U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who wrapped up his trip to the Middle East including Jordan on Monday, has conveyed a message to U.S. allies in the region that the United States would continue to fight ISIS even if it withdraws troops from Syria. However, some voice concerns that the withdrawal decision could help strengthen ISIS.
The U.S.-led coalition has largely weakened ISIS over a couple of years. The terrorist group once seized an area of 42,000 square kilometers in Iraq and Syria, but is now only taking control of a town in the east of the Euphrates, with its territory having shrunk to 2 percent in size. In December, CNN reported that ISIS had about 30,000 fighters.
Still, ISIS is far from being defeated. According to CNN last Tuesday, ISIS “has exploited poor weather to attack Kurdish forces.” AFP also reported on Jan. 6 that ISIS attacked a town in Deir ez-Zor, killing 23 members of the Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).
Some analyze that ISIS is gathering strength in some regions. “Iraqi officials and counter-terrorism analysts say ISIS cells have infiltrated the sparsely-populated Hamrin mountains south of Mosul,” CNN said. “It (ISIS) is believed to have stashed away hundreds of millions of dollars from oil revenues and taxes levied when it occupied large parts of Iraq and Syria.”