At the White House today, US President Donald Trump announced that the last of the Islamic State’s territory in Syria is currently being liberated by US-backed forces and that the situation will be resolved “by tonight.”
At the press conference, Trump showed off maps of the Islamic State’s territory in Iraq and Syria before and after his election. Trump pointed to a very small portion of the map that is currently being held by the group, and said that by the end of the day the mission will be complete.
“I brought this out for you because — this is a map of, everything in the red, this was on election night in 2016. Everything red is ISIS. When I took it over, it was a mess. Now, on the bottom, that’s the exact same: There is no red. In fact, there’s actually a tiny spot, which will be gone by tonight,” Trump said, according to the Washington Post.
“So that’s ISIS, red, right there. And the bottom one is how it is today. This just came out 20 minutes ago,” he added.
His announcement comes after fighters backed by the United States were able to recapture one of the groups final strongholds in the region.
However, despite the victory, Trump confirmed that the United States military will be keeping at least 400 troops in Syria with no definite end date.
This Wednesday there were no signs of a battle or firefight in the final Islamic State stronghold in Syria. Western backed forces seemed to control the entire region as they searched the area for landmines, tunnels and remaining fighters hiding.
Large numbers of people were evacuated from the area as western forces moved in. According to the Daily Mail, “SDF soldiers were today women and children into trailer trucks on the hilltop over Baghouz, in a sign that evacuations were ongoing today, while black smoke could be seen rising from the village. The extremists had retreated into a tiny parcel of land, with some reportedly having used their own children as human shields, after they were forced out of the camp where they had been holding out.”
In the last days of fighting, hundreds of Islamic State soldiers reportedly surrendered to the SDF. Sources with the SDF also said that they captured a large number of prisoners from the Islamic State also.
‘I’m happy it’s over. Now I know my people are safe,’ an SDF soldier named Walid Raqqawi said.
The taking of the ISIS camp was a significant advance but not the final defeat of the group in Baghouz, but fighters from Syrian forces were celebrating nonetheless.
The map below shows how much area has been cleared in the recent operations.
The progress made in the past few years is indeed impressive, but critics are questioning Trump’s bold prediction. Many critics are suggesting that the Islamic State can never be defeated because there will are still many radicalized individuals out there.
According to a report from Politico, “That ISIS may never be entirely defeated might be a bitter pill some—including, unless he is truly delusional about the group’s defeat, the president—are willing to swallow. Some proponents of this attitude have suggested ISIS is “defeated enough” to secure our immediate security interests. How soon we forget the lessons of the recent past: The exact same logic drove the decision-making behind the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq in 2010-11, but ISIS’s predecessors (the Islamic State in Iraq, or ISI), were several steps into an aggressive recovery by mid-2012. Over the past two decades, the U.S. has become impressively adept at achieving military gains against terrorist groups, but whether in Iraq or Afghanistan, Syria or Yemen, it has come up short every time when it came to translating tactical victories into strategic defeat.”
Last week, national security adviser John Bolton said that the threat will remain.
“The ISIS threat will remain. But one reason that the President has committed to keeping an American presence in Iraq and small part of an observer force in Syria, is against the possibility that there would be a real resurgence of ISIS and we would then have the ability to deal with that if that arose,” Bolton said.
Photo Credit: Associated Press/Daily Mail