On February 28, US president Donald Trump, while making a public speech in front of service members at Joint Elmendorf-Richardson base in Alaska, announced that the Pentagon managed to reclaim 100% of the territory previously controlled by ISIS in the Middle East. It’s noteworthy that this wasn’t the first time the Trump administration claimed that it secured a complete victory over this terrorist organization, as he would announce on Twitter last December that ISIS was all but completely defeated by Washington. A year earlier, during the signing of the National Defense Authorization act the sitting US president would also brag about a total and complete victory over terrorism Washington managed to secure in Syria and Iraq.
However, the triumphant claims of the so-called leader of the free world are being refuted by Washington’s ally on the ground, the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces who announced at the beginning of this month that a terrorist attack apparently staged by ISIS in Syria claimed the lives of five American servicemen along with eleven more SDF militants in the city of Majib.
It’s equally curious that sitting US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo recently announced that ISIS still represents a real threat to the international community during an address he made at a meeting of foreign ministers of the so-called global coalition assembled to defeat ISIS, in Washington last February.
Moreover, the head of US Special Operations Command, Raymond Thomas, revealed that it was too early to speak about the total military defeat over ISIS at a recent Congressional hearing. Further still, at the recent Munich Security Conference, Alex Younger, the chief of Britain’s secret intelligence service (MI6) announced that:
“The military defeat of the ‘caliphate’ does not represent the end of the terrorist threat. We see it therefore morphing, spreading out… within Syria but also externally…”
In the same fashion, speaking at the same event, German’s defence minister Ursula Gertrud von der Leyen announced that ISIS would keep going deeper underground and keep establishing sleeping cells all across the EU.
It’s safe to say that the whole of Europe is concerned over the possible return of jihadi fighters from Syria, as ISIS turned out to be particularly effective at recruiting European nationals into its ranks. Curiously enough an associate professor of Karlstad University, Tobias Hubinette, would compare ISIS militants returning from the Middle East to Swedish SS soldiers who returned home largely unpunished after WWII.
There’s no disputing the fact that Europeans have every reason to be worried about the remnants of ISIS operating within EU borders, especially against the backdrop of Trump’s claims that Washington’s allies must take back the jihadi fighters who originated from the EU to allow SDF units to get rid of the majority of the captives they took over the course of their operations. Theoretically, those jihadi fighters are to face justice in their country of origin, but there’s no clear cut framework to ensure that they will.
It must be pointed out that the majority of radical militants trying to take down the legitimate Syrian government are being referred to in the West as ISIS fighters, however, this label can be misguiding. One has to recall that initially the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and Syria was composed of the closest associates of the toppled Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein who went rogue after the 2003 US military intervention in Iraq. The better part of the initial group was composed of former military intelligence and special-purpose officers, who received extensive military training before joining this radical group. Prior to the defeat of ISIS, a number of American intelligence agencies would maintain in close contact with a great many of those fighters; which allowed Washington to pursue its own goals in Syria without intervening directly in the military conflict that would often be described by the MSM as a “civil war.” Washington’s involvement in the activities of this terrorist group became apparent when the Pentagon announced its decision to release from its prisons the military leaders of ISIS, some of whom had a track record of assisting the US in pursuing its dubious goals across the Middle East. Unsurprisingly, Israeli intelligence agencies have also played a part in the strengthening of ISIS. By training and arming this terrorist group, Tel Aviv would try and create a force that could present a real threat to Tehran. In a bid to assist Washington in its attempt to topple the legitimate Syrian president, European leaders would also informally assist its radicalized citizens in their quest of joining terrorist forces in Syria, and now they face paying an incredibly high price for this.
There’s an abundance of evidence testifying to the involvement of the US and EU in the formation and strengthening of ISIS, as no terrorist group can exist without financing and supply lines providing it with weapons and reinforcements. This fact has recently been stressed by Thierry Meyssan in his article titled “Jihadism and high treason”.
Among the reasons why the West chose to support radical movements in the Middle East at the stage of their formation and initial operations against the countries that Washington perceives as potentially unfriendly, was its desire to send extremists from among its population to some far away place where these elements would meet their demise. Essentially, nobody has ever considered the possibility of them surviving the Syrian onslaught and returning home. Even though the majority of European nationals within ISIS ranks moved to Libya, Morocco, Pakistan and Afghanistan after facing a defeat in Syria, as it has been revealed by Europol, the EU is still panicking over the prospect of facing a constant steam of terrorist attacks staged by its former citizens. It has already faced a series of terrorist attacks and it doesn’t seem that it can stomach any more of these. In particular, France alone endured a total of 36 attacks staged by various branches of ISIS, which resulted in the death of a total of 327 people and led to 1,376 people suffering injuries.
According to the reports released back in 2017 by the European Commission, more than 5,000 European nationals joined ISIS. Some of them met their death on the field of battle, but some 30% of them returned home by that time. Therefore, when one finds the majority of Europeans in a state of panic these days, it’s hardly a coincidence as those jihadi fighters that have infiltrated EU society received an extensive amount of training before returning home.
The danger of returning militants may force European authorities to regret the decisions they made in the past and has been highlighted in a recent report from the UN Secretary-General.
It is hardly a secret that ISIS is turning into a rogue network that is going underground in a bid to ensure its survival. Therefore, it’s getting increasingly difficult for law enforcement agencies to track its funding, logistics, military and intelligence operations.
Therefore, bold statements by the US president about the complete and total defeat of ISIS should be taken with a massive grain of salt. It’s hardly a secret for anyone that Washington played a pivotal role establishing various radical groups, including Al-Qaeda and ISIS, which means that it would be reluctant to put them to rest even when they start representing a major threat to the international community.
Those groups, that were perceived as a tool of intimidation against so-called revisionist states, namely Russia, China, Iraq and Syria, is also a real threat to a great many other international players. And there’s little doubt that Washington will play this threat to its advantage whenever it decides that it’s high time to teach its allies a lesson, and it won’t be pretty for sure. Especially in a situation, when president Trump has told the EU that it must take back a total of 800 ISIS fighters captured in Syria by US-backed forces and put them on trial at home.
Martin Berger is a freelance journalist and geopolitical analyst, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.”