortar positions about the city as US-led anti-ISIS coalition warplanes strike targets on the ground. We noticed US, British and French intelligence officers screening and interrogating all people who left Baghouz.

SDF fighters, which includes Kurds, Arabs and Christians, pressed ahead on the ground, braving booby traps, vehicle bombs and suicide bombers. The SDF states more than 11,000 of its soldiers—men and women—died in the war.

And now, in a lot less than a week, all that was accomplished, and sacrificed, all the lives and treasure expended, has arrive undone.

Turkish forces, along with their Syrian allies, are pummeling the SDF, and now the Syrian Military is entering the fray following the SDF lower a offer with Damascus. The US states it will undertake a “deliberate withdrawal from northeast Syria” since, in the words and phrases of US Defense Secretary Mark Esper, American forces are “likely caught involving two opposing, advancing armies and it truly is a extremely untenable predicament.”

So the US is cutting and managing, abandoning these who fought facet-by-aspect with them to defeat ISIS after and for all — or so we imagined. Due to the fact very last December President Trump has been in an dreadful hurry to pull US forces out of Syria, seemingly indifferent to the penalties.

And, of training course, the phrase “deliberate withdrawal” is government-converse for a thing substantially less difficult: betrayal and retreat.

This tale has been current.