Is Trump risking an IS resurrection in West Asia?
WASHINGTON:IN the US Navy, we say that every sailor is a firefighter. That’s because when a fire breaks out on a ship at sea - a real threat given the combustible mixture of fuel, ammunition, electrical circuits and stored supplies the entire crew is trained to step up and douse it.
It’s not like you can just walk across the street and let the blaze burn itself out.
Here is the most important lesson - never underestimate the power of a fire to “re-flash”. If you put out the initial flames but leave smoldering material, there is a high possibility of it leaping back to life.
This is the right way to look at the Islamic State (IS) at the moment. Over the past several years and under two presidential administrations, US and allied forces have taken away at least 95 percent of Is-held terrain. But without a re-flash watch, there is a chance of the group reviving itself.
Someone who knows this well is the head of the US Central Command, Joe Votel, a special forces operator who has led the fight since 2016.
“If the major actors and their proxies become embroiled in a competition for influence in Syria,” he told Congress recently, “it may create space for IS remnants to reform or reconstitute.”
He echoed the view of former defence secretary James Mattis, who resigned after President Trump’s declaration of a full withdrawal of US troops from Syria.
It’s not just physical territory that’s a concern. IS remains capable in the digital realm. It has used social media effectively to bring in recruits, raise money and set up a command-and-control network.
It continues to launch terrorist attacks globally, including the deadly bombing last month of a cathedral in the Philippines.
Bear in mind that today’s IS grew out of the collapse of the Sunni insurgency in Iraq, and the ill-advised pullout of all US troops in 2011 without leaving in place a contingent to ensure a stable transition.
What would an effective re-flash watch look like? It would mean keeping 7,000 to 10,000 US troops across Iraq and Syria for special operations, intelligence-gathering and supporting regional allies - especially Israel, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.
Basically, the US needs to reinvigorate the global coalition against the IS and not let the terrorists strike back.
A civilian returns to the war-torn city of Hajin in Syria's Deir Ezzor province.