Since the publication of ISW’s last ISIS Sanctuary Map on January 16, 2016, ISIS lost a major resource hub in Shaddadi, northeastern Syria and was expelled from its remaining positions in Ramadi, western Iraq. ISIS responded by launching a campaign against Kurdish forces in Tel Abyad, northern Syria, and briefly seizing the city of Khanaser, southeast of Aleppo from Syrian regime forces.
ISIS is using its safe haven and foreign fighter population in Iraq and Syria to expand influence in Southeast Asia, in pursuit of its grand strategic objective to rule all Muslim lands. ISIS’s Syria-based Southeast Asian fighters are resourcing and directing local networks to launch attacks.
The Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) launched operations to retake Ramadi from ISIS on December 22 and established control of the city on February 9. The ISF will need to target remaining ISIS safe havens in the Euphrates River Valley, including Hit and Fallujah, in order to consolidate these gains.
ISIS continued to develop its regional presence despite setbacks in Iraq and Syria in February. The organization launched spectacular attacks to weaken security in Iraq and Syria as it faces territorial losses, declining revenue, and decreased foreign fighter inflows in both countries. ISIS meanwhile strengthened its presence in Libya, launching large-scale attacks and defending its stronghold of Sirte despite ground opposition from rival militant groups and airstrikes by the U.S. and other actors.
ISIS conducted a large-scale campaign against civilian and military targets across Iraq between February 25 and February 29.
Russia has continued its air campaign in support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, despite the ongoing cessation of hostilities agreement that began on February 27. Russian airstrikes concentrated in opposition-held areas of northwestern Syria on February 28, following a lull in Russian airstrikes on February 27.
(CNN) Hardly a day goes by without news of the progress being made in the war on ISIS in Iraq and Syria. In recent months, American-backed forces have secured much of the Syrian-Turkish border, recaptured Ramadi, and stemmed the flow of fighters and supplies to the terror group's capital cities of Raqqa and Mosul.
The expanded interventions of Russia and Iran into the Syrian Civil War have shifted the trajectory of the conflict in favor of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, granting him the strongest position on the battlefield as of February 24, 2016.