CTC West Point report by Hassan Hassan: A Hollow victory over ISIS?

“A Hollow Victory Over the Islamic State in Syria? The High Risk of Jihadi Revival in Deir ez-Zor’s Euphrates River Valley” is the title of a new paper by Hassan Hassan at The Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, a national resource for the objective study of terrorism & policy-relevant research.

It notes, among its many points;

  • “the announced pull-out of U.S. troops from Syria will only make it more difficult to secure and stabilize the area because U.S. disengagement risks the entire region falling back under Assad control. It risks creating even more fertile conditions for a jihadi revival.”
  • “In the early part of 2019, a significant number of fighters surrendered to Kurdish forces with others trying to flee the area to reach Turkey through human smugglers. It is possible a significant number managed to slip into areas controlled by the regime.”
  • “Another factor that might complicate the situation for the Islamic State’s enemies is that in the town of Abu Kamal specifically, the river passes through the Syria-Iraqi border. At that location, three items favorable to a potential future jihadi insurgent campaign converge.”
  • “One possible scenario for when U.S. troops draw down is that the SDF remains in control of the parts of Deir ez-Zor east of the river, but without close guidance, oversight, and support from the U.S.-led coalition. This would likely further weaken its ability to secure the area.”
  • “The return of the whole of Deir ez-Zor to Assad regime control would make it especially vulnerable to a jihadi resurgence.”
  • “Despite the fact that the Islamic State has lost control of its territory in the border region, the very real risk of a jihadi revival means there continues to be a significant risk that the region emerges as a long term jihadi safe haven.”

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