Pentagon Questions Advances Made by Russia to Defeat ISIS in Syria

On Wednesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that the Islamic State had been defeated on both banks of the Euphrates River in Syria, while Chief of the Russian General Staff Valery Gerasimov said that Syria was fully freed from terrorists.

“Naturally, there may still be isolated points of resistance, but in general, the combat work at this stage and in this territory is over,” Vladimir Putin said.

Meantime, the US military disagrees with Russia’s announcement that the Daesh terrorist group has been defeated on both banks of the Euphrates River in Syria, Defense Department Spokesman Eric Pahon told Sputnik on Wednesday.

“I think that’s an interesting announcement, I respectfully disagree,” Pahon said. “We still know that there are ISIS [Daesh] pockets in Syria that remain to be taken care of … This is just not true, ISIS is not defeated. There are still a couple thousand fighters left and that’s still a significant amount of fighters…. It’s premature.”

Pahon believes more efforts are required to prevent a resurgence of the terrorist group.

“The whole of our philosophy is you cannot just kill the terrorists and walk away. They are going to come right back. The things that allow them to come to power in the first place are still there,” Pahon said.

He added that many areas recaptured from Daesh do not yet have local governments and lack basic necessities such as water and food.

“So, there is a lot of work to be done in that area to make sure people can come back, can rebuild and can be comfortable and start to reform society again,“ he said.

When asked about the US estimates of the number of remaining Daesh fighters, Pahon said he did not have a specific figure, though he said he believed the terrorists’ numbers had dwindled to around 3,000 or fewer, most of whom are concentrated in Syria’s Middle Euphrates River Valley.

“We still have to hunt down those isolated pockets [in Syria],” Pahon said. “But Iraqfor all intents and purposes is nearing the end of Daesh.”

Pahon also stressed that other terrorists are operating in Syria, including the Al-Qaeda terror group and its offshoot the Nusra Front.

“You still have Al-Qaeda, Nusra, you still have all of these other kind of terror offshoots that are still operating,” he said. “They as well need to be taken care of, because ISIS branched out of these things ISIS was just the worst version almost of Al Qaeda, and what became Nusra as well. Unless all of those terror elements are eradicated, killed off and prevented from returning, we are going to deal with the same problem again.”

Russia, alongside Iran and Turkey, is a guarantor of the ceasefire regime in Syria. Moscow has also been assisting Damascus both through supporting the struggle against the terrorist groups and by providing humanitarian aid to the residents of the crisis-torn country.

The US-led coalition of more than 70 members is conducting military operations against the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. The coalition’s strikes in Iraq are conducted in cooperation with Iraqi officials, but those in Syria are not authorized by either the government of President Bashar Assad or the United Nations Security Council.