U.S.-led forces operating in the Middle East missed chances to stop the Islamic State advance to Palmyra, experts have declared, as the radical terrorist group beds down in the strategically important Syrian city.
The takeover comes just days after ISIS were supposedly ‘routed’ into the surrounding Syrian desert, and according to some, reflects a lack of action by Western forces who were capable of stopping the group in their tracks.
The city is not just a World Heritage site, but also a point of considerable strategic import, explained Emily Dyer of the Henry Jackson Society think-tank.
Dyer told BBC News: “This is really strategically important for ISIS. It’s close by to Homs… It’s between the Syrian capital city of Damascus and the eastern city of Deir ez-Zur, and also close by to gas fields. These will all be on the group’s radar as they plan their next lines of attack.”
Laying the blame for the continued advance of ISIS at the feet of the Obama administration and the U.S.-led coalition, Dyer said: “What’s so striking to me is that in the days that ISIS spent preparing to storm Palmyra, it took days to charge across the desert, these are sparsely populated deserts, the U.S.-led coalition could have done something at that stage. But now it’s too late to form an exclusion zone around the city. This is a heavily populated area so it’s almost too little too late for us to do anything.”
Meanwhile, in an interview with The Atlantic magazine, U.S. President Barack Obama insisted that he was “not losing” the fight against ISIS.