The Islamic State (ISIS) amped up its attacks following the withdrawal of US troops last year from northeastern Syria and the subsequent invasion of Turkey, a Pentagon report noted. Further articulated that the elimination of the so-called caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi did not impede the terror organisation's operation.
"ISIS 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," as per Defence Department Principal Inspector General. "ISIS appears to have sufficient weapons, explosives, operatives and funding to carry out its present level of operations, but assessed that it likely faces significant constraints in expanding beyond that for the next 12 to 18 months," the report added.
The report explained that the US Defence Intelligence Agency and US Central Command "both assessed that the October death of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in a US operation in Syria has not resulted in any immediate degradation to ISIS' capabilities." In addition, it said that "ISIS likely implemented an existing succession plan upon Baghdadi's death and continued to operate without interruption."
The report by Pentagon further revealed that the financial network of the terror organisation is still intact. It said, "ISIS continues to generate revenue by extorting oil smuggling networks in northeastern Syria." The report further added, "The withdrawal of U.S. forces from areas of northeastern Syria diminished (the Treasury Department’s) insight into ISIS's fundraising and cash storage activities, as well as its ability to assess trends. ISIS primarily uses cash couriers, called hawaladars, and money services businesses to move funds within and out of Syria and Iraq."
Following Donald Trump's sudden pull-out, hundreds of suspected ISIS fighters escaped a camp in northeastern Syria as per the international report. As Turkey stepped-up, its attack against US allies the Syrian Kurds, the ISIS fighters escaped attacking the guards. Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) were holding around 12,000 ISIS fighters in detention camps.
In a dramatic narration, US President Donald Trump had announced that ISIS chief al-Baghdadi was killed in a US-led operation on October 26. However, the recently published report revealed that his death failed to impact the terror organisation's covert networks. In fact, the report warned that a forced pullout by the US troops in Iraq would most likely lead to the 'resurge of ISIS.' The report not only alerts of a possible revival but also, dismisses US President Donald Trump's claim from last year that the ISIS caliphate was "100% defeated."
The ISIS chief was assassinated in a raid by Pentagon in Syria last year, and a week after his successor Abu Ibrahim al-Hashemi al-Qurayshi was named. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi built up the IS group from 2003 while he was jailed in the giant US-run Iraqi prison of Camp Bucca. There, he met several former army and security officials from the ousted regime of Saddam Hussein who would form the initial core of the group. The extremists he led initially worked within the framework of Al-Qaeda but then Baghdadi distanced himself from the extremist network founded by bin Laden. He led IS to the peak of its success in 2014, when it controlled swathes of northern Iraq and Syria, including the major Iraqi city of Mosul.
(With AP inputs)