The suicide bombing in Syria last week that killed four Americans has shattered President Donald Trump’s claims that ISIS has been defeated, experts told The Hill on Sunday.
"I don’t think anybody who knows anything about Syria thinks that ISIS is annihilated,” said Stephen Biddle of the Council on Foreign Relations.
The bombing on Wednesday was the single deadliest attack for Americans in Syria since U.S. troops were deployed in 2015 and came in Manbij, which had been considered a success story for stabilization after it was retaken from ISIS in 2016.
Hours after the attack, Vice President Pence reiterated Trump’s claim that “ISIS has been defeated,” although later that day he released a statement that said, “We have crushed the ISIS caliphate and devastated its capabilities.”
Biddle slammed Trump for using language that is deliberately misleading, saying, “Nobody thinks ISIS has been annihilated. Or even will be in any plausible time period.”
Indeed, a Pentagon statement over the weekend saids “ISIS remains a threat,” and the Defense Department’s estimate for the number of ISIS fighters left in Syria is approximately 14,000, including 4,000 to 6,000 in the U.S. military’s area of operation,
Brett McGurk, who resigned as Trump’s special envoy to the anti-ISIS coalition after the withdrawal announcement last month, wrote in a Washington Post opinion piece that the president’s decision has “already giving the Islamic State... new life.”
Biddle added that the attack was at least in part a response to Trump, saying “ISIS does not want to be seen... as the losers whose defeat enabled the U.S. to go home to a victory parade. They want this to look like a U.S. retreat with its tail between its legs.”
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