The U.S. military is downplaying suggestions that the Islamic State group is on the rise in Iraq amid reports in recent days of continuing and even increased hostilities by the extremist network.
Attacks by the Islamic State group, also known as ISIS, have risen to as many as 75 per month on average, up from 60 per month in recent years, according to recent reports. The group still holds control of a small swathe of territory in the Syrian town of Hajin, which remains under siege by U.S.-backed forces there known as the Syrian Democratic Forces. The New York Times reported Sunday that some Kurdish positions in Syria were digging trenches in anticipation of an Islamic State group resurgence after a U.S.-led operation cleared out its fighters.
However, Army Col. Jonathan Byrom, deputy director of Joint Operations Command, told reporters from his headquarters in Iraq on Tuesday that security there remains stable.
“Many attacks are going on, but they are not having a significant impact on the security situation,” Byrom said. “It really is a good news story.”
Byrom cited the U.S.-led coalition’s work to rebuild the Iraqi military and police forces after they were decimated by the Islamic State group’s initial onslaught in 2014 and the complex effort since then to unite at-times warring factions like Iran-backed militias and Kurdish units toward a common enemy.
He declined to confirm some estimates that place the total number of Islamic State fighters in Iraq and Syria as high as 30,000 or to provide the U.S. assessment. He said only that the remaining fighters exist largely in “austere” environments, mostly in underground tunnels and in caves.
When asked about what changes might need to take place, Byrom said, “It’s going to take the [Iraqi security forces] doing exactly what they are doing.”
Others do not share the same optimism about the fight to rid Iraq of Islamic extremists and to prepare local security forces that can withstand the kind of disruptive insurgency the world witnessed in 2014. Rampant corruption among government officials and political divisions have eroded stability in the day-to-day lives of many Iraqis, leaving the idea of joining the Islamic State group as viable, according to a recent analysis from the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
“While many U.S. policymakers and Iraqi politicians have been quick to declare victory against the Islamic State, there are several indicators that suggest the Islamic State remains a persistent threat, and is refocusing its tactics and attacks against government targets,” Maxwell Markusen, associate fellow with the Transnational Threats Project at CSIS, wrote in the analysis.
The Islamic State as a brand continues to carry significant cache. An Ohio man was arrested Friday for plotting to carry out an attack on a synagogue on behalf of the extremist network.
Source: US News& World reports
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