By Eric Tucker
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Islamic State remains a global threat despite losing the once vast territory it held in Syria and Iraq, U.S. officials said Thursday in warning about persistent violence from underground cells and an expansion of militants into new areas.
Ambassador James Jeffrey, the State Department envoy to the international coalition fighting the Islamic State, told reporters that thousands of the extremist organization’s fighters are scattered around Syria and Iraq, where officials see a “persistent, resilient, rural terrorist level of violence” in that country.
The U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces ousted Islamic State militants from the last piece of their self-declared calilphate earlier this year. But “the ISIS brand lives on around the world,” State Department counterterrorism coordinator Nathan Sales said as he joined Jeffrey to provide an update on the fight against the organization
“ISIS branches and networks now span the African continent from east to west and north to south,” Sales said. “They’ve increased the lethality of their attacks, they’ve expanded into new areas, and they’ve repeatedly targeted U.S. interests.”