ISIS fighters in eastern Syria have launched a fierce attack just days after American president Donald Trump said that the militant group was defeated and announced that he was pulling out U.S. troops from the region.
As the Telegraph reported, the fighters launched an attack with armored vehicles and a wave of suicide bombers in the town of Hajin. Kurdish fighters had driven ISIS out of the region just days ago, but a spokesman for the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces said the militant group was emboldened by Donald Trump’s announcement that U.S. troops would be leaving.
“They got high morale from U.S. decision to withdraw from Syria,” said Mustafa Bali, an SDF spokesman. “[ISIS] is still strong in the region.”
Kurdish fighters said they killed dozens of ISIS militants with the help of U.S.-led airstrikes, but there is fear that ISIS could overpower the Kurdish fighters and regain control once the supporting U.S. troops leave the region.
Donald Trump’s decision to abruptly leave Syria has been met with backlash. As the Telegraph reported, ISIS envoy Brett McGurk announced his resignation on Saturday in protest of Trump’s decision, which reportedly came without the consultation of military or national security advisers.
Trump was even criticized by Fox News, where the hosts of his favorite show, Fox & Friends, noted that Trump had previously criticized Barack Obama for making a similar decision in Iraq. As the Hill noted, host Brian Kilmeade said Trump’s decision to remove U.S. troops from Iraq would allow ISIS to regather strength.
“This is going to be an ISIS propaganda video in next few weeks, basically with them declaring victory” https://t.co/mggerG8QmI— Ryan McCarthy (@mccarthyryanj) December 22, 2018
“He also is doing exactly what he criticized President Obama for doing. He said President Obama is the founder of ISIS,” Kilmeade told White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who was appearing on the show as a guest. “He just refounded ISIS because they have 30,000 men there and they are already striking back with our would-be evacuation. The president is really on the griddle with this.”
Other critics have said that Donald Trump’s decision to pull troops of out Syria would leave Kurdish allies particularly vulnerable. Without the training and support offered by American troops, these Kurdish forces would be vulnerable both to attacks from ISIS and by Turkish forces, which consider the Kurdish groups to be as much a threat as ISIS militants. The move would also give both Turkey and Russia more influence over the region, leading critics to claim that Trump is once again acting in the interests of Russia.