While territory originally held by Daesh has been largely reduced, the fight against the terrorist group is “a serious generational problem,” the top U.S. commander for the Middle East said Thursday.
“The ISIS population being evacuated from the remaining vestiges of the caliphate largely remains unrepentant, unbroken and radicalized,” Gen. Joseph Votel said using another name for Daesh. “We will need to maintain a vigilant offensive against this now widely dispersed and disaggregated organization that includes leaders, fighters, facilitators, resources and toxic ideology.”
“In my view this is a serious generational problem that if not handled properly will sow the seeds of future violent extremism,” Votel said.
Votel told the House Armed Services Committee while Daesh forces are being defeated, their surrender is a strategy to go into camps for internally displaced persons or remote areas “waiting for the right time for a resurgence.”
He offered a more levelheaded approach to the situation, as opposed to U.S. President Donald Trump who used the reduction of Daesh’s territory as justification for pulling a large amount of troops from Syria.
“Reduction of the physical caliphate is a monumental military accomplishment — but the fight against ISIS and violent extremism is far from over and our mission remains the same,” he added.
Shortly after its sudden appearance in mid-2014, the terror group overran vast swathes of territory in northern Syria and northern and western Iraq.
At the peak of power, it held a territory with an area of 34,000 square miles. Now, the area has been reduced to less than one square mile, according to Votel, who is expected to step down this month.
*Kasim Ileri contributed to this report