National Security & Defense

Pentagon Watchdog: ISIS ‘Likely’ to ‘Resurge’ in Syria

Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) celebrate the first anniversary of Raqqa province liberation from ISIS, in Raqqa, Syria, October 27, 2018. (Aboud Hamam/REUTERS)

ISIS “could likely resurge in Syria,” according to a new report by the Department of Defense inspector general.

“According to the DoD the effort to defeat ISIS continues as ISIS remains a potent force of battle-hardened and well-disciplined fighters that ‘could likely resurge in Syria,’” the report warns.

U.S. Central Command told the inspector general that ISIS remains able to “effectively coordinate military offensives and counter-offensives” in the Middle Euphrates River Valley and is “very likely” to create favorable conditions for regaining control “if Sunni socio-economic, political, and sectarian grievances are not adequately addressed by the national and local governments of Iraq and Syria.”

“Currently, ISIS is regenerating key functions and capabilities more quickly in Iraq than in Syria, but absent sustained pressure, ISIS could likely resurge in Syria within six to twelve months and regain limited territory,” the report says.

President Trump caught Congress off guard with his December 19 announcement that he planned to withdraw the approximately 2,000 troops currently stationed in Syria, and his simultaneous declaration that ISIS “has been defeated.” The president has also promised to withdraw about half of the close to 14,000 U.S. troops stationed in Afghanistan.

The terrorist group also “may conduct opportunistic attacks” on withdrawing U.S. troops, and “will leverage the event as a ‘victory’ in its media,” the IG’s report says.

Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, FBI director Christopher Wray, and CIA director Gina Haspel expressed similar concerns in their testimony to the Senate Intelligence Committee last week.

“As the Syrian regime consolidates control, the country is likely to experience continued violence,” warned the U.S. intelligence community’s Worldwide Threat Assessment, which accompanied the intelligence chiefs’ testimony. “Russia and Iran probably will attempt to further entrench themselves in Syria.

“ISIS is intent on resurging and still commands thousands of fighters in Iraq and Syria,” Coats told Congress.

Trump pushed back on the intelligence community’s appraisal of the situation, saying the “caliphate will soon be destroyed.”

“We’ve done an incredible job with Syria. When I took over Syria, it was infested with ISIS. It was all over the place. And now you have very little ISIS, and you have the caliphate almost knocked out,” Trump told CBS.

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