President Donald Trump’s top national adviser John Bolton said Sunday that the threat ISIS poses still remains and will do so in the future, warning of a possible resurgence, despite the president’s previous claims that ISIS has been defeated in Syria and all of its territory reclaimed by U.S.-backed forces in the country.
“The ISIS threat will remain. But one reason that the president has committed to keeping an American presence in Iraq and small part of an observer force in Syria, is against the possibility that there would be a real resurgence of ISIS and we would then have the ability to deal with that if that arose,” Bolton said on ABC News’ “This Week.”
Bolton also stressed that President Trump has been clear that the defeat in ISIS in Syria does not mean the terrorist group has been eliminated in total.
Two weeks ago, Trump said “100 percent” of the territory held by ISIS has been liberated, at the surprise of U.S. officials and regional allies leading the fight.
“We did that in a much shorter period of time then it was supposed to be,” Trump said during his return from his summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. “We just took over … you kept hearing 90 percent, 92 percent, the caliphate in Syria. Now it is 100 percent. We just took over 100 percent caliphate. That means the area of the land. We have 100 percent.”
Trump also announced in December that ISIS has been defeated in Syria and that he would order the withdrawal of all U.S. troops from the country.
But General Joseph Votel, who oversees military operations in the Middle East, said Thursday the fight was “far from over” and that although the self-proclaimed Islamic State has lost a large portion of its territory, it is preparing for a resurgence.
“While ISIS has been battered by the Syrian Democratic Forces and coalition forces, we should be clear in our understanding that what we are seeing now is not the surrender of ISIS as an organization but a calculated decision to preserve the safety of their families and preservation of their capabilities by taking their chances in camps for internally displaced persons, and going to ground in remote areas and waiting for the right time for a resurgence,” Votel told the House Armed Services Committee.