By Sohaila Barghash
Furthermore, in recent days, senior administration officials announced that part of a “multinational observer force”, 200 US troops were assigned to stay in North Eastern Syria.
Additionally, 200 other troops are to stay in al-Tanf, an encampment near the border with Iraq, with the aim of preventing Iranian activity.
The Wall Street Journal has also had its say on the topic, claiming that the US military was “crafting plans to keep nearly 1,000 forces in Syria” which is completely different from Trump’s former claims.
However, none of these new statements fall under policy, until President Trump signs off. For instance, chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen., Joseph Dunford refuted the reports that fuelled the media such as the Journal’s.
All those attempts to expand control in Syria and its neighbours with claims of countering ISIS, are far from achieving much difference on the ground.
For instance, the Tanf deployment depends heavily on Jordanian support, and as the Jordanian government tries to re-establish relations with Assad, it is unlikely that US troops will be guaranteed victory.
Similarly, in Iraq, Iran introduces a campaign in parliament to eventually force America’s departure from the region, so even though US troops remain for now, they may be driven out by Iraq itself.
President Trump has in fact expressed his opinion long ago, when saying that “The victory against ISIS has been won”, adding that as far as the US is concerned, what’s left is basically “sand and death.”
Meanwhile, European officials are unwilling to invest in stabilizing measures that take place within an unclear strategic environment.
Therefore, as long as no other government takes initiative in replacing the departing American troops, the US will be forced to stay in Syria, which does not guarantee a full withdrawal.
What is worse, is that ISIS lives on despite the president’s false claims, for instance, ISIS attacks have been on the rise in Iraq.
In February alone, ISIS conducted an average of four attacks every day; Mosul has been hit by multiple car bombs in recent weeks; and most rural areas liberated from ISIS have been abandoned, left lying in ruins.
In various places across Eastern Syria, ISIS continues to run night-time checkpoints, as deadly attacks increase.
At this point, no force in either Syria or Iraq seems capable of effectively defeating the group.
More worrying however, is the ISIS of the future, which could be just as bad if not bigger and worse than the one we watched dramatically expand in 2014.
Only in Iraq, almost 20,000 ISIS detainees are currently imprisoned as thousands more who are charged with maintaining contact with ISIS, are in squalid camps surrounded by hostile security forces.
Additionally, thousands of Iraqi children born under ISIS rule are probably going to remain stateless due to Baghdad’s continued refusal to recognize their ISIS-produced birth certificates or to produce Iraqi replacements.
For instance, tens of thousands of those children were indoctrinated into its hateful ideology now have little to no life prospects
Syria, meanwhile, is certain to stay instable for years to come, as thousands of Syrians are now displaced after fighting with ISIS, and were moved to camps with severe restrictions placed upon Sunnis who had lived under ISIS.
In March 2019 alone, hundreds of ISIS fighters were released by the SDF into Eastern Syria, while others are being smuggled into other lawless parts of the country.
A few days back, US Special Envoy for Syria Affairs Jim Jeffrey announced that another 15,000 to 20,000 ISIS sleeper-cell operatives remained in play across Iraq and Syria.
However, many are sceptical about this number, one thing for certain is that large numbers of ISIS fighters will have melted away amidst fighting in recent years.
Therefore, it is dangerous to proclaim victory and withdraw at this point, as abandoning the gains made against ISIS will make certain the group’s survival and possibly revival into a deeply dangerous terrorist body.