This attack weakens the position of Donald Trump who announced last December the withdrawal of US forces from Syria.
Sixteen people, including four Americans, were killed Wednesday in a suicide bombing claimed by the Islamic State (IS) jihadist group in Manbij, Syria. Among them, “two soldiers, a civilian employee of the Ministry of Defense and an employee of a subcontractor of the Pentagon,” said the Central Command of the US Army (Centcom) in a statement, stating that three other military were wounded in this attack, the deadliest against the US forces of the international coalition since 2014 in this country.
Twelve other people, seven civilians and five fighters of an Arab-Kurdish force who accompanied the American patrol, also died in this attack near a restaurant in the center of the city, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (OSDH), which has an extensive network of sources in the country at war. A video filmed by a local Kurdish agency on the scene of the drama shows a blackened facade and completely disemboweled, the floor covered with rubble with blood on the wall. After the attack, tanks carrying the American flag were visible in the streets, while armed soldiers stood guard, said an AFP employee.
The attack was claimed by the IS in a statement on the Telegram application, claiming it was conducted by “kamikaze brother Abu Yassine al-Shami”, who detonated his explosive jacket in the middle of ‘a patrol comprising members of the cross-coalition’. In 2016, IS was driven out of that city by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), an Arab-Kurdish force backed by the international coalition. ISIS is now cornered in a slum in the eastern city of Deir ez-zor, where it is the target of a FDS offensive, with the support of the coalition. However, despite the defeats that have been inflicted and after seeing the territories under his control to be reduced to a trickle, the jihadist group still manages to carry out attacks.
An attack that calls into question the withdrawal of American troops
The latter is the deadliest for US forces in Syria, given the figures of the Pentagon that claimed in 2017 that US military had been deployed in the area of Manbij. “President Trump and I condemn the terrorist attack in Syria that killed Americans,” Vice President Mike Pence said in a statement. “As we begin to repatriate our troops, the American people can rest assured that, for the sake of our soldiers, their families and our country, we will never allow the remnants of IS to restore their evil and deadly caliphate. , neither today nor never, “he added.
The suicide bombing comes after the announcement in December of an upcoming withdrawal of US troops from Syria, and highlights a very different reality on the ground, providing arguments to its opponents. Over the weeks, the timing of this withdrawal has become increasingly blurred and the Trump administration has set conditions for its completion, including the defense of Washington’s allies and a lasting defeat of the IS. The announcement sparked the departure of Defense Minister Jim Mattis.
The security experts were almost unanimous in hasty judging this decision to leave Syria. The death of American soldiers in Manbij “gives reason” to those who felt that Donald Trump’s decision was “extremely premature,” Charles Lister of the Middle East Institute said Wednesday. “Trump’s order was irresponsible and motivated much more by domestic politics than by the facts on the ground,” added the expert, for whom “suggesting that IS is defeated because it no longer controls territory is fundamentally ignoring the way IS and other similar organizations seek to operate. ”
IS still present in Syria
Republican Senator Marco Rubio has also been skeptical of the president’s decision, reacting today to the suicide bombing. This is “a tragic reminder that ISIS has not been defeated and is turning into a dangerous rebellion,” he tweeted, adding, “this is not the time to pull out of the fight against IS. We will only encourage and strengthen them. ” For its part, the influential Senator Lindsey Graham, also a Republican, hopes that the US president “will examine very closely our plans in Syria.” “I know people are fed up, but we will never be safe until we are ready to help those rising up there against this radical ideology,” he told Congress.
To justify the US withdrawal from Syria, the US president insisted that the jihadist group had lost 98% of the territory it controlled during his “caliphate”, straddling Syria and Iraq. But it still controls a few pockets of territory in the Euphrates Valley and the international anti-jihadist coalition estimates that thousands of fighters have scattered over Syrian territory to operate underground.