World: ISIS Reaps Gains of U.S. Pullout From Syria - - PressFrom - US
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World ISIS Reaps Gains of U.S. Pullout From Syria

04:20  22 october  2019
04:20  22 october  2019 Source:   nytimes.com

Mattis: ISIS will surge back after Trump's Syria withdrawal

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American forces and their Kurdish-led partners in Syria had been conducting as many as a dozen counterterrorism missions a day against Islamic State militants, officials said. That has stopped. Those same partners, the Syrian Democratic Forces

The American-led intervention in the Syrian Civil War refers to the United States-led support of Syrian opposition and the Federation of Northern Syria during the course of the Syrian Civil War and active

American forces and their Kurdish-led partners in Syria had been conducting as many as a dozen counterterrorism missions a day against Islamic State militants, officials said. That has stopped.

a truck driving down a dirt road: American military vehicles driving through northeastern Syria on Sunday after pulling out of their base.© Delil Souleiman/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images American military vehicles driving through northeastern Syria on Sunday after pulling out of their base.

Those same partners, the Syrian Democratic Forces, had also been quietly releasing some Islamic State prisoners and incorporating them into their ranks, in part as a way to keep them under watch. That, too, is now in jeopardy.

And across Syria’s porous border with Iraq, Islamic State fighters are conducting a campaign of assassination against local village headmen, in part to intimidate government informants.

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Donald Trump claimed victory over ISIS on Wednesday, as the White House announced the United States has begun withdrawing its military forces from Syria .

WASHINGTON — President Trump has ordered the withdrawal of 2,000 American troops from Syria , bringing a sudden end to a military campaign that largely vanquished the Islamic State but ceding a strategically vital country to Russia and Iran.

When President Trump announced this month that he would pull American troops out of northern Syria and make way for a Turkish attack on the Kurds, Washington’s onetime allies, many warned that he was removing the spearhead of the campaign to defeat the Islamic State, also known as ISIS.

Now, analysts say that Mr. Trump’s pullout has handed the Islamic State its biggest win in more than four years and greatly improved its prospects. With American forces rushing for the exits, in fact, American officials said last week that they were already losing their ability to collect critical intelligence about the group’s operations on the ground.

Syrian Democratic Forces standing guard at the Syrian border with Iraq on Wednesday.© Hadi Mizban/Associated Press Syrian Democratic Forces standing guard at the Syrian border with Iraq on Wednesday.

“There is no question that ISIS is one of the big winners in what is happening in Syria,” said Lina Khatib, director of the Middle East and North Africa Program at Chatham House, a research center in London.

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ISIS propaganda has inspired some homegrown extremists to carry out attacks on the West without A year after those attacks, a pair of U . S . strikes in Syria killed three ISIS operatives who the But even if the relationship survives in some form, the pullout means the U . S . will have lost its direct link

Cutting support for the Syrian Democratic Forces has crippled the ability of the United States and its former partners to hunt down the group’s remnants.

News of the American withdrawal set off jubilation among Islamic State supporters on social media and encrypted chat networks. It has lifted the morale of fighters in affiliates as far away as Libya and Nigeria.

And, by removing a critical counterforce, the pullout has eased the re-emergence of the Islamic State’s core as a terrorist network or a more conventional, and potentially long-lasting, insurgency based in Syria and Iraq.

Although Mr. Trump has repeatedly declared victory over the Islamic State — even boasting to congressional leaders last week that he had personally “captured ISIS” — it remains a threat. After the loss in March of the last patch of the territory it once held across Syria and Iraq, the Islamic State dispersed its supporters and fighters to blend in with the larger population or to hide out in remote deserts and mountains.

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The US commander who has been leading the war against ISIS says he disagreed with Donald Trump' s decision to pull troops out of Syria and warned that the terror group was far from defeated, in a stark public break with the President.

The pullout largely abandons America’ s Kurdish allies who have fought IS alongside U . S . troops for several years. Asked if U . S . special operations forces will conduct unilateral military operations into Syria to go Loss of U . S . intelligence collection from Syria withdrawal threatens fight against ISIS .

a group of people standing next to a child: Women and children who fled ISIS’ last areas of control at a detention camp in eastern Syria in March.© Ivor Prickett for The New York Times Women and children who fled ISIS’ last areas of control at a detention camp in eastern Syria in March.

The group retains as many as 18,000 “members” in Iraq and Syria, including up to 3,000 foreigners, according to estimates cited in a recent Pentagon report. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the Islamic State’s self-proclaimed caliph, is still at large.

a man standing in front of a car: Members of the Syrian Democratic Forces prepared to face Turkish forces last week in northern Syria.© Delil Souleiman/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images Members of the Syrian Democratic Forces prepared to face Turkish forces last week in northern Syria.

“Our battle today is one of attrition and stretching the enemy,” Mr. al-Baghdadi declared in a video message released in April. Looking comfortable and well fed, he sat on the floor of a bare room, surrounded by fighters, with an assault rifle by his side.

“Jihad is ongoing until the day of judgment,” he told his supporters, according to a transcript provided by SITE Intelligence Group.

Against the benchmark of the Islamic State’s former grip on a broad swath of geography, any possibility of a comeback to that extent remains highly remote.

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We have defeated ISIS in Syria , my only reason for being there during the Trump Presidency. The announcement of a pullout is widely seen as an abandonment of a loyal ally. "The decision to pull out under these circumstances will lead to a state of instability and create a political and military void in

In Syria , ISIS is taking advantage of the upheaval created created by Turkey’ s long-planned offensive as Cafarella said she’ s seeing major ISIS activity in central Syria against pro-regime forces and “the slow but US special operations secrets could fall into hands of Russians and Syrians in pullout .

Changes in the political context in Syria and Iraq have diminished the Islamic State’s ability to whip up sectarian animosity out of the frustrations of Sunni Muslims over the Shiite or Shiite-linked authorities in Syria and Iraq — the militants’ trademark.

The government in Baghdad has broadened its support among Sunni Iraqis. President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, by crushing the revolt against him, has left Sunni militants less space to mobilize. And many Syrians and Iraqis who lived under the harsh dominion of the Islamic State strongly oppose its return.

a man in a military vehicle: A Syrian Democratic Forces vehicle on patrol by the Euphrates River near the border with Turkey on Friday.© Agence France-Presse — Getty Images A Syrian Democratic Forces vehicle on patrol by the Euphrates River near the border with Turkey on Friday.

But as an underground insurgency, the Islamic State appears to be on the upswing.

Militants have been carrying out “assassinations, suicide attacks, abductions, and arson of crops in both Iraq and Syria,” according to a report this summer by the Pentagon inspector general for operations against the Islamic State. It is establishing “resurgent cells” in Syria, the report said, and “seeking to expand its command and control nodes in Iraq.”

The militants have been burning crops and emptying out whole villages. They have been raising money by carrying out kidnappings for ransom and extorting “taxes” from local officials, often skimming a cut of rebuilding contracts.

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By pulling out of Syria , critics accuse the US of throwing the Kurds under a bus. It will leave them vulnerable to being targeted by Turkey. That imbroglio is loaded with explosive repercussions. Even when the superficial signal is one of de-escalation, as Trump’ s pullout from Syria suggests, the

+ The United States’ main ally in Syria on Thursday rejected U . S . President Donald Trump’ s claim that Islamic State militants have been defeated and warned that the withdrawal of American troops would lead to a resurgence of the extremist group.

Their attacks on village headmen — at least 30 were killed in Iraq in 2018, according to the Pentagon report — are an apparent attempt to scare others out of cooperating with Baghdad.

“The high operational tempo with multiple attacks taking place over a wide area” may be intended to create the appearance that the Islamic State can strike anywhere with “impunity,” the report said.

Mr. Trump first said last December that he intended to withdraw the last 2,000 American troops from Syria; the Pentagon scaled that back, pulling out about half of those troops.

Military officials, though, say that helping the Syrian Democratic Forces hunt down underground cells and fugitive fighters required more training and intelligence support than an open battle for territory. Even the partial drawdown, the Pentagon inspector general’s report found, could be “detrimental” to the American mission in Iraq and Syria.

Last month, as if to prove its continued vitality, the Islamic State claimed responsibility for a minibus bombing that killed a dozen people near the entrance to a Shiite pilgrimage site in the Iraqi city of Karbala. It was its deadliest attack since the loss of its last territory.

And within hours of Mr. Trump’s announcement almost two weeks ago that American forces were moving away from the Syrian border with Turkey, two ISIS suicide bombers attacked a base of the Syrian Democratic Forces in the Syrian city of Raqqa.

“The crusaders have given up,” Islamic State supporters crowed, according to Laith Alkhouri of the business risk consulting company Flashpoint Global Partners, who monitors the group’s online messages.

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The former U . S . Navy intelligence officer, who interrogated the leader of ISIS during the Iraq war, warned that President Donald Trump’ s “This could turn into a bad scenario where all the president’ s good intentions could turn into a complete reversal of all the gains we made in the eradication of ISIS .”

While Turkey claims it will drive ISIS out from the remaining 1 percent of land left in its control, the nation’ s forces Russian President Vladimir Putin, who stands to gain more power in the region with the departure of U . S D’Agata, who has reported from Syria on more than a dozen occasions, was

Other messages “urged ISIS ‘soldiers’ everywhere to double their efforts,” Mr. Alkhouri said.

The missions against the Islamic State conducted by the Syrian Democratic Forces — sometimes as many as two dozen a day — had included both counterterrorism patrols and raids on militant cells. Some were carried out jointly with American soldiers, others alone, according to United States officials.

But the Kurds, an ethnic minority sometimes disparaged by Arab Syrians, faced resentment among the Arab residents of northeastern Syria.

In part to try to win support from those communities, the Kurdish-led forces pardoned and released hundreds of detained ISIS fighters or supporters in so-called reconciliation deals, relying on informal relationships with community leaders to handle their reintegration.

The Kurdish-led militia even incorporated some of the released Islamic State detainees into its own forces, said Dareen Khalifa, a researcher with the International Crisis Group who has traveled to the region extensively and documented the “reconciliation” pardons in a report last summer.

The Kurdish militia leaders said: “What do you want us to do, kill them all? Imprison them all? The best way forward is to keep a close eye on them by keeping them within the S.D.F.,” Ms. Khalifa said in an interview. She said that those enlisted had not been Islamic State leaders and that so far there had been no recidivism.

But now the American withdrawal and the Turkish incursion are threatening the informal supervision of those former prisoners, Ms. Khalifa said, creating a risk that some might gravitate back to fighting for the Islamic State.

Turkey, which has battled Kurdish separatist militants at home for decades, launched the invasion primarily to push back the Kurdish-led forces in Syria. Without American protection, the Kurdish leaders are now switching sides to ally with Mr. al-Assad.

In Iraq, too, some say opportunities may be emerging for the Islamic State to revive its appeals to Sunni resentments in the areas it once controlled. Promises of postwar reconstruction have gone unfilled. And Shiite militias that rose up to defeat the Islamic State remain in place, sometimes seeking to profit off the local populations.

“People in the liberated areas say: ‘Why are all these armed groups still around? Why do they still call us all ISIS, and why are they taxing us or extorting us and taking all of our money?’,” said Renad Mansour, the director of the Iraq Initiative at Chatham House.

The campaign against the Islamic State, he said, “was a military solution to what is a social and political problem.”

Mr. Trump, for his part, has insisted repeatedly that Turkey should take over the fight against the Islamic State in Syria. “It’s going to be your responsibility,” Mr. Trump said he told the country’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

But current and former United States officials say the Turkish military has a bleak track record at counterterrorism and little hope of filling the void left by the Americans and the Syrian Democratic Forces.

“That is wishful thinking as far as I can tell,” said Dana Stroul, co-chairwoman of the congressionally sponsored Syria Study Group and a former Pentagon official.

Jim Hanson: The caliph is dead — now, here's how the US can exit from Syria .
We must solidify the gains we have made and ensure that Assad and Iran do not have a path to undo these successes and create the land bridge to the Mediterranean the mullahs in Tehran so desperately crave. There are gains in leverage for Turkey and Russia in the arrangements we have made, but those who are crowing that this was a giveaway to Vladimir Putin and Recep Erdogan should consider what, if anything, has been given.Turkey is trying to build a buffer zone to stop PKK terror attacks but maintaining that is going to be an ongoing fight against terror groups that have a new set of atrocities to rally around.

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