Gregory Waters is a non-Resident Scholar at the Middle East Institute and a research analyst at the Counter Extremism Project. His work focuses on the Syrian regime’s security forces, primarily utilizing open source research to assess the capabilities and structure of the Syrian Arab Army and allied militias. He has also written about local governance initiatives in opposition, Turkish, and regime-held Syria and tracks Islamic State developments in central Syria. He has previously been published by the Atlantic Council, Bellingcat, openDemocracy, and the International Review.
After an ISIS cell attacked and kidnapped civilians in Syria’s Hamah province, the group made the unprecedented move to free its captives in exchange for family members held in regime prisons. Local ISIS cells are further embedding themselves within the social and economic networks of the Badia, raising questions about the structure of ISIS’s insurgency in Syria.
ISIS became more active in central Syria last year, adopting new tactics and new targets. The United States will need to consider these changes in determining its commitments in Syria.
While most international attention has been focused on the “post-caliphate” Islamic State insurgencies in northeast Syria and Iraq, ISIS has steadily carried out an ever-expanding insurgency against the Syrian regime and its allies in central Syria. The insurgency began immediately following the Syrian regime’s capture of this area in late 2017 and has continued unabated since.