President Donald Trump's abrupt decision to withdraw American troops from Syria shocked American military officials and US allies alike.
A Defense Department watchdog report released Monday warned of just such a possibility.
ISIS "remains a potent force of battle-hardened and well-disciplined fighters that could likely resurge in Syria absent continued counterterrorism pressure", the report from the inspector general said.
The remarks by US General Joseph Votel, head of the US military's Central Command, represent the latest warning by current and former US officials about the risk of a resurgence by Islamic State following a planned US withdrawal from Syria ordered in December by President Donald Trump.
"The coalition's hard-won battlefield gains can only be secured by maintaining a vigilant offensive against the now largely dispersed and disaggregated Islamic State that retains leaders, fighters, facilitators, resources and the profane ideology that fuels their efforts". He also estimated that there are about 20,000 to 30,000 ISIS fighters or sympathizers in the region who have mostly gone to ground and are carrying out sporadic insurgent activities.
He says battlefield gains in Iraq and Syria must be secured by continued US and global efforts to prevent a return to conditions that allowed the Islamic State group to arise.
According to the ruler, the troops will return because the EI was defeated, which, according to Trump, was the only reason for the USA presence there.
"I was not consulted", the general said.
The measure says Daesh and al-Qaeda militants still pose a serious threat to the United States, and it warns that "a precipitous withdrawal" of USA forces from those countries could "allow terrorists to regroup, destabilize critical regions and create vacuums that could be filled by Iran or Russian Federation".
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"We do have to keep pressure on this network".
Last week, U.S. intelligence chiefs also broke with the president, saying Islamic State would continue to pursue attacks from Syria, as well as Iraq, against regional and Western adversaries, including the United States.
The report, citing information from US Central Command, said Islamic State would portray the withdrawal as a "victory" and conduct attacks on American personnel during the pullout process.
But several defense officials said Monday that many fighters fled to ungoverned spaces and other pockets in the north and in the west and are likely hiding out until they can regroup.
Unmoved by the rare opposition from his very own party, President Trump, during a recent television interview, insisted that his promise to bring USA troops home was "a big part" of the reason that he was elected.
"We're at 99 percent right now, we'll be at 100", he said on CBS' "Face the Nation". But, they say they don't expect that area to be cleared of militants for another several weeks, at best.
During an interview with CBS television aired on Sunday, Trump reportedly said that the important role of US troops in Iraq is "to watch Iran", sparking anger and rejection in Iraq.
Trump was severely criticized by American politicians for his decision to withdraw troops from Syrian territory, while some versions of the reason for the measure were discussed.
In December, Trump announced that all 2,000 troops in Syria would be withdrawn and declared the Daesh terrorist group had been defeated.