White House declares Islamic State 100 percent defeated
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders made the announcement to reporters aboard Air Force One before President Donald Trump showed off a map depicting territory no longer controlled by the militant group.
Earlier this month, U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces evacuated some 3,000 civilians from the final Islamic State enclave in Baghouz, eastern Syria. The SDF announced a final attack on the group March 10.
Mustafa Bali, a spokesman for the SDF, said fighting was underway Friday in Baghouz.
The Islamic State‘s so-called caliphate once spanned some 34,000 square miles in Syria and Iraq. The United States led a coalition attack against the group about five years ago, and in December, though Trump said the United States would fully withdraw all service members from the country.
The announcement was criticized some lawmakers and some administration officials, including Defense Secretary James Mattis, resigned over the move.
“While U.S.-backed Syrian forces have continued the fight to retake the remaining ISIS strongholds in Syria, ISIS remains a potent force of battle-hardened and well-disciplined fighters that ‘could likely resurge in Syria’ absent continued counterterrorism pressure,” the watchdog report said, quoting the department. “According to the DoD, ISIS is still able to coordinate offensives and counter-offensives, as well as operate as a decentralized insurgency.”