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Victory — for now
The battle against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria is now officially over.
But has the war just begun?
On Saturday, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared an end to three years of bloody combat with ISIS, saying the group has been vanquished and no longer controls any territory.
And this morning, Russian President Vladimir Putin paid a surprise visit to an airbase in Syria to order his own troops home.
“The task of fighting armed bandits here in Syria, a task that it was essential to solve with the help of extensive use of armed force, has for the most part been solved and solved spectacularly,” Putin said in a televised speech.
At its peak in Iraq, the extremist Sunni terror organization, also known as Daesh, had seized almost a third of the country. Some 10 million people were living under its brutal rule. While in Syria, the group controlled vast portions of the east and north, from Iraq to the Turkish border.
Liberating those territories has been costly, in all senses of the word.
Exact casualty figures are hard to come by, but the best estimates seem to be that the Iraqi Army, Peshmerga and other anti-ISIS militia groups lost around 25,000 soldiers — about the same number as Daesh.
In Syria, where the Assad regime has been fighting a civil war on multiple fronts against different opposition forces, the government is believed to have lost as many as 100,000 troops since 2011.
The number of civilians killed in Syria is much higher, with some estimates claiming as many as 500,000 have died.