New Pentagon report blames Trump troop withdrawal for ISIS surge in Iraq and Syria

Source: The Hill | August 9, 2019 | John Bowden

A new report released by the Department of Defense this week revealed that the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has been emboldened by the partial removal of U.S. troops from Syria and policy shifts in Iraq.

The report, released by the Pentagon’s inspector general, details how the drawdown of U.S. troops has forced the Trump administration to rely on third-party monitoring of some areas, including a refugee camp set up by U.S.-backed forces.

The scaling back of U.S. forces, the report continued, has allowed ISIS forces in the area to recruit new members and grow their forces without U.S. interference.

“According to [joint task force officials], the drawdown of U.S. forces in Syria also reduced the ability of [the U.S.-backed mission] to maintain ‘visibility’ at the al Hol IDP camp, forcing it to rely on third-party accounts of the humanitarian and security situation there,” the report reads.

“[The task force] said that it lacks the resources to monitor the camp directly, and that the SDF was only capable of providing ‘minimal security’—a deficiency that [officials] said has created conditions that allow ISIS ideology to spread ‘uncontested’ in the camp,” the Pentagon continued.

The buildup of ISIS forces in Syria and Iraq comes after the Trump administration and U.S.-backed forces had pushed the terror group out of its last major holdings in Syria earlier this year, forcing the group’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, into hiding and driving the group underground.

Local officials now worry that the group’s ideology is being spread among inhabitants of refugee camps along the Syrian border where families of ISIS fighters and some former fighters themselves now are staying.

President Trump announced the partial removal of U.S. troops from Syria in December, a move that caused the resignation of Defense Secretary James Mattis.

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