The Islamic State (ISIS) is a much more potent force in Syria than it was mere months ago. It is moving around more freely, carrying out lethal attacks against its various enemies, and entering villages to warn locals against cooperating with the Kurds, the Syrian regime, or the international coalition. The U.S.-led coalition is mobilizing forces to keep the group under pressure.
After the start of 2020, sleeper cells launched surprise attacks targeting the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and what ISIS calls “the Awakenings” (a derogatory term ISIS uses for Muslim factions working alongside the SDF and the U.S.-led international coalition across Syria – a relic of the Sunni groups that fought al Qaeda in Iraq from 2005-2008). Recent ISIS operations in Syria have targeted all regions east of the Euphrates River all the way to the Syrian Desert. ISIS appears to have used small but organized fighting units to carry out recent operations.
After the Battle of Baghouz in March 2019 that ended ISIS control over territories in Syria and Iraq, the organization changed significantly.