Gen. Tony Thomas: Syria withdrawal gives ISIS the 'opportunity to have a resurgence'

"I think they'll see this is certainly a respite if not an opportunity to have a resurgence."

Jack Murphy
October 23, 2019 - 12:35 pm
Tony Thomas

DVIDs, Photo by Tech. Sgt. Angelita Lawrence


Retired Gen. Tony Thomas spent nearly four decades in uniform across of a variety of conventional and Special Operations assignments before retiring last year after serving as the commander of Special Operations Command. On Sunday he spoke to CBS about the U.S. military involvement in Syria. Thomas explained how Special Operations units integrated on the ground in Syria with Kurds, Arabs, and Christians to form a coalition called the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) which successfully fought ISIS. 

Thomas pointed out that although the specifics were unknown, it was always understood that the Kurds in North-East Syria would have to be reintegrated into the Syrian state. It was the, "intent that they would be part of the future of Syria, whatever that entailed and truthfully we didn't have a solid plan for how it would end. But they believe that they would be part of the fabric of the future of Syria. And obviously, right now, they are forced to make deals with the Syrian regime and the Russians," Thomas explained.

When asked if he felt America's abrupt withdrawal from Syria was asking the Kurds to surrender, he replied, "I think they are being asked to survive."

Regarding the fact that ISIS is not totally defeated and that there are still an estimated 30,000 jihadist fighters left in Syria, Thomas said, "it reminds me very much of 2011 where we did not finish what we started and we were back two years later when ISIS came out of the- out of the ruin of what was al-Qaeda in Iraq at the time."

"I think they'll have a great opportunity to do that because you've got all the precursors that existed before the Assad regime. Representative government, or not, in Iraq. So there'll be a void, and I think they will rally. These are resilient adversaries. We've done nothing to knock down the ideology, and I think they'll see this is certainly a respite if not an opportunity to have a resurgence. So I'm concerned about that," Thomas concluded.

As of Wednesday, Russian and Syrian forces have moved into key towns and cities in North-East Syria in order to block any further advance made by the Turkish military and their Free Syrian Army proxy forces.

Reach Jack Murphy: or @JackMurphyRGR

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