Testifying before the House Armed Service Committee, CENTCOM commander Kenneth McKenzie affirmed that “most of the U.S. intelligence community predicts that without sustained pressure levied against it, ISIS has the potential to reconstitute in Iraq and Syria in short order, beyond the current capabilities of the U.S. to neutralise it without a capable, partnered ground force”. On Syria, he recommended that “moving forward, we must continue our support to NATO ally Turkey and our D-ISIS partner force, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), while maintaining deconfliction with Russia, which, along with the Assad regime, aggressively challenges the Coalition mission in various ways”. McKenzie further reiterated that “we remain in Iraq at the request of the Government of Iraq for one reason: the defeat of ISIS”, adding that “hindering our ability to work with the Iraqi Security Forces toward this objective [of defeating ISIS] are rogue elements of the Popular Mobilisation Forces more beholden to Iran’s regime than the government of Iraq. Some of these militias smuggle advanced weapons into Iraq from Iran, not to defend the country from ISIS, but to undermine existing security and threaten U.S. and Coalition forces”. McKenzie also indicated that “we are in the process of bringing air defence systems, ballistic missile defence systems into Iraq – particularly to protect ourselves against another potential Iranian attack”.
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