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A top general leading efforts against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) said the U.S. has made “remarkable progress” in the last year.
Gen. John Allen said Sunday that he was not sure a year ago if Iraq would survive the rise of ISIS. While there is significant work still to be done, he said the U.S. and its allies have had some “real successes” in its efforts.
Allen, the Special Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIS, noted that ISIS has lost control of Tikrit to Iraqi security forces, and coalition forces helped hold off ISIS in the Syrian city of Kobani and blocked access to Syria from Turkey for ISIS troops.
While noting those military successes, Allen added that, particularly in Syria, matters will never be resolved without a political solution. Years after President Obama insisted that Bashar Assad be removed from power in Syria, Allen admitted that the political work still needs to be done on that front.
“Syria has got to have a political transition away from Bashar al-Assad,” he said. “We’ll work very hard to have that political solution.”
While the conflict in Syria has led to the flow of hundreds of thousands of refugees from the region, Allen issued a note of caution when it comes to the U.S. welcoming some of them within its borders. While expressing “tremendous confidence” in the FBI to vet refugees, Allen said officials need to be aware that ISIS could attempt to embed some agents within that population.
“I think it's a threat. We need to understand the totality of it, I think, before we could brand it a national security threat. But it's clearly something we should be thinking about,” he said.