Trump: 100% of ISIS caliphate has been liberated

Trump says officials will announce next week that “100 percent” of the ISIS caliphate had been liberated.

Elad Benari ,

Donald Trump
Donald Trump

US President Donald Trump said on Wednesday that officials would announce next week that “100 percent” of the Islamic State (ISIS) caliphate had been liberated.

“The United States military, our coalition partners and the Syrian Democratic forces have liberated virtually all of the territory previously held by ISIS in Syria and Iraq,” the president said during a speech to the Ministers of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, according to Politico.

“It should be formally announced sometime probably next week that we will have 100 percent of the caliphate,” said Trump.

“But I want to wait for the official word,” he quickly added. “I don’t want to say too early.”

ISIS overran large swathes of Syria and neighboring Iraq in 2014, proclaiming a "caliphate" in land it controlled.

Since then, several military offensives, including those backed by the US-led international coalition, have since seen ISIS lose most areas it once controlled, including the loss of their de facto capital Raqqa in Syria.

However, despite losing the physical caliphate, thousands of ISIS fighters remain in Iraq and Syria, and the group continues to carry out terrorist attacks and could easily move back into territory it once held if American forces withdraw.

The anti-ISIS coalition estimated last year that ISIS currently holds only about 1 percent of land in Iraq and Syria, but it continues to hold territory in Afghanistan, Libya, the Sinai and West Africa.

US intelligence officials earlier this month, during the annual “Worldwide Threat Assessment” presented to Congress, said that “ISIS still commands thousands of fighters in Iraq and Syria, and it maintains eight branches, more than a dozen networks and thousands of dispersed supporters around the world, despite significant leadership and territorial losses.”

In December, Trump unexpectedly announced that he was immediately withdrawing troops from Syria, a move that received backlash from fellow Republicans and caused Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Brett McGurk, the special presidential envoy to the coalition to defeat ISIS in Syria and Iraq, to resign.

Trump had initially called for a 30-day timeframe to complete the pullout, but after meeting with South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, Trump agreed to delay completion of the withdrawal.

On Wednesday, the president said that the ISIS caliphate was “decimated.”

“Thanks to the global coalition, including all of you here today and to our other partners, the ISIS caliphate has been decimated,” he said, according to Politico. “ISIS can no longer claim widespread ownership over local governments in Syria and Iraq.”

The president conceded, however, that even with the caliphate gone, there would always be “sick” and “demented” people.

“Now, you’re always going to have people, they’ll be around,” he said. “They’re sick. They’re demented. But you’re going to have them no matter how well we do militarily. You can’t do better than we’ve done militarily, but you’ll have people that will be around but we’ll search them out and you’ll search them out and we’ll find them.”