Agencies (Qasioun) - A draft Pentagon report warns that without continued pressure, ISIS could regain territory in six to 12 months, according to two U.S. officials familiar with the draft.
The finding is in a draft of the Department of Defense Inspector General Quarterly Report about Operation Inherent Resolve that is expected to be released early next week. The report draws on information from the U.S. military, U.S. government agencies, and open source reports.
The draft says ISIS is intent on reconstituting a physical caliphate and that with ungoverned spaces in Syria and no military pressure, the terror group could retake land in a matter of months, according to the officials familiar with the report.
The report covers the three months from Oct. 1 to Dec. 31, 2018. President Donald Trump announced in mid-December that the U.S. military would be leaving Syria.
The Defense Department Office of Inspector General declined to comment on the report prior to its release. The National Security Council had no immediate comment.
The number of U.S. troops in Syria has spiked to around 3,000 in recent days as more troops have moved in to help with the withdrawal, according to defense officials. Logistical support and security forces are in the country to help move equipment and eventually troops out.
The U.S. military remains under orders for a complete withdrawal of all U.S. troops in 120 days, ending the U.S. presence there in mid-spring.
U.S. officials said that Al Tanf will be the last place in Syria from which U.S. troops will withdraw, potentially creating an opening for Trump to change his mind and agree to keeping some troops in Syria.
"We assess that ISIS will seek to exploit Sunni grievances, societal instability, and stretched security forces to regain territory in Iraq and Syria in the long term," the report says.
"ISIS still commands thousands of fighters in Iraq and Syria, and it maintains eight branches, more than a dozen networks, and thousands of dispersed supporters around the world, despite significant leadership and territorial losses. The group will exploit any reduction in CT pressure to strengthen its clandestine presence and accelerate rebuilding key capabilities, such as media production and external operations. ISIS very likely will continue to pursue external attacks from Iraq and Syria against regional and Western adversaries, including the United States."
The report also finds the Syrian regime is unlikely to go after ISIS unless the terror group is threatening government infrastructure.
Source: NBC News