Gulf News reported Sunday that Daesh, which once controlled an area of eastern Syria and western Iraq the size of Great Britain, was now confined to six square miles surrounding two isolated villages on the banks of the Euphrates River: Marashida and Baghuz Fawqani.
With the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) just across the river and the Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) advancing eastward, their western positions taken over by the SAA, Mazloum Kobani, the top commander of the SDF, told AFP that "during the next month we will officially announce the end of the military presence on the ground of [Daesh]."
However, the Pentagon draft report, due to be released next week but which was viewed by NBC News, warns that the imminent withdrawal of US forces from the area could see Daesh retaking territory within six to 12 months. While the terror group's governed territory is miniscule, much of its remaining forces have resorted to guerrilla tactics.
University of Illinois Professor of International Law Francis Boyle told Sputnik Friday that "the simple solution is just to transition to recontrol there by the Syrian government." However, that goes against the plans of neoconservatives like National Security Adviser John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who would "still like to see the overthrow of [Syrian President Bashar] Assad, if they could do it."
"[T]he Pentagon bureaucracy, the generals, the rest of them, don't want to go, and they'll concoct whatever bulltwaddle they want to to keep us there," Boyle told Sputnik. "This is all the Pentagon scare-mongering to keep United States forces in Syria."
"As you see, despite the order given by President Trump, they're not withdrawing, they're still there. It's being slow-walked there by the Pentagon — instead of troops leaving, if you read reports, they're saying, 'Well, we have to move more military forces to the region in order to extricate those troops.' That is truly Orwellian. They can give an order and remove those troops starting tomorrow, and obviously they're not going to do it, and they don't want to do it. So I guess it's really up to President Trump to ride herd on this matter."
"The order is correct," Boyle said. "We should be leaving Syria promptly."
Boyle noted that "the US presence there is clearly illegal under international law and US constitutional law," citing the 1973 War Powers Act and the United Nations charter.
"[T]he whole catastrophe there in Syria — including ISIS [Daesh] — we created. So this is just a pretext to hold on to what the neocons — Bolton is a neocon, Pompeo is a neocon — see as strategic territory in the Middle East for the benefit of the United States and our great, noble ally Israel."
Former British Ambassador to Syria Peter Ford told Sputnik Friday, "If the report issues as drafted, it can only confirm Trump's view that his intelligence people need to do more homework." Ford called the draft "totally absurd" and said it "could only have been drafted by generals determined to thwart the president and continue with their never-ending wars."
"If the US troops leave, there will not be a ‘vacuum,'" Ford pointed out. "There will not be an ‘ungoverned space.' The Syrian government forces will step in and, either alone or in conjunction with allied forces, including the Russians and possibly a reconstituted SDF, will easily keep on top of ISIS."
Ford pointed out that Syrian government forces will be able to police the area better than American forces or even Kurdish militias, since "at the moment there are Arab villages which are no-go areas for the US and the Kurds, and which will be harbouring ISIS sleeper cells."
"What makes more likely a revival of ISIS are US blocking of Syrian forces from entering the areas in question and the Western policy of creating economic misery through sanctions and attempts to prevent reconstruction," Ford said.
Ford's comments echo those made late last year by Iraj Masjedi, Iran's envoy to Baghdad, who said in a speech to Iraqi university students that the region's countries were capable of protecting themselves without the help of foreign troops.
Masjedi urged that "the strategic policy of the US is [based on] the establishment of instability and crisis in the region, and this is the reason that it creates obstacles in the way of any effort which will lead to [boosting] peace and calm in the region," Sputnik reported.