While the United States-backed Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have resumed their attack against the final Isis enclave in eastern Syria, National Security Adviser John Bolton said that Isis remains a threat and that it is “growing in other parts of the world” besides Syria and Iraq.
Bolton defended President Donald Trump's much-scrutinised claims about the US military's progress against the Isis. “The president has been as clear as clear can be when he talks about the defeat of the Isis territorial Caliphate. He has never said that the elimination of the territorial Caliphate means the end of Isis in total. We know that's not the case," Bolton told ABC on Sunday, March 10th.
Bolton was responding to a statement by General Joseph Votel, the commander of US forces in the Middle East, who said at a House Armed Services Committee hearing last week that the fight against Isis “is far from over.
Votel told the House committee, "While Isis has been battered by the Syrian Democratic Forces and coalition forces, we should be clear in our understanding that 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 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 for a resurgence."
Bolton also said that he is “very optimistic” that US allies such as Britain and France will help in battling the resurgence of the group. He said he has discussed a long-term military presence in Syria with his British and French counterparts, despite an order by President Donald Trump to evacuate American troops from Syria.
“It hasn’t happened formally yet, but they’re looking at it. I think it’s very important that we try and get this up. The Isis threat, the al-Qaida threat, the terrorist threat is an ideological threat worldwide, and it’s something that I think we have to be vigilant against for the foreseeable future,” he said.
Bolton continued, "We know right now that there are Isis fighters scattered still around Syria and Iraq and that Isis itself is growing in other parts of the world. The Isis threat will remain."
Officials have previously deemed Trump's announcements claiming US victory over Isis as premature at the least.
On Friday night, at an outdoor fundraiser at his Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida, Trump said the caliphate was 100 percent destroyed.
In a December tweet, Trump announced that the US was withdrawing from Syria, declaring, “We have defeated Isis in Syria, my only reason for being there during the Trump Presidency.” Trump slightly shift course later that month, stating on Twitter that the extremist group is “mostly gone.” He has agreed since to maintain a presence of about 400 troops in Syria.
Vice President Mike Pence said in a speech at the State Department in January that “the caliphate has crumbled, and Isis has been defeated.”