Oct 19, 2019

Pentagon may struggle to contain ISIS in Syria

Photo: Delil Souleiman/AFP/Getty Images

President Trump's abrupt withdrawal of American forces from northern Syria is forcing the Pentagon to acknowledge the possible revival of an Islamic State sanctuary that could be used to carry out attacks throughout the Middle East and West, reports Politico.

Between the lines: While the Department of Defense is considering options such as drone campaigns and commando raids, it would be difficult to trail and gain intelligence on ISIS members without troops on the ground, per Politico.

What they're saying:

  • Retired lieutenant general Michael Nagata told Politico, "Our goal was the defeat of the Islamic State, and they’re undefeated. Given how dramatically the strategic situation has now changed, the [U.S.-led] coalition may now have to recalibrate. Defeat has just become a much more difficult goal.”
  • Eric Robinson, an Army veteran formerly with the National Counterterrorism Center, said, "There’s a direct relationship between presence on the ground and understanding the potential danger. The unknown will be the capability and intent of the Islamic State in northeastern Syria to conduct external operations. Our ability to understand that has just been dramatically reduced," per Politico.

Go deeper... Trump on potential ISIS escapees: "They will be escaping to Europe"

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Baghdadi raid depended on international ties Trump has spurned

A view of what is believed to have been the raid site. Photo: Omar Hag Kadour/AFP via Getty Images

To kill Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi — arguably the most important national security accomplishment of the Trump presidency, along with wiping out ISIS' caliphate — the U.S. relied on many tools President Trump has spurned.

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Pentagon chief says U.S. troops to leave Syria for Iraq

A soldier stands guard during a joint patrol with Turkish troops in September in the Syrian village of al-Hashisha, near the border with Turkey. Photo: Delil Souleiman/AFP/Getty Images

Defense Secretary Mark Esper told reporters Saturday night that all of the nearly 1,000 U.S. troops leaving Syria will continue the fight against the Islamic State, or ISIS, from western Iraq, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Why it matters: President Trump has faced scathing criticism from Republicans and Democrats alike for his decision to withdraw U.S. troops from northern Syria, which paved the way for Turkey to lead a military offensive against Kurdish forces who allied with the U.S. in the fight against ISIS.

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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.
Go deeperArrowOct 27, 2019