- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 14, 2019

The threat from the Islamic State caliphate has largely diminished, but the terror group remains a threat, the head of U.S. special operations warned lawmakers Thursday.

Testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee Thursday, General Raymond Thomas, commander of U.S. Special Operations Command, declared, “We have crushed the physical caliphate” ISIS established in Syria and Iraq.

“The terrain that ISIS formerly maintained, a sanctuary from where they drew their resources, specifically oil resources, has been badly diminished,” he explained, “but they continue to be a threat.”

Gen. Thomas appeared before the committee alongside acting Assistant Secretary of Defense Owen West and Gen. Paul Nakasone, head of U.S. Cyber Command, to testify on cybersecurity threats.

Lawmakers grilled the senior military officials on the military’s cyber capabilities, the existing threat of ISIS, and withdrawing troops from Syria.

Both Gen. Thomas and Mr. West expressed concern about removing U.S. forces from Syria entirely after President Trump declared that ISIS had been defeated.

“I’d be cautious to use the word ‘victory’ but I think it’s important not to diminish what has happened there,” Mr. West said to the committee.

If U.S. troops are withdrawn entirely from Syria, as President Trump proclaimed in December, Mr. West said it would make operations more difficult from a military standpoint, but assured the committee the U.S. can “remotely assist and advise” in the mission to contain ISIS.

“It will certainly be harder to not have that proximity, [it will] make it more challenging,” Gen. Thomas said. “But we’re working on solutions to maintain some contact, some level of support” U.S.-backed Kurdish and Arab allies inside Syria battling Islamic State.

• Lauren Toms can be reached at lmeier@washingtontimes.com.

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