In an exclusive interview with CNN, a Syrian fighter with the group known as the Islamic State or ISIS said they were prepared for US airstrikes within Syria and the damage done against the organisation was ineffective.
A Syrian ISIS fighter operating under the pseudonym Abu Tahla told CNN through Skype that the US and coalition airstrikes within Syria were expected.
“We’ve been ready for this for some time,” Abu Talha said. “We know that our bases are known because they’re tracking us with radars and satellites, so we had backup locations.”
The ISIS headquarters that were targeted were emptied out, and ISIS fighters moved their supplies into civilian neighborhoods or buried them underground before the airstrikes came, the fighter said.
Abu Tahla taunted the interviewers about recent US strikes against ISIS oil refineries, noting that ISIS had other avenues of income besides oil sales. Abu Tahla also said that even if the US managed to push ISIS back in Iraq, it managed to advance in Syria.
Concerningly, Abu Tahla’s remarks are echoed by the situation on the ground. Despite airstrikes, ISIS has advanced almost completely to the Turkish border in northern Syria. Only the Kurdish city of Kobane remains defiant to ISIS aggression, although the Kurds defending the city are thoroughly outgunned by the recent jihadist advance.
There is also concern that US and coalition airstrikes against ISIS are legitmising the jihadists since there aren’t simultaneous efforts to remove Syrian President Bashar Hafez Assad from power. Prominent analyst Hassan Hassan, with the Delma Institute, notes that the airstrikes are doing little actual damage to the militants while increasing their standing as a resistance organisation.
Prior to the airstrikes, ISIS was involved in fighting the Assad regime, as well as various Syrian rebel groups including the al-Qaeda affiliate the Nusra Front, the Kurds, and the Iraqis. The US airstrikes, which also targeted Nusra, however, have put pressure on ISIS and Nusra to reconcile their differences and pledge a common cause against the West.
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