THE TRUMP administration has claimed victory in the fight against the radical Islamic State (ISIS), which is seen as a terror group by United Nations and the most majority of the world, but it seems that United States (US) President Donald Trump and his Defence Secretary Patrick Shanahan are on a different page to that of US intelligence services, who claim the group still poses a massive long-term threat.
Such has been the confidence of the Trump administrations, with Shanahan saying: “I’d say 99.5 percent-plus of the ISIS-controlled territory has been returned to the Syrians. Within a couple weeks it will be 100 percent.”
Speaking to a group of journalists on Tuesday at Pentagon, he said ISIS had no capacity to operate effectively as an organization.
“We have eliminated the majority of their leadership,” he said.
His comments came as no surprise as Trump last month declared that ISIS had been defeated. He then proceeded to shock much of the world, including US allies, by announcing the withdrawal of the approximately 2,000 US forces based in Syria. A day it was reported that he is cutting troop numbers in Afghanistan as well.
On Tuesday the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), who are being backed by the 2,000 US troops and as well as US air power, claimed that ISIS fighters had been cornered in a small piece of territory of eastern Syria with their wives and children.
The SDF has been clearing areas of Syria where ISIS had declared a caliphate with the city of Raqqa as its capital.
The assessment by the American Directorate of National Intelligence (DNI) is much more sobering and far less rosy.
Their annual Worldwide Threat Assessment report released on Tuesday points to ISIS still having the ability to command thousands of fighters and poses a long-term threat to Syria and the United States.
“Islamic State and other militant groups will continue to be active for years around the world,” DNI director Dan Coats said during a Congressional hearing.
“While ISIS is nearing territorial defeat in Iraq and Syria, the group has returned to its guerrilla warfare roots while continuing to plot attacks and direct its supporters worldwide. ISIS is intent on resurging and still commands thousands of fighters in Iraq and Syria,” he added.
As if to give weight to Coats’ assessment, a suspected ISIS suicide attack was carried out on Tuesday in the opposition-controlled city of Idlib on the headquarters of the National Salvation Government. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, one person was killed and three others injured.