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November 15, 2019

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As caliphate collapses, new ISIS threats emerge in Syria

After nearly five years of fighting, a U.S.-led coalition has almost completely destroyed what's known as the territorial caliphate, the Islamic pseudo-state created in Iraq and Syria by ISIS--but that doesn’t mean the end of the terror group. Amna Nawaz talks to special correspondent Jane Ferguson for an on-the-ground look at what war has left behind in Syria and the threat that remains.

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  • Amna Nawaz:

    After nearly five years of fighting, a U.S.-led coalition has almost completely destroyed what's known as the territorial caliphate, the Islamic pseudo-state created in Iraq and Syria by ISIS.

    The final battle is now nearing its end in the town of Baghouz, in Eastern Syria on Iraq's border, but that doesn't mean the end of ISIS.

    Special correspondent Jane Ferguson is on assignment in Syria for the "NewsHour." She joins me from the city of Qamishli in Syria's northeast.

    So, Jane, the group is basically surrounded now. What does the actual battle look like on the ground?

  • Jane Ferguson:

    The last hold out, Amna, of the caliphate, so-called, by ISIS is effectively a tiny patch of land that looks something like a torn-up playing field or perhaps even a scrapyard.

    It's filled with rusted old vehicles, as well as makeshift tents, many of which catch fire under the bombardments of coalition airstrikes and fire coming from the Syrian Democratic Forces.

    Those left inside are believed to be the most hard-core who have not given up, who have not come out through the humanitarian corridor. A reason for that is likely to be that many of them could be foreign fighters.

    We ourselves were on the ground there in houses where they had retreated from, and you could see English writing on the walls and memorabilia from fighters that basically would have been part of the caliphate. It wouldn't have been easy for them to slip away into the surrounding countryside in recent months and years during this campaign.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Jane, that tiny patch of land you mentioned, when that has been retaken, does that mean the battle is over, ISIS has been defeated?

  • Jane Ferguson:

    It won't mean the end of ISIS, Amna, but it does mean the end of the so-called caliphate, as in any areas of land that they themselves can control.

    But ISIS months ago morphed into an effective and deadly insurgency group. That's the next phase for them. We have already seen attacks, IEDs on the ground, as well as suicide car bombs here. In January, four Americans were killed in Manbij town here, whenever an ISIS cell attacked then.

    Now, the Syrian Democratic Forces announced today that they detained a number of ISIS members who they say were involved in that attack.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Special correspondent Jane Ferguson on the ground for us in Syria, thanks, Jane.

  • Jane Ferguson:

    Thank you.

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