Turkey’s decision to launch military operations against the Kurds in northern Syria, in addition to the subsequent US withdrawal from Syria, allowed the Islamic State (ISIS) terrorist group to rebuild itself and strengthen its capabilities to launch new attacks outside Syria, according to a Pentagon report.
“ISIS took advantage of the Turkish incursion and the US withdrawal from northern Syria to rebuild its capabilities and resources both within Syria in the short term and internationally in the longer term,” the congressional intelligence committee said in the report.
”The withdrawal of US forces (from Syria) has also affected the fight against ISIS, which remains a threat in the region and the world,” Glenn Alan Fine, Acting Inspector General of the Department of Defense, said in the introduction to the report.
With regard to Kurdish-led forces, Fine said, “With the decline of the Syrian Defense force and US forces against ISIS in Syria, the organisation is mostly exploiting the reduced pressure from counter-terrorism operations to reshape its operations and expand its ability to carry out cross-border attacks”.
In the same context, an Iraqi intelligence official has warned that senior members of ISIS have “huge” sums of money in Turkey and are planning to return, the British Daily Telegraph reported.
Moreover, through an interview with CNN, Gen. Saad al-Alaq, head of Iraqi military intelligence, claimed that Iraq had submitted to Turkey nine files of alleged ISIS leaders in Iraq and Syria, including senior financiers of the terrorist group.
Al-Alaq said that senior figures in ISIS, known as “princes”, could access huge cash reserves and form new cells in Turkey.
He claimed that many of them managed to flee ISIS’s recent territory in Bagoz, eastern Syria, after bribing Western-backed Syrian Democratic Forces to reach Idlib in the northwest. From there, he said, they crossed the border to Gaziantep in southern Turkey.
Turkey invaded northeastern Syria last month to expel Syrian Kurdish fighters from areas near the border before it concluded an agreement with the United States to stop the Turkish military invasion in return for the withdrawal of Kurdish fighters.
The Syrian Arab Army clashed with Turkish-backed opposition fighters after Russia brokered a fragile truce in northern Syria, but sporadic clashes were still going on, the Associated Press reported.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his country will not leave Syria before other countries do.