WASHINGTON: Although the extremist group Daesh has been militarily destroyed and no longer controls any territory in Iraq or Syria, its ideology remains unrestrained and poses a threat to the Middle East and the rest of the world, according to a US military chief on Monday.
According to Maj. Gen. Matthew McFarlane, the commander of Operation Inherent Resolve, which is tasked with eliminating the Daesh threat in Iraq and Syria, Daesh still has the capability to reconstitute and carry out attacks in the region and beyond, despite the work of the US military and its allies in the region.
McFarlane praised the efforts of Washington’s partners in Iraq and Syria, particularly the Syrian Democratic Forces, a militia group in the country’s northeast that includes Kurdish and Arab tribal forces, during a joint press briefing with Dana Stroul, the US deputy assistant secretary of defense for the Middle East, which Arab News attended. He said that it is spearheading the war against Daesh in Syria, aided and supported by the US troops on the ground.
“Thanks to the efforts of our partners, supported by the coalition, we’ve seen a dramatic decrease in Daesh activities and effectiveness across our area of operation,” he said, adding that this year’s Ramadan had been one of the most calm in recent years.
Stroul said the US military and its regional partners carried out 37 operations against Daesh in March, 28 in Iraq and nine in Syria, killing nine militants and capturing 18. The most significant component of these missions, she noted, is that they are never carried out just by the US military, but always in collaboration with local partners.
According to Stroul, American military activities in Iraq have transitioned to a “advise, assist, and enable” role, with Iraqi security forces leading day-to-day operations against Daesh.
On April 17, the US military took part in a helicopter raid in northern Syria that targeted and killed Abd-Al-Hadi Mahmud Al-Haji Ali, a senior Daesh leader in the nation.
“This raid deals a significant blow to ISIS operations in the region but does not eliminate ISIS’ capability to conduct operations,” the US military stated at the time, referring to Daesh by another name.
Following the mission, US Central Command commander Gen. Michael Kurilla stated, “Though degraded, ISIS remains capable of conducting operations within the region, with a desire to strike beyond the Middle East.”
McFarlane stated on Monday that the US is continuing its efforts to prevent the reemergence of Daesh through a variety of measures, including the repatriation of detainees and displaced persons detained in camps in northeastern Syria.
“We remain laser-focused on the enduring defeat of ISIS,” he said, adding that it is critical to the group’s long-term defeat that all detainees and displaced persons, many of whom are relatives of terrorists, be returned to their home countries.
So far, approximately 1,300 people have been repatriated from Syria’s Al-Hol camp, which represents a special strategic challenge for the United States and its coalition allies.
According to Stroul, the Syrian Democratic Forces have imprisoned approximately 10,000 Daesh fighters, while approximately 50,000 displaced people are being housed in the Al-Hol camp.