A U.S. military report released this week suggests the ISIS terrorist group will operate in the Middle East “indefinitely,” describing the group now as a “low-level” terrorist threat about seven years after the organization took over swaths of Syria and Iraq in the backdrop of the Syrian Civil War.
ISIS was ousted from its strongholds in Syria and Iraq about two years ago, but, according to a Department of Defense quarterly report (pdf), the group still attempts to exploit weaknesses in the region.
U.S. Central Command, the report found, stated that “ISIS likely has sufficient manpower and resources to operate indefinitely at its present level in the Syrian desert” but that environment “limits the capacity of ISIS to grow or strengthen its insurgency there” as the desert is sparsely populated with few possible recruits. ISIS members currently shelter in caves and abandoned buildings, said the military.
Currently, the terror group extracts money from truckers carrying oil through the region to make money, the report found. However, it’s likely far below the funds ISIS raised when it had control over several regional oil fields.
The report noted that the group persistently uses hit-and-run attacks and roadside bombings and has cash reserves in the tens of millions of dollars range. For recruitment purposes, the group attempts to lure boys who live in the al-Hol refugee camp in Syria.
Meanwhile, the “most serious threat” posed by ISIS to the United States and Europe is the radicalization of lone-wolf-style actors, according to the 140-page report.
Radicalization of lone actors remains the “most serious threat” from ISIS to the U.S. homeland and Europe, the DIA told the IG.
Although the Biden administration is aiming to change its mission in Iraq and is pulling troops from Afghanistan, the United States still reportedly has hundreds of troops stationed in northeastern Syria—where ISIS once reigned. Northeastern Syria is also where most of the country’s oil fields are located.
In July, President Joe Biden told Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi that the administration would agree to end the U.S. combat mission in Iraq by the end of 2021. But the DOD report said that hundreds of American troops are likely to remain in Iraq to provide training to government forces.
On Thursday, the Biden administration encouraged the Senate to repeal an Iraq war authorization that was created before the United States invaded Iraq to topple Saddam Hussein’s regime in 2003 as well as the 1991 measure that sanctioned the Persian Gulf War.
Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), who sponsored the measure with Sen. Todd Young (R-Ind.), told The Associated Press he was hopeful of a full Senate vote in coming weeks.