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16 February, 2019 12:24:49 AM
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US keeps allies guessing on IS fight’s future after pullout

US keeps allies
AFP, Munich
US keeps allies guessing on IS fight’s future after pullout

Pentagon chief Patrick Shanahan yesterday pledged ongoing support for the fight against Islamic State after the jihadists are finally ousted from Syria but kept allies guessing as to how once US forces pull out.

“Together, we have eliminated the group’s hold over 99 percent of the territory it once claimed as part of its so-called caliphate,” he said after meeting allies in the anti-IS coalition.

“While the time for US troops on the ground in northeast Syria winds down, the United States remains committed to our coalition’s cause: the permanent defeat of ISIS, both in the Middle East and beyond,” he said after talks on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference.

He said the US would “maintain our counterterrorism capabilities in the region” and “continue to support our local partners’ ability to stand up to the remnants of ISIS”—but gave no details about how this would be done.

In recent days, IS fighters have been cornered by a US-backed Arab-Kurdish militia in a last battle over the remaining patch of territory the militants control in northeastern Syria.

With defeat of IS’s self-declared “caliphate” imminent, American troops are set to withdraw from Kurdish-controlled areas.

US President Donald Trump in December announced the pullout of around 2,000 US troops, stunning allies including France and Britain who warned the fight against jihadists was not finished. German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen, who is hosting the Munich meeting, warned that while the IS had lost almost all of its territory, it had not been defeated.

“We know that the physical caliphate of the IS in Syria and Iraq has been defeated, we have pushed their fighters out of the areas they had held for years,” she said. “But we must face the fact that the IS is now changing its face and is going underground and building networks, including with other terror groups and including global networks.”

Shanahan said the anti-IS coalition was evolving “to meet the global threat posed by ISIS’s offshoots and its murderous ideology” as far away as Afghanistan and the Philippines. However, the key concern of US allies now is Syria, where the US pullout will leave a vacuum and where major powers are jostling for influence.

French Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly said “the international community will have to guarantee that there will be no resurgence of Daesh in Syria or elsewhere,” using the Arabic acronym for Islamic State.

The imminent collapse of the IS “caliphate” in Syria has increased concerns about experienced militants and foreign fighters escaping and forming new cells in Syria or beyond.

Once US forces leave, another complication emerges: the future of areas in northern Syria controlled by the Kurdish YPG militia, a key US ally in the fight against jihadists but branded terrorists by Turkey.

EA

 

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Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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