Rod Reuven Dovid Bryant and Jerry Gordon bring back Dilliman Abdulbaker, Kurdistan Project Director of Washington, DC-based Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET) for an update on the looming fall of the last slice of the self-declared Caliphate held by diehard ISIS fighters in Baghouz, Syria. Abdulbaker presented a cautiously optimistic picture of US Congressional awareness of the problems faced by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Force (SDF) as upwards of 30,000 ISIS fighters have fled Syria for Iraq. Others have inserted themselves in the streams of 50,000 refugees fleeing to the Al-Hol UN High Commission Refuge Camp in northeastern Syria placing an additional burden on SDF and remaining US forces in Syria screening for possible sleeper cells. He noted the recent Congressional testimony by US Central Command commander General Votel stressing that ISIS is not yet defeated. SDF opposes Turkish safe zone inside Syria. That signaled that US troops may remain in Manbij, along the Euphrates River and at the strategic bastion of Al-Tanf in Southern Syria near the Jordanian, Iraqi and Israeli Golan frontiers. We discussed comments by National Security Adviser John Bolton about ‘progress’ with UK, French and German NATO and Global alliance partners like Australia that would like to build up a ‘footprint’ of 2,000 for the proposed force engaged in protection of the Kurdish-held northeastern Syria. We noted that the additional of an equivalent number of ‘consultants might bring the total complement to 4,000. Abdulkader indicated that from his discussions with Congressional members of Foreign Affairs Committees that they understood that the SDF should maintain existing US coalition supplied air coverage, retention of heavy weapons and modernization of weapons, the latter objected to by Erdogan’s Turkey. The problem of what to do about foreign ISIS fighters and families captured by the SDF remains a complicating factor in planning for the US-led coalition. Abdulkader turned to the problem of ISIS fighters attacking Iranian-controlled Hashd al Shaabi Popular Mobilization Units in Iraq and demands by Shi’ite Parliament members and Baghdad government officials for removal of 5,500 US troops at the Al-Asad base near Syrian border. The fall of the ISIS caliphate could mean a resurgent ISIS. Couple that with Iran perfecting its Shi’ite land bridge in the visit of President Rouhani to Baghdad opposing the US presence in Iraq. Then there are threats with Turkey, Russia, Iran and Assad in Syria.
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