The Islamic State group remains “unbroken,” a top American general warned on Thursday even as the group’s last remnants face near military defeat in their last holdout near Syria’s Baghouz.
“The ISIS population being evacuated from the remaining vestiges of the caliphate largely remains unrepentant, unbroken, and radicalized,” US Central Command’s General Joseph Votel told the House Armed Services Committee in Washington.
ISIS is corralled into a tent camp on the shores of the Euphrates River in Deir ez-Zor province. In the past weeks, thousands of women, children, and wounded militants have evacuated the town, surrendering to the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).
Though most are ill and hungry, and some foreign members have declared their regret at joining the group or minimized their involvement with ISIS in their pleas to go home, others have openly declared their so-called caliphate will continue.
“The Islamic State is in our heart. Even if they kill all of us, we love it,” an ISIS wife named was quoted by Kurdish media.
Other women vowed to raise their children to embrace the ideology of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
Votel described the situation as not a surrender “but a calculated decision to preserve the safety of their families and preservation of their capabilities” while the militants wait for the right time to regroup.
“This will look very much like an insurgency. We will see low-level attacks. We’ll see assassinations, we’ll see IED attacks, we’ll see ambush-type things as they begin to emerge from this,” he predicted.
This is already being seen in Iraq where ISIS was declared defeated in 2017. On Wednesday, six members of the Hashd al-Shaabi were killed in an ambush blamed on ISIS near Makhmour.