Turkish incursion and U.S. drawdown have helped ISIS, Defense Dept watchdog says

Author: CBS News
Turkey launches military attack on Syria after U.S. withdrawal (CBS/AP)

According to the Defense Department inspector general’s quarterly report, which was released on Tuesday, the Turkish incursion into northeastern Syria and American drawdown of U.S. troops have helped ISIS and could “strengthen [ISIS’] ability to plan attacks abroad.”

The Trump administration’s announcement that the U.S. would withdraw the nearly 1,000 troops in Syria in October cleared the way for Turkey to invade northern Syria, resulting in the death of dozens of civilians and the displacement of over 200,000 from the region, as well as the escape of about 200 ISIS fighters from prisons run by Syrian Kurdish allies. The IG’s report says that the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) has concluded that “ISIS exploited the Turkish incursion and subsequent drawdown of U.S. troops”

President Trump defied warnings from Republicans, Democrats and national security experts who warned that such an abrupt pullout would reverse the gains made in the fight against ISIS. Amid those concerns, the U.S. conducted a raid in Syria that resulted in the death of the leader of ISIS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

The IG’s report notes that the DIA states that al-Baghdadi’s death “would likely have little effect on the ability of ISIS to reconstitute.”

The DIA also says that “absent counterterrorism pressure, ISIS would likely have more freedom to build clandestine networks.” It predicted that ISIS would try to free its members in SDF-run prisons and camps, and will now “likely have the ‘time and space’ to target the West and provide support to its global branches and networks.” ISIS will also, the DIA said, “probably seek to regain control of some Syrian population centers and expand its global footprint.”

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