Elements of the Islamic State group are working to rebuild in western Syria, where the US has little visibility or presence, the top US commander for the Middle East warned on Wednesday, the AP reports. In the region west of the Euphrates River where the Syrian regime is in control "conditions are as bad or worse" than they were leading up to the rise of the Islamic State, said Gen. Frank McKenzie. "We should all be concerned about that." McKenzie said insurgents are operating with some degree of freedom, and he said the US and its allies have little hope the Syrian regime will do anything to tamp down the group there.
The western part of the country has historically been controlled by Russian-backed Syrian government troops, while the US and its allies, the Syrian Democratic Forces, have largely been in the north and eastern part of the country. President Trump has touted the defeat of IS as one of his key national security achievements. Speaking online to a United States Institute of Peace forum from his US Central Command office in Tampa, McKenzie said that the slow-moving effort to transfer people out of Syrian refugee camps has been further complicated and delayed by the coronavirus pandemic. And that, he said, fuels concerns about the radicalization of people—particularly the youth—in the camps, which officials worry are breeding grounds for IS insurgents.
(Read more Islamic State