Small Wars Journal

As Kurds Depart Islamic State Fight, U.S. Faces a Void in Syria

As Kurds Depart Islamic State Fight, U.S. Faces a Void in Syria by Nancy A. Youssef – Wall Street Journal

On the threshold of victory over Islamic State, hundreds of U.S.-backed local forces key to defeating the group have abandoned the fight, as U.S. military officials on Wednesday offered no plan to finish the war without them.

A day earlier, the U.S.-armed Syrian Democratic Forces, which is largely ethnically Kurdish, said it was redeploying 1,700 of its fighters from the war against Islamic State to Syria’s Afrin region, where Turkish government troops are battling local Kurdish forces for control. That represents nearly half the roughly 4,000 SDF fighters who once fought Islamic State, according to the Deir Ezzour military council, an SDF-allied group.

The exodus is potentially risky, experts say, because Islamic State still has hundreds of fighters and is still a potent threat despite having lost 98% of the territory it had seized, according to the U.S. military.

The Trump administration will have to act to prevent a “jihadist resurgence,” said Jennifer Cafarella, a Syria expert at the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War.

“An ISIS resurgence is not a far-off threat,” she said, referring to Islamic State. “ISIS remnants are already regrouping in Iraq and ISIS still holds terrain in Syria, from which it is attacking” U.S.-backed forces…

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