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General Votel Warns ISIS a 'Serious Generational Problem'

General Votel Warns ISIS a 'Serious Generational Problem'

Thursday, 7 March, 2019 - 16:45
FILE - In this Aug. 30, 2016 file photo, Gen. Joseph Votel speaks to reporters at the Pentagon. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
Asharq Al-Awsat
Even as ISIS militants are losing the last of their territory in Syria, the extremists who remain are unbroken and radicalized, and represent a "serious generational problem," the top US commander for the Mideast said Thursday.

Gen. Joseph Votel told the House Armed Services Committee that unless the extremist group and its ideology are handled properly, ISIS will sow the seeds of future violent extremism.

"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," said Votel, adding that the insurgents are going to ground in remote areas, "waiting for the right time to resurge."

President Donald Trump's has said in recent weeks that ISIS has been defeated and lost 100 percent of its "caliphate," which once covered a vast territory straddling Syria and Iraq.

Votel said ISIS now holds less than a single square mile, a retreat that he called "a monumental military accomplishment." But he said the fight against the terrorist group and violent extremism is far from over.

A stubborn group of militants has kept that sliver of land in the Middle Euphrates River Valley for weeks, and many extremists have escaped and scattered to other areas of the country where they are now in hiding.

Votel said that he was under no pressure to withdraw forces from Syria by any specific date.

"What is driving the withdrawal of course is our mission, which is the defeat of ISIS and so that is our principal focus and that is making sure that we protect our forces, that we don't withdraw in a manner that increases the risk to our forces," he told the hearing.

"There is not pressure on me to meet a specific date at this particular time," Votel said.

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