Faced with continued attacks on its capital in Raqqa, and a push by Syrian forces into the southern part of Deir Ezzor Province, ISIS forces are increasingly falling back into their territory elsewhere in the province. The ISIS forces are said to be gearing up for a “last stand” there.
By “last stand,” that is not to imply that the last battle is imminent, or indeed that ISIS is falling back into a single territory. Rather, ISIS forces are shoring up defenses in a large number of towns and villages across the province.
Despite large numbers of casualties sustained in fighting elsewhere, ISIS still has a substantial number of fighters, and as their territory shrinks, this is more densely packing ISIS defensive forces into what territory remains.
Estimates of 5,000 ISIS fighters may be on the low end of the number in the area. This does not included ISIS fighters in Deir Ezzor city or the southern part of the province, let alone those substantial numbers that remain in Raqqa.
The Kurdish YPG has announced an offensive against northern Deir Ezzor soon, but US estimates on the size of ISIS forces in the area rest on the assumption that no ISIS fighters in Raqqa will survive to fight another day, something that history has shown elsewhere is never the case.