Iraqi forces stand guard near the al-Qaim border crossing between Syria and Iraq on Nov. 8, 2017. (Suleiman Al-Anbari/AFP/Getty Images)

Syrian government forces said Thursday they have recaptured the Islamic State's former border stronghold of Bukamal, shrinking the group's remaining territory and leaving the militants with only a few enclaves.

The move into Bukamal, also called Abu Kamal, in eastern Syria choked off a key route for the Islamic State across the border with Iraq. The Syrian state news agency said Wednesday that pro-government forces had linked up with Iraqi troops to clear what remained of the “collapsed” militant group in the area.

The Islamic State’s self-declared caliphate, announced three years ago, once stretched across Syria and Iraq to occupy an area the size of Belgium. Now, after a series of defeats, the militants have been penned into a string of Syrian towns and villages along the Euphrates River.

In a message read aloud on Syrian state television, the military’s general command described the recapture of Bukamal as the victory that marked “the fall” of the Islamic State’s project in the region.

Despite the Islamic State’s promise to fight to the last man, the group has appeared to withdraw from its former Syrian bases without a major fight.

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