Sinam Sherkany Mohamad is the Chief of Mission of the US Mission of the Syrian Democratic Council. She is a Kurdish woman from Afrin, Syria.

On March 23, members of the SDF General Command, the Deir-ez-Zor Military Council, tribal leaders, a delegation from the International Coalition to Defeat ISIS, and the local populace gathered at al-Omar Base in Deir-ez-Zor to commemorate the fourth anniversary of the defeat of the ISIS Caliphate. This victory remains a testament to the importance of the sacrifices made and the unity that the region and international community showed in their joint efforts to liberate Syrian territory, from Kobani to Baghuz. However, on the other side of the Euphrates River, in the ostensibly regime-held Badia desert region, local civilians and regime soldiers have been facing increasingly frequent and deadly ISIS attacks. Despite the Assad regime deploying more soldiers to the area, ISIS has inflicted significant casualties on the regime’s troops, as well as killing dozens of civilians in the remote desert region. 

Simultaneously, despite successes in quelling several prison-break attempts by ISIS in Raqqa and Hasakah, as well as near constant operations against ISIS cells in Deir-ez-Zor, the group continues to inflict casualties and remain active in SDF-liberated territories, carrying out assassinations, demanding taxes from the local populace, and attacking SDF checkpoints. Over 10,000 ISIS fighters, of whom 2,000 are foreigners remain in prisons run by the Autonomous Administration’s security forces in North and East Syria, and the sprawling al-Hawl camp, mostly populated by the families of ISIS members, continues to be one of the most dangerous places in the world, with ISIS ideology and violence ever present, despite numerous SDF-led security operations and some repatriations of foreigners. 

The situation in Syria as of April 2024. Areas in red are under the control of the Assad regime, yellow represents the Autonomous Administration and SDF, green is the Turkish occupation zone, the area in white is controlled by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, and the zones in gray denote areas where ISIS has bases and camps.
Syrian Democratic Forces Commandos and Internal Security Forces showing weapons seized from an ISIS cell following a counter-terrorism operation.
US soldiers deployed as part of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS provide training to Internal Security Forces (Asayish) personnel in North and East Syria.

The Coalition and US Central Command frequently state the goal of their mission in Syria to be the enduring defeat of ISIS. In order to ensure this, renewed attention must be brought to Syria that addresses all of the factors involved. The United States must continue supporting the security forces of North and East Syria through the Counter-ISIS Train and Equip Fund. Funding requests from the DOD have steadily decreased in recent years from 160 million in 2023, to 156 million in 2024, and now less than 148 million has been requested for FY 2025. The needs of North and East Syria’s security forces, facing not just the threat of ISIS, but Turkish airstrikes and regime-backed attacks as well, are growing, not decreasing. It is more important than ever to continue supporting them through training, equipment, stipends, security infrastructure, and logistics.

Graduation ceremony for Asayish members following their completion of Coalition training.

Furthermore, the economic situation in Syria has continued to worsen. The Syrian lira’s value has plummeted against the dollar, over 90% of the population lives under the poverty line, and recent Turkish airstrike campaigns in October, December, and January have caused catastrophic damage to the region’s infrastructure, including hospitals, schools, power plants, and oil and gas refineries, affecting millions of people’s ability to have reliable power, heating, medical care, and education. Increasing engagement beyond military affairs to include the Autonomous Administration on a wider level, and providing economic aid is just as important as military funding, as ISIS continues to take advantage of the poor economic situation by offering young people money in exchange for their collaboration or full recruitment into the organization. 

General Kurilla, head of US Central Command, and Mazloum Abdi, General Commander of the SDF receive a briefing on the situation in al-Hawl Camp. 

The al-Hawl camp that houses tens of thousands of ISIS-affiliated women and children, and the numerous prisons that hold over ten thousand ISIS fighters, including approximately two thousand foreigners, are also unresolved. Repatriations have been taking place, but at a far too slow pace, and only for the women and children. Most of the international community continues to mostly ignore this issue, which CENTCOM head General Erik Kurilla called a “real threat to the region” and a “humanitarian catastrophe.” The international community must come together to address this issue, as the Autonomous Administration and its security forces simply do not have the resources to handle it alone. 

What can be gleaned from the group’s activities in recent months is that, despite losing all of its territory, ISIS as an organization is far from defeated, and has managed to transform itself into an insurgency that is a major security threat to the region, and international community, and one that has every intention of fully reconstituting itself. This is why it is essential that the international community, and especially the United States, does not withdraw its attention from Syria.