It is believed that SDF forces led an offensive attack against the caliphate from three sides in the Middle Euphrates River Valley near the Iraqi border, pushing them back towards the river where a majority surrendered. Since January, around 60,000 fighters have fled towards the desert, but many are now being held in prisoner camps in Syria.
The victory comes two weeks after President Donald Trump reversed an order that would have withdrew nearly 2,000 military troops from Syria.
Prior to 2019, Trump promised to end the fight against the Islamic State and bring American troops home, tweeting, , “After historic victories against ISIS, it’s time to bring our great young people home!” In February, Trump faced the tough decision whether to withdraw America’s approximately 2,000 troops from Syria by April 30, just as ISIS was retreating towards the Iraqi border.
While the geographical eradication of the group is a crushing defeat for the once-strong Islamic terrorist cell, the military achievement on the battlefield does not signal the end of the terrorist organization.
Like the preceding Al Qaeda -- both in Iraq and Afghanistan -- multi-national militant groups do not go quietly. Now that ISIS has been crushed, their remnants are sure to lead an insurgency in an effort to reclaim their presence in the Middle East.
The real uphill battle now begins with how the U.S. addresses the pieces that remain from the caliphate. While we've cut the head off one snake, two more are bound to spawn.
If we really want to be successful in the Middle East, the U.S. will have to maintain presence in that area for years to come. The worst thing for the military to do right now is withdraw troops -- similar to what happened under the Obama administration. Unfortunately, we lack the long-term strategy to globally uproot this evil, and the American public does not have the palate to allow this to happen.
Case in point: our military still maintains a presence in South Korea. We still have bases with an American presence in South Korea -- that war ended decades ago. Relations between the U.S. and South Korea have been extensive since the 1950's, and in order to keep the Republic of Korea from being overtaken by North Korea, the U.S. will need to continue to be the lighthouse in a rather dark part of the world.
Unfortunately, the U.S. military is extremely poor at building and maintaining infrastructure. While our country is good a stopping a few leaks, we are poor at finding a long-term solution to prevent radical groups from reforming in a sovereign nation.
If we truly want to prevent these power vacuums from occurring, the U.S. population must be willing to maintain a lengthy existence in the Middle East. As stated before, however, the general public does not have to stomach to allow this to happen, which results in premature troop withdraw.
Taking one step forward and two steps back is the best way to describe America's foreign policy in the Middle East. If we want to truly win this war, we must be willing to stick around in Syria way longer than we want to.