The Islamic State group took advantage of both the US withdrawal from northeastern Syria and the Turkish incursion to regroup and could prepare new attacks on the West, a report from the Pentagon said Tuesday.
President Donald Trump said on October 6 around 1,000 US troops were leaving northeast Syria, where they had kept an uneasy peace between neighboring Turkey and Syrian Kurdish fighters.
We have created a situation of dependency in the Middle East where any withdrawal will be considered 'untimely' by the establishment in Washington, D.C. At some point, we have to start correcting these mistakes.
Watch the video below from a recent hearing on US policy in Syria: pic.twitter.com/VN3B7VBCFJ
— Thomas Massie (@RepThomasMassie) November 16, 2019
Trump’s move allowed an incursion by Turkey aimed at destroying Kurdish guerrillas, who had led the fight against the Islamic State group and run jails for captured extremists in their effectively autonomous area in northern Syria.
Trump, who was strongly criticized even by allies in his own camp, has changed course several times, eventually announcing that a residual force would remain in Syria to protect oil fields.
“ISIS exploited the Turkish incursion and subsequent drawdown of US troops to reconstitute capabilities and resources within Syria and strengthen its ability to plan attacks abroad,” the Department of Defense Office of Inspector General said in a report, using a common acronym for the IS group.
The office, which is an independent investigative arm, added that IS “will likely have the ‘time and space’ to target the West and provide support to its 19 global branches and networks,” the report said, citing information provided by the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA).
“ISIS has exploited the Turkish incursion and subsequent withdrawal of US troops from northern Syria to reconstitute its capabilities and resources”, Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency has said in a report https://t.co/VklVeyAnQJ
— bianet English (@bianet_eng) November 20, 2019
In the long run, it “will probably seek to regain control of some Syrian population centers and expand its global footprint,” the inspector general added, citing the DIA.
Meanwhile, the death of IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who was killed during a raid conducted by US special operations forces in Syria on October 26 “would likely have little effect on ISIS’s ability to reconstitute,” the DIA said, according to the report.
Already IS has “has activated sleeper cells to increase attacks” against the Kurdish-led fighters of the Syrian Democratic Forces, whom the United States relied upon in the fight against IS.
In 2014 fighters from the newly formed IS group swept through much of the Sunni heartland in Iraq and Syria to declare a “caliphate.”
The report states that US forces in Syria continue to arm SDF fighters but have stopped training them. By the end of the third quarter, the SDF had 100,000 fighters, according to the document.
AFP with additional input by GVS News Desk.