The Pentagon’s IG said that the US withdrawal from parts of Syria has enabled ISIS to “reconstitute capabilities and resources within Syria and strengthen its ability to plan attacks abroad.”
“If everyone is thinking alike, then someone isn’t thinking,” is a saying attributed to the US general George Patton. Today there is consensus among many experts and commentators, as well as intelligence officials from Washington to Baghdad, that ISIS continues to pose a threat and wants to rebuild to create a resurgence.
ISIS told its fighters to flee to the desert or surrender in March 2019 during the last battles for land it held in Syria. It was confronted by the 81-member Coalition and couldn’t hold on. So thousands of fighters either melted away or surrendered. Tens of thousands of ISIS-supporting women also surrendered. They pose a threat at the Al-Hol camp in Syria.
The Center for Strategic and International Studies also put out a video on Tuesday arguing that the conditions in Syria and Iraq, including weak governance, could provide ISIS the ability to launch a new wave of attacks.
ISIS is hard to find. It moves in small groups and its members hide in tunnels and caves. The US has carried out more and more rare airstrikes against the group, illustrating that the few members of ISIS that pop their heads out are being shut down. The airstrikes tend to target not even ISIS members but “bed-down” locations, and tunnels. In one case the US bombed an entire island in Iraq. But the bombing looked more like a show of what the ordnance could do than a reflection of an ISIS resurgence.
The Pentagon’s Africa Command is confident they’ve got their heads around the enemy. But ISIS and other groups linked to Al-Qaeda can still cause damage. In Mali around 53 soldiers were killed two weeks ago in a battle near the border with Niger. Egypt also says it killed 83 ISIS members in Sinai in October.