By Saqib Akbar

The governments of Syria and Iraq recently formally announced that ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria), also known as ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant), Islamic State (IS) and by its Arabic acronym Daesh, has been completely defeated in both the countries. However, operations of small nature are continuing against the remnants of this terror outfit. Commander of the Quds Force of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) Major General Qassem Soleimani, in a letter to Iran’s supreme leader Ayatullah Khamenei, congratulated him on the collapse of ISIS in Iraq and Syria. He said that the operation to liberate Abu Kamal as the last stronghold of ISIS, and the lowering of the flag of this American-Zionist group and the hoisting of the Syrian flag there, declare the end of the domination of this cursed wicked entity and its so-called caliphate.

He wrote: It captured hundreds of thousands of kilometres of the territory of these countries along with thousands of villages, cities and key provincial capitals and destroyed thousands of workshops and factories and the countries’ infrastructure such as roads, bridges, refineries, wells, oil and gas pipelines, power stations and other facilities. They also destroyed with bombs or burned important cities along with their invaluable historical artefacts and national civilization.

 General Soleimani further said: Although the extent of the damage cannot be assessed, initial surveys put the losses at $500 billion. In this incident, very heinous crimes, which cannot be displayed, were committed, namely the decapitation of children, skinning men alive in front of their families, taking innocent girls and women captive and raping them, burning people alive and the mass beheading of hundreds of youths. A number of the Muslim people of these countries, perplexed by the poisonous storm, were killed by the Takfiri criminals’ razor-thin daggers, and millions of others abandoned their homes and were forced to flee to other cities and countries. Amid this dark sedition, thousands of Muslims’ mosques and holy centres were destroyed or devastated, and in some cases they (ISIS terrorists) detonated mosques with Imams and worshippers inside.

In the congratulatory message, Gen Soleimani praised the wise leadership and prudent guidelines of Ayatullah Khamenei and Iraq’s top religious figure Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, which resulted in the mobilization of all resources to counter this notorious terror group. He also praised the resistance of the Iraqi and Syrian governments and the perseverance of the two countries’ armies and youth, especially the Popular Mobilization Units, and the youth of other countries together with the strong and pivotal presence of Hizbullah and said that these forces played a pivotal role in defeating this dangerous phenomenon.

 In response to this letter by Major General Qassem Soleimani, Ayatollah Khamenei while paying tributes to those who made round-the-clock efforts and offered sacrifices in uprooting this malignant tree also said that this was a divine victory and a testament to the Quranic verse “And thou (the Prophet Muhammad) threwest (a handful of dust), it was not they act, but Allah’s”.

 At the end of his response, Ayatullah Khamenei stressed that despite this great victory the duplicity of the enemy must not be neglected. Those who had hatched this evil plot with heavy investment will not sit idle and will try to restore it in another part of this region or in other forms, he said. So, maintaining motivation, preserving vigilance, safeguarding unity and eradicating any dangerous remnants must not be forgotten, he added.

 The point that Ayatullah Khamenei has raised at the end is very significant. In this regard, the reports coming from our neighbourhood as well as from the Middle East tell us that the US has not only safeguarded the main Daesh leadership but also relocated the same in various areas to be used in the future plans hatched by Washington. In a documentary ‘Raqqa’s Dirty Secret’ released by the BBC recently, it was revealed that hundreds of ISIS fighters, both Syrian and foreign, were covertly evacuated by US, UK and Kurdish forces from the besieged city of Raqqa and freed to spread out far and wide across Syria and beyond. Some among them have also reached Turkey.

 Addressing the closing session of the international conference on ‘Lovers of Ahlul Bayt’ held on 22nd and 23rd of November in Tehran, prominent Afghan leader Ustad Mohammad Mohaqiq told the gathering that ten thousand ISIS fighters have assembled in northern Afghanistan.

 Earlier, in his various interviews, former Afghan president Hamid Karzai had said the same thing. In an interview with Russia Today (RT) in London, published on October 4, 2017, Karzai said that the United States was colluding with ISIS in Afghanistan. He said that US bases in Afghanistan were used to aid ISIS. He said first Taliban and al-Qaeda linked militants were present in Afghanistan and now those belonging to the ISIS were in greater number.

 Noting that ISIS emerged in Afghanistan over the past few years, Karzai asked: "Who did this under the watch of US intelligence and military in Afghanistan and how come?" He said: "We have the right to ask these questions and the US government must answer." When asked if he had suspicions that US bases in Afghanistan "were being used", the former president said that he had "more than suspicions", claiming that Afghan people had approached him and told him that they are being supplied with helicopters. "[They have told me about] how unmarked, non-military coloured helicopters supply these people in not just one, but many parts of the country," Karzai said, adding that such reports were coming in on a daily basis from the people in Afghanistan and from Afghan government sources.

 This interview of Hamid Karzai was published on Geo News website on October 8, 2017, besides being reported by all the major TV channels and newspapers in Pakistan.

 Hamid Karzai has repeatedly made the same assertions in many interviews and statements. An Afghan governor had also recently raised similar points. He also said that the US was doing nothing against ISIS and that all its actions were directed against the Taliban.

 I have made it clear in many of my writings that Russia, China and Pakistan are also concerned about the growing activities of ISIS in Afghanistan and that these countries have held many consultative meetings in this regard. Not long ago, Pakistan Army Chief General Qamar Javad Bajwa paid a detailed visit to Tehran, where he met with Iran’s political, religious and military leadership. Although the details of these meetings couldn’t come into view, but only statements regarding expanding ties in all spheres and cooperation in different areas emerged. However, exchange of views on matters regarding ISIS activities, which is a cause of concern for both the countries, would certainly have taken place.

 It is worth mentioning that Russia and Iran have already gained experience in fighting ISIS and they were also backed by China in this war. It can be expected that all these regional powers will adopt a joint strategy to deal with the new threat of ISIS and that this group and its sponsors will suffer crushing defeat in this region as well.