As the Iraqi-led offensive tightens around Mosul, the so-called Islamic State terror group is relying on territory it controls in Syria to resupply food and vital staples, according to reports from Syria.
At least “15 trucks, loaded with vegetables, sugar, flour, rice and other essential supplies, headed toward Mosul from Raqqa,” Smart News, a Syrian news agency, reported last week.
FILE - Corn is harvested in a field outside Raqqa, Syria, under Islamic State control, Oct. 23, 2016. (Credit: Dawa al-Haq)
Mosul is flanked on three sides by advancing forces inside Iraq. But IS fighters still have an open avenue to the west through remote desert land routes across the border to Syria. The area in Iraq is too large for Iraqi and Kurdish forces to control. And in Syria, IS retains control over land routes to some of its strongholds.
“Areas under (IS) control in eastern Syria have the richest and most fertile lands,” said Syrian economist Tammam Baroudi, an economist at the Syrian Economic Forum who follows the economy inside IS-held areas.
Until the Mosul offensive began, IS generally depended on an underground economy inside Iraq to keep the city operating.
Now IS is looking to war-ravaged Syria to keep Mosul going.
FILE - Sacks of processed corn are loaded on trucks outside Raqqa, Syria, Oct. 23, 2016. (Credit: Dawa al-Haq)
“Lying on the banks of Euphrates, cities such as Deir Ezzor and Raqqa, IS’ defacto capital, are known to be rich in terms of agricultural produce such as grains and vegetables,” Baroudi said. “These Syrian territories have been the food basket for (IS) just like how they were to the (Syrian) regime.”
As the Mosul battle enters its second week, IS seems to be able to survive economically inside the city, but military officials say they believe it is only a matter of time before the group runs out of resupply options.
FILE - Islamic State runs this flour mill in a village near Deir Ezzor in eastern Syria, Oct. 18, 2016. (Credit: Dawa al-Haq)
IS “knows they will come under a complete siege in Mosul in the next two weeks,” said General Sime Usali, a peshmerga commander who is now at the front lines near Bashiqa in north of Mosul.
“They still have access to other areas under their control, so they use that to resupply in Mosul. But soon that access would be cut off,” Usali told VOA in a phone interview.