The Islamic State Organization (ISO) is "resurging" in Syria, a Pentagon inspector general said in a report released on Tuesday (August 6th), as the United States withdraws its troops from the country.
"Even though it has lost its territorial 'caliphate', the [Islamic State] organization in Iraq and Syria has boosted its insurgency capabilities in Iraq and resumed operations in Syria this quarter."
The OEI was able to "consolidate and support operations" in both countries partly because the local forces "remain unable to maintain long-term operations, conduct operations simultaneously, or keep the territory they have cleared ", he adds.
Withdrawing American soldiers
The resurgence of the group in Syria occurred when Washington "partially retreated" from the country. This decision was made against the advice of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which was calling for "more training and equipment for counter-insurgency operations."
In late 2018, US President Donald Trump announced the withdrawal of most of the approximately 2,000 US troops from northeastern Syria, proclaiming a total victory over the terrorist organization. A decision that prompted Defense Minister Jim Mattis to resign.
Some US troops, however, remained in northeastern Syria, a region not controlled by President Bashar al-Assad's regime. Washington is asking for increased military support from other members of the international coalition against the OEI.
Between 14,000 and 18,000 jihadists in Iraq and Syria
The group's strategy in both countries is to "create turmoil in the territory it has lost" and to prevent local security forces from "establishing effective control and maintaining civil order".
The jihadists of the OEI have carried out targeted assassinations, ambushes and suicide bombings in both countries. In Iraq, they have "established a more stable command and control node and a logistics node for coordinating attacks".
The international coalition claims that the jihadist organization still probably has between 14,000 and 18,000 "members" in Iraq and Syria, including up to 3,000 foreigners, according to the report.