ISIS Fights for Control of Syrian Regime's Last Stronghold in Raqqa

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Syria Deeply: How hard will it be for ISIS to take the base?

Lamrani: It's heavily defended. And attacking airports is very difficult because there's flat terrain around them, good fields of fire, so it's hard for to approach without being fired at. They have been anticipating an ISIS attack, especially as ISIS has gone and attacked other regime positions. They knew it was coming and had time to prepare for it. ISIS has lost something like 17 fighters in the Taqba offensive so far, but it will come back and keep trying to take the base. It might take time to get ready to strike again, but this is going to be an ongoing thing and in the long term it doesn't look good for the regime. It's far from the regime's front lines and supply lines.

Syria Deeply: What is it costing the regime to hold Taqba?

Lamrani: It's a drain on resources. We're talking about anywhere from 350 to 1,000 soldiers, keeping them supplied and reinforced, casualty evacuation, and all the ballistic missile attacks that go into keeping the base secure. The regime has really pulled out all the stops on [fortifying the base]. They're spending a lot of resources to protect the base. And the more they concentrate on it, the more they divert resources from other locations in Syria.

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Syria Deeply: What will it mean if the regime loses?

Lamrani: It's a blocking position against ISIS, and if the regime loses, it will release a lot of ISIS fighters from this fight into other areas. It's almost in the middle of Syria and so they can swing those fighters east towards Deir Ezzor, or transition them towards the fight against the Kurds, or to Hama or Homs, the rebel position north of Aleppo. ISIS tends to move in formation of 500 to 800 fighters, and this will clear up a couple of those formations.

This article originally appeared on Syria Deeply.

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