WASHINGTON DC, United States (Kurdistan24) – As the Islamic State (IS) has lost control of the territory it held in Iraq, it will try to “vanish” into the population and transform itself into an insurgency, Maj. Gen. Felix Gedney told Pentagon reporters on Wednesday.
IS “is an adaptive and patient enemy,” he said. “We know they may attempt to work in smaller cells, and they most certainly will continue attempting their acts of terror.”
Asked by Kurdistan 24 to expand on that concern, Gedney, a British officer and one of two Deputy Commanders of CJTF-OIR (Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve), explained that it “is clearly a serious issue.”
IS “will attempt to mount some form of insurgency, we believe,” even as Gedney expressed confidence in the ability of the Iraqi Security Forces to handle the threat.
Gedney emphasized that, at present, the “decisive part” of the campaign is “the non-military lines of effort,” particularly, “the immediate stabilization that will show the people of Iraq and Syria that they’re better off under their legitimate governments than they are under IS.”
However, when Kurdistan 24 asked whether the lack of political reforms in Iraq, specifically, representation for Sunni Arabs, might lead to IS’ revival, Gedney demurred.
He called it “a political question,” affirming, “I’m a soldier, not a politician.”
Yet precisely that issue has been a consistent weakness in the US-led war in Iraq, as well as Afghanistan. The enemy is defeated, but it returns once the number of coalition troops drops or they leave altogether.
Former Kurdish President Masoud Barzani repeatedly called for precisely such reforms in Iraq as the coalition was fighting IS, but his advice went unheeded.
Gen.Michael Hayden, former director of the CIA and NSA, told a Washington DC audience earlier this month that the US failure to address the political concerns of Sunni Arabs in Iraq and Syria would, most likely, lead to the reemergence of another iteration of IS.
“I fear we are going to have to go and do it again in three or four or five years,” Hayden said.
The Pentagon press corps also pressed Gedney on another seemingly weak point that could also lead to IS’ reemergence.
In his introductory remarks, Gedney stated that as a result of the coalition’s military success, IS elements were fleeing westward, across the Euphrates River into territory controlled by Damascus.
“The Syrian regime has failed to demonstrate its ability to prevent the resurgence of [IS] on their own soil,” Gedney complained.
IS militants “seem to be moving with impunity through regime-held territory, showing that the regime is clearly either unwilling or unable to defeat [IS] within their borders.”
If that is so, how will IS be defeated? Would the coalition work with Syria and its Russian ally to do so, journalists repeatedly asked.
Gedney would only say that it was the responsibility of the Syrian regime to fight IS. “We can only defeat [it] in the areas that our partner forces control,” he said.
Gedney unequivocally rejected recent Russian and Syrian statements that the US should leave Syria.
“The time for the coalition to leave Syria will be when we have defeated [IS],” he said. Right now, “we have not completed that mission.”
Russia had “falsely claimed victory over [IS] in Syria,” Gedney stated, but the coalition “remained focused on ensuring its lasting defeat.”
Editing by Nadia Riva