There are an estimated 20,000 ISIS fighters remaining in Iraq and Syria, and it will take “years, if not decades” to train the necessary forces in Iraq and Syria to keep the terrorist group at bay, according to a quarterly report to Congress from the State Department’s Inspector General on Operation Inherent Resolve. The report also found that ISIS has continued to move underground and solidify as an insurgency in Iraq and Syria.
The report found that it will take a generation of coalition advisers and that it will take a generation of Iraqi officers with “continuous exposure to Coalition advisers” who will remain in Iraq “as long as needed.”
“The DoD (Department of Defense) said that the ISF (Iraqi Security Forces) is ‘years, if not decades’ away from ending its reliance on Coalition assistance. According to the DoD, the ISF remains heavily reliant on Coalition forces to gather intelligence and conduct surveillance and reconnaissance operations,” says the report.
“The DoD reported to the DoD OIG that Iraq’s security forces continued to exhibit systemic weaknesses this quarter, including poor intelligence fusion, operational insecurity, ongoing corruption, and overly centralized leadership, among other problems.”
Key Observations and Developments in Operation Inherent Resolve This Quarter:
- The DoD, the DoS, and a monitoring committee’s report to the United Nations stated that ISIS has largely evolved from a land-holding terrorist entity to an insurgency with a network of clandestine cells.
- ISIS still holds pockets of territory east of the Euphrates River between Hajin and Abu Kamal in Syria, and the DoD stated that U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces face a difficult fight against ISIS near Hajin.
- Clearing terrorists from remote and largely ungoverned terrain is a slow and difficult process, and eliminating ISIS from rural Iraq and Syria could take years.
- ISIS remained most active in Iraq along a crescent of territory stretching from Anbar province in the west to Diyala province in the east, where desert and mountainous terrain facilitated insurgent operations.
- National Security Adviser John Bolton stated that U.S. forces would remain in Syria as long as Iranian and Iranian-proxy forces remain outside of Iran, while the DoD stated that its basis for its presence in Syria remains the “enduring defeat” of ISIS.
- Iraq’s Supreme Court ratified the results of the May 12 parliamentary elections, and the new parliament announced a new speaker and president. The president then designated a prime minister.
- The United States temporarily suspended operations at the U.S. Consulate in Basrah as Iran increased threats against U.S. personnel. Street protests had turned violent as well.
- The DoD reported that the ISF continues to exhibit systemic weaknesses in intelligence fusion and use, organizational management, and command and control processes.
- The DoD cautioned that it could take decades for the ISF to be self-reliant.
- About 1.9 million Iraqis remain internally displaced, and their pace of returning home is slowing.
- The U.S. Government placed renewed emphasis on helping vulnerable ethnic and religious minorities in Iraq, including Christian and Yazidi populations. often lacked access to evidence against them or were denied communication with an attorney prior to trial.