ISIS could regroup in Syria and take back swathes of territory in as little as 6 months, Pentagon report says
- ISIS could regain much of its former strength in Syria in just six months, a new Pentagon report says.
- It said there needs to be a continuous military presence to prevent it reclaiming territory in eastern Syria, around the Middle Euphrates River Valley.
- In December President Donald Trump ordered the 2,200 troops stationed in the country withdraw.
- As recently as Sunday, Trump said that ISIS had lost "99% of its territory, and "we will be announcing in the not-too-distant future 100%."
- The report, released on Monday, places onus on the Iraqi and Syrian governments to contain ISIS.
ISIS could regroup in Syria and take back parts of its former territory in as little as six months, according to a new report from the Pentagon.
A Department of Defense (DoD) report made public on Monday details how ISIS is still active in the country and, without a continuous military presence challenging it, could regain its strength.
The report, quoting the DoD's Central Command, warned: "ISIS remains an active insurgent group in both Iraq and Syria."
ISIS "could likely resurge in Syria within six to twelve months and regain limited territory in the [Middle Euphrates River Valley]," the quarterly report to Congress said.
The report did not give figures for how much territory could be at risk. The Middle Euphrates River Valley surrounds the city of Deir ez-Zor and spans more than 1,000 square kilometers.
The report was made public the day after Trump said on national TV that ISIS's territory will be "100%" reclaimed in near future.
The remnants of ISIS forces remaining were described by officials leading the US presence in Syria as "battle-experienced," "hardened," and "well-disciplined," the report said.
The report said local forces are the key to stamping out the insurgent group.
AP Photo/Charles Dharapak
If the Iraq and Syrian governments do not act act it is "very likely that ISIS will have the opportunity to set conditions for future resurgence and territorial control," the report said.
The report also warned that ISIS could attack US troops as they withdraw, a process which is currently underway.
On December 19, 2018, President Donald Trump announced he was withdrawing the 2,200 troops stationed in Syria under Operation Inherent Resolve, which started in August 2014.
He said in a video posted to Twitter: "We have won against ISIS, we've beaten them badly."
The pull-out was criticised by some allied forces, including French President Emmanuel Macron.
The decision also angered some in Trump's own party, with Trump-ally Sen. Lindsey Graham labelling the decision a "huge Obama-like mistake."
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio called the president's decision a "grave error," while Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois told The Washington Post that "history will look at this as one of the stupidest strategic moves."
In an interview with CBS News show "Face the Nation" on Sunday, Trump said US troops may ultimately redeploy to Syria, depending on what happens. For now, he said, they would continue to come back.
Trump added 99% of ISIS-held land has been retaken and "we will be announcing in the not too distant future 100%."