Stories

Iraqi president: It's reckless to think defeat of ISIS is complete

In an interview with Jonathan Swan for "Axios on HBO," Iraqi President Barham Salih said that while the military defeat of ISIS is an important moment, it is still incomplete and could "easily unravel."

  • The interview was prior to news of the death of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Experts remain concerned about an ISIS resurgence even without the group’s leader.

The big picture: President Trump said in December 2018 that the U.S. defeated ISIS and reclaimed 100% of the group's territory in Syria. The comment drew pushback from officials who argued that defeating the group is much more complex than a military takedown. Ground reports noted continued unrest and that ISIS still had control in areas throughout the region.

  • Trump's recent withdrawal of U.S. troops from northern Syria has left the region in disarray, with hundreds of thousands of Kurds being displaced as Turkish forces invade the region. The strain has also led to the escape of some ISIS prisoners and is provoking the Iraq-Syria border, which still has some ISIS presence.

What they're saying:

"We have had serious conversations about — about this with senior American officials, and I've said that the military defeat of ISIS is an important victory but incomplete and precarious too as well. It can easily unravel. And this is what I'm worried about. Five years of blood, treasure, effort, a lot of human misery went into defeating ISIS. This victory was no easy. And for anyone to become complacent about it is terrible, reckless, dangerous, tragic,"
— Salih to "Axios on HBO"

Go deeper: Where U.S. troops and military assets are deployed in the Middle East