An article that, until recently, appeared in the online version of the February 2019 edition of France’s Revue Defense Nationale, takes a very critical look at how the United States forces in Syria executed their battle strategy against the remaining ISIS forces in Syria and the final success of the battle. Colonel Francois-Regis Legrier, a senior French officer who has been in charge of directed French artillery supporting Kurdish-led groups in Syria since October 2018. Colonel Legrier claims that the United States-led coalition fighting against ISIS in the Battle of Hajin (near Syria’s eastern border with Iraq) as shown on these maps (which show Syria to the north and east (pink and yellow) and Iraq to the south (grey) with the battle area located under the small blue bomb icon):
…had focussed on limiting risks to itself rather than decreasing the risks to civilians which has greatly increased the death toll among civilians and left the regions infrastructure severely damaged. Let’s look at a few details of Legrier’s commentary on the Battle of Hajin which took place between September 2018 and January 2019, the last battle to destroy the Islamic State which, at one point in time, controlled significant areas of both Iraq and Syria.
In the Battle of Hajin, there were approximately 2000 Islamist fighters, mainly foreigners, located in a thirty kilometre by 10 kilometre stretch along the Euphrates River in Syrian Arab-Kurdish territory. The area where military action took place is a V-shaped wedge of land located between the Euphrates River on the west and the Iraqi-Syrian border to the east. There are several thousand civilians present in the northern part of the Hajin pocket located in a mainly rural area. The Syrian regime and Iraqi militia control the West Bank of the Euphrates River and the area to the north of the city of Al-Qaim (in Iraq) is the firing position of the coalition forces. The southern border is controlled by the Katiba Hesbollah, a small relatively well equipped Iran-affiliated militia.
The author notes that the features of the ground fighting Battle of Hajin were very similar to battles of the First World War with a front line between fighters and with territorial gains reflecting violent attacks and counterattacks by each side through the massive use of artillery.