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Trump Says All Islamic State Land to Be Won Back by Next Week

By Bloomberg 7 February 2019
Caption
President Donald J. Trump hosts a roundtable meeting where he discussed border security with Hispanic pastors in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, DC, USA, 25 January 2019. Trump earlier announced a deal had been reached to end the ongoing partial shutdown of the federal government. EPA-EFE/MICHAEL REYNOLDS

President Donald Trump said the U.S. military and its allies will probably control all territory once held by Islamic State by next week.

“It should be formally announced sometime probably next week that we will have 100 percent of the caliphate,” Trump said Wednesday at a meeting of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS in Washington. “You can’t do better than we’ve done militarily.”

General Joseph Votel, the head of U.S. Central Command, said the day before that Islamic State controls about 20 square miles of territory. But Trump’s top intelligence officials have also said that thousands of ISIS fighters are going underground in Syria and Iraq, signaling that their territorial footprint doesn’t mean they’ve been wiped out.

Trump and Secretary of State Michael Pompeo have sought to reassure allies that the president’s promised U.S. troop withdrawal from Syria doesn’t mean American allies are being left behind in the fight against Islamic State. Both sounded the theme again on Wednesday.

“We will work together for many years to come,” Trump told representatives gathered for the session.

The meeting came one day after Trump renewed his pledge to bring U.S. troops home from conflicts abroad, saying “great nations do not fight endless wars.”

Pompeo, speaking earlier Wednesday at the event, vowed that the U.S. will continue to seek the permanent defeat of Islamic State.

“It is a tactical change — it is not a change in mission,” Pompeo said. “It simply represents a new stage in an old fight.”

ISIS in Iraq

Pompeo set out a series of goals for the coalition, including the removal of all Iranian-led forces in Syria and the fostering of a political solution to the eight-year conflict in line with United Nations Security Council resolutions. But he also pressed other nations to do more, saying they must take back and prosecute their fighters who have been captured in Syria and boost spending to help stabilize the country and clear land mines.

“Now is the time for all of us, not just America, to put our money where our mouth is,” Pompeo said.

The coalition’s member countries acknowledged in a joint statement that the fight against Islamic State is far from over.

“ISIS’s leadership, affiliates, and its supporters view its territorial losses in Iraq and Syria as a setback, not as defeat,” the coalition said in a statement. “In response, ISIS increasingly turns to insurgent tactics to try to destabilize Syria and Iraq.”

Iraq Foreign Minister Mohammed Ali Al-Hakim called for more “logistical and technical support” to hold ISIS fighters accountable for attacks on Iraqis, particularly ethnic and religious minorities, but also stressed that the task there must move toward stabilization and not just open warfare. Pompeo said the terror group “retains a real presence” in Iraq.

“We are in the process of moving from military action to security and intelligence operations,” Al-Hakim said. DM

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