Duality persists in Washington on presence of Daesh in Syria

Published 31.01.2019 00:07
Updated 31.01.2019 00:23

Divergent voices continue in Washington in regards to the presence of Daesh in Syria as some state branches claim that the fight against Daesh is over, while others suggest that there are still thousands of militia members operating.

"[Daesh] has lost 99.5 percent plus of the territory it once held in Syria and Iraq and within a couple of weeks, it will be 100 percent," acting U.S. Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan said on Tuesday in a press briefing.

Shanahan underscored that Daesh is no longer able to govern in Syria, which used to be a safe haven for the terrorist organization and no longer has the freedom to amass force or the power to govern key populated regions, adding that the terrorism threat in Syria has decreased considerably.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made similar remarks on Tuesday, saying that it should not go unnoticed that Washington and the Coalition defeated Daesh in Syria and Iraq.

In December, U.S. President Donald Trump announced that the U.S. would withdraw its troops from Syria, saying that the only reason U.S. troops were in Syria was to defeat Daesh and now this mission is accomplished. Trump's sudden decision prompted divergent voices and criticism suggesting that Daesh persists as a threat and it is a betrayal for their ally on the ground, the PKK-affiliated People's Protection Units (YPG).

However, contrary to these statements, CIA Director Gina Haspel said on Tuesday in a conference that Daesh is "still dangerous" as it has "thousands" of militias in Iraq and Syria, noting Daesh had suffered significant leadership losses and nearly all of the territory it once controlled, in a rebuke to Pompeo and Trump.

Ilham Ahmed, who heads the executive committee of the Syrian Democratic Council, the political wing of the YPG, said on Tuesday that she asked the Trump Administration to slow down the process during her short discussion with Trump. She underscored that they are hoping for agreements that "keep the safety and stability of the area after they withdraw."

Commenting on the retrieval of U.S. weapons from the terrorist organization, Ahmed pointed out that nobody has discussed the matter with them and they still need the weapons to fight against Daesh.

In relation to the plan for the U.S. and Turkey to set up a terrorist-free 32 kilometer safety zone along the Syrian-Turkish border administrated by Ankara after the U.S. withdrawal, Ahmed highlighted that the Turkish establishment of a safe zone in Syrian territory was unacceptable and it should be discussed with them. She added Trump promised to protect their allies from Turkey, saying, "I love Kurds."

Ankara and Washington have been at odds due to the latter's support for the YPG under the pretext of fighting Daesh. The U.S. had provided military training and given truckloads of military support to the YPG, despite Ankara's warnings that the group shares organic organizational and operational links with the PKK that has claimed the lives of more than 40,000 people in its 30-year terror campaign against Turkey.

U.S.-led coalition's airstrike

kills eight civilians

Meanwhile, a U.S.-led coalition airstrike on Tuesday reportedly hit Syria's eastern Deir el-Zour province, killing at least eight civilians including three children and five women.

The attack targeted the Daesh-held Bagoz town; however, some civilians fleeing clashes between Daesh and YPG forces were killed. The coalition has not commented on the airstrike.

Daesh started building its de facto control in Iraq and later in Syria in 2014 through a campaign of violence, invasion and extreme brutality against residents. Following a period of expansion from 2014 to 2015, Daesh gradually declined due to U.S.-led coalition bombings. The international community has been fighting Daesh for years, but this bloody group remained undefeated with few members. Since the fight against Daesh has neared its end, Ankara has raised questions about ongoing U.S. support for the YPG even after its withdrawal from the war-torn country. The U.S. State Department announced on Tuesday that foreign ministers of the global coalition against Daesh will meet in Washington to discuss the impending territorial defeat of Daesh in Syria and Iraq, and delivering Daesh an enduring defeat in the "next phase."

The department added that the "next phase" of the anti-Daesh fight will be an important agenda topic in the meetings with a significant "focus on protecting against a resurgence of the organization through stabilization and security assistance."

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