US general warns of IS resurgence if troops withdraw

US general warns of IS resurgence if troops withdraw
IS ‘have the potential to resurge if we take pressure off,’ a US general has warned, referring to Iraq’s demands for US forces to leave the country.
3 min read
23 January, 2020
A US solider stands guard at Iraq's Ain al-Asad air base following Iranian strikes [Getty]
The threat posed by the Islamic State group has lessened but may significantly rebound if the US leaves Iraq, Major General Alexus Grynkewich, the second-in-command for the international coalition against the militant group in Iraq and Syria, said Wednesday.

The group "certainly still remain a threat", he said. "They have the potential to resurge if we take pressure off of them for too long."

However the general added he did not predict an immediate IS comeback at this point.

"But the more time we take pressure off of them, the more of that threat will continue to grow," he said.

At a Pentagon press conference, he said the structural weakness of IS has been shown by their failure to take advantage of demonstrations in Iraq calling for political reforms since October.

More than 460 protesters have been killed, and demonstrators are angry that few Iraqi security personnel have been charged for the violence.

The allies at the heart of the international coalition have over the last few months been evaluating the position of the extremist movement whose self-declared "caliphate" once spanned parts of Iraq and Syria.

It collapsed last March after
years of battle with coalition-backed forces.

IS went underground and reverted to well-honed guerrilla tactics that continued to inflict damage.

The coalition wanted to determine whether the group is "executing some sort of strategic patience, waiting for an opportunity that they can exploit, or are they truly on the ropes a bit more and lacking in capability and capacity?" Grynkewich said.

He said the Iraqi protests helped the coalition to refine its assessment "that it's actually [IS] is a little bit more on the lack of capability and capacity side, than strategically patient", using an alternative acronym for the group.

Tensions between Washington and Tehran flared on Iraqi soil this month, beginning when the US killed Iran's top general Qasem Soleimani in Baghdad. Tehran then retaliated by attacking an Iraqi base hosting American soldiers, some of whom were hurt.

Furious at the US hit, Iraq's parliament voted on 5 January to oust all foreign troops, including about 5,200 American soldiers deployed alongside local forces.

Coalition troops have ostensibly reduced their operations in Iraq since then, even if cooperation with the Iraqi army continues discreetly, according to several US military sources.

US President Donald Trump and his Iraqi counterpart Barham Salih agreed Wednesday in Davos, Switzerland on the need for a continued US military role in the country, the White House said.

"That's really kind of a government-to-government discussion on when we get back to full restoration of that partnership. They certainly have an interest in it, as do we," Grynkewich said.

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