(The Telegraph) The fight against ISIS is not over, a British general has warned, saying its remaining fighters in Syria have been allowed to move to areas they are unable to target.
Major General Felix Gedney, the deputy commander of strategy and support for the international coalition against Isil, said the Syrian government is not doing enough to stop the militants from fleeing through its territory.
“They seem to be moving with impunity through regime-held territory, showing that the regime is clearly either unwilling or unable to defeat Daesh within their borders,” Maj Gen Gedney told Pentagon reporters, using the Arabic acronym for the group.
He said it was the responsibility of the Syrian regime to fight Isil. “We can only defeat [it] in the areas that our partner forces control,” he said.
The coalition has estimated there are somewhere between 1,000-2,000 Isil militants – some of whom thought to be foreign – left fighting around the desert between the Iraqi and Syrian border.
US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have driven Isil from the eastern side of the Euphrates River but they say they are encountering fleeing fighters on a routine basis.
They say they have observed the jihadists fleeing westward, across the Euphrates into territory controlled by Syrian troops.
Despite their diminishing numbers, Isil fighters have still managed in recent weeks to launch attacks around their former stronghold of Deir Ezzor.
“The Syrian regime has failed to demonstrate its ability to prevent the resurgence of (Isil) on their own soil,” Maj. Gen Gedney complained.
He said declarations of victory, by Syria and its backer Russia, have been premature.
He also warned that as Isil lost control of the territory it held in Syria and Iraq, it will try to “vanish” into the population before transforming itself into a more traditional insurgency.
Isil “will attempt to mount some form of insurgency, we believe. It 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.”
Jim Mattis, US Defense Secretary, has said the US-led coalition will fight ISIS in Syria “as long as they want to fight.” He said the US military’s longer-term objective would be to prevent the return of an “ISIS 2.0.”