The United States promised Wednesday to stay focused on permanently destroying the ISIL terror group but asked concerned allies to contribute more, as President Donald Trump boasted that the extremists will soon have lost all their territory in Syria.
Trump addressed officials from more than 70 countries who came to Washington to discuss ways ahead in the battle against ISIL, after Trump stunned many of them in December by claiming ‘victory’ and ordering all 2,000 troops out of Syria.
Speaking at the State Department, Trump said that US-led troops and their Kurdish allies had “liberated virtually all of the territory” from the terrorists who once controlled a vast stretch of Syria and Iraq in a self-styled caliphate.
“It should be formally announced sometime next week that we will have 100 percent of the caliphate,” Trump said.
“Remnants — that’s all they have, remnants — but remnants can be very dangerous,” Trump said.
“Rest assured, we’ll do what it takes to defeat every ounce and every last person within the ISIS madness and defend our people from radical Islamic terrorism,” he said, referring to another acronym of ISIL.
The one-day event did not immediately produce major announcements. And US leaders were partly focused on domestic priorities, with Trump using the occasion to vow a hard line on immigration and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo taking unsubtle digs at previous president Barack Obama.
The conference did not include representatives from Syria or Russia and Iran, which secured major achievements against the Takfiri group.
Opening the conference, Pompeo described Trump’s troop pullout as a “tactical change” with extremists increasingly scattered around the world.
“It is not a change in the mission,” Pompeo said, adding “our fight will not necessarily always be military-led.”
“We are entering an era of decentralized jihad so we must be nimble in our approach as well,” he said.
Officials say that the US withdrawal will happen, although at a slower pace than Trump first intended.
The US representative who was in charge of the coalition, Brett McGurk, resigned along with defense secretary Jim Mattis in protest over Trump’s decision.
And Trump’s own intelligence chief, Dan Coats, warned last week before Congress that the ISIL group would try to stage a comeback as troops withdraw.