Isis could regain its lost territory in a matter of months after troops withdraw from Syria, according to a draft Pentagon report.
Donald Trump announced last month that the US would withdraw 2,000 US troops from Syria on the grounds the militant group no longer pose a threat.
He doubled down on his claim this week, when he wrote on Twitter: “We’ve beaten them. Caliphate will soon be destroyed, unthinkable two years ago.”
But the Department of Defense Inspector General Quarterly Report, due to be released mext week, appears to contradict that claim.
It claims Isis is determined to rebuild a physical caliphate, NBC News reported. With no military pressure on the terror group, it could retake land in Syria within six to 12 months.
The Republican-led US Senate advanced a largely symbolic legislation earlier this week opposing the president’s plans to withdraw troops from both Syria and Afghanistan.
The Senate voted 68-23 in favor of a non-binding amendment drafted by majority leader Mitch McConnell saying it was the sense of the Senate that Islamic militant groups in both countries continue to pose a “serious threat” to the US.
US intelligence chiefs have said Isis would continue to pursue attacks from Syria and Iraq against regional and Western adversaries, including the US, after Washington withddraws its troops.
Isis is expected to lose the final bits of its territory in Syria to US-backed forces within the next couple of weeks, acting US defence secretary Patrick Shanahan said earlier this week, even as US intelligence chiefs said the group would still pose a threat to regional and Western adversaries.
The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces are preparing for a final showdown with Isis in eastern Syria after helping to drive the fighters from the townd and cities that once formed the group’s self-proclaimed caliphate.
Isis fighters in eastern Syria are pinned down in a tiny pocket with their wives and children, forcing the US-backed militia to slow its advance to protect civilians.
The annual Worldwide Threat Assessment from the Directorate of National Intelligence (DNI), released earlier this week, also contradicted assertions by Mr Trump and other top administration officials that Isis had been defeated in Syria and Iraq, saying the group still commanded thousands of fighters and posed a long-term threat to both countries.
During a congressional hearing director of national intelligence Dan Coats said Isis and other militant groups would remain active for years around the world.
“Isis will continue to be a threat to the United States,” he said. “This terrorism threat is going to continue for some time.”
Earlier, U.S. Republican Senator John Kennedy introduced an amendment to a bill which will allow for the use of armed forces to protect Syria’s Kurds as Washington prepares to withdraw from the war-torn country.
Titled the ‘’Authorization for Use of Force to Defend the Kurds in Syria Resolution,’ ’ the amendment to the Strengthening America’s Security in the Middle East Act, S. 1 ., the amendment published on the senator’s official website looks to ensure the safety of Syrian Kurds who are ‘’potentially vulnerable to an attack by Syrian government forces, rebel forces and other external threats.’’
The U.S. senator’s move arrives as a decision by Washington to pull troops from war-torn Syria leaves Kurdish militia, which have formed the backbone of Washington’s war on the Islamic State (ISIS), without backing in the region.
“There must always be a moral component to America’s foreign policy, and it’s our moral responsibility to be loyal to our allies,” Kennedy said. “The Syrian Kurds were indispensable in our fight against ISIS in Syria, and we shouldn’t leave them high and dry. This amendment will ensure the protection of our Kurdish allies and demonstrate our appreciation for their help in the war against ISIS.”
The U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) is a coalition made up of mostly Kurdish militias that has led the fight against ISIS in Syria. The SDF is largely responsible for retaking more than 95 percent of ISIS’ claimed territory in Iraq and Syria, and forcing ISIS to give up its last major urban stronghold in the region, the statement noted.
Turkey designates the People’s Protection Units (YPG), which forms the backbone of the SDF, a terrorist organisation.
Ankara was alarmed by the group’s consolidation of territory in northern Syria during the campaign against the Islamic State, and has launched military operations into areas governed by the YPG and its affiliates without a U.S. presence.
In a statement, U.S. Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) introduced the Authorization for Use of Force to Defend the Kurds in Syria Resolution today as an amendment to the Strengthening America’s Security in the Middle East Act, S. 1. Sen. Kennedy’s amendment will allow the President to authorize the use of armed forces to defend the Kurds in Syria. The Syrian Kurds are potentially vulnerable to an attack by Syrian government forces, rebel forces and other external threats.
“There must always be a moral component to America’s foreign policy, and it’s our moral responsibility to be loyal to our allies,” said Sen. Kennedy. “The Syrian Kurds were indispensable in our fight against ISIS in Syria, and we shouldn’t leave them high and dry. This amendment will ensure the protection of our Kurdish allies and demonstrate our appreciation for their help in the war against ISIS.”
The U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) is a coalition made up of mostly Kurdish militias that has led the fight against ISIS in Syria. These Syrian Kurdish fighters are largely responsible for retaking more than 95% of ISIS’ claimed territory in Iraq and Syria and forcing ISIS to withdraw from its last major urban stronghold in the region.
In 2014, ISIS controlled more than 34,000 square miles in Iraq and Syria, but today American officials estimate that ISIS retains only 1% of its originally controlled territory.
According to the U.S. Department of Defense, as of September 2018, 36 high value targets in Syria have been killed and more than 700 foreign terrorist fighters are in SDF custody. The Kurdish-led SDF helped reduce the number of ISIS fighters in Syria from approximately 100,000 in 2014 to less than 5,000 today.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the following about our Kurdish Syrian allies: “We’ve worked closely with the Syrian Kurds now for my entire time in service in this administration. They have been great partners. We are now driving to make sure that they have a seat at the table. The political process … the reason it hasn’t made progress is because we’ve demanded that every element in Syria gets an opportunity to be part of that future government, and in the absence of that and in the absence of their representation, we won’t participate in what will be a big check that someone’s going to have to write to fix the situation in Syria, and the Syrian Kurds will surely be part of that.”
President Donald Trump commented that the Kurds are “great people” and “good fighters.” President Trump went on to say, “They fought with us. They died with us. They died. We lost tens of thousands of Kurds, died, fighting ISIS. They died for us, and with us. And for themselves. They died, but they are great people. And we don’t forget.”
PUKmedia | Agencies