ISIS changes tactics as its numbers shrink

With Islamic State in disarray in Raqqa, its fighters are switching to small-scale suicide attacks to fend off a rapid offensive by the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and a stream of coalition airstrikes, SDF commanders say.

Unlike past battles, when IS militants attacked SDF front lines with hundreds of fighters and car bombs, the terror group’s new strategy involves using small groups of suicide bombers – six or seven -- to cause large numbers of casualties, SDF commanders on the scene told VOA.

“This new method involves scattered attacks and most likely ends in the killing of all attackers,” SDF commander Agid Muhammad told VOA from Raqqa.

He said IS continues to rely on car bomb operations to hold onto its grip of the city, but its fighters avoid group attacks and large gatherings. He said the new tactic might be a result of repeated U.S.-led coalition airstrikes that have wiped out tens of IS fighters’ gatherings.

“IS thugs try to hide in public buildings such as schools and civilian homes to avoid airstrikes,” he said. “They come out from those buildings in small groups only when they know they can avoid airstrikes.”

But the new IS strategy is unlikely to help the fighters who have been struggling to hold territory across Iraq and Syria for months, U.S.-backed forces say.

“More than 40 percent of Raqqa is under our control now, and we will soon advance into the heart of the city,” SDF fighter Shoresh Kobane told VOA. He said the SDF forces, supported by coalition airstrikes, are pushing from the east and west across the Euphrates River to control southeast Raqqa, thus encircling the city.
I see these moves as more tactical than strategic.  The move against their base of operations has limited their ability to build car bombs so they are having to switch tactics in an attempt o inflict casualties on the attacking force.   It is just another indication that they have lost the ability to use their favored method of fighting.

The taking of Raqqa appears to be moving much faster than the operation against Mosul.  When both cities fall things are very likely to get even more complicated as various factions fighting them struggle over who will control the rubble the remains behind.


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