On Wednesday, a top United States commander stated that several components of the Islamic State group were rebuilding themselves in western Syria. The area is a region where the US military has very limited visibility or presence.
Rising ISIS threat
General Frank McKenzie said that the Syria-controlled region to the west of the Euphrates River had conditions that were either as bad as or much worse than they were before the Islamic State rose to power. The official said that caution should be taken about the situation to avoid disastrous consequences.
According to AP News, McKenzie noted the terrorist group has continually operated with some degree of freedom. The general pointed out that the United States and allies have little confidence that the Syrian government will attempt to control the group situated in the area.
Syria's western region had historically been under the control of Russian-supported Syrian government troops. Meanwhile, the US and the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have largely settled themselves in the nation's northern and eastern parts.
United States President Donald Trump praised the country's defeat of the Islamic State as one of its most significant achievements in the history of international security. The president had ordered the withdrawal of American forces from Syria's northern border near Turkey. The order was part of the decision to remove all US troops from the country.
However, several military leaders of the United States convinced him to keep military forces in the region to cooperate with the SDF and help safeguard oil fields from attacks by the Islamic State.
Getting people out
Speaking from his US Central Command Office in Tampa during an online forum, McKenzie told the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) that the slow attempts to transfer people from Syrian refugee camps safely were further made complicated and challenging because of the coronavirus pandemic.
McKenzie added the difficulties contributed to the concerns of the radicalization of people within the refugee camps. Officials are concerned the camps could be breeding ground for potential recruits of Islamic State troops.
In northern Syria, the al-Hol camp houses over 70,000 people, with the majority being women and children. The citizens were displaced because of the raging civil war in the country and the fight against the Islamic State. Many people fled their homes as last year, the SDF, with the help of US troops, cleansed the last remaining remnants of the Islamic State, as reported by US News.
The USIP director for countering violent extremism, Leanne Erdberg Steadman, stated the key for people to abandon violence and have a chance for a successful future is getting them out of the camps.
Amid the rising tensions of the Islamic State in Syria, officials have announced that al-Hol has reported its first few cases of the deadly coronavirus pandemic, giving new problems for the suffering people to deal with.
General McKenzie said the threat of the coronavirus pandemic spreading among European allies and other countries within the region has made it much more difficult to send people in the camps back to their homes.