IS close to falling but its resurgence is nearing, says US general
A leading US general on Thursday warned that the Islamic State group could be poised to make a resurgence, despite hundreds of its fighters leaving one of its last hold-outs in Syria over the past day.
General Joseph Votel said that IS were "far from over" althought fighters and their families are fleeing the collapsing "caliphate" in Baghouz, eastern Syria.
General Joseph Votel, head of the American Central Command, warned that many of the IS fighters and civilians being evacuated from Baghouz are "unrepentant, unbroken and radicalised", as the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces prepare for a final offensive on the enclave.
More survivors are expected to leave before the SDF deal a final blow to jihadists holed up in a makeshift camp along the banks of the Euphrates.
The SDF was not advancing Thursday out of concern for remaining civilians, who have been pushed deeper into the camp, but the jihadi control a section of the area, an official told AFP.
More than 7,000 people have exited the enclave over the past three days, mostly women and children, although footage of fighters also leaving Baghouz was shared on social media.
SDF artillery and coalition air strikes have battered Baghouz over the weekend, which appears to have taken a toll on the diehard jihadists still inside.
But the US general said that despite their weakened state, IS remains prepared for a resurgence.
"Reduction of the physical caliphate is a monumental military accomplishment - but the fight against [IS] and violent extremism is far from over and our mission remains the same," he told Congress.
"The [IS] population being evacuated from the remaining vestiges of the caliphate largely remains unrepentant, unbroken and radicalised," he said.
"We will need to maintain a vigilant offensive against this now widely dispersed and disaggregated organisation."
US President Trump stunned the world in December when he announced that all 2,000 US troops would withdraw from Syria once IS has been defeated.
The White House later said that around 200 American "peace-keeping" soldiers would remain in northern Syria indefinitely, following widespread criticism of Trump's plans.