Fighters of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) raised their yellow flag in Baghouz, the remote riverside village where diehard jihadists of a variety of nationalities made a desperate, dramatic last stand.
The SDF’s victory capped a deadly six-month operation against the final remnants of the caliphate which once stretched across a vast swath of Iraq and Syria, and held seven million people in its sway.
Australia also played a major part in the defeat of ISIS. The Australian reports in late-2016, as coalition aircraft pounded Islamic State targets in Syria and Iraq, the Australian Defence Force’s Commander of Joint Operations, David Johnston, issued a secret order to the Australian Signals Directorate.
For the first time, Defence wanted ASD to use its vast cyber capabilities not for intelligence gathering or targeting — the agency’s traditional missions — but to take down and destroy Islamic State’s propaganda machine. What followed was a two-year campaign in which a small team of offensive cyber operators working out of a squat, grey building in Canberra’s Russell Defence precinct, waged war on Islamic State’s information warriors.
Working in secret and through the night so as to align themselves with the northern time zone, the team hacked networks, destroyed websites, infiltrated chat rooms and stole, or “exfiltrated’’, thousands upon thousands of files.
By the time they were done, Islamic State’s propaganda output had shrunk from a roar to a squeak and the ability of the group’s operatives to produce and disseminate it had been all but destroyed.
As far back as June 2017, Conservative Party leader Cory Bernardi warned Adelaide radio station FIVEaa's Leon Byner about ISIS sympathisers in Australia.
Up to 200 Australians left Australia to join the ranks of ISIS and if any of the survivors now want to return, the Conservative Party will oppose that.
In February 2018, Senator Bernardi wrote in his weekly blog:
"I don’t want Islamic fundamentalists in our country and I do not think that our government should provide them any assistance when their plans to support ISIS (and their ilk) don’t work out"
Picture: Peshmerga women soldiers from the Syrian Democratic Forces
To read Paul Maley's full story, click here.