Daesh is allegedly resurgent in Syria less than five months after US President Donald Trump announced that the group was defeated, according to a new report released yesterday by the Pentagon.
"Despite losing its territorial 'caliphate', the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria [Daesh] solidified its insurgent capabilities in Iraq and was resurging in Syria," the report claims. It was written by the lead inspector general for Operation Inherent Resolve, which covers the period between 1 April and 30 June this year.
In a message attached to the report, the principal deputy inspector general, Glenn Fine, explains that, "The reduction of US forces has decreased the support available for Syrian partner forces at a time when their forces need more training and equipping to respond to the [Daesh] resurgence."
Following Trump's announcement in December last year that US troops will be withdrawn from Syria due to the defeat of Daesh and the recapture of its strongholds in the region, there was widespread disagreement among US political and military figures, as well as the Kurdish groups which rely on Washington. They insisted that while Daesh had mostly been crushed, it was merely reduced to a scattered network of sleeper cells and would be at a risk of re-emerging if US forces were not present.
The report also identifies a number of possible hotspots where Daesh-supporters are currently dwelling, including refugee camps across Syria, over the border into Iraq, and the desert to which many fled after military defeats. One camp for internally displaced persons within Syria called Al-Hol is particularly worrying to the Pentagon, as Daesh supporters have allegedly merged into the 70,000 residents. The camp is an easy target for the group's resurgence.
The revelation about Daesh is not the first warning to be voiced on the group's revival in recent weeks. Only last month, Iraqi intelligence revealed that its leader is in Syria and enjoying strong support and influence within Daesh.
In a report released on Monday, the UN also cautioned that the self-styled "caliphate" has as much as $300 million at its disposal to continue its campaign. Despite its loss of territory and "citizens", this money has been acquired through direct funding and the sale of looted antiquities on the global black market.