WASHINGTON — The Pentagons inspector general says that a hasty withdrawal of U.S. forces from Syria will likely result in an ISIS return to power within a year.
As proof of the ability of the terrorist group to rebound and reassert itself, the Pentagon IG pointed to neighboring Iraq, where it says ISIS “remains active” and “continues to conduct IED attacks, assassinations, and to resort to robbery and money laundering to raise funds.”
The detailed look at ISIS was part of a report released by the Inspector General on Monday. The report covers the period from October 1, 2018. to December 31, 2018, and “summarizes the quarter’s key events and provides information on the status” of Operation Inherent Resolve, the name of combat operations against ISIS, according to the report.
“ISIS remains a potent force of battle-hardened and well-disciplined fighters that “could likely resurge in Syria absent continued counterterrorism pressure,” the report said.
The report’s summations dovetail to a large degree to statements by Pentagon officials. They have expressed unease regarding the impact of a rapid U.S. withdrawal from Syria as ordered by President Trump.
“ISIS may conduct opportunistic attacks on U.S. personnel as they withdraw but will leverage the event as a ‘victory’ in its media,” the Pentagon told the IG, in response to questions posed for the report.
“ISIS remains an active insurgent group in both Iraq and Syria. If Sunni socio-economic, political, and sectarian grievances are not adequately addressed by the national and local governments of Iraq and Syria it is very likely that ISIS will have the opportunity to set conditions for future resurgence and territorial control,” the report said.
“Currently, ISIS is regenerating key functions and capabilities more quickly in Iraq than in Syria, but absent sustained [counterterrorism] pressure, ISIS could likely resurge in Syria within six to twelve months and regain limited territory in the (the Middle Euphrates River Valley),” the report said.
President Trump said the U.S. would respond quickly in the face of an ISIS resurgence. “We’ll come back if we have to,” President Trump said on CBS’s Face The Nation on Sunday. “We have very fast airplanes, we have very good cargo planes. We can come back very quickly.”
The IG report said that ground elements of the U.S.-led anti-ISIS coalition, — the Syrian Democratic Force — are “tenacious fighters” but that continued Coalition support is critical to support the “SDF’s ability to defeat ISIS in the Middle Euphrates River Valley.”
Across the border in Iraq, the IG report said that Iraqi Security Forces lack a “tasking system for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance assets and vetting procedures for human intelligence.
“Even trained ISF units have shortfalls in command and control, leadership, physical resilience, and ability to execute basic minor infantry tactics,” the IG report said.
According to the report, ISIS activity in Iraq increased in Kirkuk, Diyala, Salah ad Din, Dahuk, Erbil, Ninewah, and Baghdad provinces during the last quarter.