NORTH AND EAST SYRIA / BAGHDAD — Islamic State (ISIS) cells active in Syria are an existential threat if it is allowed to regenerate, said Col. Joel Harper, spokesperson for the International Coalition Against ISIS on Sunday.
While the fight against ISIS in eastern Syria rarely makes international headlines anymore, the group has been able to maintain a presence in the Syrian desert and the poorly secured Syrian–Iraqi border. While the headlines may have faded, the threat posed by the group has not.
On Saturday, ISIS claimed responsibility for an attack on a Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) base east of Dayro Zcuro (Deir ez-Zor) in eastern Syria.
In a written statement to North Press Agency, Col. Harper said the Coalition is continuing its partnership with the SDF in an advisory role and will continue to target ISIS in Syria.
Col. Harper’s remarks came after Iraq announced last Thursday that, “The combat missions of the Coalition forces have been officially completed and withdrawn from Iraq.”
“The mission is not over yet, and the Iraqi government’s latest announcement confirmed that all tactical combat forces have left Iraq, in accordance with the agreement between President Joe Biden and Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi,” the Coalition spokesperson said.
“There has been an invitation to the Coalition to stay in Iraq with a new role: to advise, assist and empower our partners,” he further clarified.
Marine Gen. Frank McKenzie said in an interview with The Associated Press at the Pentagon that despite the shift to a non-combat role in Iraq, U.S. forces will still provide air support and other military aid in the fight against the Islamic State. Gen. Mackenzie stated that the U.S. would maintain its current level of 2,500 troops in Iraq and warned that he expects increasing attacks on U.S. and Iraqi personnel by Iranian-backed militias determined to push American forces out of the country.