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US general says conditions for Islamist extremism still linger

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Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Dunford
The top US general said on Tuesday that little progress had been made in dealing with the underlying conditions that have given rise to armed Islamist militants, even as military gains have been made against groups like Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

"Little progress has been made in addressing the underlying conditions that lead to violent extremism," said Marine General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

US-backed forces and Iraqi militias liberated nearly all of the territory that ISIS once controlled in Iraq and Syria.

"Challenges remain in our political, our military, our intelligence, and our law enforcement cooperation despite the fact that we've had some positive trends and cooperation, clearly there is much more to be done," said Dunford, who was speaking during a conference countering violent extremism.

One of the issues facing US-backed forces in Syria is the large number of foreign fighters being detained.

The US military says the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), an alliance of Kurdish and Arab fighters led by the Kurdish YPG militia, is holding about 700 foreign fighters and attempting to repatriate them back to their home countries.

In a report earlier this year, the State Department warned that ISIS, al-Qaeda and its affiliates have adapted by dispersing and becoming less vulnerable to military action after the United States and its partners made "major strides" against the armed Islamist groups.

ISIS, al-Qaeda and their affiliates, however, "have proven to be resilient, determined and adaptable, and they have adjusted to heightened counter-terrorism pressure in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Libya, Somalia, Yemen and elsewhere," the report said.

"Perhaps the greatest challenge facing us today is the danger of complacency," Dunford said. 
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