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Syrian Kurdish and Arab fighters have cornered ISIS fighters in the village of Baghouz, the terrorist group plans to go underground and wage an insurgency long after it has been cleared from its last stronghold, the head of U.S. Central Command told lawmakers on Thursday.
"We should be clear that what we are seeing now is not the surrender of ISIS as an organization – but a calculated decision to preserve the safety of their families and preservation of their capabilities by taking their chances in camps for internally displaced persons and going to ground in remote areas and waiting for the right time to resurge," Army Gen. Joseph Votel said at a House Armed Services Committee hearing.
"Recent observations by our men and women on the ground highlight that the ISIS population being evacuated from the remaining vestiges of the caliphate largely remain unrepentant, unbroken and radicalized," Votel continued. "We will need to maintain a vigilant offensive against this now widely dispersed and disaggregated organization that includes leaders, fighters, facilitators, resources and – of course – their toxic ideology."
It is now up to the international community to determine what to do with the thousands of ISIS fighters and their families now in the custody of the Syrian Democratic Forces, Votel said. These detainees can "sow the seeds of future violent extremism" if they are not correctly taken care of, he said.
For more than a year, U.S. military officials have claimed that only about 2,000 ISIS fighters remained in Syria, but the waves of ISIS fighters and their families who have surrendered during the Baghouz offensive suggests the Syrian Democratic Forces have been fighting an enemy much larger than that.
The SDF is holding more than 2,000 ISIS fighters in custody, the Wall Street Journal reported, and SDF spokesman Mustafa Bali tweeted on Tuesday that 3,500 had been evacuated from ISIS' last enclave, of which 500 were ISIS fighters who surrendered.
Army Col. Sean Ryan, a spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition fighting ISIS in Syria and Iraq, declined to provide an updated estimate of how many ISIS fighters have been killed or captured in Syria's Middle Euphrates River Valley.
"The number of fighters in the MERV was always based off intelligence estimates from the battlefield, and with full recognition the enemy works and hides within a complex tunnel system throughout the region and we will never fully know the exact number," Ryan told Task & Purpose. "With that said, the mission was always to degrade ISIS capabilities to conduct military operations, while simultaneously destroying their logistical, media, and financial based systems.
"It was never about the number killed and the ultimate victory is based off an enduring defeat that will ensure ISIS cannot regenerate their capabilities and threaten the security of the region and our homelands."
On Thursday, Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) asked Votel what the next phase of the war against ISIS will look like as fighters go underground.
"This will look very much like an insurgency," Votel replied. "We will see low level attacks. We'll see assassinations. We'll see IED attacks. We'll see ambush-type things as they begin to emerge from this. Therefore, what our focus has to be is working with our partners on the ground as we're doing fairly effectively in Iraq right now. We are going to have to keep pressure on this."
SEE ALSO: Don't Call It An Insurgency: Only 'Disparate Cellular Structures' Of ISIS Remain In Iraq, DoD Says
WATCH NEXT: Soldiers Pound ISIS Fighters in Syria From New Fire Base
'It just happened' — the Iraq War’s first living Medal of Honor recipient recalls his harrowing fight against 5 insurgents
On Nov, 10, 2004, Army Staff Sgt. David Bellavia knew that he stood a good chance of dying as he tried to save his squad.
Bellavia survived the intense enemy fire and went on to single-handedly kill five insurgents as he cleared a three-story house in Fallujah during the iconic battle for the city. For his bravery that day, President Trump will present Bellavia with the Medal of Honor on Tuesday, making him the first living Iraq war veteran to receive the award.
In an interview with Task & Purpose, Bellavia recalled that the house where he fought insurgents was dark and filled with putrid water that flowed from broken pipes. The battle itself was an assault on his senses: The stench from the water, the darkness inside the home, and the sounds of footsteps that seemed to envelope him.
With the Imperial Japanese Army hot on his heels, Oscar Leonard says he barely slipped away from getting caught in the grueling Bataan Death March in 1942 by jumping into a choppy bay in the dark of the night, clinging to a log and paddling to the Allied-fortified island of Corregidor.
After many weeks of fighting there and at Mindanao, he was finally captured by the Japanese and spent the next several years languishing under brutal conditions in Filipino and Japanese World War II POW camps.
Now, having just turned 100 years old, the Antioch resident has been recognized for his 42-month ordeal as a prisoner of war, thanks to the efforts of his friends at the Brentwood VFW Post #10789 and Congressman Jerry McNerney.
McNerney, Brentwood VFW Commander Steve Todd and Junior Vice Commander John Bradley helped obtain a POW award after doing research and requesting records to surprise Leonard during a birthday party last month.
Hundreds of Marines will join their British counterparts at a massive urban training center this summer that will test the leathernecks' ability to fight a tech-savvy enemy in a crowded city filled with innocent civilians.
The North Carolina-based Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 8th Marines, will test drones, robots and other high-tech equipment at Muscatatuck Urban Training Center near Butlerville, Indiana, in August.
They'll spend weeks weaving through underground tunnels and simulating fires in a mock packed downtown city center. They'll also face off against their peers, who will be equipped with off-the-shelf drones and other gadgets the enemy is now easily able to bring to the fight.
It's the start of a four-year effort, known as Project Metropolis, that leaders say will transform the way Marines train for urban battles. The effort is being led by the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory, based in Quantico, Virginia. It comes after service leaders identified a troubling problem following nearly two decades of war in the Middle East: adversaries have been studying their tactics and weaknesses, and now they know how to exploit them.
WASHINGTON/RIYADH (Reuters) - President Donald Trump imposed new U.S. sanctions onIran on Monday following Tehran's downing of an unmanned American drone and said the measures would target Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Trump told reporters he was signing an executive order for the sanctions amid tensions between the United States and Iran that have grown since May, when Washington ordered all countries to halt imports of Iranian oil.
Trump also said the sanctions would have been imposed regardless of the incident over the drone. He said the supreme leaders was ultimately responsible for what Trump called "the hostile conduct of the regime."
"Sanctions imposed through the executive order ... will deny the Supreme Leader and the Supreme Leader's office, and those closely affiliated with him and the office, access to key financial resources and support," Trump said.
While it can be difficult to peg down just how star-spangled a state is, one indicator is the rate at which citizens enlist in the military, especially during the United States' longest period of sustained conflict. At least, that's the thinking behind WalletHub's new study, 2019's Most Patriotic States in America.