March 25, 2019

ISIS Has Not Been Defeated

“President Donald Trump tweeted earlier today, “We have defeated ISIS in Syria, my only reason for being there during the Trump Presidency.” The tweet was accompanied by news reports saying that the president has ordered, or is considering ordering, a full withdrawal of American forces from Syria.

But has the Islamic State (ISIS) been “defeated” in Syria? The short answer is no.

An unknown number of the group’s top leaders, including presumably Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, and middle managers remain alive. It is highly likely that thousands of fighters remain in both Syria and Iraq. They continue to fight as insurgents, biding their time for opportunities to surge. And the Islamic State’s media machine, which is assumed to be headquartered in the region, remains prolific, pumping out messages in multiple languages on a daily basis.

It is true that the Islamic State has lost nearly all of the territory it once controlled in Iraq and Syria. Press Secretary Sarah Sanders seemed to refine the president’s claim in a followup statement, saying the US has “has defeated the territorial caliphate.”

If that were the end of the story, then so be it. But as FDD’s Long War Journal and a number of others have repeatedly pointed out, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s men returned to their insurgent roots some months ago.

In Syria, the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) are still battling the Islamic State’s men in Hajin and the nearby area in eastern Syria. Hajin is considered the last significant ground under the so-called caliphate’s control. The jihadists are on the verge of losing it, but it is worth noting that Hajin was still an active battlefront when President Trump declared victory earlier today.”

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