A report from the Pentagon inspector general attributed President Donald Trump’s decision to rapidly pull troops out of Syria and diplomatic staff from Iraq to the return of the Islamic State in the region, according to Business Insider.
The Department of Defense’s quarterly report to Congress explicitly said that the troop drawdown in Syria contributed to instability in the region, as it left the U.S.’s Syrian partners without the training or infrastructure needed to confront a resurgent ISIS.
The Islamic State is now estimated to have between 14,000 and 18,000 combatants, who are engaging in assassinations, suicides, crop burnings, and ambushes. ISIS is using a decentralized method of income generation, such as extorting civilians, kidnapping for ransom, and skimming money from rebuilding contracts, which is difficult to track.
The troop drawdown led to the resignation of the special presidential envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIS, Brett McGurk, who had warned that Trump’s policies would give “new life” to ISIS and that his decision would “precipitate chaos and an environment for extremists to thrive.”
The president’s shortsighted decision to fulfill his campaign promise to withdraw the U.S. from conflicts in the Middle East destabilized Iraq and Syria, according to the report, and has the potential to do the same in Afghanistan.
Nicholas Heras, a Middle East expert for the Center for a New American Security, said that an ISIS branch, ISIS Khoransan (or ISIS K) is recruiting militants disillusioned with the Taliban’s decision to operate as a political entity. Afghanistan, to ISIS K, is the perfect place to wage holy war.
“ISIS K will likely succeed,” Heras said.