While Daesh's land holdings have dwindled, a "reduced, covert version" of the group remains active in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Somalia, Libya and Yemen, the inspector general noted, as reported by the Washington Times.
Daesh has lost "all territory held in Iraq" and retained control of just 1 percent of the territory it formerly held in Syria, the Pentagon's in-house watchdog said in an announcement November 5. However, the terror group has evolved its tactics from holding territory to operating clandestine cells spanning the globe, according to the report, which means that the effort to achieve the "enduring defeat" of the terrorists will take more time.
The report states there are "significant challenges to developing capable and self-sufficient security forces in Iraq and Syria, and questions remain about the length of time it will take to train forces capable of preventing" a resurgence from Daesh.
Furthermore, "there are also significant challenges to US efforts to address non-military issues, such as the promotion of democratic governance and civil society and the stabilization of liberated areas. These issues can also affect the ability of the security forces to defeat [Daesh]," according to the inspector general.
The inspector general said that "political uncertainty" in Iraq and Syria was also complicating efforts to "confront" an insurgency from Daesh. "Therefore, the territorial defeat of [Daesh] is just one phase of what could be a lengthy campaign to achieve the ‘enduring defeat' of [Daesh," the report concluded.
Daesh fighters being flushed out of Syria are increasingly finding places to stay in Iraq, according to the inspector general. An estimated 20,000 to 30,000 Daesh fighters, consisting of local and foreign-born militants, can still be found throughout Iraq and Syria, the Washington Times reported Monday.
Last month, US Joint Chiefs of Staff Chair General Joe Dunford said that despite successes against Daesh, "we know there's actually much work to be done." Daesh has a "presence in countries from West Africa to Southeast Asia," he said, noting that "its ideology continues to inspire homegrown violent extremists in many of our countries."