A US soldier guards a convoy with anti-ISIS envoy Brett McGurk in it last year..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
ISIS is “waiting for the right time to resurge,” according to the top US general overseeing military operations in the Middle East.
In a report published by CNN, Gen. Joseph Votel said that despite ISIS’ territorial loss, the fight against ISIS is “far from over.” Rather, he said, the group is positioning itself for a potential resurgence.
“This ISIS population being evacuated from the remaining vestiges of the caliphate largely remains unrepentant, unbroken and radicalized,” Votel said, noting that in the next phase, “we will see low-level attacks, we’ll see assassinations, we’ll see IED attacks, we’ll see ambush type things as they begin to emerge from this.”
An IED attack is an improvised explosive device or bombing attack.
CNN reported that the ISIS group’s territory has diminished from some 34,000 square miles at its peak to less than a single square mile in the Syria town of Baghouz. Votel said that ISIS fighters have now dispersed across Syria and Iraq.
Late last year, US President Donald Trump announced plans to fully withdraw US troops from Syria. He has since agreed to leave 400 troops on the ground. Those remaining troops will be tasked with helping to prevent an ISIS resurgence.
Syria is located on Israel's northern border.
Votel said the residual force will allow the United States “to continue our mission and safeguard our interests.”
However, in an op-ed published by Foreign Policy, author Steven Cook, a senior fellow for Middle East and Africa studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, noted that while having US troops in Syria will no doubt make it harder for ISIS fighters to regroup and carry out attacks, it is unclear how much of a deterrent a mere 400 troops will be.
“Almost everyone agrees, however, that the Islamic State will live on in some form or another to fight elsewhere—Libya, Europe, the Sinai Peninsula, the Sahel or even Syria,” he wrote, claiming that this “half-assed and potentially permanent deployment that may not be capable of accomplishing anything at all.”
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