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August 21, 2019

IS persists despite territory loss, says Pompeo


August 21, 2019

WASHINGTON: The Islamic State group remains a threat in Syria and Iraq, and in some areas has even gained power despite the elimination of their “caliphate”, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Tuesday.

“There are places where ISIS is more powerful today than they were three or four years ago,” Pompeo said on CBS’s “This Morning” show.“But the caliphate is gone in their capacity to conduct external attacks, it’s been made much more difficult,” he said.

“We’ve taken down significant risk. Not all of it, but a significant amount. We’re very pleased with the work that we’ve done.”US President Donald Trump declared early this year that US-led forces in Syria and Iraq had achieved “100 percent victory” over the Islamic extremist group after a campaign to eliminate their redoubt in the Euphrates river valley in Syria.

But many fighters are believed to have melded into the population, and the group maintains small strong holds in remote locations in Iraq.A report by the Pentagon’s Inspector General earlier this month said IS is transitioning “from a territory-holding force to an insurgency in Syria,” and has firmed up its insurgent capabilities in Iraq.

The US drawdown or reassignment of some security forces in the region has left some room for the group to rebuild, the report said.The Islamic State has “established ‘resurgent cells’ in Syria and sought to expand its command and control nodes in Iraq,” it said.IS has also become a potent threat in Afghanistan, where it acts independent of the Taliban, which is currently negotiating a peace deal with the United States.

On Saturday the IS took credit for a suicide bombing of a wedding in Kabul that killed 63.The US state secretary also commented on the ongoing tensions with Iran, insisting that Washington was “acting with wisdom”.

“It’s wisdom to have withdrawn from the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action), which was going to put Iran on the path to a nuclear weapon, and President Trump is determined not to let that happen.”

Last year, President Trump had withdrawn US from the JCPOA, commonly referred to as the Iran deal, which had been a major foreign policy achievement of his predecessor, Barack Obama. Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia, who are also signatories of the deal, have urged the US administration to reconsider its move.

In another interview to Fox News Channel earlier today, Pompeo said that it was unfortunate an Iranian oil tanker detained off Gibraltar had been allowed to leave.“It’s unfortunate that that happened,” Pompeo said.He added that if Iran is successful in making profit from the tanker’s oil cargo, its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps will have “more money, more wealth, more resources to continue their terror campaign”.

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