The US President claims all IS territory in Syria has been retaken. However, the US-backed SDF alliance maintains it will take another week before a complete victory.
On his way back to Washington on Thursday after cutting short his summit with the North Korean leader in Vietnam, US President Donald Trump told the troops that US-backed forces in Syria had taken 100 percent of the territory once held by the Islamic State (IS) group.
During a refueling stop at the Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Trump said: "We just took over, you know, you kept hearing it was 90 percent, 92 percent, the caliphate in Syria. Now it's 100 percent we just took over, 100 percent caliphate."
However, the head of the US-allied Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) Mazloum Kobani, said recovery of all territory was not yet complete.
In a video released to the news media on Thursday, Kobani said that the SDF would be able to announce "the complete victory over Daesh (Islamic State) in a week."
There are reports from Syria that hundreds of IS fighters are on a small area of land on the Euphrates River, and many have refused to surrender.
Men suspected of being IS fighters are searched by the Kurdish-led SDF after leaving the last holdout of Baghouz in Syria's northern province
Trump announced Syria withdrawal in December
In December, Trump announced he would withdraw all American forces from Syria as they had succeeded in their mission to defeat IS. However, the much-criticized move led to the resignation of key figures in the administration.
Secretary of Defense James Mattis said he felt he could no longer continue to execute President Trump's policies, as the president announced he was pulling out all 2,000 troops from Syria claiming "We have defeated ISIS in Syria, my only reason for being there during the Trump Presidency."
Two days later Brett McGurk, the US envoy to the coalition resigned and said: "The recent decision by the president came as a shock and was a complete reversal of policy that was articulated to us," McGurk wrote. "It left our coalition partners confused and our fighting partners bewildered."
Only 20 percent of forces trained
General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, recently said the Pentagon estimated that 35,000 to 40,000 local security forces were needed to ensure stability in northeastern Syria. As of December, Dunford said, only about 20 percent of those forces have been trained.
Trump then backtracked to say some troops would stay in the longer term to counter influence from Iran.
On February 6 Trump had said he expected a formal announcement the following week that coalition forces had recaptured all territory previously held by IS in Syria. The announcement had not been made three weeks later.
jm/aw (Reuters, AP)