Mere months after losing their territorial hold across Syria and Iraq — and after President Donald Trump declared ISIS had been “defeated” — the reality on the ground paints a still grim picture of recalcitrant ISIS fighters forming an enduring insurgency.
“We have seen, since the collapse of the caliphate, that ISIS has repositioned a lot of its capabilities,” U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Alex Grynkewich told Muir.
“They’re trying to garner resources, extort the population, do low level attacks. There’s certainly an insurgency going on, on the ground right now,” said Grynkewich, the deputy commander of Operation Inherent Resolve, the joint coalition fighting ISIS on the ground.
For months, there have been warnings of a resurgence — at least two Pentagon reports this year, including one from August, cautioned ISIS was far from eradicated. A report from the lead inspector general for Operation Inherent Resolve, which fights ISIS, warned that from April to June, ISIS “solidified insurgent capabilities in Iraq” and established “resurgent cells” in Syria to “expand its command and control nodes in Iraq.”
A partial withdrawal of U.S. forces from Syria further decreased the support available for local forces at a time when they still need training and equipping to respond to ISIS, the report said.