Islamic State will lose remaining territory within week: Trump
Washington, Feb 7: The Islamic State (ISIS) will be "100 per cent" defeated in Iraq and Syria by next week, US President Donald Trump has claimed as he boasted his administration's new approach for directly confronting the terror outfit's "wicked" ideology.
The ISIS currently holds only about 1 per cent of land in Iraq and Syria, the global coalition to counter ISIS announced late last year. However, the caliphate continues to hold territory in Afghanistan, Libya, the Sinai and West Africa.
"The ISIS has been decimated," Trump has said.
The United States military, its Coalition partners and the Syrian Democratic Forces have liberated virtually all of the territory previously held by the ISIS in Syria and Iraq, Trump said.
"It should be formally announced sometime probably next week that we will have 100 per cent of the caliphate. But I want to wait for the official word. I don't want to say it too early," Trump said on Wednesday in his address to the Ministers of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS.
Senior diplomats from nearly 80 countries gathered at the State Department for a meeting of the growing anti-ISIS coalition. The president acknowledged this group will work together for years to come as ISIS strategy evolves.
Trump said the new approach developed by his administration, empowered US commanders in the field, enabled partners on the ground, and directly confronted ISIS's "wicked" ideology.
"Over the past two years, the US and its partners have retaken more than 20,000 square miles of land," he said.
"We have secured one battlefield. And we've had victory after victory after victory, and retaken both Mosul and Raqqa. We have eliminated more than 60 mile high-value ISIS leaders," he said.
"Now, they re-form; we know that. But they're having a hard time re-forming, and I wouldn't say it's a great job to have because of us. It's not exactly - hopefully will not be a sought-after occupation," he said.
"More than a hundred other top ISIS officials have been eliminated, and tens of thousands of ISIS fighters are gone. They're gone," he stressed.
In December, Trump announced that he was immediately withdrawing troops from Syria, a move that received backlash from fellow Republicans and caused Defence Secretary Jim Mattis and Brett McGurk, the special presidential envoy to the coalition to defeat ISIS in Syria and Iraq, to resign. Experts have noted that without US presence, the ISIS could reclaim that territory.
The Trump administration has since said that the withdrawal will not be immediate but will still happen.
US and its international partners, Trump said, have freed more than five million civilians from the grip of these bloodthirsty killers.
"Thanks to the Global Coalition, including all of you here today, and to our other partners, the ISIS caliphate has been decimated. Nobody thought it was possible to do it this quickly," Trump said.
Observing that the struggle against terrorism was a shared fight, Trump said: "We do it together. If we don't do it together, it can never be the same. Everyone must do their part and contribute their fair share."
"We must also recognise that immigration security is national security, and that foreign fighters must not gain access into our nations," he said.
Later in a statement, the Ministers of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS/DAESH said that the territorial defeat of the ISIS in Iraq and Syria will mark a significant milestone in the war against ISIS.
But this does not mean the campaign against the ISIS is over, it said.
Further engagement was needed in Iraq and Syria, where the terrorist group is still resilient, it added.
The ISIS's leadership, affiliates, and its supporters view its territorial losses in Iraq and Syria as a setback, not as defeat, the statement said.
In 2019, with the conventional military effort against the ISIS in Syria nearing culmination and shifting to a supporting rather than a central role, the Coalition members will open a discussion to plan the next phase of the campaign, it said.
This could involve an effort to counter the ISIS's reversion to insurgency in Syria and Iraq, the statement said.
"The Coalition is determined to increase the pressure to disrupt the ISIS's trans-regional network through increased information sharing and complementary efforts in counter-finance, strategic communication, law enforcement, the justice sector, and security for our homelands," the statement said.