WASHINGTON (AP)– President Donald Trump is expected to state near-total accomplishment over the Islamic State group in Syria in his State of the Union address, but U.S. defense authorities are progressively fearful that the militants are just biding their time until the Americans leave the battlefield as prepared.
IS militants have actually lost territory considering that Trump’s surprise announcement in December that he was pulling U.S. forces out, however military officials warn the fighters could regroup within 6 months to a year after the Americans leave.
A Defense Department guard dog report launched Monday alerted of just such a possibility.
The Islamic State group “remains a powerful force of battle-hardened and well-disciplined fighters that ‘could likely resurge in Syria’ absent ongoing counterterrorism pressure,” the report from the inspector general said.
Trump’s decision to leave Syria, which he at first stated would be rapid but later slowed down, stunned U.S. allies led to the resignations of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and the top envoy to the anti-IS union, Brett McGurk.
The withdrawal will meet Trump’s goal of bringing troops home from Syria, but military leaders have pressed back for months, arguing that IS stays a risk and could regroup. U.S. policy has actually been to keep troops in place up until the extremists are eliminated.
Fears that IS fighters are making strategic maneuvers ahead of a U.S. pullout might likewise sustain criticism that Trump is telegraphing his military strategies– the very same thing he accused President Barack Obama of carrying out in Afghanistan.
U.S. authorities in recent weeks say IS has actually lost 99.5 percent of its area and is holding on to fewer than 10 square kilometers of turf in Syria– a location smaller sized than New york city’s Central Park. In late November and December that figure had been approximated at between 400 and 600 square kilometers, according to authorities briefed on the matter.
However a number of defense officials stated Monday that lots of fighters left to ungoverned areas and other pockets in the north and in the west and are most likely hiding out till they can regroup.
Trump said in a weekend interview that the caliphate is “almost knocked out.”
” We’re at 99 percent today, we’ll be at 100,” he said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”
U.S. officials say that IS fighters hold just numerous villages in the Middle Euphrates River Valley that amount to substantially less than 10 square kilometers. However, they state they don’t anticipate that area to be cleared of militants for another numerous weeks, at finest.
Officials say that overall, there have to do with 2,000 IS militants in Syria.
The Defense Department watchdog report alerted that even with the IS forces on the run, the group “is still able to collaborate offensives and counter-offensives, as well as operate as a decentralized insurgency.”
The report, which covers October through December 2018, likewise includes a classified section that was supplied to Congress and consists of a more comprehensive Pentagon assessment on the effect of the troops withdrawal and the status of IS militants and other foreign fighters in Syria.
According to the report, U.S. Central Command thinks that IS fighters will continue to perform “opportunistic attacks” on U.S. troops as they withdraw. And it says, “If Sunni socio-economic, political, and sectarian complaints are not adequately addressed by the nationwide and city governments of Iraq and Syria it is extremely most likely that ISIS will have the chance to set conditions for future revival and territorial control.”
Central Command said that the Islamic State group is “regrowing key functions and capabilities faster in Iraq than in Syria,” but unless there is sustained counterterrorism pressure, IS militants “might likely resurge in Syria within six to twelve months and gain back limited territory” in the Middle Euphrates River Valley.
In spite of Trump’s order to withdraw, American authorities maintain that the goal stays the “enduring defeat” of the Islamic State group and are moving ahead with a long-planned meeting of leading diplomats from the 79- member U.S.-led anti-IS coalition today. The goal of the conference is to recommit the union to that aim and guarantee that the departure of U.S. troops does not extremely make complex that mission.
Trump himself is expected to speak to the collected foreign ministers at the State Department-hosted conference on Wednesday is widely anticipated to reiterate and broaden on his anti-IS message from the State of the Union, officials said.
Associated Press writer Lolita C. Baldor added to this report.