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Armed men in uniform identified by Syrian Democratic forces as US special operations forces
Image: Getty Images/AFP/D. Souleiman

Germany, France, UK: IS not defeated in Syria

December 20, 2018

Germany, France, and the United Kingdom have said that "Islamic State" remains a threat in Syria. All three appeared to dispute US President Donald Trump's claim that the militants had been vanquished.


Washington's European allies in the fight against "Islamic State" (IS) on Thursday appeared to dispute President Trump's claim that the jihadi group had been defeated.

While announcing that the US would soon pull troops out of the country, Trump claimed that the IS militant group in Syria had been vanquished.

But international allies in the fight against IS — such as France, Germany and the UK — were somewhat surprised by the optimistic appraisal.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said Washington's "abrupt change of course" had put the fight against IS at risk.

"IS has been pushed back but the threat is not yet over," Germany's Foreign Office tweeted. There is a danger that the consequences of this decision will damage the fight against IS and jeopardize the successes already achieved."

Germany currently has some 1,200 personnel involved in the fight against IS in Syria, including those invovled in refueling, naval, and training operations.

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France: IS and its roots endure

Meanwhile, French Defense Minister Florence Parly acknowledged that the group had been significantly weakened, she said the battle was not over.

"Islamic State has not been wiped from the map, nor have its roots elsewhere. The last pockets of this terrorist organization must be defeated militarily once and for all," Parly said on Twitter.

Read more: From Germany to 'Islamic State': Christian's journey

Some 2,000 US forces are in Syria at present, most of them on a train-and-advise mission for local forces fighting IS. France has an undisclosed number of special forces on the ground in Syria as part of the US-led coalition there, as well as fighter jets in Jordan and artillery along the Syrian border in Iraq.

Read more: Buffer zone in Idlib: A ray of hope in Syria

UK: Still a threat without territory

Britain, which takes part in air strikes as part of the coalition effort, said it was important not to underestimate the threat that IS still poses.

In a statement late Thursday, the British Foreign Office said important advances had been made in recent days, but added that "much remains to be done and we must not lose sight of the threat they pose."

"Even without territory, Daesh will remain a threat," the statement said, using an Arabic acronym for IS.

While the Foreign Office statement diplomatically avoided a contradiction of Trump's assessment, junior Defense Minister Tobias Ellwood was more blunt, saying he "strongly" disagreed.

Trump's announcement came as a surprise after recent statements from the White House indicated that the US would remain.

Read more: Russia encroaches on US war industry in Middle East

While there was no official timeline for the withdrawal, media reports indicate that preparations are already underway.

US Senator Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, typically seen as a Trump supporter, said he was "blindsided" by the decision. He called it "a disaster in the making."

"The biggest winners in this are ISIS and Iran," Graham said.
However, in his end-of-year press conference, Russian President Vladimir Putin said he backed Trump’s decision.

The US began airstrikes against IS in Syria in 2014, later sending in ground troops to aid Kurdish forces widely credited with leading the fight against IS on the ground.

rc/ng (AFP, Reuters)

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