US commander: IS hold in Syria, Iraq on verge of collapse

US commander: IS hold in Syria, Iraq on verge of collapse

US commander: IS hold in Syria, Iraq on verge of collapse

U.S. and Turkish soldiers conduct the first-ever combined joint patrol outside Manbij, Syria, Nov. 1, 2018.

ISIS is actively regrouping and is regenerating more quickly in Iraq than in Syria, the US-led operation against the insurgent group has warned in a new report.

"I was not aware of the specific announcement", U.S. Central Command (Centcom) commander Gen. Joseph Votel said.

During the withdrawal, "We should expect that they [ISIS fighters] will attempt to attack us and regenerate themselves, and we will continue to put pressure on them to prevent that", Votel said.

He says battlefield gains in Iraq and Syria must be secured by continued US and global efforts to prevent a return to conditions that allowed the Islamic State group to arise.

Army Gen. Joseph Votel, commander of US forces in the Mideast, said Tuesday that President Donald Trump did not consult him before announcing December 19 that he was ordering the withdrawal of the estimated 2,000 USA troops in Syria.

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Despite Trump's order to withdraw, American officials maintain that the goal remains the "enduring defeat" of ISIS and are moving ahead with a long-planned meeting of top diplomats from the 79-member USA -led coalition this week. The text warns that "a precipitous withdrawal" of soldiers could "allow terrorists to regroup, destabilize critical regions and create vacuums that could be filled by Iran or Russian Federation". It has begun to withdraw equipment from Syria and is expected to begin the drawdown of personnel soon.

Trump is expected to discuss foreign policy in the address to a joint session of Congress, including declaring the Islamic State militant group all but defeated.

Officials say that overall, there are about 2,000 Islamic State militants in Syria.

Votel's statement appears to be the first confirmation on the record from anyone in the high command that Trump's order to pull out from Syria blindsided the military in its mission to inflict a lasting defeat on the Islamic State.

The Defense Department watchdog report warned that even with the Islamic State forces on the run, the group "is still able to coordinate offensives and counter-offensives, as well as operate as a decentralized insurgency".

On Monday, the Pentagon published a report which said Daesh could make a resurgence in the region without counterterrorism pressure.

The report, citing information from US Central Command, said Islamic State would portray the withdrawal as a "victory" and conduct attacks on American personnel during the pullout process. "Certainly we are aware that he has expressed a desire and an intent in the past to depart Syria".

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