The Pentagon inspector general released a report recently with the findings that Donald Trump’s choice to pull troops out of Syria and take focus off of diplomacy in Iraq has actually now helped regrouping efforts of the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.
Despite Trump saying that ISIS was defeated, a quarterly report to Congress from the Department of Defense, said that “ISIS continued its transition from a territory-holding force to an insurgency in Syria, and it intensified its insurgency in Iraq.”
The President has received numerous and repeated warnings from experts and officials that withdrawing too quickly from Syria would result in just this situation, thus enabling ISIS to regroup into a strong insurgency, even after their battlefield losses to a US coalition.
The report also said that the Trump-announced troop drawdown in Syria from last year, which led to the resignation of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, also added to the high instability of the area. The drawdown and subsequent stepping down of Mattis left US Syrian partners in a difficult position, without training, without support, and generally vulnerable to an ISIS resurgence.
By recent count and explained in the report, ISIS is expected to have 14,000 to 18,000 combatants. That means THOUSANDS of fighters committed to carrying out assassinations, suicides, crop burnings, and ambushes, posing a huge and violent threat to Iraq, Syria and the surrounding territories.
Maybe even more disturbing, ISIS is once again seeing revenue from extorting civilians in those countries, kidnapping for ransom, and taking money from contract rebuilds. This type of income generation, which is unlike the more structured and detailed tax system it was using during its caliphate, makes the income difficult to track and study.
Another disturbing situation, the al-Hol refugee camp in Syria, is a perfect ground for ISIS recruitment. At the camp there are thousands of internally displaced people, no security against insurgents, and little to no US support to help keep it safe or counter the ISIS presence.
According to Brett McGurk, the former special presidential envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIS, Trump and his administration’s focus on Iran lessened its ability to effectively combat ISIS in Iraq and Syria.
It also says due to increased tension with Iran, the U.S. has reduced its ISR coverage of ISIS and evacuated essential personnel from Iraq. This report speaks for itself and should be taken seriously. Here is the one-page summary: https://t.co/aFQ3RSyx6U— Brett McGurk (@brett_mcgurk) August 7, 2019
McGurk, who also served under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama before serving under Trump, took a note from Mattis and resigned his post after Trump announced the troop drawdown last year. In a January op-ed, he said that Trump’s policies would give “new life” to ISIS, and that’s exactly what this report says.
The State Department also says that the pulling of nonemergency personnel from Iraq reduces the US’ diplomatic influence and presence there and also hinders support from humanitarian groups.
Part of Trump’s campaign platform was his America First policy: a promise to withdraw from conflicts in the Middle East but he failed to realize that this plan destabilizes Iraq, Syria, and also Afghanistan and beyond.