US troops stationed nearly Deir ez-Zor have joined back up with Kurdish allies for a new operation against Daesh remnants in eastern Syria, despite triumphalist claims by the Trump administration to have defeated the militant group.
Only a small contingent of US troops is slated to stay in Syria to protect oil wells in the country’s east, but that doesn’t mean they’re sitting around doing nothing: Combined Joint Task Force — Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF-OIR), the US-led coalition against Daesh, has announced a new clearance operation against Daesh in conjunction with Syrian forces.
CJTF-OIR commander US Air Force Maj. Gen. Eric Hill said at a news conference Saturday that the day prior, coalition forces had captured a “significant amount” of small arms, homemade explosives and ammunition, and detained more than a dozen Daesh fighters, reported Military.com.
“As long as Daesh presents a threat, we must stay vigilant to prevent it, for the sake of the region and our homelands,” Hill said Saturday in the coalition statement. Following the US withdrawal, roughly 500 US troops remain in Syria.
The operation is based in Deir ez-Zor Governorate, a Syrian province that straddles the Euphrates River and is home to many of the country’s oil fields. It is also where Daesh staged its last stand this past Spring, ferociously defending a sliver of territory near the town of al-Baghuz Fawqani.
“Over the next days and weeks, the pace will pick back up against remnants of ISIS [Daesh],” Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie, who heads US Central Command from its headquarters in Bahrain, told reporters at the Manama Dialogue security conference on Saturday, according to the New York Times.
“What we’re talking about are the pockets of people who represent the wreckage that followed in the wake of the caliphate,” McKenzie noted. “They still have the power to injure, still have the power to cause violence.”
Despite the US pulling back from the Syrian-Turkish border last month and allowing Turkish soldiers to push Kurds out of the border area, McKenzie said relations between the US and Kurdish forces are still “pretty good.”
A report released earlier this month by the US Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) noted that Daesh had “exploited the Turkish incursion and subsequent drawdown of US troops to reconstitute capabilities and resources within Syria and strengthen its ability to plan attacks abroad.”
“In the longer term, [Daesh] will probably seek to regain control of some Syrian population centers and expand its global footprint,” the report warned. It noted that the death of Daesh leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi at the hands of US Special Forces would have “likely little effect” on the organization’s ability to rebuild, since it was already “postured to withstand” its leader’s death.