Commander Gen. Joseph Votel: “ISIS is far from over”


Gen Joseph Votel, the commander of US Central Command warned Thursday that despite the terror group’s territorial losses the fight against ISIS is “far from over,” cautioning that the remnants of the group are positioning themselves for a potential resurgence.

“What we are seeing now is not the surrender of ISIS as an organisation but a calculated decision. They are waiting for the right time for a resurgence. Reduction of the physical caliphate is a monumental military accomplishment but the fight against ISIS and violent extremism is far from over. We will need to maintain a vigilant offensive against this now widely dispersed and disaggregated organization that includes leaders, fighters, facilitators, resources and of course their toxic ideology” Commander Gen. Joseph Votel, the top US general overseeing military operations in the Middle East, told the House Armed Services Committee.

“What we are seeing now is not the surrender of ISIS as an organization but a calculated decision to preserve the safety of their families and the preservation of their capabilities by taking their chances in camps for internally displaced persons and going to ground in remote areas and waiting for the right time to resurge. The ISIS population being evacuated from the remaining vestiges of the caliphate largely remains unrepentant, unbroken and radicalized. The US will retain a residual force on the ground in Syria to support its coalition allies and partners as it draws down troop presence,” Votel added.

Gen Votel voiced concern over the thousands of fighters and family members leaving ISIS areas, who are being held in Kurdish-controlled territory inside Syria. In my view this is a serious generational problem that, if not handled properly, will sow the seeds of future violent extremism,” he said, urging the international community to do more.

“What is driving the withdrawal of course is our mission, which is the defeat of ISIS and so that is our principal focus and that is making sure that we protect our forces, that we don’t withdraw in a manner that increases the risk to our forces,” Votel said.

Gen Votel also spoke about the threat of Iran, which he said was trying to become supreme leader of the region “and to use its malign influence”.

Lt Gen Kenneth McKenzie will replace Gen Votel after a confirmation by the Senate. The departing general held the job for three years.

The White House will probably leave 400 of its 2,000 troops in Syria. It is in talks with the Europeans and Nato partners to bring together an observation force for the border between Syria and Turkey.



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