The withdrawal of U.S. forces from Syria is emboldening the enemy and fostering instability in the region, according to a Nov. 15 report by the Department of Defense inspector general. The white paper covered actions in the theater that took place between July 1 and Oct. 25. Two key events – Turkey’s Oct. 9 incursion into Syria to thwart Kurdish forces and President Trump’s subsequent decision to pull U.S. troops out – have proven to be key factors in the present situation there.
Citing Defense Intelligence Agency data, the report stated that ISIS took advantage of both Turkey’s actions and the reduced U.S. presence (known as Operation Inherent Resolve) to reestablish a presence in Syria and plan future attacks abroad. It also noted that the U.S. decision to pull out greatly hindered relations with both Kurdish and Syrian Defense Forces allies – both of whom felt betrayed. ISIS has been able to reestablish its position of strength even in light of the death of its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who committed suicide rather than allow himself to be captured in a raid.
“Al-Baghdadi’s death was a significant blow to ISIS but would not likely end the ISIS threat,” the report stated, citing numerous analyses.
While ISIS has been able to expand command and control, its operations have been limited to areas where they do not face opposition from Coalition forces, the report stated.