November 19, 2019 / 9:21 PM / 21 days ago

IS exploited Turkey's Syria invasion, drawdown of U.S. troops: Pentagon report

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Islamic State has exploited Turkey’s incursion into northeastern Syria and the drawdown of U.S. troops from the region, according to a report published on Tuesday by the Pentagon’s Inspector General, adding that the militant group will likely have the “time and space” to target the West.

President Donald Trump has softened his pullout plans for Syria after a backlash from Congress, including among key Republicans who say he cleared the way for a long-threatened Turkish incursion against the SDF, which had been America’s top ally in the battle against Islamic State.

Amid concerns that Islamic State could stage a resurgence in the ensuing power vacuum, Trump said a small number of U.S. troops would remain in Syria to protect oil fields.

The Pentagon has said that once the partial U.S. withdrawal was finished, the U.S. military would still have roughly around 600 troops in Syria.

Citing the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), a report published by the Inspector General said, “ISIS exploited the Turkish incursion and subsequent drawdown of U.S. troops to reconstitute capabilities and resources within Syria and strengthen its ability to plan attacks abroad.”

The Turkish incursion last month into northeastern Syria dubbed Operation Peace Spring drew international condemnation.

The report, citing the DIA, also said that the death of Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi “would likely have little effect on ISIS’s ability to reconstitute.”

Baghdadi died alongside some of his children by detonating an explosive-laden vest when he fled U.S. forces during an attack in northwest Syria.

Reporting by Idrees Ali; Editing by Cynthia Osterman

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