White House Claims ISIS Lost Last Syrian Territory

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• March 22, 2019 2:10 pm


The White House determined Friday for the first time that the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) no longer controls any territory in Syria.

According to developing reports, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters the news aboard Air Force One. She showed a map of ISIS's losses, and directed questions to the Department of Defense.

Acting Defense Secretary Pat Shanahan had briefed President Donald Trump on the development, and more details would soon follow.

The Islamic State has wreaked havoc for years since Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi announced the formation of the caliphate in 2014. That development came three years into the Syrian civil war, which has devastated the country and displaced millions.

The timing of the news is not a surprise. Speaking with reporters on the South Lawn Thursday, Trump came armed with a map showing the results of U.S.-backed efforts to degrade the Islamic State and retake its land holdings. At its height, the Islamic State controlled some 100,000 square kilometers, home to some 12 million people. "When I took it over, it was a mess," he said.

He promised that what little remained of the caliphate would be "gone by tonight."

The promise and apparent follow-through follow a December announcement that the U.S. would be withdrawing its troops from Syria. The decision took members of the administration, the armed forces, and coalition nations in Operation Inherent Resolve.

U.S.-backed Syrian forces this week advanced on the village of Baghouz, the last ISIS-controlled parcel of land in the failed state. The Associated Press called the news a "major advance but not the final defeat" for the caliphate.

Propaganda footage released by ISIS calls others to pick up the banner. "My Muslim brothers everywhere, we did our best, the rest is up to God," a soldier exhorts viewers, as the last fighters delay the inevitable along the Euphrates.

Published under: Donald Trump, ISIS, Syria